Live blog: A day listening to Jam 88.3

[Live blog now up and running after the cut.] Let’s just say it: I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Jam 88.3 in the past couple of years. I should be a fan of the station, considering how we share similar musical sensibilities – and, for a few years, when it assumed the format K-Lite had before it became Max FM, I was. Then things changed and I listened less and less, and now I avoid it, either because they’ve gotten more juvenile or I’ve grown up and moved on. Have I been unfair to the station, now perhaps the only one in the Philippines to wave the flag for alternative music? Perhaps, so today, I’ll be listening to it and live-blogging the whole thing. I don’t know what will happen after today, but I hope it’s enlightening, in one way or another. [NB]

06.31: Good morning, kids. What I heard in the first thirty minutes of AM Fix: Eric ranting about traffic in Tagaytay, Eric ranting about buko pie running out in Tagaytay, a bit of a discussion on the new Star Wars film, and the most abrupt segue to ad read ever: “I can’t wait to watch that, and I also can’t wait to go abroad…”

06.59: It’s only been an hour into their breakfast show, but already they’ve discussed three newsy items and that Tagaytay rant at the top of the show. Talk about getting things done. I’m somewhat disappointed that, so far, Eric’s done all of the ranting and Lana’s settled with saying variations of “absolutely”. I wish it didn’t sound so one-way.

That said, the way they handled the newsy bits – not that I like a morning show that focuses on this too much, as opposed to, say, the chatty yet relaxed morning offerings of the pop stations – is better than how (the new) K-Lite does it. “This is a news bit!” they always seem to go, which strikes me as lazy show making. If all you can do its newsy bits in the morning, then I’m afraid we’ve read most of it online.

07.20: I think I’m going to hate this Tiendesitas ad at the end of the day.

07.28: They played this song from a band called Great Good Fine OK, which I thought was good. I forgot the title, though. Now, a surprise: they are playing a remix of Churchill’s “Change”. I prefer the original, of course – this song does not lend well to a remix; this does not need a remix – but the fact is, they’re playing a song I showed some love for. For how long, I wonder?

07.35: Apparently this is a block of remixes. At half past seven. In the morning. I don’t know what to feel about this. Isn’t this too much at this time of the day? Well, at least it’s a breather from the (necessary) one song/ten minutes of talk/maybe one more song template they’ve been running with for the past hour.

07.47: Lana also specializes in saying variations of “basically”.

08.01: I’ve been listening for two hours and fifteen minutes (yes, that includes the time before this blog went live) and I’m honestly surprised to report that I have not heard a single local track. Sure, Jam strongly supports the scene, with Fresh Filter (airing on Wednesday afternoons) and Republik throughout Sunday playing a lot of local acts, but I expected the station to at least throw something in throughout the rest of the day.

To be fair, they do exactly that – I once listened to their evening show and they had a three song set with Up Dharma Down, Drip and this other act I’ve forgotten, packaging it as a rainy day set. (It was a rainy day, and I was driving. It was much appreciated.) But I don’t know. NU 107 peppered all of their hours with local tracks. And there you go. Expect that to be a theme throughout the day: me comparing Jam 88.3 with NU 107. This weekend, after all, marked four years since the latter closed down, and now, Jam is the only one championing alternative music from anywhere here in the Philippines.

08.12: Of course, their artist of the month is Chvrches. They’re staging a concert in Manila in a couple of weeks. But of course.

08.27: So far AM Fix has been a surprisingly low-key affair, down to the lack of music beds during the talky bits. We may not have the wit of The Hilary and Scotty Show – yes, I will always give a shoutout to that, and only because my drifting away from Jam coincided with that show going off air – but at least we don’t have the trying hard antics of the show that succeeded it, The Rebel Circus. You can argue this one is still dry as nuts (like the still weirdly-named The Morning Breath) but at least we have a clear dynamic between Eric the complainer and Lana the optimist. Sometimes I wish that dynamic would be flipped every once in a while, though.

08.39: With twenty minutes left on the shift… did they just say goodbye?

08.53: Yep, it seems they have gone and ended the show. I’m only hearing stings and, as I write this, four songs in a row (currently it’s Phantogram). I’m sure I mentioned this before, but Jam sounds fine without intruding DJs. (I used “shit” to describe them before, but for the purposes of this blog I’ll keep that word to myself until absolutely necessary.) I was once driving at four in the morning and I liked the mix, because nobody was there to show off in between. Perhaps the reason why the breakfast show’s been surprisingly tolerable. Nobody is up my face showing off his cred.

08.57: First repeated song of the day: the Smashing Pumpkins’ new single “Being Beige”, staged as a new addition to the playlist and, thus, is played just before the new hour begins. They first played it just before six this morning. (I told you, I’ve been listening for longer.) Also, yep, I have figured out the clocks.

09.01: “It’s time to check your sanity.” So this is the Jobim guy listeners seem to love a lot…

09.24: I honestly can’t tell if this bit about a “happy spine” exercise is a live… no, it’s not a live read. Jobim’s delivery is quite surreal, a bit PSA-like, so much so that I can’t tell whether he’s taking the piss or being serious.

“Congratulations. You now look like a pretzel.”

Yep. He is taking the piss.

09.41: The Rapture. I missed these guys. I’m having a weird moment here. I’m actually recognizing some of the songs. I think I heard Angus & Julia Stone earlier. Is my disdain misplaced? Is the fluctuating nature of alternative music making me not trust Jam with actually being something to me? Or is it just my tastes? Or is it the lack of intrustive DJs? Sod it, I’ll dance to “How Deep Is Your Love?”

09.46: That said, most of the music I’ve heard today is squarely on the synth-y dance-y poppy lane. It’s funny how alternative music nowadays has coalesced to one particular sound. It’s nice when you hear it the first time; not as much when you hear it over and over again. Jam has yet to cross that threshold, but after that Rapture tune I find myself hoping for some variety in sound, among other things.

09.56: Over four hours later, I think I’m listening to a local track. Finally, a local track. Well, I assume it is a local track. Not to slam our recording studios and engineers or anything, but there’s this grungy quality in most Filipino songs I hear on the radio, whether it be pop or alternative or something in between. Your English may be incomparable and your voice may teem with twang, but your arrangements will still scream Filipino. Okay, that sounded more derisive than I intended. I’m sorry.

09.58: Yep, they’re repeating the new Imagine Dragons track, which was last played three hours ago. Expect that song to play again at a little before 13.00.

10.04: Their new additions are always followed by an older alternative track, something perhaps off their Friday Slide library. They had Pearl Jam kick off AM Fix (on a very somber note), and right now, Folk Implosion’s “Natural One” from 1995. I still think they should kill Slide and pepper all of those songs throughout the week. See? I have cracked… well, part of their clock. And that’s just after four hours.

10.15: Jobim is tight. A minute-long (or more, a bit more) talky bit where he back-announces a song, talks about some Mountain Dew flavors, and tosses in a punchline for good measure. Dare I say we need more DJs like him? Where does he come from?

10.29: More proof that my tastes and Jam’s library aligns a lot more than we thought: they’re now playing the new Stars single. Will they play the new Belle and Sebastian single eventually, or are they too old (whatever old means) a band to be played? Speaking of, I have not heard the Foo Fighters at all.

10.31: “Those are the boys from Canada” is how Jobim back-announced that Stars track, which is weird considering, well, Amy Millan is in front of that track.

11.03: They just played this Jimmy Eat World song earlier, as part of an artist double-play on AM Fix. They’re playing this again. You might call me a nitpicker, but I’m sure I’m being consistent: I don’t like songs rotating quickly on a radio station, more so if it’s an alternative radio station.

11.11: A Chvrches track at ten minutes past the hour. Predictable. Not as predictable: Jobim saying a Lauren Mayberry quote in a Scottish accent, making her sound like Craig Ferguson.

11.18: This hour is my impatient hour. They’re playing another Asteroids Galaxy Tour song three hours after they first played the Danish act.

11.42: I think I’m skeeved by the fact that Jam 88.3’s programming lives by its clocks, and dies by its clocks. Now that I know this, I don’t know how I’ll approach what looks like – surprisingly – a DJ-less slot from midday to three. I mean, yes, Jam’s music is good, and better without people talking too much in between the songs, but you remove that unpredictability that makes live radio such an interesting thing… damn, I know too much about this medium. I’m sorry I’m being a geek. Or not. I’m not sorry I’m being a geek.

On the upside, I have yet to hear a single Jack White track, or a single Arctic Monkeys track, or a single Black Keys track. Nothing against those artists, but whenever I randomly tune in to Jam, I always seem to hear a track from any of those three. Might’ve contributed to my misgivings for the station for the past couple of years.

12.00: I told you they’ll play that Smashing Pumpkins track again.

12.05: Two Courteeners tracks in two hours. Don’t think I didn’t know what you did there, Jam. I know the band ditched the “the” but they’re still the same band.

12.16: This is only the second local track I’ve heard (that I’m sure of) in six hours. This is disappointing. I know – and I have argued before – that the government’s whole four OPM songs an hour thing isn’t doable nowadays, but one, Jam has a lot of local tracks on its arsenal, and two, a couple of years back or so, they managed to play more local music! They had at least one local song an hour during regular programming, with Local Licks stagers in between. Now, really, their support for local music is on token slots. I am disappointed.

12.29: There goes a Black Keys song.

12.46: And there goes that new Foo Fighters single. I’m surprised it’s not on high rotation. Or, I’m surprised this wasn’t played earlier, because, you know, it’s a new song, from one of the biggest bands on the planet, and their album just came out. I now doubt my supposedly educated guesses about their rotations.

12.54: Maybe it’s because the Foo Fighters is a rock band, and not an alternative band, and therefore their music is shunted to their Saturday rock slots? That’s pretty narrow, don’t you think?

Admission: this live blog has been in the works for a year, but I decided to schedule it at a time when most alternative releases are coming out. “How would Jam deal with all this new music from all these big acts?” I wonder. I ended up doing it today to see how they’d deal with the Foos’ new album. Okay, that might have stacked things against their favor, but I did assume the Foos are a big deal for the station. I don’t know how they played up the song weeks ago – the single only premiered three weeks ago, note – so maybe I could be wrong, but only heard this song now, on a DJ-less slot, is a bit disappointing. Or, maybe, the station is eschewing harder sounds in favor of the more palatable (and marketable) alternative pop sounds that kids these days like. I think my age is showing. (25, if you have to know.)

13.11: This plug for, well, Jobim’s show is… actually brilliant. I’ll admit, most of the plugs I’ve heard today so far is pretty good. The promotions are this close to capturing my imagination the same way Magic 89.9‘s jingles in 2004 did.

13.28: “Hard-hitting tracks to drive away the lazy mood,” the stinger says, but the fact is, I am no longer paying attention to the music. It’s become a blend of whatever. I’ve gotten busy with the article I’m writing (for the night job) and this presentation I’m tweaking (for the day job). But hey, I heard this Benjamin Booker song earlier. Seven hours ago, in fact. Now that’s rotation befitting an alternative station. I know, I really sound nitpicky now…

13.45: They just played The Fray, which is a throwback to the old Jam, Remember when the station wasn’t an outright alternative station? It started, after all, as an acoustic-leaning easy listening station, and gradually moved towards alternative pop over its lifetime, especially when it adopted the format of the just yanked K-Lite in early 2007. There was a time when you’d head, well, The Fray alongside the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and it all made sense.

Since NU went off the air, however, Jam inched slowly towards that position – a necessary evolution, I must add – and now it eschews most pop music in favor of relatively edgy acts. I say relatively because, well, isn’t everything a matter of perspective? Tove Lo, for instance, only gets airplay on Jam here, as far as I know, but in Europe she’s a staple of pop stations. You can argue Jam’s still playing pop, but it’s a different kind of pop. Whether that’s alternative enough for you, or it’s still too mainstream… well, even Jam knows they can’t please everyone. They certainly haven’t pleased me for a while.

14.04: Who’s guessing that this time slot will be filled, in the future, by one of Jam’s student DJs who impressed with their audition videos (ugh) and are now doing several weekend shifts?

14.24: I honestly forgot Lorde is an alternative artist. I know, she’s always been alternative, but I’ve heard “Yellow Flicker Beat” everywhere. (Or, err, on European pop stations. I don’t know about us here.)

14.27: This is then followed by Matisyahu. I haven’t heard this guy in ages. I think the last time was… on NU 107!

14.38: The music sweeps this morning are actually less intrusive than all these “talk-free ’til three!” stingers I’m hearing these past few hours.

15.06: Finally, a DJ. Oh, hello, Russ Davis. He, alongside Roanna, shifted to Jam after NU 107 closed down in 2010. (He previously hosted Blood Type A, an Asian rock show.) If anything, they connect this station to the legacy of that other big alternative monster. I must add, he in particular adds an air of authority to the frequency. It must be because he hosts Fresh Filter, sort of making him Jam’s Francisbrew. Or maybe it’s the way he sounds. So chin-stroke-y.

Come to think of it, him and Jobim have this refreshing music-first-us-last sound to their voices. I’ll say that goes a long way. And then Lambert comes on sounding excitable and show-off-y and it all goes poof… but that’s me getting ahead of myself.

15.21: I’m not generally a fan of artist of the month features. Artist of the week is okay; artist of the month, no. You end up with the same bits of production, saying the same bits, played out more often than usual (and built to stand out more than the other stings), and it gets weird. Lush 99.5 – my go-to radio station in Singapore – does this feature, and they play that same tidbit about Yuna again and again over a month, until it ceases to be a fun fact and becomes a tedious one. That thing’s happening with Chvrches on Jam right now. It gets tedious.

That said, I’m surprised I only hear a mention of their upcoming concert at this hour. Also surprisingly, no mention that there will be an interview with the band’s Martin Doherty on the evening show – unless it’s not happening tonight…

15.45: I like Flying Ipis, but someone promised to give me a copy of their EP and didn’t follow through, and all the romance that went with it, so, sorry, bad association.

16.07: Russ Davis has played more local music in two hours than the morning shifts combined. And it does not sound out of place. Jam should really think of scattering the local love around the schedule. Again, it doesn’t have to be new local alternative – a little Bamboo-era Rivermaya goes a long way.

16.31: I just realized Russ sounds perkier in Jam than he ever was on NU.

16.55: I’ve heard this new Imagine Dragons track four times today, and no, I still don’t like it. I still won’t have the need to even tolerate Imagine Dragons. Repetition will not make me change my mind.

17.11: I was going to write something about how the songs I’ve heard tend to sound the same, to the point that nothing stands out much. I was going to continue that the end result is a safe station that focuses on the poppier side of alternative – not that it’s a bad thing, but it could always be better. It could serve the scene better. It could serve the audience better. But at least I don’t feel like I’ve been sold to advertisers, that feeling I get when I listen to the Magic, for instance. But then Jam plays Man Man’s “Loot My Body”, with a chorus that sounds like you can, err, lube whoever’s body. That was an awkward Google search.

17.18: I finally hear something from the Fresh Filter playlist. They should, again, do this more often. Anyway, the band is called Wilderness, the song is called “Pasaway”, and their sound defies their name: it’s folky in a Joey Ayala kind of way. (And the lyric, if I caught it right: “…nang binuhay mo ang aking bulaklak.”) Interesting. I like it. This is what I want Jam to do. I want Jam to turn me on. But I guess not everybody does. I don’t begrudge Jam for not appealing to early adopters like NU ever did, for not presenting a variety of genres across its schedule, instead pigeonholing them to weekend slots… but you know why most people, at least initially, listen to alternative radio stations? To look cool. To be able to say they’re different.

17.27: That said, the station is sounding better than I anticipated this morning. I put it down to the lack of inanity compared to two years ago, when I last really listened.

17.42: I still don’t like this Tiendesitas ad, but for a different reason now: because the first part of its jingle sounds like one for a laundry detergent, and then it shifts to the chorus, which I learn to accept… and then there’s this pointless rap part that just ends. It’s empty. But I remember it, so I guess they win.

17.51: Lemme guess: the last song on Russ’ show is from the Smashing Pumpkins…

17.54: Called it. Or not. Of course I figured out the clocks somewhat.

18.11: Surprisingly for this hour, the first song is not from the 90s: it’s the Heavy’s “How You Like Me Now?” Welcome to The Joint with Lambert and Jada. I expect an interview. I expect a chart. I don’t know what to expect. Supposedly. I hear sound effects.

18.34: I haven’t heard a traffic report all day, so I’m surprised to hear Lambert do one himself. It’s quick, but it’s still a traffic report. These things have really gone the way of the dodo, haven’t they? (Because they’ll report the same thing: traffic is terrible.)

It is followed by, ulk, a live read. Rule of thumb: when someone talks about how brilliant things are now, or how brilliant things were then, you know what’s coming…

19.07: So, the charts. Royal Blood’s topping it at the moment. But they precede it with another live read about… a One Direction concert. This is weird.

19.26: Ah, this lovely Ang Bandang Shirley song is on the charts. How come I didn’t hear it earlier today?

19.50: Lots of local tracks on the countdown, and they’re barely represented on regular rotation. Either I’m listening on the wrong day, or something is off.

20.05: Royal Blood is still on top of this week’s charts. Stars follows them. Will anybody sell their albums here? Of course not. Once they’re on CD, they’re no longer cool, or so the logic supposedly goes. Vinyl. Vinyl is the freaking way.

20.10: So, an interview… with the organizers of a fun run. Only the person who they’re interview does not sound like she’s having fun, at least initially. This is an observation I have on every radio station that do these interviews: they bog things down a bit, don’t they?

Yeah, we’re waiting for the interview with Martin Doherty. Let’s hope it happens. Last time, they had an interview with Lauren Mayberry which had to be moved for some reason. No time, if I remember correctly? The problem with phoners. Wouldn’t it be fun if all the acts that come here grant interviews, in person, on our radio stations? I mean, they ought to have that, right?

20.18: “If people can video themselves running to the bathroom or toilet, please send it to us. We’re compiling it for World Toilet Day.” I get its a just cause, but it’s a weird thing to hlear.

20.29: The interview is… on but not on. Phone problems. Martin is saying hello, but we can barely hear anything. It’s not because he’s in an airport, right? Shame, because Lambert is asking about Chvrches’ participation in the Radio 1 Rescores Drive project – where Zane Lowe recruits artists to pen new songs for that Ryan Gosling film – and I’m interested. This thing is breaking down badly.

20.32: It’s broken down so badly, they had to cut the call shirt. Tsk. That was cringeworthy.

“This is my second strike with Chvrches,” Lambert goes. I feel you. I think I do. But maybe a prerecord is best next time.

20.54: Just how many Smart live reads are there in this show? I’ve heard more in the past three hours than in the fifteen hours that preceded it! Ugh.

Anyway, The Joint is over for tonight. Lambert isn’t there to say goodbye, possibly because he’s back on the phone with Martin, prerecording the whole thing. Okay, I’ll forgive that, but not all the live reads. It feels very dirty, and I’ve always hated them, so no, I am most definitely not nitpicking. And coming up next, “powdered soup is essentially soup in powdered form.” But first, that Smashing Pumpkins song again…

21.28: I’m oddly surprised that, despite being in a late night slot, Roanna’s still doing these trivia bits on her show. It worked in early evening (although, again, powdered soup…) and it somewhat fit when she co-hosted the morning show, but at late nights? I mean, Jobim’s and Russ’ shows had less clutter. Well. Maybe I am being biased after all.

21.31: They played a Chvrches track earlier, after the failed interview. And now, another one. Overload. I know. It’s likely just me. Still. I need something else…

21.41: Not much has changed: Roanna is still meandering along, doing these trivia bits. Today’s theme is apparently unusual transportation, although there’s nothing weird about a planned Titanic working replica, or free train rides for writers. But yes, I’m probably being too harsh. Should be constructive. She can keep things shorter and it won’t feel so cluttered. That, and I’ll attribute my boredom to me getting excited about wrapping up this live blog. I’m sorry.

21.55: Hm, a recorded clip off… a stand-up routine? A YouTube video? A stand-up routine of a YouTube video? I’m lacking context and I don’t know what’s going on, but this is definitely about mixing alcohol. But for some reason, I am more receptive to this than the meandering trivia bits. Funny what we latch on to.

22.13: Wrap-up thoughts: that turned out better than expected. Sometimes the station still feels show-off-y, sure, but for the most part Jam seems to have ditched most of the inanity and tightened things up. Perhaps my biggest frustration, inevitably, is with the music – and not because they play this artist and not this artist. Nope. I’ve accepted that “alternative” means different things to different people, and mine happens to be of a more adult vein than the college kids that are likely to listen to this station.

My frustration is down to two things. One, the fact that their local music support is limited to token slots, perhaps more so than their previous versions. Two, the fact that their take on alternative music is, for the most part, homogenous. The older stuff is limited to Fridays; the harder stuff, to Saturdays; most of the local stuff, on Sundays. This is perhaps me being an advocate of mixing things up, as with all other radio stations I listen to, but this is an alternative station. You’ve a bit of an obligation to be ahead of the curve. As it stands, Jam is a pop station with different(-ish) music.

I’m sure some of you are wondering if my love-hate relationship with Jam will improve after tonight. Perhaps, I don’t know. I have the car on weekends. I want to mix things up, so maybe not on weekends. Also, old habits die hard.

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3 thoughts on “Live blog: A day listening to Jam 88.3

  1. “Eric the complainer and Lana the optimist” HAHAHA NAILED IT!!!

    One thing I realized after months of not having a decent music player in the car: Eric is the best DJ there is IF you’re looking for a high amount of stress early in the morning. He complains a lot, very opinionated (not in a good way because most of his opinions are basically rants), can make a 1-hr discussion about petty things like, you said, traffic, sounds as if he really knows what he’s talking about but if you listen close enough you’d realize you just wasted a good amount of time taking all his rants in, he can deliver baseless opinions like he’s done a research paper about it, he referred to the movie Inception as “Deception” and just brushed it off like nobody heard him (at least that’s what I think he thought), he said he’s the only person in the world who hasn’t tried Uber (because he’s OA like that), among others.

    This morning Lana was solo because Eric was down with a flu. I like it when Eric isn’t around actually. You should hear her without Eric because she definitely has a lot to say; more than her usual “basically” and “absolutely”.

    You almost can’t hear her on usual days coz she’s probably just letting Eric do all the talking because she’s tired of listening to all of Eric’s yada yada. And yes, I’m making this up. LOL.

    On another note, I like Lambert. Pretty straightforward. Not his partner though, what’s her name?

    And about Roanna’s trivia’s, she never fails to make me fall asleep in the car. Good thing I’m not the one driving!

    Generally though, I wish they’d have more good music than nonsense talks.

    Sorry, I had to let it all out. First time to see a blog that shares my sentiments about the Jam 88.3!

    1. I have to meet Eric. I haven’t tried Uber myself. Not that I was interested. That makes two of us.

      I don’t doubt Lana’s capabilities, though. I should’ve mentioned that, among the current on-air line-up, she’s been on air on the station the longest. She’s always flown solo before being given the breakfast shift, if I remember correctly.

      Lambert’s co-host is Jada, and yes, her Valley twang rubs me off the wrong way, especially when she overdoes it. She was formerly from Wave.

      And yes, frankly, I’m disappointed with Roanna being all trivia-y on her shift when she was perfectly capable during her time on NU. I don’t know why she suddenly needed a crutch when Jobim and Russ can avoid prattling during their shifts.

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