Redux: Wilco Madness!

Between my love of Marketplace Money and Dinner Party Download you'd think I'd have Marketplace overload, but no. They keep churning out great radio and I keep listening. A few weeks ago they stepped away from the current economy and went back in time with Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy.

If you know Wilco at all you know they love Woody Guthrie. In fact, they recorded 2 albums worth of his unheard material called Mermaid Avenue with singer Billy Bragg. Nora Guthrie, Woody's daughter, pulled Jolly Banker out of the archives because she felt it was once again relative in today's economic situation as it had been when it was originally written. She asked Wilco to record a version and that's how we're lucky enough get a great musician on Marketplace.

The song is available for a choose-your-price donation to the Woody Guthrie Foundation on Wilco's site.

In other Wilco news, they have an finally recorded a self-titled album that is coming out June 30. The whole album is suppose to be available for streaming, but doesn't seem to be working at the moment. You can also pre-order the record (yes, even on vinyl).

Lastly, no summer would be completely without a giant slew of outdoor Wilco shows. We're going to see them in Lowell, MA if anybody wants to stop by and say hi.

Blog: Megapolizing

If you were in Cambridge, MA this past weekend, you might have noticed that the streets were teeming with hip radio folks. That's because the DIY audio festival Megapolis descended on the city and, with it, over a 100 talented audio makers from around the country. It was organized by the fabulous Justin Grotelueschen and Nick van der Kolk and a small army of dedicated volunteers who were happy to do everything from register attendees to make toilet paper runs (seriously - these volunteers were awesome).

Check out pics from the event by going to flickr and searching for megafest09. Oh yeahhhh.

Photo of Megapolizer Sean Cole courtesy of Adrianne Mathiowetz.

Redux: A Dinner Party Where You Won't Have to Make Awkward Small Talk

After the first 20 seconds, I was hooked. Literally 20 seconds (or after the Icebreaker as they call it). I'm not sure how this episode ended up in my iTunes, but I'm pretty sure it was kismet.

After hearing a recent Marketplace Money about credit, we all know that the Rico Gagliano likes to win (even though he didn't happen have the highest FICO score in the office). It's only fitting that he and fellow Marketplacer Brendan Francis Newnam are the hosts of DPD, "the show that helps us win our next dinner party."

The show is a highly produced and brilliantly fast-paced whisking us through offbeat news, history lesson, drink recipes, interviews, and music. They pack what a normal show might cover in an hour into around 15 minutes.

This episode includes a history lesson about Gandhi, a tasty lassi recipe, an interview with Ondi Timoner (pictured above) who directed We Live In Public and Dig, and a grilled cheese fixation. To top it off, they closed with a song from my favorite new album Jewellery by Micachu and the Shapes.

Dinner Party Download, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Thanks to the infamous Robert Scoble for the photo.

Redux: The Other New President: Vivian Schiller

Vivian Schiller; NPR's new president, CEO and head cheerleader; joined Tom Ashbrook for the first hour of WBUR's On Point yesterday. Despite the potential awkwardness of interviewing your boss, the conversation turned into what could have been an amazing keynote for South by Southwest.

There was some navel-gazing given that NPR had record ratings in 2008, up about 9% from 2007 to 23.6 million listeners per week. Other fun facts include: Morning Edition's average daily audience (7.6 million) is 60% larger than ABC's Good Morning America and 1/3 larger than NBC's Today Show. The audience for Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! is twice as much Daily Show and Colbert Report combined!

After that, they ventured into some standard sign-of-the-times economic stuff. Newspapers are dying. Advertising models are changing. Schiller says NPR won't "rest on their laurels"...they will adapt and (here's the kicker) "deliver news and information to people in any platform they choose to consume it." In our humble opinion, this is why public radio's listenership is up while newspaper readership is down. Public media has done an amazing job of adapting and adopting emerging media. Of course, this doesn't change the economics of the situation and NPR revenue is still down. While they didn't talk much about it, NPR will announce another round of cuts (likely including layoffs) in the next month or two.

No live radio experience would be complete without crazy listeners calling in and that definitely happened towards the end. I turned it off when callers started debating whether NPR was "liberal media", but I think I know how this one ends...

Blog: Long Drive = Mega Podcast

Starting Monday, I'll be the new senior producer of Word of Mouth on New Hampshire Public Radio. The list of reasons why I'm thrilled to be joining the team just keeps getting longer (innovative show, fresh sound, brilliant coworkers). Today my favorite thing about the new job rests snugly in my ipod - a giant playlist to help with the 16.5 hour drive from Asheville, North Carolina to Concord, New Hampshire.

Rich is driving the U-Haul (or Penske as the case may be) and I'm driving the Honda. Between saying goodbye to our amazing friends and neighbors and packing up everything we own, I didn't have time to make two playlists. So this morning, as Rich loaded up the last of our stuff, I threw together a playlist that would keep us both entertained. Nearly 9 hours later, we stopped for the night outside of Harrisburg, PA. We discussed our favorite episodes of the day in a tiny pizzaria with amazing fresh baked sub rolls. The big winners from the first half of the playlist are:

- American Radio Works' "No Place for a Woman" In the 1970s, women endured shocking - seriously appalling - acts of sexual harassment in the iron mines of northern Minnesota. This documentary made me appreciate how much this country has changed over the past 40 years.

- Terry Gross' interview with screenwriter Mike White and his dad Mel White, a Christian gay rights activist. They've each led fascinating lives and just came back from competing in The Amazing Race together.

- The Story's interview with 91 year old Jack Mullowney. He grew up in the Great Depression, helped write the Jolly Green Giant jingle, and refuses to retire from his current job as a commodities trader. His advice for the country? Try a little optimism and don't skimp on the community service.

Tomorrow we have almost eight hours of Studio 360, What Would Rob Do, and of course, Word of Mouth to look forward to. New Hampshire here we come!

Blog: A History Lesson

Be sure to check out Hearing Voices' blog for some great historical overviews of both community radio and public radio. There will not be a pop quiz, but you will get lots of bonus points for knowing more about radio's roots.

Blog: Good News, Bad News from Third Coast Festival

Which do you want first, the good news or the bad news? Well, Julie Shapiro from Third Coast Festival decided to do good first then bad in an email to AIR members this morning.

Good: Third Coast has incorporated as an independent non-profit and is hoping to go 501(c)3 by the end of July. You may remember that Chicago Public Radio decided to pull their funding for the festival back in December.

Good: They will still be hosting the 2009 TCF / Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Competition.

Bad: There will be no physical TCF Conference in Chicago this year. Those of you hoping to drink casually with Ira Glass are out of luck. BUT there might be a "listening and critique-based Institute" in November in cahoots with the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.

Redux: Elvis Perkins: Holding Back the Dirge

I've been entranced by Elvis Perkins since I saw him at SXSW in 2007. Under a hot tent in the back of a parking lot, Perkins and his band mates bounced around the makeshift stage. Throughout the set, they gathered together around one microphone, leaning against each other as they sang with full force. The drummer banged away on a big round drum strapped to his chest, looking like a toy monkey come to life under the Austin sun.

When I got home and heard Perkins' 2007 release Ash Wednesday, I wondered who drained all the color from his music. It's a stunning album that unfurls in intricate shades of gray, but it doesn't sound anything like the band I had heard just days earlier. Once I read Elvis Perkins' bio, everything came into focus.

Steve Inskeep manages to hold tight to the joy in Elvis Perkins' newest album in this Morning Edition interview. Perkins seems tight lipped at first, but Inskeep circles around the meaning until Perkins rewards him with a smile and a remarkably poetic explanation.

Perkins' metaphors may be sorrow-tinged, but just like seeing him perform live, the interview isn't the least bit grim. Instead, Inskeep's genuine desire to understand Perkins' life and music keeps the interview buoyant, rewarding us with a big bass drum and the slightest brush of optimism.

(photos by Rich Orris)

Redux: If Outfront Can't Make It, Who Can?

Another sad day in public radio. The Canadian Broadcasting Company announced major cuts in programming and the superb documentary series Outfront was amongst the casualties. This innovative program put microphones into the hands of Canadians from all walks of life and helped them tell their own stories. The result was some of the best first person, sound rich radio out there.

The show was staffed by a small but dedicated army of talented producers, led by the always thought-provoking Neil Sandell. (If you haven't heard his 2007 Third Coast session "Secrets, Whispers and Lies" it's definitely worth a listen.)

No word on how soon Outfront will be going off the air, so we'll leave you with another round of compelling stories from teenagers growing up on the remote island of Alert Bay, B.C. Let's hope someone cares enough about the next generation of Canadians to record their stories before it's too late.

Blog: Model Horse Lovers, Gather Round

One of my favorite people in the radio world (and beyond) is Third Coast's Julie Shapiro. She's a talented radio producer and unbelievably gifted in her role at Third Coast. She has a great blog, too, which is how I found out about the recent resurfacing of a piece she produced a few years ago about the connection between girls and horses and the world of competitive model horse collecting (yes, you read correctly - model horse collecting). One might think her work landed on some kind of audio/radio site, but think again.

Breyer, "home to the world's finest model horses," linked to Julie's piece on their site, knowing, quite smartly, that their customers might be interested in this sound-rich piece.

Whether you grew up with a real horse, a model horse, or with no horse at all dive into the model horse world here.

(Photo by flickr member appaloosa)