Some people are even willing to take the ride into DIY low-power terrestrial radio. I stumbled over the Bay Area's latest on a wet, windy Oakland evening at Clarke Commons' craftsman-y abode. The door was flung open and a colorful, quilt-covered fort/listening station greeted me in the living room. In the dining space, a "magical handcrafted closet studio station" provided ground zero for the micro-micro K-Okay Radio — essentially a computer sporting cute kitchen-style curtains and playing digitized sounds.
A brown, blue, and russet petal-shingled installation looked down on K-Okay's guests as they took their turn at the mic. And if you were in a several-block radius of the neat-as-a-pin house-under-construction and tuned your boombox to 88.1 FM, you could have caught some indescribably strange sounds and yarns concerning home and migration. I drove away warmed by the friendly mumble of sound art.
Who would have imagined radio as an art installation? Yet it's just another positive use for a medium that has functioned in myriad helpful ways, whether as a life link for Haitians after the 2010 earthquake or (as on a recent Radio Valencia show) a rock gossip line concerning the Bruise Cruise Fest. As Waits puts it, radio is "about allowing yourself to be taken on a musical journey rather than doing the driving yourself online." Today it sounds like we need the drive to keep that spirit alive.