WNCW celebrates 21st birthday with Peel jam

ASHEVILLE — For the past two decades, public radio station WNCW has become the perfect soundtrack to embody the diversity of the Asheville scene: an independent spirit with a traditional base and the occasional infiltration of the mainstream.

The station — broadcast from Isothermal Community College in Spindale and also found on dials in Boone, Charlotte, Wilkesboro and Greenville, S.C. — has impressively created a cohesive blend of programming with a variety of genres from bluegrass and folk to roots rock, jazz and everything in between.

To celebrate 21 years in existence, the station is throwing itself a musical birthday party, which started in Charlotte, moves to the Handlebar in Greenville and finishes with a five-band show on Saturday night at The Orange Peel.

While the station is frequently a media sponsor for area shows, this the first time it’s fully promoting its own concerts.

“It’s a pure benefit for the radio station,” said Mike Hiers, station marketing and underwriting manager. “We’ve contracted the bands and the venue, so this one is all on us. We’re trying to establish ourselves for what we are, which is a regional network of radio stations.”
Birthday bands

Bands on Saturday night’s bill include continually rising bluegrass upstarts Dehlia Low, cosmic folk tricksters Gandalf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams, soulful songstress Eliza Lynn, blues outfit Delta Moon and singer-songwriter Jess Klein.
Group jam

At the birthday shows, the bands will play short sets, and then the evening will finish with a big jam featuring various musicians from groups on the bill.

“There are five very different genres represented, and these are all genres that come together at the radio station: bluegrass, Americana, folk, blues and psychedelic rock,” said Hiers.

“This evening will be full of unique collaborations.”
Station hanging tough

Last summer WNCW lost significant state funding, and many loyal listeners were concerned programming would be affected.

Although, according to Hiers, three jobs were relocated to other areas of the community college, the station was not forced to adjust any content.

“It’s been a challenge since losing our state funding,” Hiers added.

“We’ve had to tighten our belts and get creative, but we’re nowhere near not being around anymore.”
More shows to come

Though he’s mum on specifics, Hiers says he’s working on throwing a show with a big act for New Year’s Eve.

“This is something we’ll continue to do if people support it.”

Jedd Ferris writes about entertainment for take5. E-mail him at jeddferris@gmail.com.

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