NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, January 25th, 2021

Congratulations, KNHC! Seattle’s student-run C89.5 is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary

Half a cen­tu­ry. Five decades. Six hun­dred months. Close to 20,000 days.

How­ev­er you slice it, fifty years is a long time. And it’s an espe­cial­ly long time in the unpre­dictable, unsta­ble radio indus­try, where busi­ness mod­els are finicky and for­mat changes com­mon. Yet that’s how long stu­dent-run KNHC, based out of Seat­tle’s Nathan Hale High School, has been in con­tin­u­ous oper­a­tion.

Bet­ter known to its loy­al lis­ten­ers as C89.5 (89.5 FM is the sta­tion’s loca­tion on the good ‘ol radio dial, while the C stands for Com­mu­ni­ca­tions), KHNC is renowned around the globe as the world’s old­est remain­ing dance radio sta­tion. It broad­casts a mix of EDM (elec­tron­ic dance music) and relat­ed gen­res — from trance to house to indus­tri­al — with a bit of pop rock mixed in, com­mer­cial free.

The sta­tion was con­ceived towards the end of the 1960s and start­ed out as a low pow­er AM radio sta­tion. By the autumn of 1970, KHNC had applied for, and received, an FM con­struc­tion per­mit. It began broad­cast­ing over the FM band from Wedg­wood Hill on Jan­u­ary 25th, 1971: fifty years ago today.

Orig­i­nal­ly, C89.5 broad­cast at just ten watts. By the end of 1972, its pow­er had increased to 320 watts, and by the end of 1974, 1,500 watts.

Today, KNHC broad­casts at 8,500 watts from Enter­com’s back­up tow­er on Cougar Moun­tain in the Issaquah Alps. Hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple lis­ten to C89.5 over the air in the Seat­tle area. But the sta­tion is also avail­able around the world — and in high qual­i­ty, too — via Inter­net streaming.

Like NPR affil­i­ates KUOW and KNKX, and the UW’s KEXP, KNHC is a pub­lic radio sta­tion. It belongs to the peo­ple, and it is sus­tained through the sup­port of its lis­ten­ers. (I’m one of them: I’ve donat­ed to keep those turnta­bles spinning!)

How­ev­er, unlike those sta­tions, KHNC is run in part by high school stu­dents. It’s thus, in some respects, the radio equiv­a­lent of a teach­ing hospital.

That is unques­tion­ably part of its appeal. There’s noth­ing more sat­is­fy­ing as a lis­ten­er than to hear from young peo­ple learn­ing the craft in between enjoy­ing Seat­tle’s hottest music. Though the sta­tion does air pub­lic ser­vice announce­ments and spon­sor­ship mes­sages, almost all of what you’ll hear in a giv­en hour will be dance tracks — some­times beau­ti­ful­ly mixed by a DJ dur­ing one of the sta­tion’s shows, like dur­ing the 5 PM hour on week­days, known as the Dri­ve at Five.

Even the sta­tion’s sweep­ers reflect its quirky, whole­some, music-first personality.

“While they’re spin­ning the news, we’re spin­ning Seat­tle’s hottest music!” exults one. “Talk is over­rat­ed, so we’re going to leave this right here!” goes another.

I was in high school myself when I first dis­cov­ered C89.5. Since then, it has con­tin­u­ous­ly occu­pied the the fore­most posi­tion in my radio pre­sets. I only need to press “1” on my remote or con­sole in order to tune to the sta­tion when I am in lis­ten­ing range. (When trav­el­ing, I make use of the Inter­net stream.)

Pret­ty much every aspect of C89.5 meets my cri­te­ria for what goes into a beloved insti­tu­tion. As men­tioned, it’s not-for-prof­it. Pub­licly owned. Run by ded­i­cat­ed staff and stu­dents learn­ing about radio. And, of course, it plays the most upbeat, high ener­gy, dance­able tunes any­where on the radio dial.

It’s music you can work to — and work out to.

It’s music you can write to, too! Most of the posts I’ve filed over the years for this blog have been writ­ten with the help of C89.5. It’s arguably the clos­est thing that the Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate has to a soundtrack.

In recog­ni­tion of its excel­lent ser­vice to the peo­ple of the Pacif­ic North­west, Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee and King Coun­ty Exec­u­tive Dow Con­stan­tine have both hon­ored KHNC with state­ments and procla­ma­tions. We at NPI thank them for pay­ing trib­ute to one of Cas­ca­di­a’s finest institutions.

On behalf of our team, I’m hon­ored to present a trib­ute of our own: a list of fifty dance­able tunes that I know of because I heard them on C89.5.

Many of these are songs I’ve nev­er heard played on any oth­er radio sta­tion in Seat­tle. Even today, in the age of YouTube, Spo­ti­fy, Pan­do­ra, and the rest, KHNC is still a great way to hear sweet new music. Props to every­one who has helped keep this fan­tas­tic sta­tion on the air for five decades. Here’s to the next fifty!

Fifty great dance tunes heard on C89.5 FM Seattle

Note this list includes orig­i­nal songs as well as remix­es, span­ning a vari­ety of elec­tron­ic dance music sub­gen­res. Click a link to hear the song. Enjoy! 

  1. Iio: At The End
  2. Freema­sons fea­tur­ing Aman­da Wil­son: Love On My Mind
  3. Sun­f­reakz fea­tur­ing Andrea Brit­ton: Count­ing Down The Days
  4. Sim­ply Red: Sunrise
  5. The Shapeshifters (aka Shape UK): Lola’s Theme
  6. Tri­ton­al fea­tur­ing Phoebe Ryan: Now Or Never
  7. Eric Pry­dz: Generate
  8. David Guet­ta & Sia: Flames
  9. Glob­al Dee­jays: What A Feel­ing (Pop Radio Edit)
  10. One‑T + Cool‑T: The Mag­ic Key
  11. Black Rock fea­tur­ing Debra Andrew: Blue Water
  12. Sep­tem­ber: Satellites
  13. The Chainsmok­ers fea­tur­ing Emi­ly War­ren: Side Effects
  14. Roc Project fea­tur­ing Tina Are­na: Never
  15. Milky: Just The Way You Are
  16. Cozi: Sta­mi­na
  17. Jupiter Ris­ing: Electropop
  18. Edun: Put ‘Em Up
  19. Marly: You Nev­er Know
  20. Sophie Ellis-Bex­tor: Mixed Up World
  21. Sun­set Strip­pers: Falling Stars
  22. Star Pilots: In The Heat Of The Night
  23. Kylie Minogue: Red Blood­ed Woman
  24. Tami Chynn fea­tur­ing Akon: Frozen
  25. Tube & Berg­er fea­tur­ing Chrissie Hyn­de: Straight Ahead
  26. Eri­ka: I Don’t Know
  27. Plumb: In My Arms (Bron­leewe & Bose Radio Edit) 
  28. MGMT: Elec­tric Feel (Jus­tice Remix)
  29. Galleon: One Sign
  30. Lon­go & Wain­wright fea­tur­ing Craig Smart: One Life Stand
  31. Soli­taire: I Like Love
  32. Andain: Beau­ti­ful Things
  33. Deep­est Blue: Deep­est Blue
  34. Kygo fea­tur­ing Ella Hen­der­son: Here For You
  35. Zhu: Chas­ing Marrakech
  36. Mono Mind: I Found My Soul at Marvin­gate (Sofia Tunes Remix)
  37. Vice­tone fea­tur­ing Cozi Zuehls­dorff: Way Back
  38. The Night: Dif­fer­ent Story
  39. Krewella: Team
  40. Aly & AJ: Joan Of Arc On The Dance Floor
  41. Cas­ca­da: Evac­u­ate The Dancefloor
  42. Alexan­dra Stan: Mr. Saxobeat
  43. Era Istre­fi: Bonbon
  44. Armin van Buuren & Garib­ay fea­tur­ing Olaf Black­wood: I Need You
  45. Sam F fea­tur­ing Sophie Rose: Limitless
  46. Jonathan Peters fea­tur­ing Maya Azu­ce­na: Hap­py (Radio Edit)
  47. Hikaru Uta­da: Exo­dus ’04 (Josh Har­ris vs. The MPC Radio Edit)
  48. Wild­boyz fea­tur­ing Ameer­ah: The Sound Of Miss­ing You
  49. Krys­tal K: Let’s Get It Right (Radio Cut)
  50. Deadmau5 fea­tur­ing Chris James: The Veldt

Many of the songs above are now con­sid­ered classics/throwbacks, and C89.5 has two shows where you can hear them: Anthems (an hour­long spe­cial that airs at noon on week­days, host­ed by the delight­ful­ly tal­ent­ed Har­mo­ny Soleil) and Plan­et Dance (a three-hour music vault spec­tac­u­lar that airs on Thurs­day evenings with the sta­tion’s dynam­ic duo Mel & Matt). Both shows take lis­ten­er requests.

If you love dis­cov­er­ing amaz­ing­ly cool new music, C89.5 has a show for that too: Test Spin, with Gabriel Zus. That not-to-be-missed show cur­rent­ly airs Sat­ur­day nights at 7 PM. An encore pre­sen­ta­tion can be heard on Mon­day nights at 11 PM.

All times ref­er­enced above are Pacific.

There are many, many more C89.5 shows (like New Skool, Old School with the leg­endary DJ Trent Von or Noc­tur­nal Trans­mis­sion with the incom­pa­ra­ble DJ Tamm!) and you can explore them all here.

Con­grat­u­la­tions again, KNHC, and best wish­es from all of us at NPI!

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