‘Radiopalooza’ jams for WHYR

Barbara Lamb doesn’t venture out to attend outdoor concerts or events often, but on Saturday, she had a special reason to brave the hot sun and join the crowd at the Radiopalooza fundraiser in downtown Baton Rouge.

Her son, Bruce Lamb, is the lead singer for Rondo Hatton, a Baton Rouge surf rock band, and she was not going to miss the band’s performance at the North Boulevard Town Square or an opportunity to support one of her favorite radio stations, WHYR-FM, 96.9.

“I sew a lot and I listen to this station when I’m in my sewing room,” she said, smartly seated in the shade. “I like the music, it keeps me company.”

Other local bands featured Saturday were The Michael Foster Project and Righteous Buddha.

Labeled as Baton Rouge’s community radio voice, WHYR is a low-power station that offers a diverse mix of talk and radio shows, without commercials and produced and hosted by Baton Rouge residents.

“One of our underlying values is the idea of amplifying the lesser-heard voices in the community that don’t have that natural forum,” said Rebecca Marchiafava, volunteer coordinator for the station and board chairwoman for the station’s parent group, the Baton Rouge Progressive Network, which owns the station’s Federal Communications Commission license.

The station’s FCC license actually was stolen briefly without the FCC’s authorization in November 2005 by a group not affiliated with WHYR, according to the station’s website. A nearly four-year investigation concluded in January 2010 with the FCC ruling in the Progressive Network’s favor.

The station officially went on air in June 2011 and began streaming music online in November 2012.

The third annual Radiopalooza staged Saturday is the main fundraising event for the station, and Saturday also was the first time the event was held in Town Square, Marchiafava said.

The station continues to be run by a volunteer staff and management, but Marchiafava said WHYR hopes to raise enough money to one day hire a full-time station manager.

She said the decision to hold Saturday’s Radiopalooza in Town Square was based on the need to attract more visitors, though it made it impossible to charge admission to the festival, as was done for the first two Radiopaloozas staged in Beauvoir Park near the Perkins Road overpass.

To raise money for the station Saturday, volunteers sold T-shirts at $10 to $15 each, $1 vinyl records from the station’s closet and $4 Tin Roof beer. Marchiafava said selling local beer is a good way to encourage local participation.

“One of my pet peeves is to show up to a community festival and not find local beer,” she said.

About 3:30 p.m., Marchiafava said, she did not have specific numbers on how much money had been raised so for, nor did she know how much would be raised if the vendors sold out of everything, but she was pleased with the even pace of sales up to that point.

The bare minimum the station needs to operate on for another year is about $30,000 and that covers the rent, utilities, insurance and music licensing fees, said Alexander Perlis, part of the station’s technical team.

“We’re hoping here to raise a chunk of the $30,000 we need this year” at Radiopalooza, Perlis said.

He said he thinks the station’s appeal is based on its locally produced music and talk shows of the sort that people cannot find anywhere else, as well as the fact that there are no commercials broadcast.

“We’ve created a canvas and it’s up to people in Baton Rouge to paint that canvas,” Perlis said. “You can think of us as KLSU for adults.”

KLSU is LSU’s student-run, student-produced radio station.

The crowd was sparse during Radiopalooza’s early going Saturday as the sun beat down, but as the afternoon slipped by and the heat became less oppressive, more people began filling the seats and benches.

Children played in the water fountains while bottled water and Tin Roof beer flowed freely among the adults. Two food trucks — Fleur de Licious and Mobile Grill Muncher — were parked on the west end of the park, while tents staffed with volunteers selling beer and merchandise sat on the north side of the park.

Artist Jay Michael created the psychedelic 3-D poster for this year’s Radiopalooza, and used themes from the first Radiopalooza in this year’s poster. He created the poster for that event as well.

Michael said he listens to the radio station because it not only inspires him but provides a commercial-free flow of music and information that is good for his creativity.

“I listen to the station all the time,” Michael said, adding he hopes to get more involved with helping the station gain a wider audience.

One fan of Rondo Hatton who attended the event and who needs no introduction to the station was Frank Mixon, of Baton Rouge.

Mixon attended Saturday’s event because, he said, he thinks the station is underrated and under the radar.

He said he appreciates the music mix because WHYR broadcasts the performances of many local bands and he is familiar with the local blues music scene.

“I like supporting community events and I enjoy the station,” Mixon said.