The Pandemic Pivot

This week I was glued to the television. CNN was streaming to my phone, and ABC was streaming to my TV. I could not sleep. And in the hours and days of waiting to figure out our collective fate I found myself paying very close attention to subtle details. I mean let’s be honest, the networks were all waiting, you could tell the anchors were frustrated, the country was frustrated, how long is this going to take? And even veterans like John King on CNN had to fill a lot of air; and in that time and space, some interesting conversations happened. One such tidbit King referred to Nevada democrats while discussing the Hispanic/ Latino vote and he called it the ‘Nevada Effect’.

In essence, our entire society works on demographic stereotypes. Analysts try to make sense of those shifting numbers to strategize campaigns. But they made two very wrong guesses. One, that all Latinos were the same politically across the country which they are not. Go figure, just because they are brown they are not the same. The second, was that even politically, perhaps especially so, people are motivated by self interest. And this is the part that is very telling. Mexicans crossing the border into California, Texas, and Arizona have a very different reality that those who reside further north. Nevada has a huge hospitality, service and entertainment sector that is largely out of work, and they have never had a Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Separated families, and kids in cages, are less of a political motivator in Las Vegas. Being out of work is.

Dani at Boston Common

This is a long introduction to a conversation with KWSS 93.9 FM, DJ Extraordinaire, Dani Culter – but it is very much integral to that dialog. Yes, Arizona went Blue. Yes, our Hispanic and Native populations came through in a huge way to send a message of tolerance to Washington. BUT – and it is a large but, our entertainment and music community, while not Las Vegas, is quite robust. We have music venue owners at the forefront of national movements, like #SaveOurStages. (Stephen Chilton’s Rebel Lounge incidentally has become affectionately known as The Pandemic Pivot.) We have more quality bands in town than I think anybody but a handful of us really know. And we have been in a Twilight Zone of Misery for going on a year.


March 13th was the Spring Fundraiser for KWSS. The world was already in a tailspin, and Arizona locked down that weekend. All spring and summer, the war on masks, science, and Covid raged across the country. Many of us in Arizona went out in huge numbers absolutely every chance we got. Memorial Day clogged highways. July 4th was similar. Labor Day was no different. Veterans Day will be the same. And the United States Center for Disease Control is projecting 250,000 US deaths by Thanksgiving. Colorado is petitioning to move Thanksgiving to February. And November 20th is the KWSS Fall Fundraiser show in the middle of a week long pledge drive. I masked up and headed for a socially distanced back yard interview with my friend who I had only seen one time, in a parking lot to pick up swag from Ali A & the Agency, since March.

A Conversation with Dani Cutler, KWSS 93.9 FM

Obviously planning any event in these crazy times is more stressful than normal. There are so many more unknowns in the mix. I remember watching artists like The Woodworks and Comptalo, who each had EP release shows scheduled for the spring, have to cancel and reschedule, and cancel again. Bands like Sectas, who just had their CD Release at Club Red in Mesa last weekend, have had that show booked for months. Surely, everything will be fine by November… right? And suddenly, bands, industry personnel, tour managers, and fans are right back to where we were in the early summer. Arizona came out of lock down, people surged to recreational events, and here we are. Every show is a question of ethics, every desire is to return to some degree of normalcy, and every individual is having to make personal decisions in leau of a national standard.

Dani Cutler’s foster-mom lives in Boston, MA. In August, she and her husband took the drive out to stay with her through October. Mom was scheduled for a double heart procedure, and would need help recovering. And, because of the obvious health concerns, the Cutlers did not want to fly, and they would also have to self quarantine upon arrival. Mom was having a double heart surgery, she is elderly and at risk, and #CovidCovidCovid.

Truck Stop Anxiety

We live in hyper-divided times, but I would hazard a guess that unless you are a truck driver, you are not spending a lot of time driving across the country. Perhaps the best way to see that division, is by driving from Arizona to Massachusetts, and back a different route because of inclement weather, and simply noting which states do not wear facemasks. Like Dani Cutler did.

Driving out to Boston was not terrible. There was one place we stayed overnight in Oklahoma where nobody at all had masks on, not even the staff, but we had gotten used to our routine. We brought all of our own linens, and one person brought all the stuff in while the other cleaned everywhere we stayed. Some people might find it paranoid, but I don’t care. It’s my mom. I mean not to compare it to the flu, because it isn’t, but it’s not like you want to pass the flu on. Right? Viruses, Illness, Disease – these are not political things. Anybody can be affected. And in Boston, in comparison to here, everyone wore masks. Even out on hikes, when you passed in proximity it was a instant reaction to pull masks up. On the drive home, through Arkansas, Virginia, and Tennessee, even in October there were no masks. We stopped resting at truck stops at all unless we had to get gas. It just is just not worth it.

Dani Cutler
Deserted Streets outside Boston General

Now, on the other side of the country with Mom in the hospital, Dani is trying to figure out what to do about the KWSS Fall Fundraiser Show at Last Exit Live. Will it be a Guilty Pleasures Show with 80/20 Records? Will it have to be a live stream? Will venues even be allowed to reopen by then? And she continues to watch her social media newsfeeds, gatherings and parties, and the numbers continue to rise. It really is bigger than one person, or one band, or one venue even. It is a society of interconnected human beings trying to keep their loved ones safe. So how does one plan? Well, Dani, always up for a good challenge – pivoted.

We will broadcasting live on KWSS 93.9 FM from Last Exit Live on November 20th. We have four bands: The Frequency Principle, Sophie Dorsten, Love Like Fiction and Jane n the Jungle. Each will be isolated, there will be no guests, everyone will be masked unless they are on stage, and nobody will be sharing equipment. This is my event, and these are my rules. Additionally each band has a stake in helping us generate pledges, and the one that brings in the most will earn one play a day on KWSS 93.9 FM for the following month! During this pandemic, independent radio is more important than ever to get the word out about local music and small business. And, it’s our 15th year on air in Phoenix, and that is something to celebrate! Be sure you have the BRAVO PAY APP downloaded for our PLEDGE DRIVE NOVEMBER 16 – 22.

Dani Cutler

These are the decisions individual people need to make. No man is an island. A young friend messaged me recently about if I thought he had a chance to get in to Flying Blanket to record before the holidays. (It should be noted this individual was not a fan of masks.) I told him that Bob was pretty booked until the spring, but that he had a very strict Covid policy in place that was non-negotiable. “But that is just not the world I want to live in,” the individual said. “Too bad,” I answered, “That is the way that it is. People have the right to not agree with global safety standards, but they will not be getting in to record with Bob Hoag.” The conversation ended rather quickly after that.

And now, people are flocking to the ultra right social media platform Parler instead of waking up to the dawn of Science at the end of 2020. Change is hard for folks. Especially when facts have been disputable now for quite some time. So, in this ultra divided, and #CovidCovidCovid dangeous environment, what are fans like myself, a local music writer, and Dani Cutler, a Community FM Radio DJ, supposed to do? How do we support this scene? This culture?

Look, I 100% understand the conflict. And it needs to be noted this is our government’s failure, ultimately. People are conflicted because there has been no standard. I understand how difficult that has made it for small businesses. It really is complicated. I guess I just want more responsibility out of people. They create a ripple effect, and it is that ripple effect that keeps us away. I mean I love having live guests on my radio show, but I broadcast from my home. My husband is high risk. These people’s actions will keep me from having live guests for who knows how long.

Dani Cutler

You know, we all love him, our friendly neighborhood Spiderman. And we all know the universal lesson of his mythology. If you are gifted with great power, great gifts, great rights, great entitlement – then you are also charged with using it responsibility.

It is a truth we have been taught since youth, and one we probably teach our kids. People have the responsibility to see the difference between Wants and Needs. Everybody is bored. Everybody misses their friends. Everybody wishes this pandemic would end. But wishing does not make it so.

There are no bad people in this scene. Every one is good, and means well. My question is just this: if this is not your bread and butter, your livelihood – then why are you out there playing? If it is just that you are bored, or you miss the scene and your friends. I’m sorry, but that is not enough. We can support bands in all the ways we did before. We can still purchase their music. Still buy their merch. You do not need to go out to support your favorite band. You could just make a donation, and keep everyone safe.

Dani Cutler

In the end, all of us need KWSS 93.9 FM. Small businesses need the advertising they provide. Indie bands need the chance to get their tunes on the FM scanner. Local venues use the medium to get the word on upcoming events. To say nothing of the countless shows that KWSS promotes or sponsors, and the wealth they give back to the Phoenix community. This year has taken a toll, and The Fall Pledge Drive needs our support more than EVER. Be sure to tune in, listen, and pledge November 16-22, and keep in mind, the bands are going to be pushing for your pledges and they have a direct incentive. Phoenix, #TogetherWeRise.

Keep the Greasy Side Down, Amigos