Inside WNUR
  • Aspiring Rock Show DJs must apprentice for two quarters before they can get their own timeslot. Apprentices like Hayat Yaghi are assigned to a current DJ, who gives them an assignment every week. Yaghi had to find songs relating to absence or absinthe.
  • Siler, left, and Young, right, talk on the air, introducing the songs they're about to play. DJs play blocks of around five songs in a row, usually with a similar genre or theme.
  • Levy then Googles the song lyrics to check for any NFAs, words that are "not for air." The station is forbidden by federal law to play words that have to do with sex or bodily excretion. Playing one of George Carlin's "seven dirty words" can result in huge fines.
  • Levy cues up one of the vinyls she pulled from the back. She wants to position the needle perfectly on the record so that as soon as she hits play, the correct song starts playing immediately without any on-air silence.
  • Vanderlinden and the other DJs find their music in "the stacks," a room in the back of the station stacked floor to ceiling with shelves and drawers full of countless CDs and vinyl records.
  • Despite the show's name, the Rock Show doesn't only air rock music, but also blues, punk, ska, jazz and a variety of other genres. Because the show is targeted at playing underrepresented music, the DJs can play virtually anything as long as the artist is relatively unknown.
  • Gillian Levy, right is the Rock Show's music director. She hosts the show from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. every Tuesday with her co-DJs Mackenzie Young, left, Jason Vanderlinden and Harlynn Siler.
Photos by Jack Corrigan / North by Northwestern

With its upcoming Sonic Celluloid XII event and IndieU Dillo Day collaboration, Northwestern's WNUR radio station is making waves in the Chicago music scene.

Editor's note: The author is a DJ at WNUR's The Rock Show. 


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