Xav and Martin: Radio Connects Community
text by Elizabeth Vogt
photo by John Ruebartsch
We talk to, with, and for each other. We tell tales of experience and fantasy, spout emotional diatribes, sing out of longing and of pleasure. And we did it long before written language and telephones: millennia around the campfire may have actually given us a significant evolutionary boost.
Tuning in to Riverwest Radio today, you’ll find our community benefitting from a similar boost. It’s a rich, contemporary platform for the oral tradition.
Station Manager Xav Leplae (left) and Program Manager Martin Hallanger (right) can usually be found amid a hum of activity, with WXRW LP’s storefront studios on Center Street packed with audio equipment, radio hosts and guests. They’re stoking the modern-day campfire with a program lineup of talk (at least 80%, by Xav’s design) that explores arts, activism, human rights, history, all things legal and local and is spiced with sports and children’s books. And more
WXRW LP is improvisational, mildly anarchic, and punctuated with the unexpected—much like Riverwest itself. Audiences are rewarded with programs such as Life: Welcome to Reality (host Charles ‘CC’ Carmichael philosophizing in rhyme for hours), Youth: Rising Up (considering trending issues and empowerment for area youth) and Packerverse (Nik Kovac mining not only the depths of football sport, but larger historical and environmental contexts). StonesouP even offers ‘radio de-programming’!
Then there’s music: live, banjo, hip-hop, punk, jazz and even musicology (‘music with a little ology on the end’).
“The quality of programs here is amazing,” applauds Hallanger. “Riverwest Radio is a shining example of how good humanity is!”
Given such bounty on this radio smorgasbord, could one wish for more? Maybe for more than 100 watts? The station’s LPFM (Low Power FM) FCC license is only good for broadcasting to roughly a 5-mile radius. No problem, Hallanger asserts, because it’s essentially “the same as 40,000 watts.” Why? Listening via WXRW LP 104.1 FM is only one of the ways to access Riverwest Radio’s programming.
Listeners do so globally. “It’s like having friends and family all across the planet!” say Hallanger.
With about 400 listeners a day on SoundCloud alone, the Riverwest’s ‘radio without radios’ is a success.
This non-elitist space grew out of Leplae’s involvement in the Occupy movement. Radio offered a means to move conversations beyond an occupied space. Technology changes dovetailed with this initiative, and the station was born at Riverwest Film and Video store.
Hallanger, another graduate of UWM’s film program and fellow experimenter in public access television, joined Leplae in 2015. Add in fundraising, support from the Riverwest Artists Association and the hard work of volunteers and you’ve got a caterpillar-to-butterfly sort of story.
The station broadcasts live and serves as a podcast production house. While all could easily podcast alone, hosts flock to the station’s hub of energy, structure, and gravitas. It’s easy to understand the attraction. Radio is an intimate form of communication (“brain-to-brain” is what Hallanger calls it) that builds community around a virtual campfire. We’re global villagers wanting to share.
Tune in to WXRW LP/Riverwest Radio at 104.1 FM or riverwestradio.com and join in. All are welcome!