Happy Anniversary KPFT: 44 Genres for 44 Years

Today Rocks Off would like to salute 90.1 FM KPFT on its 44th anniversary, which it celebrates this Sunday under the "big top" behind McGonigel's Mucky Duck The lineup is a real hootenanny too, featuring Shinyribs, Del Castillo, Lisa Morales, Annika Chambers, Parker Millsap, recent Rocks Off 200 subject Robert Kuhn and Sirsy.

In the realm of contemporary Houston radio, KPFT is an exotic creature indeed. Alongside KTSU and Classical 91.7 -- if you're into that sort of thing -- it remains one of the few local FM frequencies that is not artistically and morally bankrupt. Here ideas still mean as much as dollars, even if some of those ideas sometimes piss people off. (Again, if you're into that sort of thing.)

We were thinking of a novel way to pay tribute to KPFT's anniversary without having to rehash the times it was bombed off the air by the KKK again, but we didn't need to. It eventually dawned on us tally up all the different kinds of music the station plays, and stop at 44 because that's what anniversary this is. Bear in mind this doesn't count the shows for which playlists were not available on the KPFT Web site, including wonderful ones like Bailando In Texas, Soular Grooves, Son Pacifica and The Chestnut Tree (check that one out sometime), but is no trouble at all to find 20-something shows to pick and choose from.

Hopefully it will give a you a much clearer picture of what a valuable musical resource Houston still has in its midst, one that you can listen to on your way home from work. Needless to say, it's also one that could definitely use your ears and your donations, if you're so inclined.

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The Eagle Soars Triumphant In Houston's Classic-Rock War

Photos by Marco Torres
Dean and Rog on the air last week
This past New Year's Eve afternoon, as classic-rock fans across Houston were putting on their faux, pre-distressed Led Zeppelin '77 tour T-shirt to head out and ring in the new year (and presumably, to rock and roll all night), they might have been shocked when turning in to KKRW 93.7 FM The Arrow.

Instead of hearing familiar tunes from the the Stones, Deep Purple, Pink Floyd, AC/DC or even Loverboy, they got an earful of Rick Ross, Beyonce, Jay-Z, and Drake. None of whom, I should mention, ever covered "Sunshine of Your Love."

In one of those no-warning, no-quarter moves that happens all the time across the dial, the Arrow was no more, with hip-hop/R&B-formatted "The Beat" now broadcasting on the frequency owned by Clear Channel.

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Hard Feelings Mount Between Rival Houston Rap Stations

Photo by Marco Torres
Trae Tha Truth
A growing nastiness is brewing between Houston's longstanding rap-radio standard-bearer, KBXX 97.9 The Box, and the recently reformatted KKRW 93.7 The Beat. However, much of the venom has come from the side of the new station.

The latest salvo in Houston's brand-new radio war came early Tuesday morning, barely a week after 93.7 switched formats. Trae Tha Truth, Houston's own outlaw and the human equivalent of an otherworldly being with the ability to walk through fire, brimstone and his 2009 banishment by The Box and come out rather clean -- had a song of his on the radio.

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So, Is the New 93.7 FM The Beat Any Good?

Thumbnail image for TheBeat-1231.jpg
When KPTY Party 93.3 signed off for the last time in March 2009, who knew it would be almost another five years before the city of Houston would see another fully developed hip-hop/R&B station in its aerospace? In other words, hip-hop fans in the city have been longing for such a move since KBXX 97.9 The Box began its long-standing stranglehold on the airwaves.

REWIND: 93.7 FM Now Marching to a New Beat

Then Tuesday afternoon, the change came -- swiftly. After a 20-year run as KKRW 93.7, and struggling with a sizable lag in ratings against 106.9 The Eagle, The Arrow ditched its classic-rock format and became 93.7 The Beat, rebranding itself as a hip-hop/R&B outfit and immediately began sending threats down the airwaves: "We are freeing you from that Box you've been subjected to."

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93.7 FM Now Marching to a New Beat

As many of you now know, around noon today 93.7 FM ceased to become a classic-rock station -- good riddance, some say -- and flipped formats to hip-hop and R&B, rechristening itself "The Beat."

Thus far, according to 937thebeathouston.com, songs have included Sevyn Streeter and Chris Brown's "It Won't Stop," Slim Thug and Z-RO's "Summertime," Hustle Gang's "Memories Back Then," Drake and Rick Ross's "Hold On, We're Going Home" and Destiny's Child's "Soldier."

Rocks Off has a radio specialist now monitoring The Beat and will report our findings New Year's Day. Happy New Year!

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UPDATED: Houston's Best Internet Radio Stations

Optimo Radio: Houston's one-stop rap shop.
UPDATE (Friday, 9:30 a.m.): Corrects Rock 101's mobile-app notation to "Yes."

Much like newspapers, radio has been irrevocably changed by the rise of the Internet. With broadband broadly available, there are fewer and fewer reasons to flip on the dial, so even giants like Clear Channel have added Web-based platforms like IHeartRadio to replace lost terrestrial listeners, offer more variety, gobble up even more revenue, or most likely some combination of the three.

Last week Apple took it even further by introducing streaming radio to its latest iTunes upgrade, and a few days before that the somewhat awkwardly named Musicradio Bop '70s station signed on as the newest member of the Houston-based Bop Radio family. As an Internet station, though -- no air breaks, no local ads -- of course you might never know it was based in Houston.

That got us thinking that it might be a good time to see how many other Internet stations we have in our midst, so the past few days Rocks Off has been seeking out and sampling as many as we can find. (If we missed one or two, just let us know.) Good thing, because our recent experiment listening to KRBE all day long might have put us off radio for good.

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One Grumpy Editor. Houston's No. 1 Hit Music Station. All Damn Day.

You know you want it...
Generally I become more and more skeptical about what's "hot." This is also known as "getting older" or, to paraphrase Chris Rock, not wanting to be the old guy in the club. But for me that skepticism has always come with a certain morbid curiosity about what makes some songs so popular and why. This time it was "Blurred Lines."

All the coverage surrounding the No. 1 song (or its supposedly controversial video, mostly) these past few weeks eventually got the better of me. I listened to it, I loved it, I downloaded it. Whether or not they lifted the idea from Marvin Gaye, Robin Thicke and his collaborators have created an irresistible piece of ear candy that also happens to be a pretty complex bit of musical engineering. It's fun, sophisticated, sexy; in other words, everything I assumed Top 40 radio had abandoned in the wake of all that twerking and po-faced acoustic folk-pop.

Thus I decided I would spend an entire workday listening to 104.1 KRBE -- a familiar musical barometer from the days it played Tina Turner and Prince all the way through Depeche Mode and New Order, as well as a station I had not listened to for more than a few minutes in years -- and keep a journal. I announced my intentions to a colleague, and he rightly said, "Why would you do that?"

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Drink of Ages Brings Local Brews and Bands to Houston Airwaves

Photos courtesy of Drink of Ages Radio Show
Drink of Ages' Jon Denman (L) and Preston Brown
Preston Brown and Jon Denman know a lot about good beer and good music. From their perspectives, Houston has plenty of both, and it all keeps getting better.

Brown and Denman co-host the Drink of Ages Radio Show, 7 p.m. Saturdays on News 92.1 FM. They'll be presenting Best Producer, Cover/Tribute Act, Zydeco and Keyboards at tonight's Houston Press Music Awards ceremony at Warehouse Live. (Free admission, but RSVP here.)

"Houston is growing into a great town for both (beer and music)," says Denman. "We are still behind other cities in being a beer town, but with the laws changing for craft breweries, we should start catching up real fast. Houston-area breweries are producing fantastic beer.

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Get Up, Stand Up: Six Protest Songs That Haven't Lost Their Teeth

Penner via Wikipedia
Rage Against the Machine in 2007
America was founded on the protest, and we've been fighting like hell ever since. From civil rights, voting rights and equal rights, America knows a thing or two about protesting. And lately, with unrest in Egypt, the protests in Austin over Texas' new abortion regulation, and people on both sides of the George Zimmerman verdict, protestors have once again caught the media's attention.

While some have a "love it or leave it" mentality, others prefer to exercise their right to kick up a little dust and make a ruckus. Of course, this wouldn't be America if it weren't by the people, for the people. It's the idea that our country was founded on, and it's not going anywhere.

So naturally, Rocks Off started thinking about some great protest songs. From past to present, music has been a way to show solidarity in large numbers, so we've compiled a list of six tracks that are perfect for any protest.

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Rice President David Leebron Plays a Painful DJ Set On KTRU

Disclosure: The author of this piece volunteers for KTRU.

On Wednesday afternoon, Rice University president David Leebron pulled up a chair inside of the KTRU Rice Radio studio and played some of those rooty-tooty, groovin' oldies.

In other words, music that KTRU has made a point not to play since its 1967 inception.

Leebron remains a scapegoat in the controversial gutting of Rice's radio station that sent Rice's broadcast tower, 91.7 FM 50,000-watt frequency and Federal Communication Commission license to the University of Houston.

After Leebron spearheaded the $9.5 million sale of (in Leebron's words) the "vastly underutilized resource," folks wanting to hear KTRU's free-form programming must do so via a high-definition radio or an Internet connection.

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