By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Last Wednesday afternoon, 102.1 The Edge's Jessie Jessup read the evening's concert calendar, encouraging her audience to see local bands like Sorta and Chris Holt and touring bands like Aqueduct and Easy Action. I couldn't help but laugh.
This was week two of my three-week Edge binge, and I wondered: Who are they trying to fool with this lip service? After all, these are just some of the many acts the self-proclaimed "new rock alternative" never plays.
The list was yet another depressing reminder of how the mighty has fallen. The only modern-rock station left in Dallas has become as much of a new rock alternative as a Dire Straits record.
Since the demise of alternative-focused Q102 and an unofficial merger with Pantera-loving 97.1 The Eagle (both thanks to Clear Channel), the station has become noticeably worse. That said, I had no idea how far the station had plummeted; I hadn't listened to The Edge in years. Why bother with Dallas' modern-rock monopoly when my car has a CD player?
But with this new job came a sense of responsibility. I wanted to see what was really happening on the airwaves, so I assigned myself an Edge regimen: checking Web playlists and listening diligently at home and on the road. In three weeks, what I discovered wasn't a new rock alternative at all. Rather, The Edge has transformed into my worst nightmare: a classic-rock station for Gen-X'ers.
For those weeks, '90s hits dominated, led by Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots and Toadies. But worse were the second-rate hits The Edge played again and again. Lo Fidelity Allstars? Filter's collaboration from the Spawn soundtrack with Crystal Method? Cypress effing Hill?
That's nothing compared with the freakish trend I've dubbed "nostalgia marketing." The Edge's playlist may include big-name bands with new albums, but their songs often don't come from the latest LPs. Beck songs from 1996's Odelay play far more frequently than "E-Pro," his 2005 single. Nine Inch Nails' latest, "The Hand That Feeds," is overshadowed by repeats of 1994's "Closer." Audioslave, Weezer and System of a Down split about 50-50 between the latest and the old hits, too.
Is this a Clear Channel initiative to remind people about new albums? Because somehow, I doubt that Dallasites are requesting "Closer" at all hours. In all, the station's ratio stands at about 2.5 older hits to every "modern" song played.
Of course, the station's modern selection is hardly better. Playlists jump from the lighter whine of Coldplay to the generic butt-rock of Seether (whose play time has jumped since becoming a headliner at this summer's Edge-sponsored Weenie Roast concert), only to dig into '90s hits again. This split personality is killing The Edge.
The only exception is the Sunday-night block, whose long-running Adventure Club has recently been paired with The Local Show. Hometown bands, overseas imports and hidden indie gems get a brief chance to shine, but compared with the rest of the week, the two good shows are chump change, as if Clear Channel deserves praise for supporting local and underground artists at all. And that's bullshit.
Is there hope? I could easily say no, that Clear Channel is an untouchable corporate machine, but Dallas rock fans shouldn't have to concede so much. Someone is green-lighting The Edge's repetitive, '90s-dwelling playlists. Make them stop.
Replace played-out songs with more up-and-coming underground and local artists. Stop pretending that Toadies and Burden Brothers songs are enough to represent D-FW. There's exciting music out there--promote it, care about it. And listeners, if you agree, make it known.
Calls to Edge program director Duane Doherty were not returned in time for press, and that's fine. The station has already spoken volumes. Now's your turn.