01/09/2012 § Leave a comment
Cleveland’s Smooth FM, WNWV, 107.3 The Wave, is now streaming live online via 1073thewave.net or through the website’s media player link. The Wave returned to the airwaves officially this past Wednesday, January 4 after a two-year hiatus with the new Smooth AC format.
Personally, I am still waiting for the reconnection of the The Wave Classics online streaming (107.3 HD2), which is the “classic” smooth jazz radio station, which is a revival of the original Wave that was on for over two decades before the programming change to AAA alternative rock two years ago. The HD2 online streaming is still down after running the Christmas classic jazz programming over the holidays.
The station had reported technical difficulties with both online streaming channels after the transition to new temporary studios. Now that the main station is streaming once more, I can take the station with me wherever I go with my WunderRadio app on my iPhone or iPod Touch (with wifi).
By the way, I’m thoroughly enjoying the new Wave and the Smooth AC format! It has been a pleasure to listen to new songs and old favorites once more.
01/04/2012 § Leave a comment
After a few weeks of anticipation, Cleveland’s Smooth FM, 107.3 The Wave made the official return to the airwaves earlier this morning just after midnight. The station sent out a message on Twitter that they were doing “a little tweaking and fine tuning” and commenced with the new programming at about 9:00 pm yesterday. The HD radio signal, and the smooth AC music, sounds terrific!
I was able to listen to a good portion of the broadcast programming today off and on while at work. Dan Deely made his station debut during morning drive, and Mark Ribbins began his first late morning/early afternoon shift. Both are very well known in the Cleveland radio market and make for the foundation of a strong daily lineup.
There are still issues that need to be ironed out that developed not long after the testing began yesterday. Both online (internet radio) feeds for the main FM channel and the HD2 (The Wave Classics) channel went down with error messages and are hopefully being worked on at this time. I also tried to access the online feeds via WunderRadio and encountered the same issues. Once the online issue is fixed, I will sample the smooth jazz “Classics” playlist. Even though the online feed is not working, I can see from the list of music that our smooth jazz favorites that we have come to know are back and better than ever, including the Art of Noise’s Moments In Love and Joyce Cooling’s Before Dawn. There is also plenty to love with more Dave Koz, David Benoit, Kenny G, and Count Basic to enjoy.
All in all, the Smooth AC music mix on the main station is very interesting, and it will take some getting used to for the casual listener. There are some new artists that I could not recognize from the morning drive playlist, and there is a wide range of music styles that fall under the station’s Smooth AC umbrella–I heard some ballads with only a vocal and guitar, some smooth jazz instrumentals, a touch of folk, an inspirational piece, with some R&B in between. I’m intrigued by the new format, and I like what I’ve heard thus far.
It’s great to have a new smooth FM choice in Cleveland radio and also can still catch smooth jazz on the The Wave’s HD2 channel. Welcome back, 107.3! We missed you!
08/22/2011 § Leave a comment
It’s been a little while since I wrote about our last connection with Smooth Jazz radio in the Cleveland market, WNWV 107.3 HD2 radio, which is not to be confused with the current V107.3 FM station that plays AAA music (adult album alternative) and classic rock. For those of us who still have not purchased an HD radio (I suspect that’s many of us), you can still listen to The Wave via the internet at their website, http://wnwv.northcoastnow.com/listen-live/ or with the WunderRadio app for your iPhone or iPod Touch (via WiFi connection).
The good news is that The Wave is still around to listen to. It’s actually been over a year and a half since the change from FM to HD2 on December 28, 2009. Since then, there have been many instances throughout the country where the Smooth Jazz format has disappeared from the FM band and relegated, if at all, to HD radio formats. Thankfully, there are many more available iTunes apps that can play internet radio or actual radio stations to find Smooth Jazz at your convenience. There are still enough of them to choose from, including Sky.FM internet radio that features a 24/7 Smooth Jazz station, or the offerings through WunderRadio, Pocket Tunes, or iHeart Radio. You can also still listen to Smooth Jazz on the internet through your computer, which is, by far, my best option. It’s on at work every day as background music.
The bad news is more in the quality of the audio stream for The Wave. It has been very spotty recently. I run it on my Windows XP computer during the day at work and I often find myself having to refresh the browser because the stream either stops playing or never completely loads in the player on the website. There is advertising on the site, which is not as annoying as it was at one time, but the ads occasionally seem to hamper the stream or the actual loading of the stream. One day, I was so frustrated with the poor connectivity of the site that I sent an email to the station. That same day, the station GM acknowledged the problem and apologized, and stated that they were working on it. Since that time, their media player on the site was updated at least a couple of times, but it is still very buggy.
As much as I have wanted to switch off to another station because of the frequent problems, I remain loyal to The Wave because I have been listening to it from its early FM days through now. There are no on-air DJs–only music. You will only hear the voice of Mike Kessler (now Mike Gallagher on V107.3) every hour for station identification. Mike was the last morning DJ while The Wave was still on FM after the departure of Tom Murphy. I miss the voices of Murphy, Richard Greer, Starr (overnight), Carmen Kennedy, Michelle Chase, and Mark Ribbins, who managed to stay with the HD2 format after the change for a little while.
Many of the songs that were requested as part of the station’s playlist remain intact, and it is hoped that someone at The Wave will continue to be open for suggestions and add more songs, and pay close attention to the operation of the website. I’m trying to hang in there with it, but it’s been tough when the music stops playing. Smooth Jazz also has an ongoing challenge in the creativity of new music and appealing to a wider audience. As many things appear to run in cycles, my hope is that Smooth Jazz will maintain its loyal following and continue to grow with another wave of great new music. If you love Smooth Jazz, keep listening and buying the music to support it.
06/04/2011 § 1 Comment
(Number Two of a Series)
I was first introduced to the Euclid Rollerdrome in 2004, and thought that it was, far and away, the best skating floor that I had ever seen. I couldn’t believe how smooth and well kept the floor was. The floor’s excellent condition was because of the efforts of the rink’s owner, Keith Broda, who was a dedicated skater and lover of roller skating. He really did a tremendous job keeping up the floor, if not the rest of the building. It remains, in my mind, the most ideal roller skating experience in memory.
It was a complete surprise to all of us who regularly attended the adult skating sessions when the Rollerdrome closed in October of 2008. It closed without warning, and our regular group of skaters migrated to United Skates of America for a brief period afterward. It was a letdown to skate on USA’s floor in comparison to the old Rollerdrome floor. The USA floor was not as well kept as in previous years and skating sessions in 2008 and early 2009. There were several slick spots on the floor where there was moisture from the overhead air conditioning units. It was also very dirty (my wheels were absolutely filthy after each session) and there were bits of debris on the floor where you could experience a sudden stop if you ran over something. During one session, I witnessed a young lady barely get out onto the floor when one of her wheels caught a bearing or a loose item on the floor, and she fell and fractured both wrists. From that moment on, I was concerned for my safety and my wife’s safety, and I knew that I would be scaling back from skating there unless there was a dramatic change to the floor conditions.
It was about five months since the Rollerdrome closed that The Big Rumor began to circulate throughout the roller skating crowd…The Rollerdrome was going to reopen! A loyal friend of our group of skaters was trying to open up his own skating rink business. I was hoping for the best but preparing for the worst because it was almost too good to be true–especially in the present economy where businesses were closing…not opening. Nonetheless, there was a definite buzz in the air for a few weeks as we kept hearing about it more and more, but we could not confirm anything…until we heard that there was now a projected opening date at the old Rollerdrome. When the word got out that there was a grand opening coming in the Spring of 2009, the management at USA tried to entice attendees with a super-discounted session the following week, but there was no way that I would be coming back if the old Rollerdrome was open again…it was no contest. No, I haven’t gone back since then.
The grand opening of the Pla-Mor Roller Rink was a moment that I compared to the movie Field of Dreams. It was an amazing sight to see the rink on opening night. Bright colors…a clean floor…the newly decorated walls…lights…sounds of a booming speaker system. Yes, it was the same floor in the same building that I remember, but with new signage, new posters, and fresh coats of paint. It was a thing of beauty to me. There was nothing grand or magnificent about it on the surface…it was merely a place where I was now able to pick up where I left off at Rollerdrome and build on those wonderful memories with some new ones…and enjoy skating once more.
The name Pla-Mor was a revival of an old skating rink near University Circle, and the name takes on the same meaning for those who skated there as it does for those of us who remember the glory days at Southgate, the older United Skates of America, and the Rollerdrome (for more on the ownership of the new rink, please refer to this article on the rink from June 2009 on Cleveland.com).
Pla-Mor’s floor is one of the best in the Cleveland area for skating. The floor has not always been as exceptionally clean as the Rollerdrome floor, but it is still more than acceptable for skid-free skating. The management, in fact, does an excellent job keeping debris off of the floor surface and makes sure that any issues that may develop are handled quickly. It was recently resurfaced with a heavy varnish that took some getting used to when it was first applied, but the end result was an improvement to the surface after the rink’s reopening. I enjoy fast skating on the outside of the rink, and a good grip is critical. My wife is more of a dancer, and the skate surface in the center area is smooth and free of obstruction (I learned recently that not all floor surfaces in the center area are smooth…some surfaces are not sanded down properly and some can be so poor that they are warped.). The Pla-Mor surface is firm and is a good fit with Bones wheels, as long as the floor is clean and free of excess dirt and your own wheels are clean. I have been using a soft window-like cleaner to clean my wheels before every session to prevent unnecessary buildup. A quick tip—if you use too harsh of a cleaner on your wheels, you could cause premature deterioration and dull their surface, which would adversely affect your grip and traction.
The floor of the Pla-Mor rink is a decent size. At one time, the USA floor in Wickliffe was one of the largest that I had ever seen, but over time, the floor had lost real estate because of extra seating in the audience and because of the addition of laser tag in an adjacent area. Pla-Mor has no obstructions or areas that can encroach the floor. There is bench and chair seating available on three sides of the floor as well as an ample supply of lockers where you can pay an extra dollar to lock your personal belongings. There is also a snack bar available, but a lady has been bringing in meals and desserts every week for about five dollars a plate that would rival most Thanksgiving dinner menus. The air conditioning, at times, has strained to keep the rink at an optimal level of comfort, and the music has been more often good than outright bad. There is much to be thankful for in that the diehard roller skaters now have a place to go once more each week to create more great memories.
Copyright © Melvin Gaines. All rights reserved.
05/28/2011 § 1 Comment
(First of a Series)
I’m writing about Cleveland area roller rinks because there just isn’t much available as a critique or a review of the quality and atmosphere (past and present) of the rinks. My only qualification for making any commentary on the subject is that I consider myself a roller skating enthusiast (quad wheels, please, not roller blades). I’ve been skating off and on over the past 30 years, and have seen my share of roller rinks past and present. While some rinks were better than others, even the rinks that were in the “worst” condition was still one of the best places to lace up your skates and roll to the music. To be an enthusiast for roller skating usually means skating wherever you could find a rink, even when you were traveling. By my definition, a skating enthusiast rolls at least once a week or as many as three or more times a week. I’ve skated in Cleveland, Akron, Columbus, Cincinnati, Dayton and Louisville KY. Others may tell you that they’ve been to many more places such as Youngstown, Pittsburgh, and even Charlotte. That’s what being a passionate skater is all about!
Personally, my fondest memories from the 80s occurred at Southgate Skates in Maple Heights, Ohio. I started in 1980 during the disco craze and I got hooked from then on. I learned to skate there (it took about a month), and it was in no time that I earned my nickname “Speedy” (which still has been revived from time to time even today!). I was even employed there as a skate guard for a season, and was a DJ for a couple of adult soul skate sessions! For all of those reasons Southgate was a special place for me, and I hated to learn when it was closing (about 1990) because it became too expensive for the owner to pay for the insurance costs to keep it open (at least that is what I was told). From there, I wound up attending the United Skates of America roller rink in Wickliffe. There were fewer choices for rinks in the 90s because it just became more expensive to own and operate a roller rink. The Roller Palace in Mayfield Heights also shut down after operating for many years under financial difficulty. United Skates was part of a larger company based in Columbus that had rinks in several cities, but even they were looking at ways to add profitability to their rink locations by adding laser tag, additional party sessions, and stuff like that to offset the liability insurance bubble. I remember having to sign the waivers for every session, and I believe they still require them today.
Southgate Skates was converted to a rink from an old A&P grocery store. It was a very inviting place when you walked in the door. The floor area was on the left as you came in and the DJ booth was on a platform not far from the entrance. On the right were the skate rental area and the concession stand. The rest of the area was made up of the customary orange uni-body tables and benches for eats and drinks, and some additional bench areas to change shoes and skates.
The lights and the music definitely set the mood for me and for the others there, and I enjoyed the jazz music early in the Thursday evening skating session (Searching by Roy Ayers and Knucklehead by Grover Washington, Jr.) to roll to, dance to, or skate backwards—much like a warm-up session before the soul music would play. A great skating song at the time was “Taking the Waterfront By Force,” an instrumental by Ian Darby, and we even rolled to a little of “The Wall” by Pink Floyd. There were many more great songs…just think back in the disco era for those great roller skating songs (which are much different than dance music songs). I loved the routine, and I always looked forward to every Thursday evening there.
Southgate had its detractors. It would always be labeled as a rink with a “small” floor area by its attendees. In comparison to the other area rinks at the time, the rink was definitely smaller than the Roller Palace in Mayfield Heights (now defunct), and was much smaller than the United Skates of America rink in Wickliffe. The advantage of Southgate, in spite of its size, was its location on the southeast side of town, which was very convenient as it was close to my home. What I would learn over time, however, is that people who love to skate (including me) would drive up to an hour or more for the love of skating, and would wrestle in the minds about attending the special holiday sessions, including the crazy sessions at Roller Palace or USA that would be all-nighters. Those were just as much events as they were for skating.
If you were to ask most people about the floor at Southgate, many would say that the floor was entirely too slippery. It was actually in very good condition—almost pristine. There was a large coat of varnish on the floor and it protected it from virtually any mars or scratches that would cause dips or divots. It was very smooth to roll on, and for me, it was where I was able to move very quickly as I picked up speed on the outside as I moved around the rink. If your skate wheels were in any way worn or too smooth, you would likely find the surface unnerving to skate on. I started on Chicago brand wheels and added a jump bar for jumping on the floor. Jumps did nothing to harm the floor (I wound up bending my jump bars a couple of times, though). I also learned to never use urethane wheels on that floor—I almost broke my neck. There would also sometimes be issues if there were a lot of people in the building. Humidity was not a friend of the skater. Skating at Southgate was an acquired taste, and it did take some getting used to if you were not a regular attendee. If you compared it to the floor to the latter days of the Roller Palace, you would know that the Roller Palace floor was best described as chippy and rough—in rather poor condition. There was virtually no varnish on the floor. I understand that this was not like its earlier days at all. The floor at USA was in good condition at that time, too, and was the largest in the area.
There were four poles in the middle of Southgate’s skating floor as building supports, which is often typical for converted use buildings. The poles were not a danger to the skaters moving around the floor, and they were wrapped with padding and carpeting. They were, however, a departure from other area rinks at the time that had no poles or obstructions. The other barrier that was on the outside area of the floor was a railing that resembled a banister rail that was secured to the floor. The rail, in retrospect, was a hazard in that there was no padding when you made contact with it. I had the unfortunate circumstance of falling and sliding into one of the metal screws on the post of one of these rails. I should have gotten stitches from the gash in my shin, but I still have it as a “marker” of remembrance to this day. It was not long after that experience where I made sure that I would continue to get better as a skater to avoid slipping and falling.
Every rink has its good points, quirky areas, and even their bad points, but all of them still produced great memories for all of the skating enthusiasts that attended them. Amazingly, I still see some of the people who attended Southgate Skates back in the 80s today at my new home rink, the Pla-Mor roller rink in Euclid, which was formerly the Euclid Rollerdrome. As we are still skating today, some thirty-plus years later, we are a testimony to the love of roller skating and of the unbridled passion of the roller skating enthusiast.
Copyright © Melvin Gaines. All rights reserved.
04/25/2011 § Leave a comment
When I was very young, I didn’t go to church except for once a year since my parents were unchurched and weren’t especially motivated to seek a regular church fellowship. The once-a-year trip was to the neighborhood church in the Lee-Harvard area of Cleveland, and it was on Easter Sunday. I was too young to have a clue about church except that it was a place to go on occasion where you could wear your best light blue pastel suit and sit for a couple of hours on a hard bench and get overheated very quickly because of the lack of ventilation. I felt relief when I finally left the church and got outside, where the cool breezes would call attention to my perspiration under a steamy, polyester-like suit.
I did pay attention enough through the heat, however, to see that church was not such a scary place after all. I had already experienced the screaming, sanctified woman at the colorful, inner city church where the women dressed as nurses would carry the wounded yellers out of the sanctuary. I had to learn over a few visits that the screamers was not a regular part of church (thank goodness).
Now that I am older and a little smarter about the church experience, I realize that, many years ago, I was part of a large group of people that go to church once a year, and that group still exists today…the Easter Sunday once-a-year church goers. As I checked through my Facebook faith posts and Twitter faith tweets, I noted that there were many efforts to get people to go to church services on Easter in large venues–even stadiums–in different parts of the country, or there were multiple services at large churches to accommodate the crowds.
There must be a sense of duty behind the magnitude of people compelled to attend Easter services. It is a movement that occurs on the one day that Jesus Christ is given honor by the secular or unchurched people…and that’s just fine with me. It is my hope, however, that the people who do visit church will actually come to the understanding that visiting church once a year does not earn brownie points or good favor with God because of the effort. While God sincerely appreciates the visitation, I have found that many once-a-year visitors often slip into church and sit in the back row at the start of the service only to duck out the door before it ends…these premeditated escape artists put Houdini on notice.
Not to be overly critical, I must point out that the once-a-year tryout people have a latent curiosity, if not an outright need for understanding, of how the other half lives–in other words, how can these church folk stand to go into churchdom (AKA boredom) every Sunday? What is the attraction that one can have to maintain such a regular routine as going to church every week…wait, sometimes even twice a week…or even (heaven forbid) go to Sunday school???
There is no single answer for this phenomenon of regular church attendance, but the reasons all circle back to one simple thing…there is a strong likelihood that many of the people who attend church once or twice a week (and even Sunday school) have a greater understanding about what it is to have a healthy relationship with God. The regulars are far from perfect–and share the same flaws that the once-a-yearers have–but they acknowledge these shortcomings by recognizing that God provides forgiveness and healing…missing commodities in today’s world of artificial fixes.
And now I’ll speak for me, one of the regulars, who did not come to a greater understanding of who Jesus Christ is until I was 26 years old, and when I accepted Him as my personal Savior. It took a little interest, and then curiosity, and then an open mind to help me to understand that I needed Him in my life. That’s what it ultimately takes for each of us who want to learn something new. Sometimes we have to realize that it is the very things that we don’t understand that we are most afraid of. It is all about overcoming our fears, which we often have to do to grow personally, and even spiritually. We also have to be careful to not listen to someone else’s opinions about something that we don’t understand, which can keep us from seeking what ultimately is the truth. That is what is really tragic about not trying something…when you make excuses not to seek understanding when you have everything in your power to make it happen.
It is my prayer that if you are a once-a-year Easter Sunday tryout person that you consider going back to church in a week or two, but don’t wait an entire year. There are many wonderful bible-teaching churches with people just like you that are more than willing to welcome you for the second, third, or fourth visit (but you have to stay long enough after the service ends, of course). You just may find that the friendliness and fellowship that you experience will be far from boring and will actually be refreshingly sincere, which just happens to be just the way Jesus Christ would have you to see Him. Church is not really a scary place, but you’ll have to try it out more than once to see for yourself.
Copyright © Melvin Gaines. For more content, please see melvingaines.com and melvingaines.blogspot.com.
03/19/2011 § Leave a comment
Smooth Jazz in Cleveland is still an option for those of us who are disappointed with the latest radio options available to us. Since the lovers of the Smooth Jazz format were scorned by the new People Meter rating system (which refused to count us, in my opinion), we have been relegated to listening online at the station’s website, http://wnwv.northcoastnow.com/listen-live/ or with the WunderRadio app available for your iPhone or iPod Touch (with WiFi), or with an HD radio (which is still way too expensive).
Listening online is still the best option in that you can merely go to the website and let it play for as long as you’re on the computer. It works well as background music while at work. There may be an issue, however, with the quality of the stream as it gets interrupted often on a Windows computer and Internet Explorer (unless someone else has had a better experience), and while there have been moments of good feeds, overall it has been buggy. There are no known issues going through my Mac computer and Firefox at my residence. There were issues earlier this year where the advertising on the site was loud and interrupted the broadcast without warning, but that has since been corrected. The great thing about the online broadcast is that there is a lot of continuous music and not many commercials.
The WunderRadio app seems to be the best app available for your iPhone or iPod Touch to listen to online radio now (it has a modest price of $6.99, but it is considerably more comprehensive in the number of stations available). Pocket Tunes does not seem to work anymore for some stations the way it used to. WunderRadio pulls in The Wave just fine. It is my alternate method of listening when the work computer stream is not working well.
If the HD radio ever comes down in price, I will consider getting one, but with the available options to listen to Smooth Jazz at this time, as well as other radio feeds through iTunes and other outlets, I will keep up the effort to enjoy my favorite music and look forward to the day when Smooth Jazz returns to mainstream radio.