Perhaps out of sheer habit, the majority of City Paper readers picked local rock station 96 Wave as the Best Local Radio Station again this time around -- a fascinating feat, following a tumultuous year in which Apex Broadcasting execs basically turned the format and DJ staff upside-down and stripped what "local" personality it had to a bare minimum.
Last spring, after tampering a bit with the daily playlists and musical format, Wave suddenly dumped its award-winning, long-running morning program "Storm & Kenny Radio Show with Stupid Mike" -- a four-hour segment starring main hosts Storm Zbel and Kenny Z with co-host Stupid Mike. The popular show had won three Best of Charleston Reader's Picks for Best Local Radio Show in a row.
Through the rest of the year, the station lost a half-dozen staffers, jocks, and guest personalities -- including controversial program director Dave Rossi -- and awkwardly stumbled away from the semi-cool "classic alternative" and modern rock stuff that distinguished them from most of the "modern rock" stations in the national pack.
A safe, nonoffensive syndicated show out of Grand Rapids, Mich., called "Free Beer & Hot Wings" (www.freebeerandhotwings.com) started in the morning slot on Mon. Jan. 8. Hardly "local," it's doubtful any of those guys know the difference between Plane Jane and Leslie or the Ashley and the Cooper.
It seems like things at 96 Wave are almost on autopilot right now -- save for the Sunday specialty shows, which are all still very strong. The current format is creeping toward a heavier, major label "nü-rock / pop-punk" combo. It's a weird mix. Two years back, dedicated listeners heard Wilco, Citizen Cope, Norah Jones, The Hives, The Futureheads, Franz Ferdinand, Tegan & Sara, etc. mixed in with the Foo's, the Chili Peppers, and Green Day. Nowadays, it's the likes of Evanescence, Breaking Benjamin, A.F.I., My Chemical Romance, really stale grunge (Pearl Jam/STP/Alice in Chains), and a bunch of generic high-dollar teen metal ... mixed in with the Foo's, the Chili Peppers, and Green Day. It makes one wonder who's at the helm and where things will end up by next year's Best Of poll.