I would never criticize KEXP. This town runs in a tight circle of mutual ass-kissing, and it doesn't pay to mess with the system. Besides, 90.3 is such a beloved local institution that to take a shot at it would be akin to chucking a shit pie at the Dalai Lama. If I don't like it, I don't have to listen. End of story.
But for the sake of argument, let's say I do sometimes listen. Like when I'm stuck in traffic and KPLU is playing jazz for yuppies, KBCS is playing folk music for knitters of tea cozies, and every other station is playing Bruno Mars or Supertramp. I might make note of a few things:
The mannerisms of morning DJ John Richards. This is a guy who had the drive and focus to rise from unpaid volunteer to world-traveling tastemaker. He pulls down a listener-powered six figures (the brouhaha that erupted after SW's Nina Shapiro reported that Richards made $120,000 in 2005 seems have died down). Isn't his persona of adorable haplessness a bit worn-out by now?
The sanctimonious "I power KEXP" listener testimonials. The way these people go on about "the community" and being part of something bigger than themselves, you'd think they were fighting malaria instead of buying $50 bumper stickers for their JEEPs.
The stench of a generation going to seed. Gen-Xers once laughed at Boomers for pathetically hanging on to their youth. Now we're doing the same. Being open to new music is great, but there's something a bit unseemly about 40-somethings (and I mean both DJs and listeners) hanging onto every passing dingbat musical notion of 20-somethings from Brooklyn.
But like I said, I wouldn't say any of these things out loud, KEXP being such a beloved institution and all that. Come to think of it, though, the "institution" part may be at the root of the problem. KEXP has taken what used to be wild, untamed, and unformed and made it as slick and predictable as a bank lobby. Young bands that should be aspiring to fuck some shit up now patiently wait their turn to exchange banalities with the host of their in-studio performance. KEXP, most likely headed for permanent enshrinement at Seattle Center, has completely co-opted the space that should belong to a scruffy college station, staffed by actual young people. I remember we used to have a station like that. It was called KCMU.