What: Out of Step Radio’s 10th anniversary party
When: 8 p.m., Wednesday,
Where: Triple Rock Social Club, 629 Cedar Ave., Minneapolis
Back in May, Adam Mehl started patching together the celebratory schematics for the 10th anniversary of his well-nourished Radio K show, Out Of Step Radio. After a decade of giving the University of Minnesota airwaves a ruffian slant, Mehl had been mulling over what shiny new toys should be deployed for this midsummer soiree.
He had been working on putting together a compilation record for the anniversary party. He started tinkering with promotional material. During what Mehl thought was a party-planning meeting, the programming directors at Radio K proceeded to give his weekly punk hour a cruel kick in the groin.
“We were talking about logo requirements,” Mehl, a 2006 graduate, said, “and that’s when I was told it was done.”
Radio K’s reclamation of the show’s airtime wasn’t a decision aimed directly at Mehl’s program. It was the result of a slow crawl toward diminishing alumni presence throughout their programming. Fellow co-host Nate Rastetter, who graduated in 2003, bowed out of his on-air duties back in 2010 when the station began requiring each show to have at least one student on air with a two-host limit. The station struck their final blow earlier this year when they decided to close their studio doors to all alumni.
So on June 26, Mehl said goodbye to his Sunday afternoon timeslot and Radio K’s homey youth-run studio, which allowed him to be a local punk tastemaker for the last seven of Out of Step’s 10-year broadcast history. But never ones to bow down to the man, Mehl and Rastetter have been doling out their revived radio hour in podcast form since July 3.
“I wanted to do [a podcast], and this was sort of the kick in the ass for me to do it,” Mehl said. “I wasn’t super thrilled about it because I love Radio K, and I like being part of the station.”
But as Mehl and Rastetter wrap up their first month of online offerings, they’re starting to taste the lemonade that they’ve squeezed from Radio K’s lemons. They can make call-to-action statements and douse bands with endorsements or condemnations as they see fit. Now that they’re not speaking through a family-filtered microphone, their songs need not be censored or lyrically sterile — a fact that will now allow them to play the other 90 percent of punk rock.
“There were so many songs I’ve wanted to play but you can’t play, because it has a bad word in it,” Rastetter said. “Now we can play whatever we want.”
Now that their passion project has been given a bit of a soapbox treatment, the show belongs to Rastetter and Mehl even more so than it did on campus. It’s also why their regular turnstile of guest DJs has become more important — like this week’s inclusion of Minneapolis’ Western Curses guitarist Pete Ayres.
“I’ll be going through phases where all I’ll listen to is hardcore or garage or pop-punk,” Mehl said, “and I want to make sure that the genres that I’m not listening to are represented.”
Their close relationship with the local punk scene has been one of the show’s largest points of support, and the bulk of the acts on this week’s anniversary party lineup have worked with Mehl and Rastetter in the past. Matt Castore of local hardcore act Condominium has been trading recording space for ad space — a necessity for recording in-studio performances since their Radio K exile.
“There’s a lot of crossover for someone like me or Adam who like all these different genres,” Rastetter said. “It seems like the really active people in the scene are more open-minded instead of sticking to one little subgenre.”
Still, Out of Step maintains a decidedly narrow scope. But it’s this committed focus of genre-driven radio hours that have been whittled down across the flavor-of-the-week airwaves.
“I think there’s a place for specialty shows, and I wish they were a little more prominent because I think that’s some of the coolest stuff,” Mehl said. “Out of Step, for example, was playing current Radio K staples for years beforehand, like King Kahn and BBQ Show and Hunx and His Punx.”
With optimism reviving their creative pursuit and a greater opportunity to pursue a national audience, Out of Step Radio seems to be celebrating a rebirth more than an anniversary. In true punk-rock fashion, it is good to see some people rewarded for stepping out of line.
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