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Graphic by Julieanne Acosta // Logo courtesy of CJSW

Step into Calgary’s local music scene in CJSW’s upcoming Radio Riot event

By: Julieanne Acosta, May 26 2023—

Calgary’s only campus and community radio station, CJSW on 90.9 FM, will be making their mark during the National Campus and Community Radio Conference (NCRC) post-gala party featuring Calgary’s own local talents one week from today on June 2. 

“Our goal is to cap off the week-long conference that we’re hosting with something that’s more public-facing and a celebration of our city and the amazing diversity within the music scene in Calgary,” said Tyra Sanderson conference coordinator for the National Campus and Community Radio Association (NCRA). 

Running as a non-profit society with a large volunteer base and a small team of staff, CJSW provides a wide range of music, spoken word and multicultural programs in more than ten languages on their broadcast.  

“Everything that is heard on CJSW is usually centred in passion and someone’s interest,” said Adam Kamis, station manager at CJSW since 2017. “Our programmers are self-directed and win lots of awards because of it.”

Kamis’ statement rings true as CJSW will be taking home 12 of the NCRC awards this year which speaks to the commitment and talent that the staff and volunteers at CJSW have. Even more so, however, it goes to show how vibrant the local art scene is here in Calgary. 

“It’s been over 30 years since CJSW has hosted [NCRC],” said Kamis. “It’s been a long time since we brought everyone from the sector to show them how cool Calgary is and the whole intent with this event is to grab an iconic venue, get some great local talent that represents a lot of different tastes and feature a local brewery as the supplier of booze.”

“We want to showcase the best of Calgary — the stigma across the country is that we’re the redneck town. Well yes, but there’s some cool stuff going on and [this event] is to really broaden people’s ideas on what Calgary is. It’s a cool dynamic place that is as culturally and artistically progressive as any other place in Canada,” he continued. 

“The goal with this particular event is to show how a radio station that is very grassroots and DIY can pull together a bunch of different people from the community,” added Sanderson. 

The show will be hosted at the #1 Royal Canadian Legion with doors opening at 10 p.m. and the show starting promptly thereafter. Kicking off the event with gothic folk group, Kue Varo & The Only Hopes will start off the night strong with Varo’s captivating voice and music. 

“They have a real country flavour to them, but they’re also not a country band at all. It’s a fun nod to Calgary’s reputation as this redneck town but while still having it be interesting and engaging for our audience,” said Sanderson. 

Next on the set list is local art-rock band Ghostkeeper which experiments with different genres to produce a unique sound — all beautifully intertwined together. The band will undoubtedly capture the crowd with their dynamic sound influenced by Afro-psychedelia, traditional Metis music and proto-punk. 

“[Ghostkeeper] is an incredible musician and has been around for many, many years. Kind of more of a folk musician — we wanted to have a few different genres be touched on for this event so that everybody got a bit of flavour of something that they like,” said Sanderson. 

Capping off the night with hip-hop artist and new Sled Island festival manager, The Blue will make sure that the night ends off with a bang. 

“[He’s] a crazy hip-hop artist who puts on a really engaging show, which I think was the biggest reason why we picked him,” said Sanderson. 

“I first saw him play for the first time, probably 10 years ago, but I was blown away. It’s tight and it’s really good — he plays it clean and plays it straight. He’s got an engaging personality on stage and I thought this would be a great feature,” continued Kamis. 

In an interview with the Gauntlet, we got to learn more about Radio Riot’s final act — The Blue and his own journey through the Calgary local music scene. 

“It wasn’t until [I was] around 13 that I actually started consciously listening to hip hop and other music. Being exposed to so many hip-hop artists at the time like Lil Wayne, Kanye West, Lupe Fiasco, and others really showed me that there were dramatically different ways to express yourself through music. I gained a deep appreciation for it at that time and wanted to involve myself where I could,” said The Blue. 

“Later on, I had the opportunity through mentorship by established local artists and the drive to pursue making music, and I haven’t looked back. There is something exciting about being on stage performing and seeing people enjoy or connect with what you are doing,” he continued.

The Blue’s newest album Things Could Be Worse continues to build on his repertoire as an upbeat and soulful artist. 

“I want listeners to go away feeling good and positive after a listen,” said The Blue. “I try to build a theme in my songs while making the fun and listenable without coming across as too “in your face” with it.” 

Songs such as “Mountaintop” and “Work In Progress” featured in the album show how The Blue is able to build on these themes — leaving his listeners feeling good by the end of his songs. 

“[Mountaintop shows that] there is something great about pushing yourself despite the uncertainty of what the results may be, but pushing regardless because you don’t want to leave any stone unturned,” said The Blue. 

“[Work In Progress] sums up a lot of us — if not everyone. We hopefully keep working to improve ourselves and know that there is so much more that we can achieve,” he continued. 

The Radio Riot event will certainly show off some of Calgary’s best talents, but for readers who want to get involved with CJSW Kamis touches on how special the community really is. 

“It’s a mirror of our city,” he said. “You get a lot of different people, different opinions and a lot of different walks of life. Everyone comes in with what they are and what they got and contributes to something really special.” 

“It’s a very interesting collection of people and there’s always room for one more,” Kamis concluded. 

Tickets to Radio Riot can be purchased at the door on June 2 at 10 p.m. or on Showpass for $10. CJSW can be listened to live at 90.9 FM and streamed on their app or website

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