Asheville Citizen-Times (Asheville, NC)
October 18, 1998, Sunday

By Amy Jones

   I have a bruise on my index finger where a healthy, feminine nail should be. In fact, the sore spot rarely gets a chance to heal, since I like so many others, am a radio listener.
   Oh you know the scenario: you're buzzing along in your auto waiting for the levy to break when the robots of modern radio flip to a prerecorded tape of "Hits 98." And some stale, but oh-so-hip, MTV overkill sound comes on, usually complaining of "it being cold outside" and someone tells
leather pants boy to "go get his raincoat."
   Sure it would be nice to be too cool for school and only cruise around listening to bootlegged recordings. Or I could tape the various mixed trances that the local live DJ circuit is putting out for the townies. But I am not ready to give up on radio just yet.
   In fact, I have a new purpose for tuning in, now that Free Radio Asheville has unleashed its non-commercial, tell it like it is, brand of audio treats onto the local airwaves.
   The official, un-official station with the call letters FRA can be found on the FM dial at 89.1 on Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from early morning until about 2 a.m. The station is run completely on a volunteer basis.
   Which may be just the key. The eclectic often rowdy and never opinion-less disc jockeys at Free Radio Asheville are on the air because they love music. Big pay radio stations don't have to love their music - they just have to play it.
   So why not lay off the seek button and let your radio dial rest at one of Asheville's other public radio stations? A few interest related reasons come to mind.
   I am not middle-aged or older. I am not often in the mood for an extended Irish jig and am not willing to spend an entire afternoon listening to melancholic concertos.
   And while I would never dispute the obvious quality of most programming on either public station, I want to get funky.
   Only on Free Radio Asheville does a live DJ mix two records of different music into a whole new sound. The Free Radio Asheville DJs know their music. Quality honky tonk may get played before original hip-hop, but honest rock (Neil Young) NEVER gets played with sugar-coated pop rock
(Third Eye Blind).
   They don't seem to even have a music library. The DJs play their favorites whatever the genre. The on-air result is like listening to a friend's private collection, from an old grainy vinyl single or even a
"Sesame Street" classic from grade school house parties.
   The amateur DJs go by handles much like a trucker calls out over the CB radio. Ramblin' Rose, Vitamin C and Dick Rice all grace the low-powered airwaves with their own style of music and mood driven banter. DJ's seem to rotate about every hour or two and with each new handle comes a whole new sound.
   DJ Furious George, on air two evenings a week, combines political preachings with raging bass to feed the activists' need. The "Cafe Flesh" show airs after prime-time and is for grownups only.
   The low production budget does not seem to detract from big impact ideas. Dead air and weak signals seem to be the biggest production flaws.
   The best part of Free Radio Asheville is all in the name - free radio, the way it should be. It's like getting all the movie channels pumped right into your home at no cost. And no filler.
   Though the cost for the listener is free, the consequences may not be so cheap. Free Radio Asheville operates without a license from the Federal Communications Commission. This puts the station in a category known as pirate radio.  And the results could be severe. Around the country,
several pirate radio stations have been busted.
   So what do the revolutionaries of the technical age do now?
   Well, the FCC and the National Association of Broadcasters probably have several bureaucratic ideas for pirates nationwide. For the listener it is a matter of taste - not law.
   Regulations are a way of life in this country, without a doubt. So why not regulate bad music on licensed radio and establish certain Free Radio programming legitimately on the spectrum? Either way, thanks to Free Radio Asheville, at least four days a week I lay off the seek button.

(Amy Jones is a free-lance writer who covers music for the Asheville