Revisiting the major moments that made EVR an institution
Last week, East Village Radio announced they’d be shuttering their doors and muting their dials after over ten years of service to the city. For those unfamiliar, the pirate-turned-web radio station that broadcast from a small storefront off 1st and 1st served as a throughline for sounds spanning scenes and continents: sharp-shaved punk, spicy world music, smoked-out southern rap and, occasionally if we were so lucky, styles and flows that stormed the center from the fringe and reshaped pop culture in its image. The news struck us hard—The FADER hosted it’s own show The Let Out on the station for years. Today, we talk to the faces behind the glass: the founders, DJs, hosts and hangers-on that made the station what it was. It’s easy to complain about change, but more fun to make it. EVR stood as a testament to that, and in some ways, it’s all the more special that it didn’t last forever—in New York City, what does?
— EVR Co-Founder, Host of Minimal Wave
We started out as a pirate FM station, broadcasting from an apartment above Lil’ Frankie’s, which was essentially the office for L.F. plus a tiny adjacent room. We’d broadcast live from there, on 88.1 FM every day from 4pm-12am. We actually put the antenna on the roof of 19 1st Avenue ourselves! It was a intensely creative time, when Frank Prisinzano, myself, Jorge Docouto, and Donielle McCarry came together and formed the beginnings of what would later become an online commercial free storefront radio station with a worldwide presence. From the beginning I did my show on Sundays, originally I had the 10pm-12am slot, and I remember specifically playing one night shortly after we began our live broadcast on FM and getting a phone call from a guy who was listening to the radio in his car as he was driving back to Brooklyn over the Williamsburg Bridge. He called to say that he was loving the show and was happy to have discovered it that night. At that point, we had no idea exactly how far our transmitter’s reach was, so it was exciting to know this guy could tune in from as far as the bridge. Later, we got a cease and desist order from the FCC (we had noticed a black van parked outside our building several times!) and soon after began to focus on transforming the station into an entirely online one.
— EVR Content Director, Host of Just Music
I reckon I’ve done somewhere around a thousand hours of time in the East Village Radio storefront studio since 2006. In that time, I irradiated countless tourists, panhandlers and neighborhood folks with noise, experimental music, free jazz and fringe psychedelia on my show Just Music. The opportunity to expose, even for a minute, visitors to the East Village to somebody thrashing on a piece of sheet metal or a stream-of-conscious howl accompanied by a guitar tuned to the otherworld was a special one. Then there were the folks who tuned in every week to be challenged by my constantly mutating interests in underground music, past and present—those people made lugging fifty pounds of vinyl in from Brooklyn week in and week out worth it. From members of the Source Family to William Bennett of Whitehouse to Jackie and Ju Suk of Smegma to Hiroshi Hasegawa of C.C.C.C., the guests I brought to EVR are members of a tribe of margin-walkers that welcomed me as some sort of self-taught documentarian and I’m eternally grateful for that. The fact that people listened to me nerd out about tape labels from Michigan, Grateful Dead bootlegs, Italian prog and whatever else for so long tells me we did something right at EVR.
— Host of Authentic Shit
Every Friday around 7:30pm, I’d leave the studio in a mad scramble to make it to EVR by 8pm. Often times, whoever I was working with in the studio would come along too, just to hang out. I remember Amy Winehouse joining me a few times, with the sweet intention of keeping me company. Then she’d eventually get bored after ten minutes and go to the tattoo parlor right next door. I think she got two or three tattoos before I decided I should stop inviting her along, for her own sake. EVR was such a special place. I remembering hearing an unlabeled demo of Wale’s for the first time in that booth and asking someone to call in if they knew what it was–which led to me signing him to our old label. I played early demos of Amy, Drake, Vampire Weekend, MGMT and, literally, world premiered “Stronger” by Kanye West–all from a tiny storefront on 2nd Avenue. It’s a big loss for music lovers and NYC in general.
— Host of The Let Out & Universópolis
Like so many before and after me, I used to do the FADER’s The Let Out on Friday nights, after which Mark Ronson would roll in for his show wearing a perfect bespoke suit and inevitably want to know who we were/I was playing. (That’s how he linked up with MNDR for “Bang Bang Bang,” for one.) But I had my own show, Universópolis, for longer, which I generally devoted to new and exciting dance music from Latin America and the diaspora. The fact that they’ve allowed me to do that show for four years in itself underscores why East Village Radio has been so important, not just to New York City but to the entire internet: it provided a high-profile platform for a diversity of music that most people still consider the niche-iest of the niche, exploring nearly every genre imaginable in its programming, and cherishing it all. They never, ever questioned my choices and always championed my variety, so I was able to play 3ball from Japan, goth-industrial from Colombia, rap from Tejas, trap music from México, dembow from the Bronx and cumbia from Canada all in one jumble. I feel a great loss not just because I’ve spent every Saturday since October 2010 in the storefront booth blasting music, but because it’s generally upsetting if independent internet radio stations as vital as EVR can’t survive without lobbyists repping their cause. That said, station director Peter Ferraro and engineer Joe Hazan worked really hard especially, and for a while, Manhattan was better for it.
Ashok “Dapwell” Kondabolu
— Co-Host of Chillin Island
The first time a rapper friend of ours [who shall not be named] did Chillin Island he went on about how he didn’t like coming to New York because everybody’s full of shit. Which is true. We began taking calls on-air and these twin models called from Little Italy and we cut it up for awhile. We asked them to come down to the station to hang out after the show. They ended up being identical twin models. Real weirdos. I went to bum a cigarette and when I got back the models were loudly arguing with a passerby in support of Ron Paul and the rapper friend was sitting on the curb shaking his head and talking about how “New York sucks.” He regularly has sex with both of those sisters now when he gets into town because I guess rap is maybe still cool. Also, we talked about Jews a lot on the show. We are a Jew-friendly program.
— Host of Baller’s Eve
So many great memories over our 10+ years at EVR. But I have to say that having Big Boi on the show and having him thank us for what we’ve been done for the south has to be the greatest honor. And to top that off, he have us the world premiere of the “Jedi Remix” of “Lookin 4 Ya” featuring Andre 3000! Pretty sick.