by Megan Neff, current WRFL DJ, music director, UK student
Like WRFL, I am also 22-years-old. I have also followed the necessary Darwinian strategies of adaptation to survive in an age bent on unimpeded technological advancement.
The allegorical path is tricky, though. I have not been around to witness the full cycle of infancy, childhood, adolescence and now young adulthood of WRFL. I only know it intimately in its most recent capacity. The rest exists in my mind as loosely bound snapshots, in a series of anecdotes.
However, the capacity in which I’ve come to know WRFL, like my own position in the universal life cycle, is also poised for change. Perhaps it is also blinded by a similar breed of youthful idealism. But isn’t that what got this started in the first place? The rich history of WRFL, plastered on the station’s walls, is impossible to ignore. A collage of yellowed newspaper clippings and show posters dating to the late 1980s cling to the walls, overlapping one another, vying for attention. An old on-air mixing board hangs over a door leading to U.K.’s Student Center: a symbolic totem denoting the passage of generations of DJs as eclectic as the station’s programming.
The on-air room mixes the old school with the new. Turntables and tape decks complete a 90-degree countertop, sharing space with a stack of three CD players, the “board” and an iMac. Vinyl is played alongside mp3 players, prepared mix CDs and music stored on a vast 3.65 terabyte-deep server— a server that houses the latest Sub Pop release as well as archives for digitized vinyl and tapes. And speaking from experience, no technology is infallible, be it digital or analog. CDs and the occasional tape constantly rotate in and out of playboxes focusing on the newest music around the world to the freshest tunes off Lexington’s streets. Bands have come, performed and gone. Local bands have formed and dissolved. Venues have been built and torn down to be rebuilt elsewhere.
The cycle is constant—365 days a year, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week—allowing no time for stagnation. And it is at this point in the cycle that the individual might demand: WHY? Because, simply, there is always more to discover. From my 10 months as music director, I can promise you there is more music than you would ever be curious to know. There is enough to fill your head to the point of self-combustion.
Sometimes I can feel it going into my head only to leak out my ears and lie in helpless puddles around my feet. Maybe that does not present the most appealing image, but the point is that the music world has a lot more to offer than commercial radio’s repeated cycle of the latest antiseptic pop songs. And WRFL has, since its inception existed in order to seek out the music world’s most interesting, deserving, and at times more elusive, offerings to deliver.
With the upgrade to the new tower literally looming ahead this month, what began as a boldly self-proclaimed music revolution in the city of Lexington will extend its influence even farther across the central Bluegrass.
Scheduled to upgrade from 250 to 7900 watts, WRFL will drastically broaden its campaign of providing commercialfree radio to include Georgetown, Midway, Frankfort, Shelbyville, and Lawrenceburg.
The effort has included over 10 years’ worth of petitioning, lobbying, campaigning and fundraising that has called upon the efforts of past general managers, DJs and countless community volunteers to make this year’s landmark a reality. And by way of celebrating the upgrade in Lexington, No Age will headline a free show on April 23. More details on this will be announced within the month.
Ainsley Wagoner, current general manager at WRFL, offered up some poignant words on the upgrade and how it will affect the cultures in and around Lexington:
“Lexington has been privileged for 22 years to have access to WRFL’s cultural contributions and now even more people in Kentucky are going to be discovering their new favorite artists, inspired to start creative endeavors of their own, and realizing that they’re not alone in wanting something different. It’s very rare for a scrawny underdog like us to get this chance. WRFL is such a beautiful community, and the more people that know about it means the more people that can either be a part of it or start their own subversive movement.”
No, this piece as an allegory would not work. Our lives will follow a circular path.
Strange as it seems, old age will creep up on me. I will slow down until the day that I, like everyone else, will die— though hopefully not before living the life-long dream of driving a flying car.
But WRFL’s signal, so to speak, the culmination of so much collective energy over the course of over two decades’ worth of music-loving diligence, will continue to grow and affect the creative wealth of communities spanning the state in ways unimaginable even to the idealistic mind of this 22- year-old. ■