By day, Jason Baldinger is a clerk at Paul's CDs. But for the past decade he's hosted the radio program "Does Your Hometown Really Care," on Carnegie Mellon's WRCT 88.3 FM. It's an adventurous, free-form audio experience equivalent to Hoboken's legendary WFMU.
"It came from an invitation looking for summer DJs, and Eric Yeschke [later of hip-hop band Dreadnots] and I started it together," Baldinger recalls. "We were just indie-rock dorks devouring Lester Bangs and back issues of Forced Exposure, so to walk into the record library and be exposed to all the music we were reading about opened a whole world for us." Broadcasting on Thursday afternoons (lately 11 a.m-3 p.m.), the show "ranges from American primitive folk of the '20s to experimental noise from right now, and all points in between, whether it be '60s psych rock, soul, funk, jazz, whatever I'm in the mood for."
Baldinger's also dedicated to the "Live Band Show," one of two long-running live-music segments on the station (the better-known one is "Advanced Calculus"). To celebrate his 10th anniversary on the air, Baldinger got permission to expand the live portion to a 24-hour block, encompassing this entire Thu., July 17. From midnight to midnight, listeners can hear hour-long sets from both established bands such as Boca Chica, Amoeba Knievel, Karl Hendricks and Triangle & Rhino and lesser-known acts. Two are Baldinger's: free-rockers-with-poetry The Skirt Tasters, and psychedelic alt-country band The House of Assassins, which released Your Days Are Numbered just last week, a vinyl LP on Baldinger's presciently named label, Obsolete Media.
"Psych and country -- those are the two primary interests for me when it comes to music," he explains. And when I bring up a comparison of Assassins to Howlin' Rain, he demurs, "We've gotten Pavement a lot, some slight Captain Beefheart and Green on Red." The band includes pedal-steel guitarist James Hart (also of the Harlan Twins) and bassist Rob Gray (who plays solo under the name Several Conclusions).
House of Assassins will embark on a spate of live gigs to promote their new LP: a date with The Beagle Brothers and Four Roses at Howler's on July 19; a Steve Pellegrino production marking the anniversary of anarchist Alexander Berkman shooting Henry Clay Frick, on July 23 (fittingly, at Oakland's Frick Fine Arts Auditorium); and July 26's "Maudeville 3" event with The Gothees and Buddy Nutt, at the Bloomfield Bridge Tavern.
"Between doing a radio show and pressing vinyl, even though it's making a bit of a comeback, you're still talking about a waste of time in the era of downloading," says Baldinger. "So it's a little bit of a joke on the universe."