WZBC 40th Anniversary Show: Classic Shredding & Rock 'n Roll

This past Tuesday, we sat down with WZBC board members Nick Cortezi, Erika Bjerklie, and Nick Benevenia to discuss the station’s upcoming fall show. ZBC, one of the oldest organizations on campus, celebrates their 40th anniversary this year.  The station kicked off the festivities this past April with a show at The Middle East, and is closing out its 40th year with another concert on Thursday, November 7th, at the Great Scott in Allston.  ZBC music director Nick Cortezi explained how the organization split its 40th anniversary concert into two events in order to “appeal to the two sides of the WZBC coin, one of which is electronic music, and the other what we were founded on, which is rock.”  The lineup includes local bands Boytoy and Speedy Ortiz, with headliner Marnie Stern.  “It’s very female driven,” noted Bjerklie, the station’s program director.  Cortezi emphasized that, “even in an age of DJs and EDM, there are still people out there shredding, and sometimes the girls are shedding a lot harder than the guys, which is pretty cool.”

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The two opening acts hit close to home.  Boston-based band Boytoy is a Great Scott staple, while Speedy Ortiz hails from Northampton, MA.  The latter band released its debut album, Major Arcana, which was named “Best New Music” by Pitchfork in July, blasting them into the spotlight.

Headliner Marnie Stern, described by Cortezi as “a finger tapping songstress,” has come into her own over her four-album career, becoming “an absolute indie rock staple...talk about high-energy, really fun stuff, but incredibly complex musically.”

ZBC chose to hold the event at Great Scott, with its capacity of 270, to give BC students the opportunity to see these great acts “in a very close and intimate setting...packing the house makes things a lot more energetic.”

So why do forty years of air-time call for a two-part celebration?  As Benevenia explained, “Forty years is huge for a college radio station; a lot of colleges don’t want to pay for their upkeep anymore, so they haven’t been renewing their licenses, so college radio incidentally is kind of dying across America. Colleges would rather spring for the cheaper option, which is internet radio, which we have as well, but a lot of colleges are moving towards purely internet streaming.”  He asserts, “ZBC is not going anywhere for a long time, so here’s to the next forty.”

WZBC, founded back in the late ‘60s as a carrier-current AM stream, received its FM license in 1973, followed by a thousand-watt power increase in ‘74 that allowed it to broadcast to the greater Boston area.  At that point, ZBC committed itself to broadcasting alternative rock music, which at the time was “the stuff you wouldn’t have heard on traditional radio.” The current WZBC board members feel adamant about their responsibility to stick to that format.  “The general litmus test is that if you can hear it on another station, you’re not gonna hear it here...We’re gonna take that little spectrum that we have on the band that is 90.3 FM, and we’re gonna utilize it to bring Boston the most unique and the most different programming that you’re gonna find.”  ZBC has served as a launchpad for a number of successful artists—the day that Nirvana released its second studio album, Nevermind, “the band was in this station, on air, talking about it”—making it a staple in the Boston music scene.

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As much as WZBC has earned praise over the course of its lifetime for its top-notch music selection, it has also received some negative feedback from the BC community.  Cortezi explained how, because of its somewhat stringent parameters for what its DJs play on air, BC students throw around words like “pretentious” and “elitist” when describing ZBC. “That’s not it as much as we really just respect and love the history of this station; as much as it is BC’s radio station and student-run, it is its own institution, and to compromise its ethos would be slapping the face of every board member and every DJ who has ever come before us. It’s not about whether or not the music is good, because obviously we all love what would be considered ‘mainstream’ stuff, but it’s about respecting the fact that we have always been the group of people who are playing that guy who just plugged in his guitar in his garage for the first time.”  Bjerklie added, “there’s a lifespan to every artist that Nick will see as music director and usher into our playlist, and then it kinds of graduates from the ZBC playlist—once they’ve finally made it.”  “That’s the happiest feeling, when they don’t need us anymore,” said Benevenia. “We’re here to help the little guy, we’re here to help the underdog.”

If you want to contribute to WZBC’s mission of helping the little guy, or are looking for a cool way to spend your Thursday, come out to the station’s “40 Spins Around the Sun” on November 7th at the Great Scott.  You can purchase tickets for $10 in advance here, or from any WZBC board member. You can also pay $12 at the door on the night of the show.  Don’t forget to bring your 18+ IDs!

It’s going to be a high-energy show, packed with “your classic shredding and rock ‘n roll.”  Cortezi perfectly summed up the spirit of the event, explaining how “it’s a really easy, cheap, fun experience to try something new and get involved in a side of Boston that most people go four years without seeing, and to listen to music that we love, and that we think [BC students] will love.”

The event, in Bjerklie’s comically simple description, entails: “good music, okay people, you won’t get murdered.”  So, why not ditch a sad night of “slapping the bag” and bouncers rejecting your fake IDs?  Break the BC bubble and get to know Boston’s underground music scene with a show that won’t disappoint.

Images via Facebook.

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