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(Photo by George Vogel)

A MILESTONE AT WPRB: Jon Solomon, host of WPRB's "The Jon Solomon Show," celebrated the 100th on-air live performance last month. The show has seen a marked increase in live performances by bands from around the region.

Radio Is Alive and Well in Princeton As WPRB Show Reaches a Milestone

Matthew Hersh

While people may no longer huddle around their radio sets at dinner time, the AM and FM dials can still be found providing something lively.

Take "The Jon Solomon Show" for example. The program on WPRB, the Princeton University-affiliate at 103.3 FM, is celebrating a milestone that seems all the more impressive in this age of streaming Internet and Podcast-like phenomena. In just over four years, Jon Solomon has presented live broadcasts of 100 bands.

On August 24, as he played a comprehensive, nine-and-a-half hour retrospective of the bands he's hosted in the studio over the past four years, Mr. Solomon learned one lesson: planning is everything.

"I realized at the end of the day that I should have scheduled something longer, because as 10 o'clock rolled around, I knew we could have stuck around Œtil one," he said Friday in an interview at the studio. "There are definitely performances that I would have liked to have included."

Already a veteran DJ at only 32, Mr. Solomon proved he has the stamina for an extended on-air stint during his annual 24-hour marathon Christmas broadcast.

Nonetheless, the response to the on-air retrospective was positive. "There were fans of different bands who wanted to hear things again, but the show was just the tip of the iceberg."

Mr. Solomon, whose show airs Wednesdays between 7 and 10 p.m., has seen the live performance component increase exponentially in the last year. In fact, nearly half the performances have occurred in the last 15 months.

"I guess I hadn't really thought about that, but it's been a real nice clip," Mr. Solomon said, adding that the frequency of the performances has caused him to reserve time during the week when he is not on the air to record bands for upcoming broadcasts. Most of the performances, he said, are recorded anywhere from 24 hours to a week before airing.

"It's all about coordination, and trying to mix my availability with the band's. If someone can stop in for a couple of hours, it's not inconvenient." He added.

Mr. Solomon's 100th live performance featured Kinski, a Seattle-based band signed to the Sub Pop Records label, the same label where seminal 90s acts like Nirvana, Mudhoney, and Sleater-Kinney found their fame.

"We've reached a point where labels or tour managers contact me and say ŒHey, we've got so and so coming into town and would you be interested?'" In other cases, recordings are booked based on personal connections Mr. Solomon has established in his years on WPRB.

Those relationships have helped him land acts like the New Jersey-based Ted Leo, who, with his band, the Pharmacists, has enjoyed an extended popularity. "I've known him since high school," said Mr. Solomon, who hosted the first incarnation of his show on WPRB when he was a student at Princeton High School. "He's one of the busiest people I know tour-wise, but he finally had a free afternoon."

The show was also able to present a spot to the indie rock group Bloc Party, who, in Mr. Solomon's words, "everyone's freaking out about right now."

The show "is a great promotional tool for bands already known and those who only have a demo out," Mr. Solomon said, adding that his strategy has been to feature a cross-section of acts: a combination of underground and the not-so-underground.

And while Mr. Solomon tries to make the actual recording sessions low-key in order to keep gawkers at a minimum, even he concedes that there are times when he cannot keep fan-dom suppressed. In January 2003, when the band Sunburst came into to the studio for a session, Mr. Solomon's nervous excitement could not be hidden. The three members of Sunburst were all former members of the Feelies, one of the many influential bands to emerge from New York City's post-punk era in the 1980s.

"That was the one show that I was easily the most nervous for: here is the semblance of a band that is still near and dear to me and trying to act professional was tough.

"It was really neat."

WPRB boasts a broadcasting range from "Newark to Newark," covering the mid-Atlantic between northern Jersey and Delaware. With the Philadelphia region right in the middle of that stretch, Mr. Solomon, who also runs his own record label, My Pal God Records, said that there is an "endless supply" of bands who could appear on his show.

"The station is in a really good place and I think this is a great way to get bands out there, which can only help WPRB and this series."

So, to lift a phrase Mr. Solomon, an avid PU basketball fan, uses on the air, "for those keeping the score at home," it's WPRB: One, Podcast: Zip.



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