Jerusalem’s Radio Free Nachlaot turned two this month. The Internet-only radio station, whose slogan is that it broadcasts from “an undisclosed location somewhere deep in the heart of Nachlaot” plays a mix of Grateful Dead (and Dead-inspired) music, mixed with Shlomo Carlebach and Torah talks “24/6” (the station rests on Shabbat).
Except on Wednesday nights, when the station’s founders, Anglo immigrants Lorelai Kude and Steve Levine, give me a chance to rock out.
Since August, I’ve been on the air playing everything except for the Grateful Dead. Whether that’s the latest indie rock (think of the improbably named New Pornographers or Death Cab for Cutie – hey, maybe there is some Dead on my show); classic 70s pop (be honest: you can never hear too much of “Amie” by the Pure Prairie League); or melodic grunge (Spock’s Beard or Smashing Pumpkins), come 7:00 PM, I’ll be spinning the tracks for two energetic, eclectic hours.
Running a radio station these days is a far cry from my stint as a DJ during college. Internet stations like Radio Free Nachlaot can now gain a worldwide following without the need for expensive transmitter towers, FCC licenses or ever expanding libraries of LP’s and 45’s.
In fact, there are no more records (or CD’s for that matter) at all. All you need is a computer, a one-time purchase of a broadcasting software program, a virtual stack of MP3’s, a decent microphone, and somewhere in the vicinity of $99/month for streaming bandwidth and, voila, you can be heard beyond the 10 mile radius that was my audience in 1983.
Moreover, you can even broadcast from a laptop in your bedroom (which Steve and Lorelai do in the wee hours of the night when shlepping to the main studio in Givat Shaul would be insomnia inducing).
That freedom is great, but computerization takes some of the fun out of DJ’ing – instead of cue’ing up two records and artfully mixing them together, now the software handles all the segues between songs – and frankly, most of the time, a lot better than a human being would.
Radio Free Nachlaot joins Rusty Mike Radio as the two main English-language Internet stations beaming out of Israel. The stations are unusual in that they feature real people behind the mic’s; most other Internet stations are either pre-programmed or custom-driven by the individual listener (see Spotify, Pandora and Last.fm).
The truth is, it’s somewhat of a miracle I got the gig at all. When Israelity colleague David Brinn made the initial shidduch, Lorelai’s first interview question for me: “So what’s your relationship with Jerry” (referring to the Grateful Dead’s late Jerry Garcia)?” I sheepishly replied that I had none and then proceeded to wax nostalgically about The Buzzcocks and The Tubes.
On its two-year birthday, Radio Free Nachlaot is averaging about 2,000 listeners a week, split almost evenly between Israel and the U.S., although there are also listeners from some 95 other countries. Lorelai told The Jerusalem Post’s Gil Zohar earlier this year that “considering we’ve never spent an agora on advertising and rely only on social media and word of mouth, that’s tremendous.”
You can listen from the station’s website or via iTunes Radio (it’s under the world/international category). In addition to my decidedly eclectic show (past playlists are here), there are programs featuring jazz, soundtracks from musicals, “homegrown” Israeli rock, and live broadcasts on Sunday nights that have featured the likes of Lazer Loyd from Yood and Yehuda Katz from Reva L’Sheva.
And let’s not forget the “9 Days of Jerry” broadcast in August to mark the birthday and yahrzeit of Jerry Garcia. Because at the end of the day, my show notwithstanding, Radio Free Nachlaot will live – and die – with the Grateful Dead.