Happy Birthday: Eilen Jewell joins KAFM in Grand Junction to celebrate with a sold-out show
Free Press Writer
Fifteen years ago, broadcasting on only 16 watts of power, KAFM Community Radio hit the airwaves in the Grand Valley.
From various community events and pledge drives to welcoming DJs for shows of all musical dispositions, Tedi Gillespie, executive director of KAFM, assures that “it’s more than the wattage at KAFM.”
And to celebrate its 15th anniversary, KAFM’s live venue downstairs, The Radio Room, will host “queen of the minor key,” Eilen Jewell on Wednesday, March 26. The sold-out show starts at 7:30 p.m.
“We’re celebrating 15 years of connecting to our community,” Gillespie said, “March 5 was the day in 1999.”
Since then, the station was “finally able to go to 300 watts,” and cut their electricity usage by 30 percent with solar panels on the front of the building — along with opening a concert venue and art gallery downstairs.
“We’d looked at booking (Jewell) in the past,” Cash Kiser, events and outreach coordinator for the station, said of KAFM’s celebratory act.
Kiser noted that one of his goals for Radio Room performances is to book bigger artists as they pass through Grand Junction from Denver to Salt Lake City.
Jewell’s tour is stopping in Grand Junction during “mostly a Colorado tour,” with other shows in Durango, Boulder and Salt Lake City — as well as a couple shows at the end in her native town of Boise, Idaho, Jewell noted.
Jewell also said she’s inspired by people she “can tell are influenced by the roots of American music,” like Hank Williams and Billie Holiday, as well as contemporary artists like Lucinda Williams.
And Jewell’s “surf-noir” performance is juxtaposed with a reportedly lively stage presence.
“I got my start in Irish bars,” Jewell said. “The clientele in there taught me not to take myself too seriously,”
According to Kiser, KAFM’s style of avoiding playing commercialized tunes and modern hits is what garners community interest, and that’s the point he tries to make when booking artists like Jewell. The community responded accordingly, as the show sold out more than a week in advance.
“The Radio Room is really representative of what we do off-air,” Gillespie said, citing the station’s focus on community involvement. “It’s such a special concert.”
WHAT’S NEXT FOR KAFM?
In the next 15 years, Gillespie said KAFM will add more solar panels to reduce electrical consumption, which has gone up with newer equipment in the building.
The station also recently received approval to install a transmitter in Palisade to boost their reception area.
Fundraising for the event, known as the “Palisade Power Campaign,” will start soon, according to Gillespie.
To learn more about KAFM, shows at The Radio Room, to donate or even try to get some airtime, check out http://www.kafmradio.org.
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