WSLR Radio Celebrates 10 Years With The Community

Arts & Culture

BY PHILIP LEDERER SRQ DAILY FRIDAY WEEKEND EDITION FRIDAY NOV 28, 2014

This weekend WSLR Community Radio celebrates 10years on the air and serving the community with the two-day “Hand-Cranked Festival” at WSLR Studios and the Fogartyville Community Media and Arts Center.

Festivities begin tonight with the Cigar Box Kickoff event. Self-taught Lithuanian blues musician and regional artist David Smash will perform, as will Steve Arvey and the Delta Swamp Rats and acoustic stylist Ben Prestage.

With sounds steeped in the dirty old-school lineage of the Delta blues, you’ll hear harmonicas, foot-stomping and even some all-too-rare slide guitar, but each band also embraces the legacy by performing on a series of makeshift and recycled instruments, such as the titular Cigar Box Guitar.

This sort of thriftiness and ingenuity is part of what the festival means to celebrate, according to WSLR station manager David Beaton, who chose the name “Hand-Cranked” not only because Saturday marks the anniversary of Thomas Edison’s invention of the hand-cranked phonograph, but for the image of a time when human’s created and their work harmonized with technology.

“The Hand-Cranked Festival celebrates the creativity of our local musicians and makers and will showcase some of the diverse, original and local music that the station broadcasts,” said Beaton. “It also symbolizes the people-powered nature of the radio station.”

The festival resumes Saturday afternoon at 3pm, with a whole slate of performances from The Wholetones, Wester Joseph and Stereo VuDu, Strangeways, Passerine and Ari and the Alibis. Less stripped-down blues than the Cigar Box Kickoff, Saturday’s artists bring more of a funk and jazz feel, though blues and bluegrass influences are readily apparent.

In addition to musical performances, the two-day festival will feature food from local vendors such as Peacecorn, specializing in made-to-order non-GMO popcorn, selections from Mangia Gourmet and refreshing microbrews from Cigar City Brewing and JDub’s Brewing. Cigar box guitars will also be on display alongside other folk skills and folk art.

Though on the books for a while now, with recent events rocking the nation Beaton feels the time is fitting for an attempt at community engagement and to create a place to come together.

“We’re celebrating the continued struggle that it takes to make people connect with their community and build community,” said Beaton, openly troubled by the events unfolding in Ferguson, events he believes could have been stopped, or at least tempered, by a stronger sense of community. “It’s a really disturbing time in this country and WSLR is an alternative to the mainstream media. It’s people-powered media and though we have our differences we come together and make this station work. It happens through volunteerism and building friendships and relationships that are deeper than the things that divide us. That’s what we’re celebrating.”

WSLR Community Radio’s Two-Day “Hand-Cranked” Festival begins tonight at 7pm at WSLR Studios and the Fogartyville Community Media and Arts Center. Advance tickets are $15 for Friday, $18 for Saturday and $30 for both days. Tickets are also available at the door for $20. Children 12 and under attend free and students at half-price.

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