I can't remember the last time I was aware of people making plans to actually sit down and listen to something on the radio, but that's exactly what I heard over and over again last week. And what they were planning to listen to was me.
Well not me exactly, I just wanted to say that. Rather, Enio Mascherin and me; he's my co-host and the creator of the Hundred Mile Music Show that launched last Thursday.
It turns out the premier of our quaint little one-hour once-a-week radio program was, in its own modest way, rather a big deal, and not just here in Owen Sound where the show is broadcast. We were flooded with phone calls, emails, chats and messages from Barrie, Newmarket, Toronto, Kitchener, the Atlantic states, the US mid-west, New York, Pennsylvania and even the UK, where the show didn't air until 1 AM.
All of which was not only delightful but also somewhat fascinating, because the focus of our show is decidedly local. We play music made by musicians who either live here in our neck of the woods or originate here. Nonetheless the passion and enthusiasm with which our first broadcast was greeted transcended geography. Virginians were as keen as Owen Sounders, and I spent much of yesterday musing on why that would be.
When I was on the road with Tanglefoot I was repeatedly surprised, although I shouldn’t have been, at the degree to which mass-produced commercial culture has flattened the world. Ear-buds in Worcester England are plugged into the same music industry pipeline as those in Toronto or Chicago or Minneapolis or Owen Sound. Everybody’s listening to the same stuff.
There are broader manifestations beyond musical fashion. My former UK tour manager points out somewhat wistfully that you could never tell by speaking with them that her two now-adult children grew up in rural Yorkshire. Local accents are disappearing; regional differences are smoothed out, homogeneity prevails and local culture fades.
So I wonder if our show hasn’t struck a chord with people far and wide who retain a bit of the old-fashioned notion that what happens close to home is important, and that healthy communities thrive on local familiarity. It’s a bit ironic, since so many of our listeners live nowhere near Owen Sound and have never been here. Maybe they’re responding to what they perceive as something genuine and home-grown, and feel they are visiting a real community, if only for an hour a week.
That’s what I’d like to think, anyway. What I do know is that in all my life I've rarely taken part in anything that made me feel so good.