With Local Radio Sucking, What Does KXT's Launch Mean?

Chances are, right now, Gini Mascorro is listening to music.

Not necessarily by choice, mind you, but, at least in part, out of necessity. That's because, come Monday morning, Mascorro's musical tastes—and, to a degree, her personal music collection—will be thrown into the proverbial fire, put out in the open for all to see and, worse, for all to judge. At 7 a.m., Mascorro, just a couple weeks back named the musical coordinator and morning show host of the new, NPR-affiliated, KERA-owned, all-music station, KXT-91.7 FM, will jump on the air for the station's launch and her new, pressure-filled role as the face—nay, the voice—of the station that could, potentially, save the local radio landscape.

No pressure.

"It's scary," former KERA on-air personality Mascorro admits in a recent phone conversation. "But it's the best kind of scary you can imagine."

That's believable: For the past couple of weeks, Mascorro and her fellow KXT staffers—KERA VP of radio Jeff Ramirez, KXT afternoon host Joe Kozera and, well, that pretty much covers it—have been preparing for Monday's launch, setting their playlists and going through dry runs of the on-air experience.

"We're listening to a lot of bad music so you don't have to," Mascorro says with a laugh.

Fair enough, but that's the problem around here: So have the rest of us.

Few people, with the exception of those employed in the field maybe, will argue with this much: Regular ol' radio just ain't what it used to be. Music-wise, there just isn't much compelling content to be found while scanning the AM and FM dials in the Dallas-Fort Worth region. There are bright spots, sure: KKDA-104.5 FM and KBFB-97.9 FM The Beat, the region's two competing hip-hop-formatted stations, deserve some thanks for the national craze over Dallas hip-hop; after years of focusing all too intently on the bland, local modern rock scene, KDGE-102.1 FM The Edge's The Local Show, which airs every Sunday night, has taken a rightful shine to the local indie rock scenes; and KHYI-95.3 FM The Range plays a wide array of Texas country artists new and old.

But for the most part, the regional offerings are mostly, well, anti-regional—national playlists created by corporate bigwigs intent on thrusting Taylor Swift and Daughtry and, though it's undeniably catchy, Miley Cyrus' "Party in the U.S.A." down listeners' throats every 20 minutes.

Let's face it: It's a problem when, at his band's annual Holiday Extravaganza, Polyphonic Spree frontman Tim DeLaughter, one of the region's true musical treasures, feels compelled to shout out the local sports radio juggernaut KTCK-1310 AM The Ticket and thank it as being the lone station in town to play his band's music, as he did onstage at last year's Granada Theater-held event.

Really, here's how low things are right now: For the past year or so, the best radio option in town hasn't even been broadcasting over the airwaves. Rather, the CBS-run The Indie-Verse, with its heavy focus on locally produced content (this month alone has seen the station launch new, weekly programs from local booking agent John Iskander of Parade of Flesh, local blogger Nathan Smith of weeklytapedeck.com, and The Crash That Took Me members Beau Wagener and Seth Bohlman), has been relegated to an online-stream-only format, where it's toiling away in relative obscurity.

So, yeah, it's nice to hear Mascorro say things like that she hopes KXT can be the go-to destination for the "satellite radio- and iPod-less" prudent local listener. And, along the same lines, it's a little refreshing to hear Mascorro stumble a bit when asked what listeners can expect to hear on KXT—too rigid a format plan might scare off people from the start.

"We're just putting together playlists of things that we think will sound good," Mascorro says, while acknowledging that the station will mostly play a mixture of alternative, indie and alt-country music. "Hopefully, it's gonna be a gumbo of a lot of different styles. A lot of the artists that don't get played on commercial radio, we're trying to give them an outlet for that."

And, in encouraging news for the musicians on the local scenes, that formula doesn't just apply to national acts. As opposed to relegating its local music coverage to late at night on Sunday like its competition, KXT will air its "Texas Mix" program on Fridays, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

"We're just trying to put the North Texas spin on things, pretty much," Mascorro says. "And the artists in this area have so many different styles. I know a lot of people associate Texas with the twang, but there's more than that."

And Mascorro hopes that, through KXT, she'll be able to help show people that much.

"There was a really good music education on the radio here in the late '70s," she says, referencing revered area radio icons like George Gimarc and KZEW. "We want to draw into that."

Which is all fine and good. Great, even. The trick, at this point, is somehow waiting on Monday to come so that all this talk turns into something tangible.

Nervous as she may be, Mascorro says, she's ready for it: "We're not dipping our toes in the water," she says. "We're diving right in."

In this case, let's hope there's a splash.

 
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