It may not be entirely accurate to say that the late, lamented WXXP — a.k.a. 100.7 “Double X” — once ruled the airways of Pittsburgh. Even at its peak, its listenership was relatively modest.
But its long-term impact on the music culture of the tri-state area was seismic, still felt to this day. During the musically conservative 1980s, for a commercial station with a strong signal to play cutting edge alternative music in a major market – well, it was radical. Unheard of. It changed the musical landscape in the Steel City, rallied a generation of alt-music fans, and even nurtured a vibrant original music scene in Pittsburgh for a few brief, exhilarating years.
And now it’s back – sort of. For one night, fans of the music aired on WXXP during its late-‘80s heyday will converge at Stage AE and celebrate the mighty radio station that once dared to be different. A live band consisting of more than 20 Pittsburgh music-scene veterans past and present will play over 50 songs from the era. In addition, the show will start with a DJ spinning Double X-era music and special sets by Seven Color Sky and a reunited Affordable Floors. Many of the original WXXP DJs will be in attendance and will make appearances throughout the evening. The show starts promptly at 7:00 PM and continues through 5½ hours of music. Doors open at 6:00 PM. Proceeds will benefit the Homeless Children’s Education Fund.
“This is the third and probably final WXXP tribute that will take place on this scale,” says organizer Rod Schwartz. “If you’re of a certain age and want to go out and celebrate the music that you grew up on, or if you’re younger but love 80s music, this is the place to be. It’s gonna be a sweaty blast of fun like you haven’t had in a long time.”
WXXP-FM was a pioneer, credited with helping to break alternative bands nationally, thanks to a signal that could be picked up throughout the tri-state area. The station’s lifespan was short, just two years, 1986 to 1988. But those two years had a lasting impact.
“‘Dare to be different’ wasn’t just a catch-phrase,” says Schwartz. “It really described what they were doing. It was defiant. They were sticking their necks out, taking a risk. That’s why they were so loved and so important.”
About the 2015 show, Schwartz says, “We had always planned on doing a third one. We did the first show in 2005 and the second in 2007. We had intended to do the third one in 2009 but we decided to wait a little longer to make it more of a reunion. It’s more special when there’s been more time in between. So a few years ago we started checking to see if people were still interested and we were blown away by the response. Even though it’s been 8 years since we did the last one, the whole time we’ve been bombarded with requests and people asking us when we were doing the next reunion show. The longer we waited, the more things intensified.”
The set list is a more closely guarded secret than the Oscars, but according to Schwartz, “Fans of ‘80s alternative music are not going to be disappointed. There are going to be a lot of fun surprises and a lot of interaction with the DJs throughout the show.”
As with the 2005 and 2007 shows, many of the original DJs will be in attendance, in some cases flying in from around the country. “We’ve been thrilled with the response from the DJs and their enthusiasm to travel to Pittsburgh to be a part of this. It wouldn’t be a party without them. Their presence makes all the difference, and people are going to be very happy with how big a part the ‘XXP jocks will play in the show. It truly is their show as much as the band’s.”
In a further indication of how far alternative music has come since the 80s (and confirming that Bill Peduto is an enthusiastic fan of ‘80s alternative music), the Mayor’s Office of Pittsburgh has officially declared November 28 to be WXXP Day in Pittsburgh.
And is this really the last WXXP reunion show ever?
“To quote Romeo Void, never say never,’” Schwartz says. “But in all likelihood, this will be the last one. If you’re part of that world and want to commune with your people, this may be your last chance.” Proceeds from the show will benefit the Homeless Children’s Education Fund. HCEF representatives will be on hand to distribute information and provide assistance for anyone who wishes to make a contribution. The HCEF was established in 1999 to supplement federal funding for the educational needs of local homeless children. Over the years, HCEF’s role in the community has developed and expanded to meet these needs. The HCEF’s mission is to advance the education of children and youth experiencing homelessness in Allegheny County by providing educational programs and services, serving as a trusted advocate, sharing expertise, and facilitating collaborative relationships that maximize the collective impact among community partners.
The show is open to all ages but there will be a full bar for the grown-ups.
WXXP on the web: http://wxxp.com (Internet radio site created and run by WXXP DJ Paul Cramer).
Search eBay.com “theradioboy” for WXXP-related memorabilia.