- TEAM EFFORT: Kara Bibb (left) and Aaron Sarlo promote Arkansas music.
On Tuesdays from noon to 3 p.m., anyone in or around Little Rock can tune into KABF FM, 88.3, for a set of Arkansas's finest musical offerings hand-picked by two of the biggest fans of local music (and of Arkansas itself) that you'll ever meet. And these DJs are ambitious.
Co-hosts Kara Bibb and Aaron Sarlo are trying to make Shoog Radio into more than just a platform for local artists to get airplay and promote themselves with in-studio live performances and interviews. "We want Shoog, and KABF as a whole, to become a focal point for local artists," they said. "There are so many opportunities for collaboration and supporting each other within this community and I think we can help facilitate that."
These two love what they do, and they love this town. That comes through in the effort that goes into putting together the shows. "Ninety percent of music I listen to is Arkansas artists," Sarlo said. "I personally try to make sure some of these bands get played because they deserve it."
It's a team effort, with both hosts contributing more or less equally. "She knows the songs better than me, knows when we need to hit that mute button," Sarlo said. "We'll be going over the setlist, and I'll say, 'Can we play that Ginsu Wives song?' "
Bibb often adds an extra literary element to her playlists. A few months ago, she assembled a set according to the rules of Haiku poetry, using only song titles that included five words or five syllables. "Luckily the quality of music here is so high that I can put together something like this and you know it's going to be good," she said.
Both DJs are also active participants in Little Rock's arts and music scene. Sarlo has played in a number of bands over the years, including Techno-Squid Eats Parliament, Laundry for the Apocalypse, The Dangerous Idiots and, most recently, Duckstronaut. Bibb hosts poetry readings at Vino's and has a poetry blog, There Will Be Flowers.
They help artists financially as well, working with the local blog Give This Band a Dollar to help raise money for bands working to record and tour.
Bibb and Sarlo feel a connection to Arkansas and the music here. "We're a part of the Mississippi Delta. There's better soil, better water, better cultivation, more people, extra food, more down time. Blues musicians congregated around here, and rock 'n' roll was invented here," Sarlo said.
"People talk about how the scene here is insular, but that can be a good thing," Bibb said. "If you want to be involved, you don't have to look far. Things are going on everywhere."
"I've got a peeve with people who think they need to move to bigger cities to play music," Sarlo added. "People think of us as flyover, but we stray away from the pre-fabricated stuff. It's less of a commodity here because there's not as much influence to cater to commercial tastes."
The show's roots go back a few years to Cheyenne Matthews and Christy Ewing, who had the idea for a radio show with all Arkansas artists. Since then, the torch has been passed many times to others, including Clay Fitzpatrick, Rhett Brinkley, Jack Lloyd and Bryan Frazier (now an assistant station manager at KABF), with Matthews coming back a few times to fill in the gaps.
Shoog Radio has always been more than a radio show. From the beginning, hosts would work to bring local bands and venues together to put on shows to raise money for KABF. Outside of the fundraising, these shows work to build up the local community, encouraging connections and collaboration while promoting exclusively local acts and showcasing Arkansas's vibrant music scene.
Bibb and Sarlo have carried on that tradition, putting together several shows around town, most recently through "Shoog Radio Presents," a new monthly live music series at The Afterthought. The first of these shows was fantastic. The Casual Pleasures and Pockets (two very great and very different bands) played at the smaller venue, which has an intimate vibe. It captured that feeling of people sitting on a porch together to see some of their friends play, but with better sound quality and more cosmopolitan food and drink offerings. The bar, which has been a standard for jazz patrons for many years, is expanding its purview and incorporating more local bands playing different styles of music.
You can catch the next "Shoog Radio Presents" at the Afterthought on Thursday, Oct. 23, when they will host John Willis and Late Romantics with Amyjo Savanna.