Winter is the most reflective time of the year for me. The year is coming to a close. We just celebrated a holiday of considering things for which we are thankful. Christians are preparing for the coming birth of Jesus. We make time at work and after work to celebrate and share meals with colleagues, friends, and family. Even the falling temperatures and snow cause the slowing of movement to the perfect pace for reflection.
Snow’s unusual appearance in Tacoma on Monday reminded me specifically of December afternoons spent in the MCR at WPTS-FM; Pitt’s radio station.
Being one of the few DJs from the area, I would often find myself staying on-campus a little longer going into a break or coming into town over Christmas to spin an extra show or two. As you can guess, the station was pretty empty over these breaks, so it was mostly just me and the music.
The MCR was in the corner of the station overlooking the front patio of the William Pitt Union and facing the majestic Cathedral of Learning. Fat snowflakes are drifting around the scene in my head. I would crack the window for a bit of a chill in the warm room, but also to get a big breath of that fresh air and maybe bring a snowflake or two into the studio.
There is something about solitude that calms the soul. Pitt has 28,000 students roaming the Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh mixed with plenty of non-students who are employed by the university or the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, making it a bustling part of town throughout the year. When students are gone, though, this part of town becomes quite calm; almost eerily so. The thought of getting a few minutes to yourself in Oakland without distraction or competition for attention seems impossible when school is in session.
Seeing a completely different side of Oakland was one of the biggest draws for being on-campus during breaks, so I’d stay on-campus an extra day almost every time. One Thanksgiving break I recall all of my friends leaving on Tuesday but I stayed through Wednesday, giving me time to write a paper and DJ an extra show. Walking around an empty campus made me feel like I was special; somehow granted unique access to campus after all others were dismissed.
Despite this solitude, radio provides an unavoidable connection. People are listening. You are saying or playing things that are enticing your listeners to stay tuned. College radio’s listenership is smaller and more specific than commercial radio stations, often playing music that’s a little off the beaten path, so it feels almost like you’re addressing a club of people who identify with you specifically. WPTS identifies as a progressive radio station, so we weren’t even supposed to play popular mainstream music, making the club even more exclusive.
As someone who is generally a social butterfly and would (at one time) identify as an extrovert, it’s interesting for me to think about how unique these memories of winter radio broadcasts are to me. I shared this experience with no one. I didn’t even listen to this music with any of my friends at the time. I was in the MCR alone and I have no idea who was listening while driving around town. WPTSers have their own memories and many are shared, but this one is unique to me. One of the rare moments that stands out in my life as something completely my own that I just needed to get into a written form so I can reflect accurately again next year.
A few very specific tunes from winter 2005 have been coming to mind as the temperatures dip. They may not all sound like winter to you, but they will forever be tied to the season for me.
Nada Surf — “Do It Again”
I listened to The Weight is a Gift about 50 times in 2005–2006. It was one of those albums I picked up because I was familiar with the band (from “Popular”, which doesn’t really reflect their catalog) and had some pretty reasonably low expectations. Turns out these guys wrote some really heartfelt tunes and this one had the best hook.
Matt Pond PA — “Snow Day”
Naturally. Another band I had heard of from a friend who loved them before, Matt Pond is another pretty heartfelt songwriter but the warmth of his voice really draws you in.
Coheed and Cambria — “Welcome Home”
Not the most winter-y band, but this album came out around this time and I was pretty enthralled. The band is pretty wacky and the video is extremely early-mid-2000s. Claudio just doesn’t look like he’d have that voice.
Chaselounge — “If This Is Over?”
A band that basically disappeared after this modestly-reviewed album, they just wrote a great song that hooked me. This was definitely a “whoa-is-me” stage romantically, so I was really into songs that played into my twentysomething sadness.
Dropping Daylight — “Lucy”
One more mid-2000s band I’ve never heard from again that wrote a hook-y song. I probably listened to this one about 50 times, too.