BEST RADIO STATION - 2004
Is KFAI the radio experience most listeners want? Of course it isn't. At least judging by the persistence of commercial radio, people want to hear songs they know, opinions they share, commercials they don't mind waiting through. They want to encounter, in other words, exactly what they expect when they switch on a radio--to turn it on like windshield wipers or the defrost. KFAI, by contrast, is for the people who don't mind pulling the car over, stunned. It's for engaged individuals who want to run upstairs when they get home, frantically look up the studio line in the phone book, and call in to find out what song they just heard, or what speaker just spoke. It's not that the station is entirely unpredictable: A weekly program grid at the website listed above allows you to plan your listening around a variety of music and news that's available nowhere else. Cajun rock at Louisiana Rhythms every Friday at 9:00 a.m. Radical opinions and unpopular investigation at Democracy Now! every weekday at noon. Vintage twang on Good 'N' Country every Saturday at 1:00 p.m. (By the way, that very short list doesn't even count the shows where you'll hear Hmong '60s garage, French free jazz, or Swedish speed metal.) As with most local, listener-sponsored community stations, there's an element of the crapshoot in listening this broadly: dead spots here, bad choices there. There is also room for improvement at KFAI (more popular music during daylight hours, anyone?). But the choices at this unique, anti-corporate outpost are left entirely up to the DJ-programmers, whose only consistent hobgoblin is caring enough about what they play to waste time talking to you. And you--well, that's the most unpredictable element of all.