As a new Lyft driver, my first few rides were pretty awkward.
Driving with strangers in the car took some getting used to. Throw in the fact that some people are awkward in general, and throw in the fact that I forgot to turn on the radio those first few rides (I was nervous!), and yeah, those first rides were kind of awkward.
Once I turned on some music, though, the rides got better.
At first, I just listened to the radio. I don’t own any CDs, and I haven't bought any music since Napster hit the scene. Luckily, Portland has some really good local, independent stations like KMHD, KBOO, and XRAY. When I’m in NE, I checkout some free form. The station out of the New Day Theater on Foster Rd, 99.1, is sometimes good, but their music gets a little too angry feminist for me. I don't know whether or not that's a real genre, but think bootleg tapes of early Ani Difranco, it's like an aural chemical burn.
When I moved to Portland in 2004, KBOO was hands-down the best radio station in town, KMHD was kinda bad, and XRAY didn’t even exist. I moved here from the Kansas City area, an area which is (historically) a very important place for Jazz. Culturally, however, Jazz makes little appearance in Kansas City, and Jazz is seldom mentioned. Classic Rock still rules the Midwest. The only jazz on the radio was from the Kansas Public Radio station, and it was mostly Modern Jazz. Over the past decade, however, KMHD has stepped up its rotation, and I have learned so much about Jazz! The DJs had such passion for the music, and they had so much to say that I began to recognize some of the big names of Jazz. It was a shock to realize that many of them were DJs at KMHD: Farnell Newton, Tony Pacini, Carlton Jackson, and Lynn Darroch! No wonder the station was so good.
I used to be a huge fan of KBOO, but they have declined since those glory days of the early twenty-first century. Does anyone even listen to the Grateful Dead anymore? XRAY has stepped up to fill the in-between times when both KBOO and KMHD suck. So much of what XRAY plays is fresh and enjoyable (and it's one of the few places you can hear local Hip Hop on the radio). It’s interesting that I’ve given Lyft rides to four different XRAY DJs -- one insisted on playing his own music in the car and gave me a sneak peek at his upcoming radio show, “Beaches.” So good.
A few times Rides have preferred to play their own music. Some teen had his own radio transmitter that could play his feed over my car radio. The was a cool gizmo. He not only introduced me to some new technology, but he also introduced me to the rap group Migos. They were cool for a week, but all their songs sound the same to me.
Despite Portland's three pretty-good stations with their usually-good rotations, there were way too many Saturday nights this summer where all three stations sucked, and I spent the evening bouncing back and forth between the three. Seriously, Saturday night on the radio is a barren wasteland of muzak.
The night two jolly riders became despondent when I couldn't play Whiskey River, by Willie Nelson, was the night I realized I had to get a streaming music service. People need music. It’s cliché to say, but music is a substance that, when shared, can bring people together. It’s a bonding agent. Even that belligerent jackass from the Heritage Pub warmed my heart (a little) when he dug the Jamiroquai I was playing. He was a fan!
I was very recently introduced to Parliament while listening to a podcast about Afrofuturism. Afterwards, when I cued up some Parliament: Bam! It threw me back to highschool. I grew up listening to Snoop Dogg and the Dogg Pound, and I was shocked to have found the source of so many of Snoop and Nate's samples! How had I never known? It made me smile to imagine a young Snoop Dogg smoking blunts and listening to the Mothership Connection.
The best reaction I've gotten from my 3AM passengers has been when I had Parliament playing, even if they had never heard them before. It turns out that people need the Funk. They got to have the Funk. Trust me, Funk music is the best thing to hear after along day.
Having P-Funk doing it to your earholes at 3AM is a divine experience.