Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Goodbye to The Loft, Hello Gulch Radio

Logo used by permission 
Sirius XM has taken their very best music station off the satellites forever. Apparently The Loft didn't pull in enough listeners to satisfy the suits who run the company so their free form, DJ programmed, alternative radio station is now only available online. Most of the station's talented jocks are gone too and it appears to be programmed by robots rather than real people. As you may have guessed, devoted Loft listeners, like me, are not happy. It's enough to make me reconsider my Sirius XM subscription when renewal time rolls around.

Fans of this formerly excellent, radio throwback to the late 1960s and early 70s have been commiserating with each other online and happily, because of The Loft's demolition, people have shared some great new radio listening discoveries. So today, Bloggerhythms begins a new series where we'll be writing about some great broadcast and Internet alternatives to the alternative.

The painting above is of the mountainside town of Jerome, Az, once a thriving mining settlement in the Verde Valley, then a ghost town, and now a very cool artist's colony and tourist destination with a population of under 500 people. If you ever visit central Arizona you must go there. You won't be disappointed.

Today, the first online radio station to be discussed takes its name, Gulch Radio, from a neighborhood in Jerome. KZRJ, 100.5 on the FM dial is a real live station with only a 100 watt signal that severely limits its broadcast range. There isn't a lot of great radio going on in this mostly rural, mountainous region snuggled between Phoenix, a hundred miles to the south in the desert, and the Grand Canyon, a couple of hours to the north. This unique station was born out of necessity to give the residents and store owners of the small but bustling town the chance to listen to some good music. The online version is management's answer to the locals' complaints about the on-air station's poor signal.

Gulch Radio's main programming during the day is truly free form. Currently, there is a three hour time difference (Arizona remains on standard time all year) between Jerome and Philadelphia, where I live. It's 5:16 in the morning in Jerome as I write this article. During these early morning hours KZRJ plays mostly the softer side of classic rock along with some pop songs. In the past hour listeners have been treated to Boz Scaggs, Joni Mitchell, Jackie De Shannon, early 70s Beach Boys, The Glenn Miller Orchestra, The Vince Guaraldi Trio and the late Eva Cassidy.

Later, during the day, Gulch Radio programs a mix of alternative rock, reggae, blues, country, and folk. At various times, mostly later in the evening and on weekends, the station features block programming. You'll hear shows devoted to just Motown, the psychedelic era, Pink Floyd, The Grateful Dead, the blues, prog-rock, and a Sunday morning show that plays, along with some other stuff, Native American music. You'll even hear the syndicated Mountain Stage. You'll find the complete schedule listing all of Gulch Radio's shows at their website's program guide.

DJ patter is almost non-existent and Gulch Radio plays no ads. It truly is commercial free. Most PBS stations who constantly advertise that they are sponsorless really can not make this claim.

The stream playing through my laptop is quite strong and it's sent to my home theater system through Chromecast Audio.

There are only a couple of minor things Gulch Radio should change. Their website needs a more streamlined way for visitors to find the playlists, a situation management is currently working to resolve. Finally, I haven't heard any hip-hop played yet but the program guide says they may include some late in the evening. That is a genre I'll never listen to.

Click here for the station's suggestions on the best ways to listen to them online.

Overall, Gulch Radio is an excellent choice for music lovers who want to hear something out of the ordinary. You really can't go wrong if you make this outlet one of your streaming choices.

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