Like the Minnesota Twins’ starting-pitching rotation in recent seasons, the Pohlads family’s Northern Lights Broadcasting has had trouble finding a formula that sticks on the 96.3 FM frequency. On Monday, the company debuted the station’s third different music format in five years.
After three years of playing mainstream middle-age rock as K-TWIN, the station has been renamed Go 96.3 FM with a playlist that skews to younger rock audiences and falls somewhere between Cities 97 and 89.3 the Current among local formats.
In addition to the Twins game broadcasts — which will remain the station’s centerpiece, the station announced a more modern mix that will include Walk the Moon, Glass Animals, Beck, Arctic Monkeys, Hozier, the Roots and Twin Cities rapper Lizzo.
The first track spun after the 3 p.m. changeover was “Long Way Down” by laptop pop artist Robert DeLong, soon followed by modern alt-rockers Cage the Elephant, ’90s hip-hop stars Arrested Development and hipster rock god Jack White.
No on-air personalities or commercials will be heard on the station during January. However, come February there will be DJs and a new schedule, said Joe Pohlad, executive vice-president of Northern Lights Broadcasting.
K-TWIN “did not have enough of an identity musically,” admitted Pohlad, grandson of late Twins owner Carl Pohlad. “Go 96.3 is going to be different.”
Those words may ring bogus to frequent dial spinners since, say, Walk the Moon and Hozier are already played on three or four Twin Cities FM stations. But Pohlad stressed that the catalog will run deep at the station, with 10,000-plus songs already lined up. He also promised to put more Minnesota music in steady rotation and occasional hip-hop songs.
“Really, it will be more up to the on-air personalities to choose what they play,” he said, naming another way Go 96.3 will differ from most of its competitors.
The old K-TWIN format went off the air on New Year’s Eve, ending with two fitting farewell tunes by local bands, High on Stress’ “Leaving Minneapolis” and Semisonic’s “Closing Time.”
In the interim, the station played a robotic female voice reminiscent of Apple’s resident host Siri, reading random rock lyrics and movie lines such as, “Woke up this morning and got myself a beer,” and, “It’s been a long time since I rock-and-rolled.” The robotic ramblings drew widespread amusement on Twitter and Facebook over the weekend.
The station last made a format change just after New Year’s Day in 2012, when it debuted K-TWIN’s middle-of-the-road mix of ’70s to ’90s rock staples by U2 and Fleetwood Mac and new tracks by Imagine Dragons and Foo Fighters. That was after another short-lived incarnation as top 40 station 96.3 Now, which in 2010 replaced the Twin Cities’ only full-time hip-hop/R&B station, B-96.
Go 96.3’s rebirth by the Pohlads follows the lackluster June debut of 93.3 FM, a more ’90s-flavored alternative rock station by radio corporation Clear Channel (now iHeart Media) with no local on-air personalities and a meager profile among Twin Cities music lovers.
The early response to Go 96.3 from music fans was mixed on Twitter. One listener, @hrustar, tweeted, “Curious that @Go963MN is pursuing a format that @cities97radio has retreated from over the last two years. Tough to beat @TheCurrent.”
Said @MNMarkradio, “Looks Like @Go963MN will be a lot like the #Twins. Featuring young talent I have never heard of and can’t get too excited about.”