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Benefit planned for unlicensed FM radio station

Benefit planned for unlicensed FM radio station

By David L. Beck

Mercury News

The day after the feds busted Free Radio Santa Cruz, a tiny, free-spirited and unlicensed FM station that was beaming stuff like ``Democracy Now'' from a house near downtown, legendary folk singer Utah Phillips was on the phone offering to play a benefit.

``I was assured the equipment base wasn't going to be a problem,'' Phillips said. ``What I was concerned about was fines.''

Phillips will play that benefit Friday night at Santa Cruz's Rio Theatre. He'll be joined by local musicians Keith Greeninger, the Devil Makes Three, Bob Brozman and Faith Petric, the 89-year-old doyenne of the San Francisco folk community.

There were no fines. But the Federal Communications Commission and U.S. Marshals left the house on Laurel Street after their Sept. 29 raid with an estimated $5,000 to $10,000 worth of broadcasting equipment, and not all of it has been replaced.

Plus, said Free Radio programmer George Cadmon, ``We do have monthly costs. We have to pay for our Web stream, we have to pay for our DSL, we've got rent, power'' and other bills to pay, she said.

Free Radio can be heard www.freakradio.org. It can also be heard over the air on its old frequency, 101.1 FM, thanks to a group called Santa Cruz Radio Access Movement -- SCRAM -- which Cadmon said is picking up the legal Web cast. ``We don't have any association with those people,'' she said, ``but we are aware of it.''

John Sandich, whose Snazzy Productions is co-producing the event with Free Radio, called the station's programmers ``a really community-minded organization who want to bring some diversity to the airwaves, get a little further left than'' National Public Radio. Neither Snazzy nor the Rio is charging to put on the benefit, he said.

Phillips, 69, is best known for a tall tale about ``moose turd pie'' -- ``they'll put it on my gravestone,'' he said with a sigh. He said in a telephone interview Monday from his Grass Valley home that he grew up on radio, stringing an antenna from his home-made crystal set into an apple tree outside his bedroom in Dayton, Ohio, so he could listen to string band music out of Chicago, Shreveport and Richmond.

``See,'' he said, ``we elect congressmen and senators, who then appoint boards and commissions to lease off what we already own to private companies to sell it back to us. It's a dumb idea.''

IF YOU'RE INTERESTED

For information and tickets ($21), call (831) 479-9421 or see www.freakradio.org or www.riotheatre.com.

Contact David L. Beck at dbeck@mercurynews.com or at (831) 423-0960.

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