My journey into new music at 88.1 KDHX

Nate Burrell

This past June marked my second year as a music writer for KDHX. I had just moved back to the St. Louis area from New Jersey and found myself listening to 88.1 KDHX more and more often.

Part of the reason I gravitated to the left side of the dial was because I didn’t want to hear the same 20 songs all day. The other, more important part was that I could tune in at any hour of the day and hear something I’d never heard before. Whether I liked what I heard or not, it was expanding my horizons little by little.

Over these past two years the work I’ve done for the station has helped me grow as a writer, a music lover and a person. I’ve met and befriended some of the greatest people I’ve ever had the pleasure to interact with, both volunteers and the community that we serve.

When I look back at the profound changes I’ve experienced through my work for the station, the one that stands out the most is that I take more risks in my musical life. When I began writing concert reviews for the station, I didn’t know who most of the bands on the concert calendar were. Instead of doing research, I decided to take a more hands-off approach and just pick from the review opportunities that came via email.

That all changed one night when I won some tickets elsewhere on the Internet and asked if I could review the show since I was going to be there anyway. I got the green light and showed up with notebook in hand to document the evening. That show was one of the most powerful, positive experiences in my life. Ultimate Fakebook (who I had heard a total of one song from before that night) was playing one of four reunion shows with the Dead Girls (from Lawrence, Kan.), the Highway Companion and the Orbz at the Firebird midway through December.

I still can’t put my finger on exactly what the source of that magic could have been. Maybe it was the fact that the opening acts were huge fans of Ultimate Fakebook and put that passion into their performances. It may have been the fact that the bands loved what they were doing and it showed. Maybe it was that everyone was singing along with UFB while they were rocking the place to the ground, each song becoming my new favorite track.

Whatever it was, it made a huge, indelible mark on my mind. I’d never before seen a crowd so in love with the acts and the acts returning the feeling in abundance. I’d heard people talk about transcendent experiences brought about by music, but had never experienced one myself until then.

For those of you still reading, I’m about to make my point.

None of this would have come about had it not been for KDHX. I would not have been exposed to the progressive bluegrass of Punch Brothers, the raw honesty of the Rural Alberta Advantage or the focused power pop of the aforementioned Ultimate Fakebook had it not been for that short announcement I’d heard while cruising down Highway 30 and decided to put my name into the volunteer hat.

This is my challenge to you, dear reader: Throw caution to the wind and seek out something that might be a little out of character for you. Turn to 88.1 KDHX at a time you usually don’t listen and see if something grabs you. Make a mix CD of the great songs you’ve discovered here and give it to a friend who is still stuck in the commercial stations. Flip through the concert calendar and go see a band based on its name. Catch a touring act on a Sunday or a Tuesday night when no one shows up at the venues. Skip that Extra Value Meal at lunch and use that $7 to catch a show of local acts at what could become your new favorite watering hole.

Even better, hit the volunteer page at and throw your own name in the hat or support the station with donation during its membership drive. No matter your skill level or income level, there is something you can do to better yourself, the station and the community at large.

Matt Champion is a Senior Music Writer at KDHX. Read more of his reviews, interviews and features.


  • Dan K

    Well said Matt. Your writing has enriched MY kdhx experience. Your coverage of shows gives me the feeling of being there. Thank you for all that you give to the community!