Radio station gives platform to local artists


Photo Courtesy of WEFT 90.1

Anika Emily performs live on WEFT 90.1 FM on July 2, 2019. Emily recently performed on the local radio station WEFT 90.1 with Jake Fava.

By Olivia Orlandi, Contributing Writer

Every Monday night, WEFT Sessions goes on-air to give bands and musicians the space to play live music for the community.
WEFT 90.1 is a local radio station here in Champaign-Urbana that has been on-air since 1981. Strictly run by volunteers who greatly enjoy what they do, WEFT brings together a group of music lovers through their live studio sessions for artists.
“I tell people it’s my primary hobby,” said Mike Feldman, engineer for the show. “I’m not a professional, I do this for fun and I get my live music fix by having the bands come to me.”
Feldman has been working for WEFT since 2000 and said he’s only missed four or five live sessions.
Artists invited to play a WEFT Sessions do so in a room filled wall to wall with CDs. Todd Hunter, host for WEFT, had a room similar in his home growing up that was filled with records.
“It looked like home,” Hunter said.
Hunter’s job is to interview the artists during their set, while simultaneously setting up for his second hour of air time after the live set, where he plays strictly local music.
Hunter said the sessions are for the artists. He makes sure he can speak with these artists before the play, letting them know “it’s their hour to do whatever they want with.” He said these sessions should be something easy and fun for the people who play them.
“Me talking is just to give them someone to talk to to get their information out,” Hunter said. “I’m not supposed to be the focal point, I’m just there to help them.”
Mike Ingram, booker for WEFT, played a few sessions before he began booking artists for the station.
“It’s a cool room, just being surrounded by walls and walls of music and the years of history that are in the building, ” Ingram said.
Feldman said they wanted to document the legends of the local scene and showcase the newcomers. They ask previous performers to set them up with fresh talent.
Any week in which they’re not able to book an act, WEFT does something they call “encore editions.” They will pick a live session from their vault, dating back 20 years, and play it again. The station has only missed one or two performances due to technical difficulties.
Before COVID-19, bands and artists were able to bring friends or family to watch their session. Anka Radley, folk-rock artist who plays under The Dawn Patrol, said she brought a bunch of friends to her sessions and has also attended theirs. She said it was fun to be able to joke around with her friends.
Radley said the people who run the sessions at the station make the environment less intimidating.
“They’re really friendly,” Radley said. “They set a nice environment for you, and I’ve always felt comfortable there.”
A big part of the environment comes from being surrounded by the walls of albums.
WEFT is run by volunteers and funded by donations, grants and some advertising. Feldman said the people at WEFT love what they do enough to do it without compensation.
Feldman has spent his 21 years with WEFT perfecting his craft, finding ways to create cleaner sound, making sure the setup works well with video and shooting video himself in earlier days.
“It’s so gratifying when the band gets to hear their recording,” Feldman said.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the studio is only allowed solo acts or duos during their live sessions. Feldman said that a lot of the shows hosted by DJs are recorded at their homes.

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