Saturday night has a brand new groove at KVMR 89.5 FM.
“Radio Nomadica” (alternating Saturdays, 10 to midnight), with host Jeffrey Philpott, debuted January 27. After a break for the community radio station’s February membership drive, Philpott will be back on air Saturday (February 24). “Radio Nomadica” fills the vacancy left by “Night Roots,” commanded for 18 years by the late, beloved Richard Dunk. It follows the ever-popular perennial “Dead Air” and alternates with “Through the Night,” hosted by Mystic-Al.
In this age of musical micro-genres, “Radio Nomadica” has no easy one-word descriptor. Electronica? That’s a big musical umbrella, says Philpott. Try this description: “Classic down-tempo, trip-hop tunes interlaced with some world groove that features Desi, Asian and Middle Eastern-influenced styles and artists.” Tabla, sitar, flute and sinuous vocals thread through danceable beats. Petrol Bomb Samosa, anyone? No matter what you call it, it’s a fitting, flowing soundtrack for a Saturday night.
Born and raised in Oakland, California, Philpott had music-loving parents who exposed him at an early age to Fairport Convention, CSNY, Joan Baez, Bach and more. What he didn’t get by osmosis from the home LP collection, he picked up from radio.
“The first two FM stations I can remember becoming aware of were KSAN and KKHI because my parents listened to them,” he says. For Philpott, radio was a big part of growing up in the Bay Area in the ’70s and ’80s. “As teens, we skateboarded and rode our bikes, but listening to radio was what we did. It was on at the parties, there were boom boxes at the skate spots, it was our primary media.”
Philpott discovered KVMR when he moved to Nevada City in 1990. From 2006 to 2013, he commuted to Rocklin, his car radio tuned to KVMR drive time five days a week, morning and evening. He developed an ear for the rhythms of listenable radio.
Combining a passionate musical heart with a highly analytical brain, Philpott has been hanging around KVMR for years, logging hours in the studio with DJ friends. Opportunities to join the volunteer broadcaster training came and went, but he didn’t want to enroll until he could commit completely. After graduating from the 2017 class and becoming certified last August, Philpott began crafting his idea of a perfect radio show. When opportunity knocked, “Radio Nomadica” answered.
The world of wireless has been a lifelong theme for Philpott. He inherited a shortwave receiver from his grandfather as a teenager. “Being on the West Coast, Asian and South Pacific stations were pretty easy to hear and for a young kid, they provided some very exotic programming,” he says. His earned his amateur radio license from the FCC in 1987. “I’m at the point now where I’ve been licensed for more of my life than I was unlicensed, and to this day I still maintain and operate a station.”
Philpott lives in an off-grid home near French Corral with his wife, dogs, chickens and, of course, radio equipment. Being an outdoor enthusiast, he also participates in an international program that encourages amateur radio operators around the world to hike to and then transmit from the summits of mountains. A longtime solar-energy professional, he’s now a project manager for High Sierra Electronics, which designs and manufactures monitoring systems that provide flood warnings and other weather- and water-related data.
With that analytical brain, Philpott has pondered how community radio can stay relevant in the age of Pandora, Spotify and Sirius. “One of the things that gets raved about by both residents and visitors alike is the fantastic culture we have in and around Nevada City. I believe that KVMR plays a larger role in keeping our local culture vibrant than most folks realize.
Community ‘Kitchen Table’
“To me,” he continues, “KVMR is the ‘kitchen table’ of the community. It’s where we hear about positive happenings; it’s where we meet when tragic things happen, where we celebrate and listen to live music festivals, and even where we get information on local fires and power outages.”
Philpott compares the task of the broadcaster to a duck cruising on a placid pond. Some furious paddling might be going on under the surface, but all the listener senses is smooth sailing. His gracious, low-key radio personality keeps the music at the forefront. “What I look for in music,” he says, “is its ability to uplift, transport and provide a sense of movement, and just about any genre of music is capable of that.”
And if listeners get into the groove, it doesn’t matter that the genre doesn’t fall under one specific name. While he’s on the air, Philpott says, “People call and say, ‘What kind of music is this?’ You don’t know what it is or why you like it. But you dig it.”