Monday, January 5, 2009

Pirate Cat Radio Profiled in SF Chronicle

It's always nice to see indie radio getting news coverage, but today I had tinges of jealousy as the San Francisco Chronicle hit a station that's been on my wish list for a local field trip. Pirate Cat Radio, located in San Francisco's Mission District, has been a source of intrigue for me lately as they seem to be getting more and more "above ground." They operate a cafe and can be heard on 87.9FM (currently with a crazy 1200 watts). Lately they've even been co-presenting some shows around town. What's surprised me is that even though they are an unlicensed station they are not shying away from publicity. Last year, I read Sue Carpenter's book about all of the cloak and dagger moments connected with running her pirate radio station in Los Angeles; so times certainly have changed.

According to Joel Selvin's piece in the Chronicle today, "Java-Sipping Pirates Reclaiming Airwaves," Pirate Cat Radio as a concept has moved from place for place (Los Gatos, Hollywood, SF) over the past 12 years with its owner Monkey. The station opened Pirate Cat Radio Cafe in San Francisco in March. In order to help keep the station afloat, DJs volunteer at the cafe and pay $30 a month in order to be on the air.

I know that having rules at a pirate station can be a challenge; but I'm impressed by Pirate Cat's approach. According to the article:

"Monkey makes three demands on his staff: each disc jockey must read the news during the first 10 minutes and do three public service announcements and one interview during every two-hour shift...

Most of the on-air interviews are conducted over the phone, but in-person interviews with San Francisco punk rock survivors from the Mabuhay Gardens era on Tuesday night's 'Neat Neat Noise' show has led to recent impromptu unplugged reunions by such punk luminaries as Flipper, Crime and the Avengers. Dead Kennedys raconteur Jello Biafra spent the morning after the presidential election sitting around the cafe, talking with morning show hosts and cafe customers alike."

It's definitely a cool endeavor that on the surface reminds me of some of the stuff going on at East Village Radio in New York City (which also had a pirate radio past). I can hardly wait to visit to learn more for myself.

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