Expect some spirited on-air exhortations — and perhaps a few novel pitches from program hosts — as campus/community radio station KDVS holds its annual on-air fundraising drive this week. The fund drive started Monday, and will continue through the end of the day on Sunday, April 28, wrapping up as the clock strikes midnight.
KDVS broadcasts at 90.3 FM, and hopes to upgrade from the current 9,200-watt signal to a more powerful 13,000 watts once all the hurdles have been cleared and the station’s transmitter has been moved to a new tower located just north of Davis, in the Yolo County landfill. The new tower is up, and now KDVS is trying to raise enough money to acquire the equipment needed to make the transition. KDVS also broadcasts on the internet at www.kdvs.org, and can be heard online from pretty much anywhere in the world.
“Our move to the new tower is being finalized — it will increase our power by nearly 50 percent” said general manager Renner Burkle, who has spent much of the past year working on the project. “Other stations in the area have increased their power, which has had some negative impacts on the KDVS signal. Going to 13,000 watts will give us a clearer signal that also will be heard a lot farther (than the current 9,200 watt signal can reach).”
Unlike most radio stations, which operate under some kind of music or news format, KDVS is a consciously freeform station offering an almost dizzying variety of programming, which changes through the day as various program hosts — who are volunteers — take their turn on the air. The station’s disk jockeys — a mix of UC Davis students and community members — tend to save up some of their favorite music for the fund drive. And depending on who’s hosting the show, that music may be anything from reggae to Hawaiian music, beatmixed dance music, folk, progressive rock,jazz, Sunday morning gospel, garage rock, classical, metal (including various subgenres), electronic, “space age,” and more. There are also interview shows, alternative news broadcasts, and other non-music-based shows.
Among the programs are “Planetarium” hosted by a DJ known as Schrödinger’s Hat, offering “an audible adventure through sonic architecture,” and another program called “Revenge of the Handlebar Moustache,” hosted by Calamity Jane, offering “music to rock your socks off.”
The common denominator is that programming heard on KDVS is typically something that probably won’t be found elsewhere on the airwaves. “Every single song has been picked by someone (who is programming that show) who felt that song should be heard. We have no automation, there is no administrative hand here (telling DJs what to play). It is truly freeform, and our DJs have the ultimate say.”
“You may hear some wacky fun things on the air,” Burkle added. “And hopefully we will have the webcam set up so that people can see what we are doing in the studios. We might also have some of the KZAP personalities popping in.” (A few months ago, KDVS hosted an on-air reunion of radio personalities from KZAP, the former Sacramento FM station that is still fondly recalled for its heyday broadcasting a wide-ranging and uncoventional mix of music in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
KDVS was also on the air in the late 1960s and early 1970s, but only at very low power (about 10 watts), barely enough to be heard throughout Davis. It grew to 5,000 watts in 1977 and then 9,200 watts in 1999, allowing the KDVS signal to carry into much of the Sacramento region.
Burkle said that the KDVS annual fund drive has become more and more important to the station in recent years as financial support of the station from Associated Students, UC Davis, has ebbed, making it increasingly critical for KDVS to raise its own funds to keep the lights on.
“For this fund drive, we have the entire station pulling together,” Burkle said, “We have live phone operators answering calls from listeners — they are volunteers. People can call 530-754-KDVS, or they can go online at fundraiser.kdvs.org.” There will also be special events, like a show at the new KDVS recording studio at 720 Olive Drive on Tuesday, April 23, at 8 p.m., featuring bands like Fuzz and Drive-Thru Mystics. Tune in or check the station website — www.kdvs.org — for details on this and other special events.