Cue the good vibes: KVMR Celebrates 40th Birthday With 7-Band Party in Pioneer Park |

Cue the good vibes: KVMR Celebrates 40th Birthday With 7-Band Party in Pioneer Park

Steve Baker
Special to Prospector
Last year's KVMR Summer Of Love concert brought out the color. This Saturday, from 3:30-10 p.m, the Nevada City radio station hosts its 40th Birthday Party at the Pioneer Park band shell. Seven area music artists will perform.
Photo by John Taber


WHO: KVMR 89.5 FM Community Radio

WHAT: KVMR 40th Birthday Party, with music by Buck Love & The Humperheads, Heifer Belles, Achilles Wheel Trio, Brandy Robinson, Grease, Grit & Grime, Paul Kamm & Eleanor McDonald, Saul & Elena Rayo.

WHEN: 3:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Pioneer Park Band Shell, Nimrod Street, Nevada City

TICKETS: $10 at the gate only ($5 for veterans and youth 15 and under)

INFO: Visit or call 530-265-9073 for more information

Well, you couldn’t have much more success than KVMR 89.5 FM’s “Summer Of Love” celebration a year ago: they ran out of wristbands for an event that was selling low-priced tickets at the gate only. And they had to haul in extra beer on top of that.

All as a fun-loving, into-the-moment, unexpectedly large crowd of 800 turned out at Nevada City’s Pioneer Park band shell, dancing and prancing in such slinky shades of ultra-colorful garb that even the tie dye blushed. But wearing a T-shirt and shorts was just fine, too.

This Saturday, the forecast is more good vibes.

You could say it’s a “Summer Of Love” festival for KVMR and the official celebration of the Nevada City community radio station’s 40th birthday, once again at Pioneer Park, once again from later afternoon (3:30 p.m.) to late evening (10 p.m.), once again with tickets at just $10 general admission ($5 for veterans and youth 15 and younger), once again available only at the gate. And, once again, yes, there’ll be room for all.

“It was a wonderful ‘Summer Of Love’ celebration, but, you know, we had a lot of young people there, too, it’s a reasonably priced event, and it was wonderful they came out to support KVMR,” said event co-producer Diane McIntire, a former KVMR board president. “We had so many people asking us to do it again.”

Oh, don’t worry, there’ll be more kegs of beer this year, and an abundant number of wristbands. You may be able to dress in them.

Music line-up

Hey, celebrate like life begins at 40, with seven music artists on two stages, including:

Saul and Elena Rayo

Grease, Grit & Grime Trio

Paul Kamm and Eleanore McDonald

Brandy Robinson

Achilles Wheel Trio

The Heifer Belles, including KVMR broadcaster Kim Rogers on pedal steel guitar, an instrument rare for a woman to play. But Rogers does, and well.

Buck Love & The Humperheads, classic rockers including KVMR’s Mikail Graham, a volunteer broadcaster since the first year back in 1978.

Grown in influence

“Even in my short lifetime here (24 years), I’m amazed at how much the station has grown, how much more influence it has,” said music artist Elena Rayo after a recent performance on Jenny Michael’s Wednesday Music Magazine. “Sure, social media is great but having a physical presence and building like KVMR has, well, it’s special.”

“In fact, one of the big reasons I moved here was KVMR,” she said. “It’s the spinal chord of our community … a real family.”

Elena’s husband Saul Rayo said, “It’s the hub, it’s the center. I’m serious, without the station, this place could have turned into a (cultural) desert.“

And it’s played quite the role in people’s lives.

“I remember a crisp December evening many years ago when Eleanore and I were married at the Miner’s Foundry (then the American Victorian Museum),” said Paul Kamm. “The next night we sang on the very first KVMR Nightlive broadcast.”

“Our Honeymoon, spent with KVMR and the listening community,” said Kamm’s wife Eleanore McDonald. “But what an amazing gift KVMR is.”

“It’s a place I can go to find information I need regarding local emergencies, hear the independent musicians I love and hear discussions of important local and national issues and the voices of the DJs I’ve loved through the years,” she said.

The last few years have seen the station in quite a spurt of growth, including a new state-of-the-art 8000 square foot building attached to the 152-year-old Nevada Theatre and its new spacious backstage.

Plus the station has new regional signals in Truckee (105.1 FM), Camino/Placerville (88.3 FM), Woodland/Davis (93.9 FM) and now all the way down to Angels Camp (99.5 FM), while keeping its Nevada City style.

It all officially started July 14, 1978 when broadcasters-to-be Jima Abbott and Bobby Angel with engineer Lee Amundsen were in a shed high atop Banner Mountain.

‘Are we on?’

“I was the first person to speak on the air,” said Abbott, who left the station in the early ’90s to live in Mendocino. “I wish I could say I said something really cool but in the rush of getting it together, all I said was ‘Are we on? What do I do?’ and I’ve had to live with that. I’ve met people who heard it.”

Angel grabbed the microphone after that and said, “Hi, folks”

“I don’t think I ever stopped talking after that until I left the station,” Angel said with a grin.

Hey, this Saturday, you’ll find a variety of food and drink vendors on site, art by KVMR artists on sale, plus a kids booth, and something McIntire can’t wait to see.

“We’ve put together a Banner Shack exhibit, pictures and memorabilia of our very beginning months broadcasting on Banner Mountain, plus great photos from throughout the years” McIntire said. “We’ve come so far since then.”

Longtime broadcaster Hap Hazard (er, George Grist) definitely remembers driving up to that shack for the very first time to get trained to do his very first show.

According to Grist, “As soon as I arrived at the wooden shack, the people there said, ‘Oh, good, he’s here, we can go now’ and they left.”

Don’t worry, the station now has an annual training program and nearly 200 active broadcasters when you include those hosting shows on a special stream at that’s geared toward indie pop, hip hop and other millennial musical tastes.

Future unfolding

“We’re seeing — and hearing — the future unfold before our very eyes,” said McIntire about KVMRx.

Birthday party co-producer and KVMR board member/broadcaster Adela Wilcox said, “We’re all grown up now. The fact is KVMR has done so well, we’re more successful than ever.”

Wilcox has a point.

Both on-air membership drives this year have raised the most money since one in 2011, as in seven years ago.

“We listen to and engage in the community,” said KVMR general manager Julie Chiarelli. “In addition to our diverse music programming, we broadcast community forums on a variety of topics as well as countless live broadcasts of music events.

“We are so much more than a radio station.”

Cue the good vibes.

Steve Baker writes the column for On The Air, which is a weekly irreverent look at Nevada City’s volunteer-driven, eclectic community radio station at 89.5 FM and streaming at Complete KVMr schedule available at the station’s website, The station now features an easy to use archive of all music shows for two weeks and talk shows for two months at

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