The last post, on Loveline, made me want to revisit some other things I miss about music, specifically on the radio. And traditions in general. I’ll get to the radio part, eventually.
I imagine like other folks, after major changes in your life, like moving to a new city, or getting a new job, or whatever, you consider the “what ifs” from alternate realities. What if the new city isn’t as fun? What if the new job sucks? And sometimes, in a weird bit of serendipity, the FOMO you worry about takes care of itself for you.
College is never 100% work and sleep. There’s always time for play. It’s important. For me, I played a lot of capture the flag every Saturday night on the University of Washington campus. Other nights I’d drive out to arcades and bowling alleys to play arcade games (Mostly DDR) until like 3AM with friends or even alone. I remember driving out during the winter out to Ballard Bowl, pulling into the parking lot still covered in a thin layer of melting snow and going in to sweat it out to DDR all night with my pockets full of quarters. And this was before Google Maps. I had a GPS but it wasn’t the most reliable. I had to learn how to navigate dark roads just through memory and reading the environment.
Growing up, I wasn’t really ‘cultured’ in a musical sense. I had friends that went to concerts regularly, but for me it was not important? My parents did a piss-poor job of instilling me with any taste in music. They regularly played the local LA oldies station, K-Earth 101 in the backyard, but that’s about it. My parents hated each other’s taste in music. With a fiery passion. But rather than weaponizing it to pull me to favor one genre/decade over the other, they just never brought it up.
That left a poor nerdy kid like me only knowing kids music, video game music, Weird Al parody songs, and whatever oldies I recognized on the radio from the car. College was a time to really expand that, but unfortunately going to a video game school, that wasn’t the easiest thing in the world.
Towards the end of my degree, in what would be my senior year, I wrapped up most of my classes, but thanks to an ambiguous grade in an art class, without any clear answer if it was a passing grade or not, I retook the class over summer and had to take one final class that winter. That left me with a lot of free time. And that is coincidentally right when Guitar Hero came out.
Mind you, as I said earlier, I played a lot of Bemani titles, so I knew more Japanese and Korean pop artists than American. And it was embarrassing. It took a bit of time for me to embrace Guitar Hero due to some design changes I disagreed with, especially the lack of a perfect score and no way to see how accurate your timing was on a specific note. It was more of a party title than a perfectionist game. And now that I’m older, I see the benefit of that.
These titles, along with Rock Band, were coming out at frightening pace. But I loved it. It gave me a chance to experience top songs from top artists that I should have known already. A crash course in developing taste in music. As the games grew in popularity, so did the playlists. And frequency in DLC. IT was just a flood of songs for me to discover. So I started assembling mp3 playlists of the songs, to help me learn the words, melody and all that.
It was a little bit of busy time for me on the computer to build these mp3 libraries. Finally branching out from just Super Mario 64 soundtracks and ripping the CDs that my parents left around their house. Especially as the iPod had just become the hottest item in the world. (I’ll make that post later)
But how does this tie into FOMO and radio? Well, as I was exposed to this music, I wanted to listen to more of it. And the local radio station that had Loveline also was the local alt/rock station, 107.7 KNDD FM, The End. Because I also grew up in LA, and terrestrial radio streaming online was just starting out, I also listened to KROQ back home, too. And each year, KROQ put out a list of their top songs of the year, all 106 of them, well, 107 if you include the joke song, tying into the 106.7 of their frequency.
The summer after I finished my classes, I basically only listened to 107.7 KNDD. It was my wakeup station on my alarm clock. It was my companion when I drove. I learned all the music. I met the employees and crashed at their beach house in Alki Beach while I played Guitar Hero that I would bring myself. I would sing karaoke with them at a bar and win tons of free tickets to see all the bands they were promoting. Everyone from Daft Punk to My Chemical Romance.
But once I got a job, that was going to end. All of it. I was intent on moving back to Los Angeles, as was always the plan. And that meant leaving behind the radio station and those activites, that also meant leaving behind my capture-the-flag group, and the bowling alleys and arcades where I played DDR, etc. It was a lot to consider. But it never materialized that way.
Virtually every single bit of entertainment and activity ended at almost the exact same time I left. The Ballard Bowl alley was demolished to become an apartment complex immediately after I moved away. The other arcade, Illusionz, never re-opened after the great winter storm of 2007 knocked out power during it’s busiest time of the year. The CTF group disbanded after the core folks graduated and went on some sabbatical around Europe. And that leaves the radio station. Well, it all ended their, too. At least the parts I loved.
I believe they did one more summer of the beach house, but that was it. They did two more Endfest music festivals. But the karaoke band never got back together. And I stopped listening to them because I moved back home. I wondered if I had been missing out on any new music discovery, but I didn’t. After I moved away, they stopped publishing their own top 107 list each year. I believe the subsequent year was the top THIRTY. And then they eventually dropped even that. So did KROQ.
It was so weird to me that I was gifted this amazing time in college to flesh out who I was as a person, especially with the final year’s abundant free time and that as soon as I began my work career, it ended with me. I want to avoid mentioning The Truman Show, but it feels unexplainable that so much of the most wonderful times of my life ended at the exact time I moved away, preventing any sense of FOMO, until you consider it was 2007, and the great recession struck about a year later, forever changing the landscape of every god damn thing.
So instead of dwelling on the “What if I stayed and worked in Seattle?” for the last few decades of my life, it’s actually been closer to “What would the world have been like if we didn’t lose so much to the stupid recession?” And with the Covid-19 Pandemic, the same questions arise again. It’s only natural you collect “What ifs” as you age. The important part is to not let it control your life and to find peace with the choices you make and appreciate what control you have.