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Seattle radio station KEXP celebrates 50 years with free community concert

The event on Saturday, Aug. 6, will include food trucks and a beer garden. #k5evening

SEATTLE — 2022 marks 50 years of music from Seattle-based independent radio station KEXP.

In 1972, four students at the University of Washington created a small station with a signal of only 10 watts. It was designed to help teach broadcasting while exposing listeners to new music.

Half a century later, the call letters have changed but the mission has remained the same: to be a place where the music matters.

“That means DJs are free to DJ, we’re free to program the music we need to program to support our local community, we consistently break new music, and we remind our community always that they are not alone,” said John Richards, host of "The Morning Show" on KEXP.

GRAMMY-winning artist Brandi Carlile, who hails from Ravensdale, Washington, is one musician who found her footing at KEXP.

“My show, I think, was the first time she was ever live on the radio,” Richards said. “And (she) actually helped pay for this building in which we broadcast. She threw a show and raised $50,000 for KEXP’s new home.”

Credit: Diane Lewis
Host Kim Holcomb was joined by guest-host (and KEXP DJ) John Richards on the 8/2/22 edition of 'KING 5's Evening.'

Based at Seattle Center next to Climate Pledge Arena, the listener-powered station broadcasts worldwide online. Over the years, online listeners have grown and now roughly match the station’s over-the-air audience. "The Tonight Show" host Jimmy Fallon famously listens online in New York and is a big fan of the programming.

Much of the music featured on KEXP is played live in-studio, and their streaming numbers are massive.

“We have had over one billion views of our sessions here, which is just nuts.” Richards said.

Well-known artists like Macklemore, The Lumineers, Of Monsters and Men, and Florence and the Machine have all played in-studio. KEXP's most popular video on YouTube is a performance by Colombian band Bomba Estéreo — it's racked up more than 56 million views.

In celebration of its 50th anniversary, KEXP is holding a free community concert/gathering on Saturday, Aug. 6 from noon – 7 p.m. "KEXP50" will feature bands playing live on indoor and outdoor stages, food trucks, a beer garden, and live broadcasts. It's all happening at 427 First Ave. North in Seattle.

“I have a feeling it’s going to be a very, very big weekend,” Richards said.

KING 5's Evening celebrates the Northwest. Contact us: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Email.

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