Located in the small, rural town of Pescadero, KPDO is about an hour's drive south of San Francisco. On my drive down to the station I traveled along the scenic Highway 1, passing not only surfers, but also cows and fruit stands. The town of Pescadero is known to city folk for its proximity to the beach and also for the famous fruit pies at the historic (since 1894) eatery Duarte's Tavern. Within spitting distance of "downtown" Pescadero, KPDO is located in a small building next to a grassy field. For the launch party on May 8th, bands set up on the lawn and performed live on the air. During breaks people could mill about, take a look at the station, chat with DJs, grab a beer, or even catch the sound of a nearby rooster.
KPDO Station Manager Daniel Roberts Checks out the Signal at the Launch Party
As I wrote on Radio Survivor, KPDO has actually existed as a licensed station since 2003, but hasn't really had a staff or DJs at the helm until now. Former middle school teacher Celeste Worden applied for the license for the station back in 1994 and had planned to use the community radio station as an educational platform for young people. Unfortunately by the time she got the license from the FCC, she'd already moved out of the area. Fast forward to Fall 2009 when Pirate Cat Radio owner Daniel Roberts (aka Monkey) offered to work to bring the station in Pescadero to life. His other station, Pirate Cat Radio in San Francisco, had recently been levied a hefty FCC fine for broadcasting without a license and Monkey jumped at the opportunity to broadcast over the FM airwaves again in an FCC-authorized way. However, he was quick to point out to me that HE hasn't technically broken the law in at least 7 years since he hasn't been operating an illegal transmitter for Pirate Cat (his fans have).
Music Performances outside KPDO
When I talked to Daniel at the opening party for KPDO, he told me that he submitted a proposal to Celeste and was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to run the station as its Station Manager and Treasurer. In addition to that, he'll be doing the "News Mongers" show every weekday morning as well as a music show on Sunday nights.
I was there when KPDO officially began broadcasting at 11am on May 8th during the launch party. Live DJ shows were slated to begin the following Monday, with gaps in the schedule being filled by rebroadcasts of Pirate Cat Radio shows. The station will stay true to its original educational mission, with plans already in place for interns and teen participation. Daniel said that he "has a massive lesson plan lined up" and that "people are ready" to start training new DJs. Some of the staff, including Daniel, have previous radio experience at both community and college radio stations.
KPDO Studio in Pescadero
KPDO is licensed to broadcast at 300 watts, but is currently only operating at 100 watts. Daniel told me that the station will be heard from Ano Nuevo to San Gregorio and from La Honda to the Foothills. The cramped radio dial and the geography of the hills on this part of the coast conspire against them a bit, as well as potential interference from 43-watt station on the same frequency out of nearby Pacifica. In fact, as I drove down to KPDO (just before they went on the air), I caught bits and pieces of programming from both KLSI (QFM out of Pacifica) and from college station KOHL on 89.3FM.
Daniel was dismissive when I asked him about KLSI, saying that the station is run by a guy from out of town and that it's "basically a jukebox from Florida." Daniel said that the owner of KLSI runs a bunch of radio stations and that he's not connected with the local community and added, "Scum of the earth are people who treat radio like real estate." I told Daniel that I'd heard that UC Santa Cruz had been helping out with KPDO about a year ago and asked him what happened. He said that UC Santa Cruz had made an offer to purchase the station, but that the owner of KLSI contested that purchase. Apparently because of the related legal fees, UC Santa Cruz pulled out, leaving the future of KPDO uncertain. I asked Daniel why KLSI wasn't taking issue with his takeover of KPDO and he said that it's because he's just running the station and the license isn't being transferred.
KPDO Couch (a station MUST HAVE item), with a View to the Studio
Since it's a brand new station, KPDO is pretty bare bones, with just the basic equipment and no record library. Daniel said that eventually they will have a library with both digital and physical (CDs, vinyl) music. Although he has moved to Pescadero, Daniel will still run both KPDO and Pirate Cat Radio. When I asked how he would run 2 stations, he said that "Pirate Cat is really kind of able to run itself."
In the meantime, KPDO is seeking both volunteer DJs and underwriting support as they begin their broadcasts to the "south coast." I wish them luck!
Previous Spinning Indie Radio Station Field Trips:
Field Trip to WECB at Emerson College
College Radio Field Trip 2 - Cal Poly's KCPR
College Radio Field Trip 3 - Notre Dame's WVFI
Radio Station Field Trip 4 - WFMU in Jersey City
Radio Station Field Trip 5 - East Village Radio in NYC
Radio Station Field Trip 6 - WNYU in New York City
Radio Station Field Trip 7 - Northwestern's WNUR
Radio Station Field Trip 8 - Stanford's KZSU
Radio Station Field Trip 9 - University of San Francisco's KUSF
Radio Station Field Trip 10 - Santa Clara University Station KSCU
Radio Station Field Trip 11 - UC Berkeley's KALX
Radio Station Field Trip 12 - KSJS at San Jose State University
Radio Station Field Trip 13 - WBAR at Barnard College
Radio Station Field Trip 14 - KFJC at Foothill College
Radio Station Field Trip 15 - UC Santa Cruz Station KZSC
Radio Station Field Trip 16 - Haverford College Station WHRC
Radio Station Field Trip 17 - FCCFree Radio in San Francisco
Radio Station Field Trip 18 - Flirt FM in Galway, Ireland
Radio Station Field Trip 19- WRXP 101.9 in New York City
Radio Station Field Trip 20 - WGBK at Glenbrook South High School, Illinois