WTSR’S first Radiothon was held in 1973 and benefited the March of Dimes, raising the substantial (for its time) amount of $2000 . Over the years Radiothon grew and expanded so that by 1984 it was usually a highly anticipated event on the then TSC campus. Looking back, the work that it entailed and that was completed by our coordinators was remarkable. A live broadcast lasting for 72 hours from a remote location in 1984 was not a wireless, nor was it a free experience. Bands needed to be booked, on-air schedules made, staffing, coordinating anywhere from 5-10 college organizations whose needs had to be addressed, security…and oh, yes the music, all needed to be addressed. Of course there was the matter of a live broadcast from City Gardens a week prior, but we’ll come back to that…
Gail Gaiser and Kate Piluso made it all work
The music was always designed to be the central piece of the 3 days, and Trenton music was always a part of it. This festival was as much local as it was “college radio.” WTSR by this point had committed itself to supporting local acts when radio airplay, even radio play on a 1500 watt college station was a first step to a career. The limit was not the boundaries of the city;
Princeton, New Hope, Philadelphia, all who had thriving music scenes were a part of what the station tried to do. Bands like Regressive Aid, The Groceries, and Ween were as much a part of Trenton as musicians who were born in the capital city.
Which brings us to “Mr. Natural.” Mr. Natural was a local, unrecorded hardcore band from Ewing who like so many others was hoping to gain an audience by playing live. As with many hardcore bands there was an element of confrontation between the band and the audience. The confrontation was anticipated and in a venue like City Gardens, it was embraced. The performance at City Gardens earned the band an opportunity to play a late night set in the Rat.
The crowd at the beginning of the set was small and the show uneventful, but shortly thereafter the interactive part of the show turned ugly. The on-campus pub had closed and knowing that the Rat was still open alcohol fueled students began to arrive and the mood quickly turned hostile. In an ill-advised attempt at irony the band made some off-color comments about cancer (the fundraiser was for the American Cancer Society) and the new arrivals were not amused; a volatile mix of drunk students and an antagonistic band nearly resulted in disaster. As the battle between band and audience continued, allegations were made about significant others being assaulted, verbal violent threats were hurled, and general mayhem ensued, until the WTSR team knew that pulling the plug was the only solution.
So, reluctantly we did.
Sometimes your inner antagonist needs to be tempered by your emerging adult and the fundraising goal of the event was far more important than some idea of artistic integrity.
Fortunately both the band and the students understood that once the show was over, so was everything else. Campus police and the Rat staff did a great job of moving people out and the event continued without incident.
Maybe not the most memorable event in Trenton’s music history, but if you were there, you never forgot it.