Riding the (air) waves

Radio Free Moscow approaches 20 years of broadcasting on the Palouse

click to enlarge Riding the (air) waves
August Frank/Inland 360
DJ Jim Roach reads the title of the next song on his program, "Roach Approach" Friday.

Radio Free Moscow, KRFP 90.3 FM, marks a milestone this year: two decades of unapologetically progressive programming.

“It’s the epitome of community radio,” KRFP board president Jeremy Martin said. “It’s a place where every two to three hours there’s a different program on, which could be a different person playing vastly different music or programming than the person before them.”

Twenty years ago in October, a group of former DJs from the University of Idaho’s KUOI  created a nonprofit organization, got an FCC license and launched KRFP on a low-power frequency. The station later graduated to full power, when a transmitter was installed on Paradise Ridge, expanding the signal to surrounding towns.
click to enlarge Riding the (air) waves
August Frank/Inland 360
Jeremy Martin became KRFP board president earlier this year.

“Now it’s just a part of life. It’s just there. It’s every day,” Martin said. “People assume it’s going to be there.”
The station’s annual Real Radio Dinner and Auction, set for 6 p.m. Saturday at Moscow's 1912 Center, is one of several efforts aimed at making sure that’s true.

“It’s a good way for the community to come down, have a good meal and bid on some pretty awesome stuff,” Martin said.

Martin, who took on the role of KRFP board president this year, met many of the station’s founders when he was a UI student. He went on to work with a community station in Boise, returning to Moscow about three years ago, with a pandemic-inspired imperative to “reevaluate what’s important in life.”

On Jan. 1, he and his partner, Mina Ashkannejhad, acquired downtown Moscow mainstay Mikey’s Gyros, where another recent KRFP fundraiser, “bad karaoke” nights, are planned to continue quarterly. The event involves audience members ringing a gong to get karaoke participants to stop singing.

Looking ahead

Fundraising helps the station stay on the air — and look to the future.

“There was a huge effort to get it on the air 20 years ago, and now we just need to modernize,” Martin said.

That has meant adding a digital archive, so listeners can download shows from the KRFP website, and upgrading equipment, some of which was donated when the station was founded.

Keeping programming on the air 24/7 requires volunteers, funding and a continuing effort to engage the next generation of community radio enthusiasts in a time when “modern music consumption is not through the radio,” Martin said.
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August Frank/Inland 360
CDs line the walls of thestation.
But as dominant as streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music might be, he said, “there’s things in the (station’s) music library that you can’t find on those sites.”

That vast catalog of music is one tool for “trying to get the youth more interested in exploring music again.”

“We’re definitely interested in getting new DJs involved — and people who have a passion for journalism,” Martin said.

Of the 150 shows that make up the station’s lineup, he said, between 25 and 30 are hosted by local DJs.

Listeners might catch rock, pop, new wave, blues, world or metal music, or syndicated shows about environmentalism, civil liberties or current events. And KRFP reporters recently covered stories about alleged price gouging at area trailer parks, the Idaho Legislature’s attempts to regulate library books and local elections, including candidate interviews.

Personalities

“Fiddlin Al” Chidester’s participation with KRFP began months into the station’s existence, when a friend, Steve McGehee, invited him to “come sing some songs” on his show.

This was not long after Leigh Robartes, now the station manager and only full-time employee, helped start KRFP following his departure from KUOI when “someone noticed he was still there (and) not a student anymore,” Chidester said.

Today, Chidester, himself a former KRFP board president, broadcasts five hours a week, a number that’s fluctuated only a bit over the past 20 years.

“I’m totally addicted to being on the air,” he said.

His program, “Fiddlin Big Al’s Old Time Liberal Revival and Barn Dance (and Peace March and Drag Show),” is a reflection of the station’s progressive ideals.

“We are a welcoming community resource for anyone, as long as they’re down with our mission statement, which is on our website,” he said.
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August Frank/Inland 360
Jim Roach, host of blues and rock show "Roach Approach," sets the turntable needle in place Friday at KRFP in Moscow.

The statement reads, in part: “Radio Free Moscow is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the progressive values of peace, justice, democracy, human rights, multiculturalism, environmentalism, and freedom of expression.”

Folks have contacted the station wanting to do conservative talk shows, Chidester said, but “there’s millions of those out there. This is not the place for that.”

That said, the station welcomes new programs “as long as they stay within our mission statement — and FCC rules.”

Another KRFP personality, Arlene Falcon, operates longtime downtown Moscow shop Tye Dye Everything and volunteers for a lengthy list of local events, including Moscow’s Renaissance Fair and Hemp Fest.

Falcon also has been involved with the station since shortly after its inception, helping start a Grateful Dead show 15 years ago and hosting it herself since 2011. She’s on the air from 8:30-10 p.m. Wednesdays, highlighting a different decade of the Dead each week.

“I have fun doing my show,” she said. “I love sharing the Grateful Dead with everybody, and that’s why I do it — to make sure it keeps the Grateful Dead alive.”

Stone (she/her) can be reached at mstone@inland360.com.


IF YOU GO

KRFP 90.3 FM Real Radio Dinner and Auction

When: Opens with mixer at 6 p.m. Saturday. Dinner is at 7; live auction at 8.

Where: 1912 Center, 412 E. Third St., Moscow.

Tickets: $50 at krfp.org/support-krfp/real-radio-dinner, Tye Dye Everything and Mikey’s Gyros.

Of note: The event includes an Asian fusion dinner, no-host bar, and live and silent auctions with donated items, including a year-long gym membership and river rafting trips. Those who can’t make the dinner can come at 8 p.m. for the auction.