No one imagined that we’d all be housebound over this, or for this long, stuck indoors over one of the sunniest Easter breaks the country has ever seen in a bid to rid the country of a particularly nasty virus.
It goes without saying that those who work on the front lines, the nurses, doctors, cleaners, shelf stackers, bus drivers, the teachers and the refuse collectors are doing heroic work to keep us upright and on the move as they can and they should be applauded.
And properly funded and paid, obviously.
I worked for years in the third sector with arts organisations, community groups and youth centres across Northern Ireland. I helped them with their volunteers and management committees, helped steer them in how they worked in the wider world and I often spent time with young people in these buildings.
I remember talking to a teen at one of these places, while I spoke looking I noticed him glaring at me like I had arrived from another planet, surreptitiously giving me the fingers while ‘scratching’ his chin.
He remained utterly unimpressed with my patter until I mentioned managing an event with one of his favourite artists, a hip hop guy whos’ name escapes me, suddenly yours truly became very cool indeed.
We got talking about music after the formal bit, he asked me what kind of music I listened to when I was his age and how I found it, you can imagine how that ended.
To suggest he was appalled by what I told him, both in terms of the acts I listened to and how I got my hands on actual music is an understatement.
The idea of having to go to a shop to buy a cassette then bring it home to record something at the exact moment it went live on the radio and living in hope that the DJ didn’t ruin it was a lot to take in.
He was even more horrified to hear that if you heard something you liked you had to take actual cash money into a shop on the high street.
You had to hope the shop had it or speak to an actual person and ask them to order it in, in which case you would have to come back to the same shop about 5 days later to pick up the thing you wanted.
This young lad was aghast at the process, the sheer complexity of the whole thing was just monstrous to him and his seventeen-year-old soul.
In a world where everything is instant, the concept of waiting for anything has become pariah, and yet, we find ourselves, most of us at any rate, forced to sit indoors, leaving the house only when necessary.
We’ve all had to put up with a little more waiting, and we’ll have another few weeks of it, at any rate, we’ll need to bed in and bide our time, so perhaps we need to consider ways of helping kill that time.
There are probably a load of things you can support from home, charities and whatnot probably need volunteers to do all sorts. But for the downtime, well.
Once Netflix and your book-list is done there will probably still be a load of time to kill between now and the next gig you get your ears to, and god only knows when that is likely to be, but, and it’s a big but, we still need to lose ourselves in music.
Which brings me to radio.garden and the hours of absolute joy and international aural exploration at your fingertips, radio.garden is a work of wonder, you may have heard of but most people I’ve spoken to in the last three weeks have never set eyes on it.
radio.garden allows you to traverse the globe landing on just about every town with a population over a few hundred that manages to scrape together a radio station so you can listen in.
The sheer scale of this thing is remarkable, you can travel anywhere you want, drop into anything that catches your ear and move on when the notion takes you. It’s like extreme eve’s dropping.
You can hear the phone-ins, the news, the mid-show banter and all the music without leaving the comfort of your own couch, join us for a run through some late-night wanderings on the world wide web of radio.
We holiday in Toronto pretty frequently but for one reason or another, I’d never really listened to the radio there. I’m told there are 118 stations and everyone is as different as the next.
Indian, Italian, Latina, Iranian, Russian, Soul, Rock, Gospel and even country stations, it has everything. There is one whole station that plays only prog rock. You could happily lose yourself for days but you’ll probably land on Indie88 and stay there, listen for the tone when they talk about other Canadian cities.
Karan Aujla – Hair
(as heard on Dhantal Radio)
Radio Free Brooklyn has been on my favourites list for a while, if only for the community messages and the general air of warmth that comes through the airwaves, it has introduced me to some interesting stuff over the last few weeks but I’m a fan of In The Neighborhood by Sisters Underground if for no other reason that the criminal you’re supposed to be afraid of is wearing a shirt and tie. And that never changes.
Sisters Underground – In The Neighborhood
(as heard on Radio Free Brooklyn)
We dropped into Super 8 Radio in Paris at about 2am, found ourselves in the middle of a chilled session that involved a DJ who was wildly excited about Sky Ferreira, a Dua Lipa track and Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen that involved said DJ singing in the background.
Sky Ferreira – Downhill Lullaby
(as heard on Super 8 Radio Paris)
We wandered around for a bit but French radio can be a scary, crazy shouty place at 2 am so we moved onto Madrid for a bit of light relief. We didn’t stop long at Loca Magnetic in Madrid as it was pumping out The Nighttrain by Kadoc, Melodia FM was more along our lines with a mix of hits and some stuff we’d never heard of, though we did enjoy a snippet of Tracy Chapman. We made a very short stop off at Dublin Digital Radio before moving on to Seattle, because why not.
Alana Jagt – Imagining Life
(as heard on Dublin Digital Radio)
We know Seattle’s KEXP for its remarkable interviews and studio sessions, but tuning into the live broadcast is a revelation, we were enthralled by Sinéad O’Brien, given that she is Irish and lives in London we were a little surprised to hear her beamed in via Seattle. As a by the by, if you ever get the opportunity to go to Seattle for the love of God, take it and go see the Troll. And Lenin.
Sinéad O’Brien – Limbo
(As heard on KEXP)
That was followed by Totally Wired by The Fall and some more beers and then things get hazy. But the clincher was the track below from Deep Sea Diver, inspired by their pandemic-inspired social media live streams and uploaded about a week ago. You don’t get much fresher than that.
Deep Sea Diver – Stop Pretending
(As heard on KEXP)
If you haven’t tried radio.garden yet have a wander, it’s available on the App Store, on Google Play and online. It’s a wonderful invention that does so much more than music and chat, you want birdsong, they’ve got a whole station for it, there is a whole station on ambient bells and one that plays waterfall sounds.
You can click through to the very ends of the earth to discover that Saint Fm in Saint Helena will be playing Too Old To Cut The Mustard by Ernest Tubb at stupid O’Clock while 88Fm in the Cook Islands will be bouncing to Cake by the Ocean by DNCE which will surprise you if you’ve ever seen the Cook Islands.
As for us, we dropped back into Seattle and KEXP before bed, we found Bluebird by Pokey LaFarge was playing, an unusual but nonetheless entertaining three minutes to see us off to sleep.
Pokey LaFarge – Bluebird
(as heard on KEXP)
If radio.garden does anything, if scanning through the channels does anything, it gives you the opportunity to hear news from some other place, imagine yourself some other place, listen to sounds you wouldn’t normally hear and maybe take a breather from all *waves hands* this.