Spy's Night Out
7 p.m. Friday
The 51st Street Speakeasy
1114 N.W. 51st
The Spy crept up from the shadows and back onto the radio waves just one year ago. It's existed in various facets since 1991, but Ferris O'Brien " a longtime DJ for the station " was able to relaunch The Spy into its current, stable state on 105.3 FM after a five-year absence from the airwaves.
It celebrates its birthday Friday with "Spy's Night Out" at The 51st Street Speakeasy. Slated to play are Sherree Chamberlain, Kite
Flying Robot, The Boom Bang, The Pretty Black Chains and DJ Blake Ward.
Long beloved by music lovers for its individuality and flexibility, the alternative station is a place where one can hear anything from Morrissey to M.I.A. within the hour.
That has stayed true through its first full year back on the air, but some tunes are popping up in the station's regular rotation that mean a lot more to its listeners.
"Having The Spy means your music will actually be heard by people that care," said Tommy McKenzie, guitarist for local surf rockers The Boom Bang, which has several songs playing on the station. "It's pretty cool having people say they discovered you over the radio. That's a relatively dead statement anymore, but not in this case."
While most radio stations are preoccupied with bringing audiences the biggest national hits, O'Brien and The Spy are much more focused on exposing its loyal followers to all things local.
"Oklahoma City's thriving music culture is ready for a voice to help grow the scene," O'Brien said in The Spy's mission statement. "We are going to give them that voice."
In any given hour, listeners are bound to hear several tracks produced by local artists, that is, unless you are tuning in anywhere from 8 to 10 p.m. Thursdays, where you will hear nothing but that.
That's when Ryan LaCroix and Lacey Lett co-host "The Oklahoma Rock Show," which plays songs exclusively from artists hailing from the Sooner State, while chatting with local bands about anything from their new albums to upcoming concerts. Something as seemingly little as local radio exposure can be the push that keeps bands going.
"Radio play gives a certain validity to what you're doing as a musician. It's one of the watermarks for a band: first show, first record, first time on the radio. I think it can do a lot for a band's morale," LaCroix said. "Having The Spy around gives local musicians an outlet for their music in ways they haven't had in a long, long time."
McKenzie can testify to that firsthand.
"The Spy has really helped us in finding a new audience," he said. "We started really playing seriously about the same time it returned, and it's almost like we've grown with them. Ferris' connections and exposure will make this blooming local scene explode "¦ I believe it already is."
Preteen punk rockers Skating Polly are one of those rising local bands. The girls " Peyton Suitor, 15, and Kelli Mayo, 10 " regularly listen to The Spy, especially "The Oklahoma Rock Show." Unbeknownst to them, their dad had submitted one of their tunes to be played on air.
As they heard the opening notes of their song, they shrieked with joy, laughing and giggling as they gave each other a hug.
"We were just making some covers for our album, and then it came on," Suitor said. "We were really surprised. It was just awesome to hear."
But it's not just bands reaping the benefit. LaCroix said The Spy is a great platform for local groups, organizations and events that didn't have anything like this a year ago, and helps make connections to listeners ready to hear of such things.
"The Spy offers an alternative, pure and simple," he said. "It's not a station with a faceless owner sitting in some corporate tower, pulling numbers on what songs are hits in New York and programming those songs into Oklahoma City. It's local people making local decisions and constantly gauging the public on feedback. It's the way radio should be." " Joshua Boydston
Photo: Ferris O'Brien of The Spy
Photo Credit: Mark Hancock