Editor’s note: This story is appearing in this week’s edition of the Roaring Fork Weekly Journal, a sister publication of the Aspen Daily News covering the midvalley.
An interesting fall for KDNK Carbondale Community Radio reaches its zenith tonight, when the station brings Denver-based funk band Tnertle to the Third Street Center for the third annual Halloween Dance Party, one of the biggest adults-only bashes in a valley known for cutting loose on All Hallow’s Eve.
It’ll be a chance to hoot and holler for KDNK before the last ripples of a sea change wash over the station next week. For the first time in a long time, KDNK will go looking for a new music director following the retirement of the iconic Luke Nestler last month. The station also will be doing away with the assistant music director position.
“The music director job posting will be published next week,” said KDNK General Manager Gavin Dahl. “We want to honor the 15 years that Luke put in on staff. He did a lot for independent musicians, and he was always so supportive of the growth, fun and creative expression that DJs get to have at KDNK. They’re big shoes to fill, or maybe I should say big Birkenstocks to fill.”
Nestler’s retirement means that all of the station’s current staffers, Dahl included, have come aboard in the last three years or so. It’s a full turnover that has been accomplished while keeping the station’s quirky, community-oriented soul intact and setting KDNK on some of the firmest financial ground it’s ever occupied.
“KDNK is on track to hit our budget for 2019, and when we do, that will mean we’ve raised the revenues of KDNK $100,000 in the last three years,” Dahl said. “We’ve grown membership, business support and grants, and next week we’ll hear what our next federal grant amount will be. We’re expecting that to be up for the third straight year, too.”
Dahl noted that there’s a solid four-month reserve in KDNK’s coffers, and the station’s board of directors finds itself just three years from paying off the mortgage on KDNK’s Second Street property in downtown Carbondale. On the technical front, a ninth FM signal — 99.9 in Aspen and Snowmass — was added to KDNK’s repertoire in 2018, and the station’s online and mobile presence was the most heavily trafficked it’s ever been this year.
“In terms of owning our building, having a reserve and growing our annual revenue, the station’s in really good shape,” Dahl said, “and thanks to that ninth signal, our FM signals now reach a total of 100,000 potential residents.”
Knowing that English is a second language to many of those residents, KDNK also has increased it’s Latino-focused programming. It’s a move that did not go unnoticed, as the station’s Spanish-language morning talk show won a Colorado Broadcasters Association award in its first season.
“We really think that there’s more work to be done to expand the service of our mission to Spanish speakers,” Dahl said.
It all points to a rosy future for KDNK, its volunteer DJs and the hordes of Coloradans who love it — provided the station can find someone to fill Nestler’s footwear — and it means years to come of established traditions like the annual ladies arm-wrestling tournament and emerging rituals like tonight’s bacchanal.
The party, co-sponsored by The Arts Campus at Willits and High Q recreational marijuana dispensary, will attempt to tear the roof off the former PAC3 space at Carbondale’s Third Street Center. It’s a gymnasium-sized room, currently dubbed the community hall, which has been experiencing a rebirth after hosting acts like March Fourth nearly a decade ago in its former iteration.
“The sound, the fixtures, the lights; everything has been getting better and better,” Dahl said. “So I feel this Halloween party will be the most fun yet in terms of the lighting and the look of it.”
It’ll also be a raucous affair in terms of the music with Tnertle pumping up the jams. A mixed-gender septet that blends funky instrumentation and horns with electronic beats, Tnertle’s high-energy grooves and infectious live show have won the band a fervent following in dance halls across the mountain West.
The party kicks off at 6 p.m. with costume-themed videos, a photo booth and other fun activities. There also will be a food truck on hand from Wildstyle adventurous cuisine and a cash bar with Roaring Fork Brewing Co. beer and cocktail specials from Palisade’s Peach Street Distillers, Big B’s and Marble Distilling Co. Proceeds from food and wine sales benefit KDNK.
The costume contest, one of the most competitive in the valley, starts at 7:30 p.m., with prizes being awarded for funniest, scariest and most original costumes. Then, at 9 p.m., Tnertle takes the stage to finish out Halloween in style.
Tickets will be available at the door for $20, or $50 for VIP, which includes food and drink tickets. The party is only for those 21 and older. Information is available at KDNK.org.