As soon as the whole underground rock scene of the late ‘80s lay in the gutter—a suitable destiny for a scene originally built on punk’s DIY ethic and system-bucking ideals—the local music scene in Riverside lay down with it. It wasn’t the death of all things musical in the city but just about everything left of Bell Biv Devoe was in a sickly state.
“Music out here . . . there weren’t any shows for a long time,” says Tina Bold, ‘90s IE music scene curator/15-year host of the cult favorite radio show, the Vinyl Hours on KUCR. “There were shows in the ‘80s but I was too young for that and then there were shows in LA, and then there’d be a couple of shows at a youth center or something like that. Like 7 Seconds played somewhere out here in like 1987, and it’d be the one show all year.”
Back in those days, Spanky’s was the place to catch shows, but it was always hit and miss, so Bold spent a lot of time journeying out of town to the Tower Records on Sunset Boulevard and to rock clubs in Hollywood to get her fix. The IE was a dormant fringe by comparison, but still had plenty of talented bands that Bold wished she could help expose them—she felt compelled to do something about it.
Bold recalls falling in love with music when she was five years old and received a Fisher-Price turntable. Not long thereafter, she got a radio “shaped like a raccoon.” Interviewing imaginary artists would follow, as she’d perform mock interviews to album covers featuring the likes of Donny and Marie.
She paints those early years in Riverside with a desolate brush and she admits she couldn’t wait to leave the whole thing behind for a promising future some place else. So, with youthful curiosity and unsatisfied wanderlust, Bold cut a path for parts up north in 1990 where the music scene was a bit more evolved, the air was cleaner and the temperature rarely broke the sweltering point. She headed to San Francisco, first, but ended up in Santa Cruz where she discovered there was more than banana slugs and hippies, but a fairly thriving music scene. The whole community would get into any sort of act that passed through, be it Neil Young or Slayer. She liked the diversity, as well as the proximity.
“It was nice because I could ride my bike and go see a show and it wasn’t an ordeal where I had to get a ride, go somewhere far and all of that,” she says.
While in Santa Cruz she took a job at Cymbaline Records—a gig that made it tough to pay the bills, but cheap to buy records. It was during this time that a customer made a passing comment to Bold that has stuck with her all these years. He said, “You know—no one will ever listen to you until you finish college.” The more she pondered this observation, the more she thought he was right. She returned home to Riverside and enrolled at UCR and looked for equivalent work in the area. The dearth of record stores in the IE proved to be a blessing in disguise.
“I came back here and there was only one record store, Mad Platter, and they didn’t need anyone,” she says. “And, you know, if Mad Platter didn’t need anyone you were out of luck, and I was in college . . . so I applied to the station, and thankfully they said yes!”
Her first incarnation of the show was called Death Before Decaf, and had her spinning punk records to Riverside’s various miscreant drunks and late-night carousers from midnight ‘til last call. Though she enjoyed burning the midnight oil, she has since changed the name of the show too many times to count, and has permanently shifted to an earlier time slot—7PM-9PM everything Thursday on KUCR.
“Every two years I’d want to clean the slate and change the name,” she said, “but now with the whole dotcom stuff, it’s a lot harder to do that. When I was just making flyers, no one knew. I’ll meet people today that didn’t even know about the changes.”
Bold became enthralled with radio because of its virtually unfettered access by everyone. Radios are cheap, so social class isn’t a determining factor in access, like the Internet. The only contingency, if there has to be one, was the whole pesky FCC regulations thing, but Bold wasn’t bothered by it.
“Playing diverse types of music on the radio helps give the bands and musicians a voice that may not be otherwise heard on a commercial station,” she says. “I love that The Vinyl Hours is found ‘left of the dial,’ sometimes by chance, and sometimes on purpose.”
Her Vinyl Hours spans virtually all of rock music’s innumerable genres, sub-genres and anti-genres. “I tell people that the show is from Patti Smith to Patsy Cline, and if they don’t know who Patti Smith and Patsy Cline are, then they probably won’t like the show.” She thinks a minute. “Or I say it’s from Johnny Cash to Johnny Thunders. People usually understand that a little bit.”
By her second show, Bold was inviting artists to share her airtime—her first guests were the local favorites, the Ferocious Daises— offering them a chance to do interviews, play live on air and/or generally discuss anything that mattered to them under the blue sky. Enjoying the philanthropy of exposing news bands and shedding new light on known bands with fixed perceptions—everyone from Godfather of SoCal punk, Minutemen stalwart Mike Watt, anti-folk singer Kimya Dawson and Holly Golightly have all been interviewed on her show—she didn’t stop there. Bold began inviting other notables onto her show, including activists, poets and visual artists, and the mixed bag solidified her cult status among listeners.
“I’ve probably interviewed over 200 bands, artists, social activists, and poets,” she says. “To this day I have guests scheduled through May for interviews.”
What are her most memorable? Here she gets coy.
“The best interviews have actually been all of them. I love to meet people. My brother used to call me Talking Tina, like the scary doll on the Twilight Zone.”
Bold has always seen her radio work as a service to the community. She thinks of it as educating people about new music, art and community concerns, while at the same time creating a communal feel across this loosely knit collective of burgs known as the Inland Empire. It also broadened her focus.
Shortly after starting her radio show Bold began booking concerts across the IE to help fortify the musical empire she had in mind. “Lisa [from The BellRays] was the first person to tell me to throw shows, and I’m like, ‘Oh yeah, what do you do?’” Bold remembers. “And she told me—musicians always know how to do it because they’ve done it a million times.”
Her first crack at booking and promoting a show was at the now-defunct Munchies in Pomona. She signed up Bikini Kill and He’s Dead Jim, but when the bands showed up at the venue, they realized there wasn’t a PA. Luckily, Bikini Kill had booked themselves another show that night, having run into such “unforeseen” problems before. It was a rough way to start, but Bold is a firm believer that nothing worthwhile is ever easy.
“I’m booking bands that came from DC, and they’d get here and the show wouldn’t happen. Or the venue would tell me that there wasn’t a show that night, and I would hold up a flyer and say, ‘Um . . . yeah, there is.’ This is all volunteer work where you have this idea of really wanting to see a band so you pass around a hat and everyone needs to toss some money in. There are people who are doing it now—more people throwing shows. But there’s a lot of that pay-to-play crap. The market out here is a lot different. It’s a lot smaller because there aren’t a lot of people, but when you look at the people who like underground [music] . . . it’s even smaller.”
Bold left Riverside two more times—once for Long Beach and once for Palm Springs—but each time she finds herself drawn back to the area.
“There’s kind of this nice energy with people because some of us are so frustrated. I kind of like that energy because people are like, whatever, and they do whatever. There are a lot of parties and shows that kids put on themselves and people are fed up. They’re not complacent, which you might find somewhere else, and we’re definitely not served. We’re not catered to. In those terms, I really like the attitude of people just doing it themselves and not complaining about it. And people do.”
Bold began teaching in 1996, and has taught everything from high school at continuation schools to elementary school to troubled kids. She currently teaches 4th grade in Riverside, and she loves the pure energy of the children. It’s just one more service, one more gesture for DJ Tina Bold, whose handle could easily be DJ Altruist.
Bold has no plans of leaving the airwaves any time soon, especially if the past is any indication of the future. For anybody who has at least an ounce of passion about the IE music scene this is good news.
“I don’t know what I’d do without it,” she says shortly before her annual Johnny Cash tribute show in honor of his birthday. “I just feel empty if I’m not doing the show.”
Listen to the Vinyl Hours every Thursday night from 7PM–9PM, on KUCR 88.3.