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Listening to WFNX 1983-2012

Celebrating the live and times of 101.7 FM, Boston's only true alternative radio station
By PHOENIX STAFF  |  July 24, 2012

JUNE 2007

While WFNX's national reputation has soared to 1991 levels — it is among the very few stations in the country breaking new rock bands on a consistent basis, and has become a bellwether for the format — ratings are in free-fall. Like many other alternative rock stations, WFNX believes that the ratings are unfairly skewed towards talk radio and Top 40: the companies that measure the size of the audience rely on randomized phone surveys, which they conduct only with people who have land-line phones. In Boston, that means college audiences are ignored, and WFNX's impact is strongest with younger, well-educated audiences who've largely given up land lines for cell phones.

In a bid to shake things up, the station debuts The Sandbox morning show with Fletcher, Charlie, and Special Ed attempting to redefine the time slot. The trio's polarizing humor is both loved and despised by listeners — though, when the show is canned in January of 2010, the program has accrued such a devoted core following that several picketers arrive at the Boston Phoenix offices to protest the change.

OCTOBER 12, 2007

Queens of the Stone Age play a rare acoustic performance, held in a custom guitar shop on Boylston Street, for a handful of WFNX fans. The occasion: an edition of the recently inaugurated "Green Room," a series of intimate afternoon gigs exclusively for WFNX by an A-list lineup of bands that comes to include Muse, Paramore, Rilo Kiley, Bloc Party, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, MGMT, Brand New, Modest Mouse, Say Anything, the Rapture, Arctic Monkeys, and more.

PLAY WFNX Watch video highlights from the WFNX Green Room.

JUNE 6, 2007

Yes, that's Kings of Leon on Lansdowne Street — in their before-they-got-famous years, when people were still calling them a Southern rip-off of the Strokes. Also on the street for the Best Music Poll Party this year are Bloc Party, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, the Bravery (who were discovered by WFNX before their debut album, when the station began playing the band's online demos), Silversun Pickups, Shiny Toy Guns, Say Anything, and the solo band of the Strokes' Albert Hammond Jr.

NOVEMBER 2007

PLAY WFNX: Thanks to the Sandbox, this WFNX contest winner got to challenge Jimmy Eat World to a game of ping-pong.

2008: WFNX TURNS 25

Today, WFNX's tradition of finding and playing the best local and national music continues. Think of where you first heard Boston's own Amanda Palmer and the Dresden Dolls, Dropkick Murphys, and Guster — and, as often as you do, the new Kings of Leon single.

By phone from New York, Radio & Records' Mike Boyle ticked off the groups the station discovered and played before any other US radio outlets in recent years: the Killers, Franz Ferdinand, Snow Patrol, Keane, Arctic Monkeys, and the Bravery. WFNX music director Paul Driscoll started airing the Bravery when he got excited by an mp3 he heard on the band's Web site.

Add to that list Vampire Weekend, Modest Mouse, Death Cab for Cutie, Bloc Party, and Louis the XIV. The station was also among the first to play the White Stripes, Interpol, Dashboard Confessional, M.I.A., and many, many more.

Wind the clock back further and the list becomes a who's who of bands that defined the alternative-rock era — a period in music history that was also defined by the tastemakers who discovered the music of those bands and played it on WFNX.

Nine Inch Nails, Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam, Belly, R.E.M., Beck, Nirvana, the Breeders, the Cranberries, Midnight Oil, Catherine Wheel, Offspring, Oasis, No Doubt, the Pogues, Porno for Pyros, Social Distortion, the Smithereens, the Violent Femmes, Soundgarden, Squirrel Nut Zippers, the Verve, 10,000 Maniacs, Björk, Bad Religion, Bush, the Church, Depeche Mode, Echo and the Bunnymen, the Sugarcubes, the Cure, and Hüsker Dü were all important in the nascent alternative-rock movement, and all were part of WFNX's great musical banquet.

-- Ted Drozdowski, writing in the Boston Phoenix on the occasion of WFNX's 25th anniversary

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