Pssst… Wanna Hear a Secret? presents:
Normally an area buzzing with the sounds of people zipping up and down Broad, late at night the blocks surrounding WRIR magically transform to an eerily quiet space lit only by stars, street lights, and that damn Lowe’s sign. For many Richmond artists, this late night streetscape is the calm before the storm on their quest to unlock Secret Bonus Level at (and on) WRIR every Thursday from 1AM-3AM. Those who are brave enough to knock and enter Secret Bonus Level are greeted by a hive of creation. An eight or more player game, Secret Bonus Level is a live show on WRIR where the house band plays mostly-improvised instrumentals for local artists to rap either freestyled or pre-written lyrics.
First broadcast in July 2017, Secret Bonus Level is a relatively new addition to WRIR’s wide variety of local programming but with over 100 performers on the show so far, it has already established its place an extremely popular show with listeners. Noah Page, the O.G. (original game-maker) of Secret Bonus Level, said when he was offered his own show, he wanted to air the most awesomely crazy exciting thing he, and his friends, could think of.
According to Page, “having musicians perform live was an obvious one. No one else was bringing in musicians consistently to perform live on the air every single episode. And it was important to do a show about rap because Richmond’s rap scene has needed better infrastructure and support for a long time. . . so we wanted a show that’d not only support the rap scene but also introduce music fans from the indie rock scene to become more interested in it.”
And thus, Secret Bonus Level was conceived.
Using the live studio at WRIR, the show is spread throughout three rooms. The sound board operator is in one room where they can see into the performance room and hear what is coming through the microphones. The performance room is divided in half by a Plexiglas divider with the live band on one side and several microphones for artists on the other. The third room is where the host runs the game with a view of those who dare to rap. All in all, Secret Bonus level requires at least an eight-person crew for the show to go on. Page recalled when they first pressed start, many people doubted their ability to pull it off because of the number of people needed; however, they have never had a shortage of players. He has a dedicated crew of volunteers who help fill different needs and roles throughout the night as the level goes on.
The first dedicated crew member Page locked in is Vos, host of Secret Bonus Level. Having co-hosted other shows with Page, Vos was a natural fit for the role. Sanji the Hedgehog helps book shows, produces beats for the rappers, and helps ensure the show runs smoothly. MC Correct is a utility player handling anything from doing the dishes, running soundboard, and jumping on the mic. Mayday Goliath holds it down as the crew’s photographer and videographer.
The Secret Bonus Level Band performs live, on-air each week and according to Page, there are always rappers willing and excited to come perform. The live house band plays a wide variety of musical styles for the other players to rap to. While the band members coordinate on the style of music and may have some re-occurring themes or riffs, they improvise most of their songs. Secret Bonus Level Band is made up of Brandon Rice (bass), Jesse Lyell (percussion), and Joe Barry (guitar).
“Brandon is in a lot of other rock bands around town. Joe is a guitar teacher. Jesse is legendary punk rock alum in Richmond; he was in a popular group called Exploder waaaay back. These guys are all super official, great musicians and I’m SO grateful that they agreed to be in a band that was our idea, that they agreed to learn to play a style of music they loved but had never played before, that they made the incredible time commitment to be on every single week, and did it all just because they believed in it,” said Page.
In addition, Secret Bonus Level players can test their skills by playing “Can You Rap on That?” where a random instrumental is selected for the player to try rapping to. The challenge is that the selected instrumentals could be anything from a video game soundtrack to a hymn to elevator music. There are rules: no profanity and rap for the entire track. At the end of each song, the other players discuss the rhyme and provide a rating. But for those hesitant to receive judgment in real time on air… never fear! After all what would a bonus level be without an over-abundance of rings to collect? Variations of the local currency (9’s) are readily available to be bestowed upon players who follow the rules.
But this secret level of Richmond is not just a bonus opportunity for local artists. As MC Correct pointed out, Secret Bonus Level allows people to learn about different roles of a live show. For example, MC Correct is typically behind the mic as a performer but coming on the show gives him the opportunity to learn about production when he is not rapping.
Beyond the studio, you can find Secret Bonus Level performing at shows and hosting events that seek to fuse RVA’s different music scenes and spread awareness of hip hop. According to Page, “booking events was just the obvious next step when we tried to consider what more we could do outside of the radio show to help support rap and hip hop. We also mix new artists with existing guys with bigger names, to help them put themselves out there.” In addition, Secret Bonus Level strives to ensure their shows and events are a positive and welcoming environment for all who want to play and watch. Whether you identify as belonging to the dance party scene, LGBT scene, rock scene, rap scene, or no scene… Secret Bonus Level wants you to feel comfortable and enjoy yourself.
For Page, “the LGBT part is especially important to me because I realized there are a lot of LGBT rappers and LGBT rap fans who felt uncomfortable at rap shows (and vice versa). . . I realized this whole problem came from a lack of understanding on both sides. So we’ve always included LGBT artists and LGBT-friendly artists in everything we do because I really believe just putting the rap scene and the LGBT scene in the same room would help the two understand each other better.”
Next Wednesday, think twice before you get ready for bed. Putting in late night work pays off in premium 9’s when you get it in at Secret Bonus Level on Thursdays from 1AM-3AM
Listeners and players alike… are you ready to level up?
Jessee Perry 231 March 23rd, 2018
WRIR’s newest show host presents:
Fatima M. Smith is a community advocate with ties to various organizations. You’ll get to know her as the host of WRIR’s newest program, Common Thread, airing third and fourth Thursdays at Noon. Common Thread joins WRIR-produced programs such as The V Word, Inspire Indeed and Diversity Speaks! that are hosted by community advocates and produced by our volunteers. Their programs are part of WRIR’s mission to air underrepresented news, views and music to build cultural diversity in the city of Richmond. Fatima answered questions submitted to her via email about her show and taking on her new role as “WRIR Talk Show Host.”
How does your show fulfill the mission of WRIR? Often time we speak about issues as if they are one dimensional or one size fits all. Audre Lorde said it best, “There is no thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.” It is important to gather folks that represent various socioeconomic status, education levels, ethnicities, sexual orientation, genders, political views, among other identities and get them in a space where they are having a dialogue with one another rather than a monologue. Once dialogue is started, that is where the seed of change is planted. The show’s focus is having discussions that reflect community issues with voices of the community utilizing an intersectional lens.
What do you hope the listener will gain from hearing your show? My hope is that listeners take away something that was either new or adds to what they already know in order to be change agents in the community. Change and progress can be on an individual level, community level, or societal level. Just make it happen!
How did you hear about WRIR? Carol Olson invited me on her show to speak about the work I was doing through my former place of employment, YWCA of Richmond. I really enjoyed radio as a means of advocacy and activist work.
Why did you decide to volunteer with WRIR? I enjoyed my experiences with Carol and saw it as an opportunity to learn and grow and be a part of a great Richmond community tradition.
What advice would you give someone who is interested in volunteering at WRIR? It is possible. The team is supportive and you do not have to have experience, although it may be helpful.
Common Threads airs the third and fourth Thursdays of every month at noon. The show is produced with the help of WRIR volunteer Cameron Robinson and members of the station’s production team. If you are interested in learning more about hosting a show on WRIR or being a show producer, email [email protected]
Common Thread reflects the views and opinions of Fatima Smith and is not affiliated with any professional or academic organizations.
[email protected] 14 December 7th, 2016
WRIR DJs Best Of Lists presents:
Here’s a sample of the artists and releases that our WRIR DJs say are the best of 2016. Check your favorite DJ’s show page to see if he/she posted a best of list.
Paul, Time is Tight, Fridays 7-9p
Camp Howard- Camp Howard (Crystal Pistol/Bad Grrrl/Citrus City)
Atta Girl at Gallery 5
Guided by Voices at The Jefferson Theater
Clair Morgan- “Rogue Island” (Egghunt)
Thao & the Get Down Stay Down- A Man Alive (Ribbon Music)
Julie Storey at Gallery 5 (Mash Notes Benefit #1)
The Wimps- The Wimps (Bad Grrrl)
Get in the Car at Sound of Music, Gallery 5, etc.
ESP Ohio- “Royal Cyclopean” (Guided by Voices, Inc.)
Lance Bangs- Lance Mountain (Citrus City)
Atta Girl- F-Curse the Sun (Bad Grrrl)
Grass Panther at Hardywood
Young Scum- Zona EP
Pete Curry at Strange Matter
Spooky Cool on Time Is Tight and at Hardywood
Pylon- Live (Chunklet Industries)
Doll Baby- Polliwog EP
Eric Bachmann’s living room show at Tracy & Kenneth’s
Big Baby- Dumb Guys EP
Kenneka Cook on The Other Black Music
Mikrowaves in general
Magnus Lush at Strange Matter
Bill, Global A Go-Go, Wednesdays, 3-5p
Top Ten New Releases Of 2016
1. Vaudou Game (Togo-France) | Kidayu | Hot Casa
2. Kristi Stassinopoulou & Stathis Kalyviotis (Greece) | NYN | Riverboat
3. The Frightnrs (USA) | Nothing More To Say | Daptone
4. Dubioza Kolektiv (Bosnia & Herzegovina) | Happy Machine | Koolarrow
5. Sidestepper (Colombia-England UK) | Supernatural Love | Real World
6. Kottarashky & The Rain Dogs (Bulgaria) | Cats, Dogs And Ghosts | Asphalt Tango
7. Noura Mint Seymali (Mauritania) | Arbina | Glitterbeat
8. Orkesta Mendoza (USA-Mexico) | Vamos A Guarachar! | Glitterbeat
9. Dzambo Agusevi Orchestra (Macedonia) | Brass Like It Hot | ARC
10. Anthony Joseph (Trinidad & Tobago-England UK) | Caribbean Roots | Heavenly Sweetness / Strut
Gene & Carmen, British Breakfast, Saturdays, 11a-1p
1. Bill Ryder-Jones West Kirby County Primary Domino
2. The Orielles Jobin EP Art Is Hard
3. Meilyr Jones 2013 Moshi Moshi
4. Higher Authorities Neptune Domino
5. Spinning Coin “Sides” (single) Geographic
6. Cate Le Bon Crab Day Drag City
7. Holiday Home Greeting From Holiday Home EP Soundcloud
8. Minor Victories Minor Victories self titled
9. trashcan sinatras Wild Pendulum Victor Entertainment
10. Oscar Cut and Paste Wichita Recordings
11. Evans The Death Vanilla Fortuna Pop!
12. Bad Sounds “Avalanche” single Killing Moon
13. Boxed In Melt Nettwerk
14. Suzy Blu Album of the Month Uncut self released
15. Pictish Trail Future Echoes Lost Map Records
16. TOY Clear Shot Heavenly Recordings
17. C Duncan The Midnight Sun FatCat Records
18. Black Honey “Hello Todsay” single Soundcloud
19. Fake Laugh Great Ideas EP self released
20. Splashh “Rings” single Cinematic Music Group
21. Temples “Certainty” single Fat Possum Records\
22. Neon Waltz “Dreamers” single Ignition Records
Phil D., Friday Clock Out, Fridays 5-7p
La Femme “Mystere” (Born Bad)
Civil Civic “The Test” (Gross Domestic)
Duchess Says “Sciences Nouvelles” (Bonsound)
Odd Nosdam “Sisters” (Leaving Records)
De La Soul “And the anonymous nobody” (A.O.I.)
Holy F*ck “Congrats” (Innovative Leisure)
Horse Lords “Interventions” (Northern Spy)
Spray Paint “Feel the Clamps” (Goner)
Tobacco “Sweatbox Dynasty” (Ghostly International)
David Bowie’s album Blackstar (ISO / Columbia)
The Pop Group “Honeymoon on Mars” (Freaks R Us)
Future of the Left “The Peace & Truce of The Future of the Left”
Guerilla Toss “Eraser Stargazer” (DFA Records)
Aesop Rock “The Impossible Kid” (Rhymesayers)
Reissue / Excavated delights:
The Shaggs Philosophy of the World (Light in the Attic)
Get me Home for Tea – Rare psychedelic rock from the UK (Org Music)
Sunday Nights (Fat Possum)
Boombox 1 (Early Independent Hip Hop, Electro And Disco Rap 1979-82) (Soul Jazz)
Betty Davis The Columbia Years 1968-1969. (Light in the Attic)
Of the Year:
Brian Eno “The Ship” (Warp Records)
Richard Pinhas / Wume @ Strange Matter
[email protected] 14 December 7th, 2016
WRIR DJ pays tribute to Leonard Cohen presents:
By L.J., a WRIR volunteer and DJ
While on tour in 2008, a then-73-year-old Leonard Cohen included a recitation of his poem “A Thousand Kisses Deep” in his set list. If I were to demonstrate Leonard Cohen’s spirit to the uninitiated, the starting point would be a video of this recitation at a London show from that tour. With mournful ambient synthesizers as a backdrop, savoring each word, Cohen starts: “You came to me this morning and you handled me like meat… You’d have to be a man to know how good that feels…” He closes his eyes, tilts his head back and draws loosely clenched fists close to his face as he continues. It looks as though he is reliving the small intimate morning that inspired the poem. Just by watching the video, I’m having a quiet shared moment with Leonard Cohen. If it’s just theater, it’s good theater.
In that performance, Cohen is charming, both intelligent and wise, and self-effacing. The poem, like so many Cohen works, is about a woman. Not women in general, but about a particular experience with a particular woman. Like most Cohen works, the imagery in the poem is full of religious themes, gallows humor and pathetic fallacy. Cohen had been gladly playing the role of ‘wise mystic in a fedora’ for a long time and in that moment, it seemed perfected.
When I heard that Cohen had passed away, I re-watched the video. Then I sent it out to friends who were mourning his loss. For me, it was the second time this year that I had been celebrating a revered artist’s triumphant new album only to have that artist die several days afterward. In this regard, 2016 will end much as it started: with a brilliant final salvo from an artist I cherish.
Publications eulogizing Cohen reduce his career to a few bullet points: the impossible amount of artists who have covered “Suzanne,” the ubiquity of “Hallelujah” in singing competitions, his beginnings in the 60’s folk scene, his late-in-life artistic resurgence, and a mention of the varied and esteemed artists who have praised him. While this suffices to explain the furthest reaches of his importance, it is a far more difficult task to capture the depth of his importance.
L.J. is a volunteer at WRIR 97.3 FM, often guest hosting the program Cause and Effect and substituting for other WRIR DJs. He recently joined the board of the Virginia Center for Public Press, the nonprofit that oversees WRIR 97.3 FM.
[email protected] 14 November 18th, 2016
Open Source RVA presents:
It takes a village to bring you community-first election coverage! Open Source RVA’s Election Night spectacular on WRIR 97.3 FM featured a team of enthusiastic WRIR volunteers and perceptive special guests to bring you local election news, breaking vote totals and candidate interviews. For five hours, in between masterful sets of music from Will Armstrong (12 Fl. Oz). Otto Konrad (Over the Edge of the Pop Narcotic) and Tommy Atrien (Dog Germs), our Nov. 8 live coverage featured in-studio commentary and numbers-crunching from Open Source RVA’s own Don Harrison, Chris Dovi, Krysti Albus and Dale Brumfield, along with Melissa Vaughn from RVA Dirt. Former mayoral hopefuls Jon Baliles and Farid Alan Schintzius gave their perspectives, too.
Throughout the evening, the Election Night News Team talked to candidates Kim Gray (who won the 2nd District city council seat) and Sheriff Mike Wade (who lost his bid for the 4th Congressional District seat), as well as local political strategist Paul Goldman. We are proud to say that WRIR 97.3 FM was the first media outlet in Richmond to call the race for newly elected mayor Levar Stoney! That is really amazing, considering the resources and pundits the local, commercial radio stations were using for their election night coverage. It was a memorable evening for local AND national politics.
Thank you for allowing WRIR 97.3 FM to be your prime source for information and perspective on Election 2016. We encourage you to see how you can be a part of WRIR 97.3 FM. We need and want diverse voices on air. If you have an idea for a talk show or love a particular style of music, share your idea by filling out a volunteer application. It could lead to an incredible opportunity.
[email protected] 14 November 10th, 2016
WRIR’s Production Team presents:
If you’ve always wanted to volunteer at WRIR, but don’t know where to start, why not hang out with our volunteers who are part of our Production Committee? What they do is exciting and beneficial to the quality of shows produced at the station! The goal of the team is to train WRIR volunteers on audio production and editing using Audacity and Audition. You get hands-on experience creating station IDs, promos and possibly run sound for a band or show host. People who are interested in hosting a talk show learn how to create a pilot and then ultimately a show. Current volunteers hone their skills to make their shows sound as pristine as RadioLab or This American Life.
They meet every Saturday, 2-4 p.m., at the station, 1621 W. Broad Street, 2nd floor, above The Camel. Best to email the team to let them know you are interested: [email protected] Thanks to Baylen for starting the team and Cameron and Krysti for leading the weekly hangouts.
But don’t take my word for it. Listen to Avery, one of our volunteers:
[email protected] 14 August 27th, 2016
Open Source RVA presents:
In April, Senator Tim Kaine visited WRIR’s studios for an exclusive interview with the hosts of Open Source RVA. Senator Kaine talked about the resolution that he wrote when he was mayor of Richmond that helped to put WRIR and low power radio on the map. And yes, they did ask about his potential nomination as vice president. You can hear the two-part interview at the show’s on soundcloud. Open Source RVA is WRIR’s weekly news show. Don hosts the show with a variety of others who talk about the city’s theater scene, restaurants and happenings.
[email protected] 14 August 27th, 2016
WRIR Talk Show Talks Music presents:
I can’t tell you how many times someone suggests that WRIR should do a talk show about Richmond’s thriving music scene. It only makes sense. We’re the only radio station who regularly plays Richmond bands. Our live studio hosts a who’s who of Richmond rockers. Our volunteers and listeners are part of the city’s talent pool. Ladies and gentlemen, presenting Tympanum Effect: a show that highlights the creative people who enrich our city’s music scenes and delves into lesser-known territories of song and sound. Hosted by JR and guest producers, it airs alternating Saturdays at 5 p.m. JR shares how this show can help Richmond’s music scene and offers insights to anyone interested in hosting a program on WRIR. Keep reading –> (more…)
[email protected] 14 August 27th, 2016