The way KVMR volunteer broadcaster Cheri Snook tells it, when fellow KVMR broadcaster Wesley Robertson heard the news that acclaimed Nevada County rock band Achilles Wheel was going to open for Michael Franti & Spearhead at this music festival in rural Alaska this month, well, “he told me, by God, we’ve got to make this happen.”
Happen meaning KVMR 89.5 FM would be there, and happen meaning they’d somehow bring a live broadcast to its listeners.
“Of course, Wesley would have been there,” said Snook, “and he’ll be there in spirit once again, we’ll be honoring our sweet Music Man Wesley Robertson, with a ‘Wes cast’ from Alaska.”
That was the beloved broadcaster Robertson’s last phone call with Snook. Later, he died from injuries suffered in an accident on an icy Golden Center freeway at the age of 63 back in March.
It stunned the usually upbeat community radio station. Hundreds of broadcasters, KVMR listeners and music community supporters showed up for a memorial honoring Robertson on March 17 at the Miner’s Foundry, across the street from the Nevada City community radio station.
That, obviously — and the summer music festival season that Robertson reveled in for years and years — got the rapt attention of his wife, Maureen “Mo” Fitzpatrick, a physical therapist in Auburn and Placerville.
‘OCEAN OF LOVE’
“Thank you for the ocean of love I have felt from the entire community about Wes,” she told a crowd of around 1000 at KVMR’s recent 40th birthday party. “It’s humbling to be the recipient of that kind of unconditional and total love.”
As Mo noted, Wes wasn’t in it for the love, he was there for the music.
“He would be honored and humbled to know how much he meant to all of you,” Fitzpatrick added.
No real surprise, but she’ll be joining Cheri at the Salmonfest festivities as well. Just to be part of what Wes’ life was like.
Right now, Friday night’s 8 p.m Salmonfest performances include Kristy Lee and Brandi Carlile, who headlined last year at the Grass Valley Veterans Hall.
Saturday’s 8 p.m. broadcast from Alaska includes the Lowdown Brass Band, plus Achilles Wheel (9:45 p.m.) and Michael Franti and Spearhead (11:15 p.m.).
A RADIO FIRST
Franti already has a strong connection to KVMR. Just over a decade ago, he and his band performed a Thanksgiving Eve show at New Folsom Prison that Snook produced, which was broadcast nationwide the same day on the Pacifica Radio Network.
That had never been done before on radio. But KVMR did it.
Yes, Cheri has her ways. And words.
“Michael’s presence in concert is unifying…feeding the masses with the depth of his songwriting and spoken words that bring inner peace and Hope in this world,” said Snook. “There’s a damn good feel to those that attend and dance the night away in a giant Love Fest, and it carries right over to the radio-listening crowd as well.”
It’s an attitude like Cheri’s than inspires KVMR Chief Engineer Dave “Buzz” Barnett.
“It’s about being really passionate about something and bringing it to the listeners,” Barnett mused. “I see that day in and day out at KVMR.”
“I’m constantly getting turned on to something new and different at this radio station, and I love it.”
According to Barnett, the whole concert deal was a maybe, maybe not situation until just a week ago.
That’s when Barnett — who’d been in touch with Alaska radio engineers, festival producers and concert technical staff — got word that Salmonfest would give the KVMR broadcast a “priority Queue”, meaning the station’s broadcast would receive top clearance over all other online usage at the popular concert event.
“That means we’ll get a chance to hear it before we actually use it,” Barnett said. “There are lots of points of failure involved, but I do think it has a really good chance of working just fine.”
Heck, Wesley wouldn’t have it any other way.
In fact, someone’s been havin’ a little fun when Achilles Wheel does the song “Wesley’s Road,” a tribute to Robertson written by Paul Kamm.
It seems the lighting has gone awry at a couple performances of the tune, and microphones inexplicably got goofed up at another, while a guitar had to be strangely retuned for the song onetime as well.
Could Robertson be playing tricks on the band?
Funnin’ around, that’s for sure.
And he’s grinnin’ right now at Buzz, Cheri, and Salmongate broadcaster/producer Sacramento Dave. You can see it.
This coming weekend, well, you’ll feel it. And, we hope, hear it.
KNOW & HEAR
WHO: KVMR 89.5 FM (105.3 FM Truckee) and kvmr.org streaming
WHAT: Salmonfest: 3 Days of Fish, Love & Music
WHEN: Broadcasting live Friday, 8 p.m. to midnight, Saturday: 2 to 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. to 1 a.m., Sunday: 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
WHERE: Kenai Peninsula, Ninilchik, Alaska
WITH: Live performances by Nevada County’s Achilles Wheel and Michael Franti & Spearhead Saturday night, among others