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Raiding the Airwaves Volume One 

click to enlarge Raiding the Airwaves
  • Raiding the Airwaves

by Various Artists.
Humboldt Free Radio Alliance.

Take a look behind any local music scene and you'll usually find a handful of dedicated people working hard to keep music alive and accessible. Fortunately for those of us behind the Redwood Curtain, there exist a number of individuals and organizations that selflessly commit themselves to this cause and provide a variety of outlets that allows the Humboldt music scene to remain relevant and strong. Humboldt Free Radio Alliance (HFRA) can certainly be counted among this number, as they have been livening up the airwaves around Arcata and supporting local and national talent by presenting shows at the Alibi, Big Pete's, the Vista and other local venues since 2001.

As you'd expect, these kinds of efforts come at a price, especially when the long arm of the FCC becomes involved. Recently, in an attempt to defray expenses and finance future expansion, the folks at the HFRA solicited tracks from several bands and musicians and put together a benefit compilation entitled Raiding the Airwaves Volume One.

If you've ever flipped your radio dial to 99.9 FM, then you know that HFRA is not really interested in adhering to commercial radio conventions. Much is the same with Raiding the Airwaves, a collection of 10 fierce rock tracks gathered from up and down the West Coast. And when I say "rock" I mean it in the gritty blue-collar sense of the word. You know: dimly lit bars, cheap beer, T-shirts and ripped blue jeans, amps turned to 11 and the band pummeling full speed ahead.

For obvious reasons the disc is heavy (pun intended) with local talent that proves Humboldt can hold its own against acts from other more recognized scenes such as Portland and Seattle. The collection includes previously unreleased jams from Dragged by Horses and Yer Dog and a crushing gem courtesy of local faves The Hitch. San Francisco is well represented by the stoner clutching of Floating Goat's "Kung Fu Grip," and Bellingham's Cicadas are truly impressive with their instrumental brand of frenzied rock fury.

From the scathing wit of Bret Bailey's "Hippie Hatin' Me" (which I feel is the disc's crowning moment) to the spastic flurry of San Diego's The Long and Short of It, every band on this collection captures the kind of ferocity that recalls the energy and attitude heard from bands like The Jesus Lizard, Dwarves, Turbonegro and early Melvins. This is not to suggest that the comp sounds dated, but instead carries on an underground rock tradition that refuses to die or comply with corporate label standards, thus providing a perfect soundtrack for our local renegade broadcasters.

HFRA's hope is that proceeds from this release will help upgrade facilities and introduce new programming, including plans to air alternative news broadcasts. However, as is the case with any unlicensed radio station, the status of Humboldt Free Radio is always in flux. And as was reported in the Journal a few weeks back, the FCC shut them down. Perhaps the presence of the Feds, along with the spirit of supporting free expression and free-form radio, makes this a crucial time to dig up five bucks and lend a helping hand.

Raiding the Airwaves Volume One is available at People's Records, The Works and The Metro. When it's on, Humboldt Free Radio broadcasts at 99.9 FM Thursdays through Sundays. For details about the broadcast schedule and upcoming shows sponsored by HFRA, visit their MySpace page: "humboldtfreeradiopresents."

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Michael Mannix

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