Homegrown Show Gives Local Bands a Shot Airplay

Photos courtesy of Josh Hopkins.

By Drew Zuhosky

Photos courtesy of Josh Hopkins.
Photos courtesy of Josh Hopkins.

Since 1987, WNCD-FM — known on-air as 93.3 The Wolf — has been playing a mix of classic rock and current rock, everything from The Stones to the latest single from Linkin Park. For every band they play, there’s a band in Youngstown striving to become the next Metallica, Linkin Park or Adelitas Way — that’s what The Homegrown Show is for. Every Sunday evening, 93.3 devotes the 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. hour to the program, which showcases the best in local rock music.

The Homegrown Show, originally presented by Jim Allgren — also known by his radio handle Wolf DJ Viking Jim — and his cohost Jason Tibolla, from Third Arm Promotions, began in early 2008 after VEXFEST 4 at the Covelli Center.

Tibolla later left the show, with Gary Angelo, Dr. Damien Killjoy, taking his place.

Allgren and Tibolla went through three different program directors at The Wolf before finally having their show approved by Matt Spatz, now morning drive host at WYFM, Y-103.

“Matt was very open to new ideas,” Allgren said. “Myself and JT, who was a sales representative and local band promoter at the time, took the idea to him and he was very receptive. … We took the idea to him, expecting to have to fight, cajole and argue, and he green-lighted us pretty much right away and it was very exciting.”

While 93.3 is a rock station, The Homegrown Show plays non-rock acts during the hour-long broadcast. Allgren explained how his program runs the musical gamut.

“It’s primarily always original music,” he said. “We’ll play the occasional cover by a band, but as far as style goes, anything goes.”

Allgren also said they play everything from hardcore punk to hip hop, and even country.

The only stipulation to having an act’s songs played is having ties to Youngstown.

“It can be a band from outside the Mahoning Valley as long as they play there from time to time,” Allgren said. “They have made our scene part of their scene.”

With the show running at 9 p.m., one hour before the regulations on objectionable content loosen up, Allgren advises bands or acts to submit a clean version of their songs.

“If we do have something possibly objectionable, it’s just the matter of a quick edit and we really don’t see a lot of that in the first place,” Allgren said. “Most bands don’t rely on that for their writing styles.”

One band that really grew as a result of the program was Album, a metal act based in Rogers, Ohio. Album had a successful record released in Europe.

“Album has really taken off both regionally and in Europe, and we’ve had them on the show almost from the get-go,” he said. “At the same token, we have bands that were big before the show that are Youngstown bands, like Deadbeat Poets.”

Allgren, a personal friend of the band’s members, ended up getting Deadbeat Poets involved with the show.

“It kind of works both ways,” he said. “We’ve got bands that we’ve kind of helped to kick out the door and ones that are already kind of big.”

The Homegrown Show will take anything as far as submissions go, just as long as they’re quality selections from bands that have quality recordings.

“It still has to be solid material. It has to be something that if I hear it, I can hear that being played beyond a local level,” he said. “The big things are to have quality material. A lot of bands, unfortunately, are in too big of a hurry.”

Allgren said oftentimes bands don’t put their best efforts into their song.

“They’re too busy trying to get something out,” he said. “I always thought that bands should take their time when it comes to writing and recording and make sure they’ve got their craft down so they’re not spinning their wheels. That way, when they get something out, they’re positive it’s good.”

Allgren noted that there are other radio programs on stations owned by iHeartMedia, the parent company of WNCD, around the country in a similar vein to The Homegrown Show.

“I think there are similar shows on stations owned by other companies, as well,” he said. “They’re not that common, but are becoming more common. As far as that goes, I think we were the groundbreaker when we started in 2007. I think we’ve got a nice lineup on Sundays with Tangled Up in Blues at 7 p.m. leading into our show at 9 p.m.”

While Allgren said there are no immediate plans to expand the show to a second night, he’d love it if it were to come to pass.

“I’d be open to such an idea,” he said. “I know that a lot of other great local bands would love it, too.”

Bands who have had their music played on The Homegrown Show include Turbo Lovers and White Cadillac. Both feature B.J. Lisco, who also works as an entertainment reporter for The Canton Repository newspaper.

Lisco spoke about his relationship with fellow DJ Viking Jim.

“Back in the days when I operated Youngstown Pulse Magazine and was a bit more active in the local scene booking and promoting shows, he always referred to me as ‘The hardest working man in Yo business.’ That’s not true,” Lisco said. “It’s always been Viking Jim, and the Youngstown music scene is lucky to have him.”

Lisco said bands in this region are connected locally, and he’d recommend Homegrown to anyone starting out.

“When Vike first got the show off the ground, we all kind of knew,” he said. “However, I have to stress the recording and material needs to be professional enough for air on the radio. I know he’s run into a few issues with bands sending him really poor quality recordings.”

White Cadillac also features Fred Whitacre Jr. as its drummer. Whitacre also plays in the band Kitchen Knife Conspiracy. He calls The Homegrown Show an integral part of the scene for local music.

“Vike and Killjoy always support local talent and they champion our area’s music far and wide,” Whitacre said. “They’ve supported both of my bands and my solo music, for which I am eternally grateful. Viking’s voice is, in my opinion, the radio voice in our area, and Killjoy’s knowledge of the underground scene is unparalleled. I hope 93.3 The Wolf continues to push our local artists — because there’s no national scene left if music scenes like Northeast Ohio’s don’t continue to grow and thrive. I’m so thankful for what HG does for us. They’re a staple.”

Josh Hopkins of Album said he gave credit to Allgren and the show for helping the band’s fan base grow. Hopkins recalled the first instance where they were featured on Homegrown, and how they’ve taken off since then.

“As soon as we recorded our first decent sounding demos, we sent them to Jim with a nice little note attached,” Hopkins said. “He seemed to enjoy it and talk about us on-air — we were very humbled and giddy hearing ourselves on the radio, let alone the DJ seemed to genuinely like it.”

Since then, Album has been on the show regularly. Hopkins said he was grateful for the opportunity especially because it’s helping get their name out — aiding in recognition by the public.

Album has since hosted the show about four or five times, and Allgren gives Hopkins and the band free rein.

“Jim lets us play as many of our own songs on his show as we want,” Hopkins said. “For being a Viking, he sure is a sweetheart.”

The Homegrown Show airs Sunday evenings from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. on WNCD, 93.3 The Wolf. ▪