Thursday, August 20, 2009

Cringing Trip Down Memory Lane

So recently, I co-presented on a webinar that was broadcast live and recorded for work. I've had a few compliments on my performance — mostly, the fact that I sounded confident and conversational (people seem most taken with the phrase "quick and dirty" ... is that really such a risqué expression?). I attribute this all to the four years I spent as a DJ on the college radio station at UCSB.

Most of my stint on KCSB was on a late-night show. I started on the 2 - 4 a.m. slot, and pretty much stuck with it most of my four years. There was a 10 p.m. to midnight show at some point, a late-afternoon show for another quarter, the awful 6 to 8 a.m. — or was it 8 to 10? — slot I slogged through for another quarter (hated it). One quarter I had two radio slots in the week, to pick up for someone who dropped out — I called that second show "Outside", which had always been my secret back-up name for my normal radio show, "The Dynamic Groovy Music Hour" (thank you, David Tanser, for the name). I was always Sarah the Great, though.

At night, I kept most of the lights in the station off. Most of the time I was by myself; generally until the person with the following slot would stumble sleepily in. There was just enough light to read the CD booklets while I picked the next song, to see the board, to read my notes if I had to study for a test the next day (rarely did that last ... was too distracting from my DJing). I would blast the in-studio speakers on my favorite songs and dance around like an idiot. A couple times someone walked in unexpectedly and caught me at that. And when the phone light flashed, indicating I was getting a call, from an actual listener, that was the best.

A few listeners were regulars, and would call every week. I went on a date with one of them the first year, just before he moved to Portland. Two of my later regulars were truck drivers for Trader Joe's, and one of them had a crush on my voice. He would request the same song every week, Mephiskapheles's "Bumble Bee Tuna Song", and I always called him Eddie, forgetting that his real name was Ernie.

I taped several of those shows, but for a long time I had no way to play those recordings back, since with the death of my old boombox I no longer had a tape deck. I kind of stuck the tapes into a box in the depths of my closet, and semi-forgot about them. But suddenly, with the departure of Geof to the East Coast, I have the ability — for he sold me his entertainment system, including a combo turntable/CD player/AM-FM radio/tape deck.

The webinar and its aftermath of fame and fortune (ha. ha. ha.) had me thinking about those good ol' days, and I finally remembered those tapes. Got home tonight and pulled some of them out of the closet — the collection includes not only my very last show (which my dad listened to on the drive down to help me move out of my apartment, since I was on the air while he was on the road) but also the very very first shows I ever produced, on the training station (KJUC) that every DJ on KCSB was required to do at least a quarter on before moving to the "big time". I popped the tape of the first show into the player while dinner was cooking, turned it up, and braced for the worst.

I was totally unprepared for how awful I was. No idea how to work any of the equipment (as evidenced by songs that would suddenly cut off in the first minute and then start over again ... or continue), no idea how to use the mic or pot up the volume (my voice was about half the volume of the rest of the sound), no idea how to talk on the air (all mumbles) ... but at least my taste in music was there. I found myself hearing songs I haven't listened to in years, good songs that I shouldn't have stopped listening to. It's like a mix tape I made just for my future self ... eleven years ago.

To make myself feel better, I quickly popped the recording of the final show in before moving on to KJUC Tape #2 and listened to myself after four years' experience. Much better. Clear voice. Good use of the mic and sound board. And I sounded confident. Back to KJUC Tape 2 showed improvement already — only one cut off song, and I'd learn how to pot up the mic volume. Wonder how long it took for me to stop mumbling.

I'll probably work my way through the rest of the tapes over the next few weeks. It's kind of nice to do, reminds me of all the awesome things I've done, and can still do.

No comments: