Rumors of KFAI-FM’s death have been exaggerated — and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Minneapolis’ most communal community radio station (90.3 FM, or 106.7 FM in St. Paul) was given an all-too-real dire prognosis in September, when its board of directors revealed it was headed toward a $100,000 budget shortfall in 2014. “[It] could run out of money by next year” was an oft-heard refrain from the meeting.
Shortly thereafter, though, the station trimmed its staff of six people to four and figured out other cost-saving measures to stay afloat for the immediate future. It’s safe for now, but as interim general manager Ron Thums put it, “We can’t keep cutting our way to prosperity.”
Hence the need for Saturday’s “Benefit With Friends” concert at the Turf Club, the first in a series of concerts to raise money for KFAI. The show should bring in several thousand dollars with a lineup of ’70s-era Twin Cities rock vets including the X-Boys (with members of the Suburbs and Suicide Commandos), Mighty Mofos, Flamin’ Oh’s and Michael Yonkers.
Thums said the money will go a long way at the little station, but he also noted that these fundraisers could prove as valuable in “rejuvenating the brand” as they do in paying the bills.
“People forget that this was the station where the Replacements and Hüsker Dü did their local interviews — the only station like it at the time,” Thums said, praising Saturday’s performers for remembering as much. KFAI debuted in 1978 around the same time as many of these musicians.
Even as late as the early 2000s, when Radio K was still AM-only, KFAI was the only station on the FM dial regularly spinning local bands. Not only did 89.3 the Current’s debut in 2005 cut into that foothold, so did Internet music services and KFAI’s own increasingly diversified on-air schedule, where a Somali news show will air one hour and a Balkan music program or Toki Wright’s “Soul Tools” another.
A longtime volunteer who stepped in as interim boss in November, Thums said the station’s new G.M. will have to wrestle with narrowing the format as well as finding new means of funding.
“There’s a lot of work and a little soul-searching that needs to be done,” he said, but in the meantime “we have to reiterate this station’s relevance and mission statement.”
Adding some extra emotion and momentum to Saturday’s KFAI benefit, the Turf Club show will be the first appearance by experimental guitar hero Michael Yonkers in almost three years. The Twin Cities native, who garnered newfound fame in 2011 when Sub Pop Records reissued his 1968 album “Microminiature Love,” has been sidelined by a rare spine/nerve condition that grew out of a back-breaking accident he suffered at a warehouse job in 1971.
“After performing for more than 50 years, I had become comfortable with the idea that I had played my last show,” Yonkers said via e-mail, where he noted he has rarely come out of his apartment in that time and was literally laid up for about six months with partial paralysis. “I can’t believe to this day what an awful experience that was.”
He has bounced back somewhat in recent months, but made it clear that his appearance Saturday is less about his well-being and more about his commitment to the cause. “I have felt strongly about KFAI since before the beginning,” he said, recounting his involvement in petitioning for the station’s creation.
Babes in Toyland play their first reunion gig Tuesday at the California desert hideaway Pappy & Harriet’s, a sort of warm-up to Thursday’s show at the Roxy in Los Angeles. We’ll have coverage of the first date on StarTribune.com next Wednesday. The trio also announced a short U.K. tour in May. A hometown date in June sounds likely. … Babes are on the bill at May’s Primavera Sound festival in Barcelona with none other than the Replacements, who have also booked dates in Amsterdam and London. …
“We Rock Long Distance,” a long-in-the-works documentary on internationally bred Twin Cities hip-hop stars from local filmmaker Justin Schell, premieres Friday and Saturday at Intermedia Arts (7:30 p.m., $7-$9). The film follows M.anifest, Maria Isa and Tou SaiKo Lee to their families’ homelands of Ghana, Puerto Rico and Thailand, respectively. … Maria Isa also happens to have a St. Paul gig on Friday at the new Bedlam Lowertown, a promo performance for her new “Valley of the Dolls” album and a send-off to the Viva Latino Film Fest in New York. Muja Messiah and Lydia Liza also perform (10 p.m., $10). …
Filling in for the canceled Joe Strummer tribute, the Turf Club will welcome five tribute bands Friday, including Appetite for Zaccardi (Guns N’ Roses), Trompe le Monde (Pixies), Jailbreak (Thin Lizzy) and Rude Girl (Clash; 8 p.m., $7). … Mike Wisti’s Rank Strangers are making the rounds, promoting another riotously blasting and insatiably catchy new LP, “Lady President,” including a free in-store Sunday at Hymie’s Records (4 p.m.) …
Sound Unseen added a 9 p.m. screening of the “Hardcore Devo Live!” concert documentary Wednesday at Trylon Microcinema after the 7 p.m. show sold out ($10). … At least one thing associated with Dr. Dre hasn’t been bought by Apple yet: The oft-sold-out Dre Day is coming up again at the Triple Rock on Feb. 27.