I came to San Francisco via the Caribbean in the late 90s. I had landed a job at KFOG selling airtime. This was to be my first real job out of college. Swilling Heineken, working as a DJ for a reggae radio station and perfecting the art of catching a Frisbee just before diving into the waves doesn’t really count as a big career move, I guess. My family refers to that particular time in my life as “…another one of her get rich slow schemes.”
I had heard about KFOG through my best friend from Boulder. He had sent to me a compilation of KFOG artists performing live and acoustic versions of their music in what was known at that time as the KFOG Play Space. He said, “You’ve got to come work for this radio station, it’s like it’s a part of San Francisco. There’s nothing like it in the country.” I was in love with what I heard, and was tired of endlessly slathering on sunscreen and dealing with drunk tourists, and if I’m going to be honest, I was tired of being a drunk tourist myself. I faxed my resume to the Local Sales Manager at the station and scraped together enough money to buy a one-way ticket to SFO.
I arrived in San Francisco with $48 in my checking account, a Frisbee and a backpack full of bathing suits. I told the management team at KFOG that I was exactly what they were looking for, and after about nine interviews I finally wore them down. I was obsessed with the music KFOG played.
The morning of my first day, I couldn’t sleep, so I got up early, put on my running gear and cranked up the music. As the sun was coming up the first song I heard on KFOG early that morning, running towards the Golden Gate Bridge was U2’s ‘One Tree Hill’. It was an epic, momentous song and set the stage for what has continued to be an epic adventure.
Through KFOG I have been introduced to some of the greatest music and musicians of our time. I have been in an audience of 30 people to hear a private concert with David Bowie. Not only was he amusing, but also wry, smart and engaged, like a real life 007. I have been fortunate enough to meet and hear artists such as Ben Harper, Melissa Etheridge, Michael Franti, Damian Rice, The Head & The Heart, Imagine Dragons, Matt & Kim, Bastille and One Republic. I have stood onstage in front of 100,000+ Fogheads gathered on the gleaming San Francisco waterfront to hear Jakob Dylan & The Wall Flowers belting out ‘Heroes’, their own nod to the forever relevant Thin White Duke. I will never forget the wind whipping off the Bay, the sun shining and staring at tens of thousands of people singing with Jakob Dylan, a community created by a radio station…for just one day.
Today I have brought my 10-year-old daughter to work with me, her school is still on Spring Break and she loves coming to the station with the pace, the energy and the music and DJ banter pouring from the studios. My daughter loves music, but unlike me, she has some real musical talent. Sometimes the DJ’s put her on the air to ask her about her life for a bit of comedy. I try to remind her that this is not a typical corporate job.
An email goes out around the office that there is room in the Levi’s Lounge if a few of us want to attend a private concert featuring LOLO.
KFOG’s Levi’s Lounge, is our new multi-million dollar performance lounge. It’s cool. It’s very cool. The walls are adorned with an extensive collection of portraits and images of the most iconic musicians, actors and sports figures from the last four decades. Most of the subjects in the photos have been captured in black and white, and most are generally wearing Levi’s jeans. From Marilyn Monroe, James Dean and Jackie Robinson, to Blondie and Joe Namath, to The Rolling Stones, Richard Avedon and Patti Smith…all the photos are carefully arranged in the current style of trying, but not trying too hard, deconstructed, constructed hipster.
The lights are dim, the leather couches (distressed, naturally) are deep and comfortable and the energy is high. My daughter settles into one of the couches in the front row to watch the set with the other guests.
LOLO (aka Lauren Pritchard) comes on stage. She is on the petite side, but has a lot of tussled blonde hair, a confident personality and a raspy speaking voice. There is a trace of Southern lilt there. She is 29 and tells us she has been singing and performing music since she was 14-years old growing up in Jackson, Tennessee. She’s written a few award-winning songs for artists my daughter knows.
LOLO starts to sing. Her voice is not the synthesized, pop-y voice that needs support and layering, this is a big, fat gorgeous voice. LOLO sounds like the progeny of Janice Joplin and Susan Tedeschi, if that were possible. My daughter is memorized by this soulful voice belting out beautiful lyrics supported only by one handsome guitarist.
At 10 she’s seen a few concerts, however this is different for her. To be in this intimate, darkened space hearing real talent up close, raw, perfect pitch…it is a spell binding moment for my daughter, and for me as well actually.
When the set is over my small daughter waits in the Levi’s Lounge Green Room with her newly acquired poster of LOLO clutched in her hand. The Green Room walls of the Levi’s Lounge are wallpapered with iconic flyers from concerts promoting various concerts and artists including James Brown, The Ramones, Iggy Pop, The New York Dolls, The Runaways, and Bob Marley . I love these walls not just because of the artists and the music, but because these artists smashed through deeply constricting cultural ideas around politics, sexuality, gender roles and equality.
When my daughter gets to have her picture taken with LOLO, the singer asks her what she likes to do for fun. She says, “I’m a singer too.” LOLO asks, “Do you have a video of you singing?” My daughter runs up to me and asks me for my phone, I tee up a video of her singing and hand her the phone.
I step out of the room. This is now one artist getting encouragement from another artist. I know LOLO will be surprised at my tiny daughter’s voice, which is not the voice of a kid, but has a whisky-tinged soulful sound too. I can hear her start to play a video of her singing what she knows to be Adele’s ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me’, but I know it to be Bonnie Raitt’s song. I can hear LOLO’s surprise, then encouragement. “Girl, do not let ANYONE change your voice, do you understand me?! Do not let anyone change YOUR voice!”
And that is the most relevant, perfect, timely advice my daughter could ever receive.