By TRAVIS BRAASCH
Downtown Tucson has expanded in every direction the past few years, and East Toole Avenue is no exception. In addition to art galleries, studios and small retail stores, the artsy avenue also houses Tucson’s new underground radio station.
Downtown Radio, 99.1 FM KDTD, was established Sept. 13, 2015 with the mission to bring great music not found on typical commercial radio to the citizens of Tucson.
While most radio stations play the same songs over and over, Downtown Radio’s DJs go a step beyond being a robotic voice chatting between songs.
“You won’t find the top 40 or most hits being played,” Program Director Jason LeValley said. “If we play a well-known band, we won’t play their hits. Our DJs tend to look for tracks you may have not heard by one of your favorite artists so you can find new songs to fall in love with.”
Stephanie White co-hosts a Ladytowne program which features female artists and exposes listeners to some they may have never heard before.
“For our show, we carefully pick songs that we have a connection to,” White said. “We try to figure out different themes and make playlists all week, trying to make sure each show has a completely different lineup of music.”
Ladytowne also tries to break the stereotype of women not being in bands, and showcases music outside of the typical riotgrrrl genre that many think of when female musicians are being discussed.
“Some people think of music as a guys-only club where women are either the girlfriend or merch-girl,” said Miranda Schubert, who also co-hosts Ladytowne. “When some people see girls at shows, they make that assumption. In reality, it turns out the girl happens to write all the songs and plays guitar in the band.”
Schubert said she likes to play older music and international music in French, while White listens to lots of newer music.
“I think we mesh well together on our show and bring a good variety of music to the table,” Schubert said.
In addition to bringing a mix of music to the airwaves, Downtown Radio is deeply involved in the subjects of Tucson mental health and health care.
“We want people to not feel alone with their problems,” White said. “Most people find it hard to believe that they are not alone with these issues, and it helps them to hear others share their experiences.”
Downtown Radio networks people who need support facing these disorders to mental health services and options.
The station also invites guest appearances by workers in the mental health field to share advice, and allows listeners to hear from someone who cares about their problems.
“We have a program called Depression Session every Sunday,” LeValley said. The program brings DJs and listeners together to share stories about their depression.
Downtown Radio also brings the Tucson music scene even closer together by regularly featuring tracks by local artists and live performances.
“One of my favorite memories was having The Rifle on the show,” White said. “I was really nervous but everything was great and we had a lot of fun.”