Eleven years after its first broadcast East Village Radio is closing its doors for good. EVR DJ Georgie Okell celebrates its history and laments its loss.
Whether you’ve lived in New York for a year, a decade, or your entire life, you know that New York is getting to you when you start to empathize with those who like to spend their time decrying the real and gradual disappearance of old New York institutions. New York City—like any large metropolis—is in a state of constant flux, the kinetic nature of such a rapidly evolving city is ever apparent, but some losses really sting.
This week marked one such example, with the announcement on Wednesday that East Village Radio is closing its doors for good, eleven years after its initial first broadcast. The online radio station will broadcast it’s last show out of that titchy, glass-fronted closet on First Ave and 1st street next Friday, but the deafening residual silence on the internet airwaves will be felt for much longer.
On Tuesday night, the DJs responsible for the programing on EVR (myself included) were gathered in the back room of Lil Frankie’s and told the news by Frank Prisinzano himself—East Village stalwart, restaurant owner, and online radio pioneer. The air in the small, packed room was thick with collective disappointment and collective perspiration (turns out EVR has a lot of DJs). I certainly felt both, and must admit I became damp-eyed at the news, spending a substantial amount of the meeting staring fiercely at the ground avoiding eye contact with my cooler, more collected EVR peers.
For the last year, I’ve been lucky enough to be part of a truly inspiring institution and it's really fucking sad that it's closing down, for many reason, and here are just a few.
1. East Village Radio represents the musical hub that the East Village has always been, and the station has remained loyal until the end to its history and its roots. Loved by hipsters and beardy rockers alike, EVR was fiercely true to the community and environment that spawned it. Over the years it welcomed guests such as Lou Reed, Sylvain Sylvain (New York Dolls), and Tom Tom Club’s Tina Weymouth, to name just a few.
2. It wasn’t just the East Village spirit of the 70s and 80s that EVR represented, new music flourished there too, with DJs including Mark Ronson, Andrew Wyatt (Miike Snow), and my show Pop Goes The Future (oh come on, one little shameless plug never hurt anybody) showcasing new artists and new music from Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the world.
3. The station was curated to ensure something for everyone. This was never an online station where DJs just showed up, played some crap off a pre-programmed playlist, and left. The lineup was a carefully selected mix of specialist DJs who were truly passionate and came correct with an encyclopedic knowledge of their chosen areas of nerdom. Many of these people will go on to either A) make more great radio B) write brilliant books about music or C) win game shows.
4. Despite the ever-expanding reach and ease of major online streaming services, a collective of conglomerates widely criticized for putting a significant dent in artists’ revenues, EVR was always on the side of the artists and the music, supporting Record Store Day to the end, broadcasting the hugely popular Academy Records show every week, welcoming an insane number of regular DJs through its doors who would lug ridiculous quantities of vinyl to the studio and back every single show just to play audiences the music they love—the way it was intended to be heard.
5. EVR has been credited with inspiring new internet radio stations all around the world springing up like 'shrooms, yet somehow managed to remain true to its roots while connecting with international audiences. The internet's good like that, sometimes: New York community radio stations, Japanese cats, and Canadian pop stars can all go global. What I’m saying is EVR was the Justin Bieber of internet radio, in a really good way.
6. Let's be real, most commercial radio in America sucks. East Village Radio is COOL and smart, funny and charming and culturally aware. It was every quality you could ever want from a lover in a radio station, and it was brought to you with passion every single day, with zero commercial interruptions.
7. Even in the darkest of times (Tuesday night), bad news was delivered with a side of pizza and pitchers of beer, because the EVR bosses are good people. (Just caught myself looking for the pizza and beer emojis on Microsoft Word. Hate my life.)
Speaking to EVR’s General manager (and my boss) Peter Ferraro, he said the outpouring from both the local community and the international media since Wednesday’s announcement has been incredible and humbling. He described the station as “a New York moment… but like so much of the city, things are changing.”
EVR was more than a moment though, it was an intoxicating movement, and, like the girl we’ve all been at least once in New York, gripping onto an East Village bar at 4 in the morning, demanding one last tequila, it feels like the party shouldn’t have to be over yet. I'm already sweaty-palmed in fear of that massive EVR hangover I’m waking up with next week.
Georgie is a Noisey writer and EVR DJ and you should follow her on Twitter - @georgieokell.