Wednesday, September 30, 2015

89X's Chill on the Hill

After some unexpected downtime from surgery, I found myself being called to the Freedom Hill Ampitheatre in Sterling Heights, Michigan. Forget that I could barely hobble from being sliced and diced as if the doctors were trying to cut me down the middle. Wrap myself in some warm clothes, for the Chill on the Hill lives up to its name, ringing in the chilly weather of the year, a sure sign of fall.

Trying my best to walk, I probably looked more like a penguin to the average person strolling by me. Shift the weight from one side to the other side, then back again. Many take a normal gait for granted.

I needed to get out of the house. Music has been such a massive part of my life, even wincing in pain, I love getting lost in a large crowd at a concert. Not fully up to par, I didn't venture into the photo pit like I normally do; instead, I only brought my phone as a means to capture the concert.

Don't judge my grainy photos too harshly. It's called work with what ya got. Better than nothing.

Chill on the Hill is an event hosted by CIMX-FM, a radio station known to many as 89X. This is not a new station. It has blossomed in not only Detroit, but Windsor, over the years I've been on the planet.

I hate 89X. It has me spoiled. It has set my expectations for other radio stations way too high.

I first discovered 88.7 when I was in middle school. Back in the day, it was a faint alternative station that I had stumbled on by accident. As I was the first one on the bus, I set the radio to it every day.

Throughout the years, the signal grew stronger, as did the fan base. Even after it got bought out by the bigger corporation, the station attempted to remain true to its roots. I continue to listen to it, because it highlights local artists, as well as international artists that not a lot of other stations are willing to play.

Whenever I travel, which is quite often, I search the radio stations in other cities, hoping to find radio stations that might be similar. I thought for sure the other big cities would have as cool of a station, but I've been disappointed. Places like California, New York and Miami, I had expected to set the standards for music, but they don't have radio stations like 89X; people just don't understand that.

Drive up the coast of California, and it's Oldies, Spanish and static; come to find out, the mountains heading to Humboldt are not the best for great radio reception. Miami has a lot of salsa and electronic. New York, don't get me started, but let's just say I was more than a little disappointed by their music.

New Orleans has funk and blues. The Carolinas and East Coast is more jam. Where's the rock?

South of the Mason-Dixon Line, it's mostly rap, country and jam. There's pockets of rockers, a few radio stations along the way, but they don't compare. The rock scene in Detroit is, as one of the bands who played the 89x Chill on the Hill put it “legendary,” defining the rock scene for everyone else.

Detroiters know how to mosh. We are not afraid to crowd surf. From the stage, the crowd erupts.

Old schoolers think of The Riff as the rock station in Detroit. Granted, 101.1 stole Dave and Chuck the Freak from 89X's morning show, but their song mix throughout the day is just slightly different. In my opinion, while The Riff has rock, it tends to have more classic rock than the alternative found on 89X.

My buddy came in from out of town and was surprised listening to 89X. “Wow, they play one good song after another; their lineup is strong like Donkey Kong.” He travels just as much, if not more, than I do; “most places in the country do not have radio stations that play a lot of good songs in a row.”

He was shocked when Violent Femmes came on the radio, claiming nobody plays them. I had to explain that bands like the Violent Femmes have always been played on 89X, and that's what makes them a little different. Sure, they play hits, but they sprinkle in a different flavor of old school music.

When I grew up hearing people talk about how radio sucks, I didn't understand it until I started traveling. He's right; most cities only have a few decent stations that play okay stuff. In most places, it's like a good song, followed by some hogwash, maybe a halfway decent song, and more hogwash.

My brother said it best. “It seems no matter where you travel to, they all play the same songs by the same few selected artists. I want to hear the smaller guys, the lesser known people that are good, too.”

Stuff like the Homeboy Show sets 89X apart from others in that area. The fact that 89X broadcasts in both the United States and Canada also sets them apart. We get exposed to more Canadian music here.

When my friend was in town, I wanted to take him to a show. Looking at Bands In Town at the last second, I saw that Thousand Foot Krutch was playing. He was not familiar with the Toronto rockers, but I had seen them play a few times and knew that they were definitely worth seeing in concert.

Though I would have been happy just to see TFK, come to find out, they were only one of many bands at 89X's Chill on the Hill at the Freedom Hill Ampitheatre in Sterling Heights. Cage the Elephant, Panic at the Disco, Weezer, the Wombats, We Came As Romans and many others; it's a no brainer.

We had to go. The first day, we waited out the rain a bit, but we made it in time to see TFK. He was more than impressed by the band that 89X has been playing for years, even if he was not so familiar with their hits, as Thousand Foot Krutch is a strong performing Canadian band.

They have energy, and they always get the crowd going. Frankly, I was surprised to see them playing on the smaller stage, but the crowd was more than willing to swarm the outside area in support of them. A rocking good time, people were singing along with their hits and dancing to their distinct beats.

The next band on the outside stage, Detroit's We Came As Romans, kept that energy going and cranked it up a notch with moshing fans that were not afraid to crowd surf. Their beats hit hard, fitting to their name, as it really does remind you of the Romans storming into a territory to take over by force.

The first time I saw that band was at a festival in Jackson. I remember then being shocked not only by the full force of the bass pounding inside your chest, but by the reaction of the crowd going berserk. The fact that there's more and more people recognizing their radio hits only confirms what I knew the first time I saw them, that this was a band to watch, as they are only going to continue to blow up.

Probably the band that shocked me the most though, was actually Panic At The Disco. Sure, I knew their radio songs, and I knew people liked them, but I was pleasantly surprised by seeing them live. The first part of the set did not immediately grab my attention, as I was wandering the VIP area, but when I actually sat down and watched the second half, I found that I could not leave my seat.

Each song was better and better. The lead singer has a phenomenal vocal range, and his bandmates did not miss a beat. What really blew me away as the cover songs they did, as I am not typically a fan of covers, but they did not slaughter the covers, they actually sounded very true to form surprisingly.

First, they did Queen. The vocal range matched perfectly. Then they did AC/DC, and I was sold.

Not only did he match the range, he added that raspiness to his voice. It's hard to match that kind of rasp, as part of the natural harshness may have been from smoking, and for someone to match that, it's very hard on the throat. Not only did they nail it, but the crowd went probably the most wild for them.

Going in, I would have thought that Weezer would have stolen the show for the fan vote, being the headliners that day, but sorry to say that I think they got showed up by Panic At The Disco. Even the lead singer of Weezer commented how great Panic At The Disco was when they took the stage, adding that they need to do more shows together. Unfortunately, some of the crowd cleared out for Weezer's set, but it mostly seemed that it was the teenieboppers that had left, leaving the true Weezer fans.

That was cool. It allowed people to get closer to the front. That only made more room for dancing.

The fans that were left were the die hards. Many people sang along to every song. There were stories that people shared of all the times they had seen Weezer, and how excited they were to see them then.

Don't get me wrong. Weezer put on a phenomenal show. I was surprised how many songs I knew, too.

Did they play even one song that I did not know? They were so ingrained as part of my life growing up in the 90s that I think I knew every song. I definitely knew more of their songs than any other band.

The second day had more solid performers, like Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., Robert Delong, The Struts, and Cold War Kids. Walking around, it's almost comical to watch the Silent Disco. A mass of people wearing headphones dance to music only they can hear, sometimes dancing in synch, or all erupting at the same time, which, to the outside person that is looking in, can be quite funny at times.

Coheed and Cambria I was probably most excited to watch, as I had heard so many great things about them. Even from the far depths of the furthest seat on the lawn, one can see the lead singer's hair. Musically, the band has a talent that is perhaps underrated by many, but it is well worth checking out.

Of course, Cage The Elephant stole the show. Energetically, I would say they may have taken the entire festival. Keeping track of the lead singer is like watching a ping pong match, zipping around.

I lost track of how many times he dove into the audience. Seemingly not caring, with a running leap, eager hands held his body up, twirling him over the crowd. Crowd surfers were anxious to respond.

Taking it in as a whole, Cage The Elephant may have been my favorite. They really put forth the effort into the stage show, and not by flash and trash, but by the sheer raw energy on stage. It's like being splashed by a bucket of ice water, where you can't help but have your eyes open wide and be alert.

You didn't want to leave your seat, not even to go to the bathroom. You didn't know what you might miss. From the lawn, he might look like Mr. Plankton from Sponge Bob, but he's all over the place.

It was more than a good show. The Chill on the Hill is only one of many great shows 89X throws throughout the year. Often, they have contests where you can win tickets, and they will have special pricing on tickets at certain times, making for events that will be remembered for a lifetime.

Looking back, I can recall various shows, like The Night 89X Stole Christmas. I remember buying buy one get one tickets, where I got free tickets to other events for purchasing tickets to the ones I wanted. That's like getting two memories for the price of one, and not every radio station does that type of stuff.

That's why I am spoiled. I expect other radio stations to be as cool as 89X. The more I travel though, the more I realize that there really is only one 89X in the world, and I am lucky enough to know them.

I was also lucky enough to make it through the concert, as it was not long after that I landed myself in the hospital again, this time puking up bile and blood. When you're so dehydrated that your body spasms, it makes fun times at a concert like this all the more worth while. Do not take your health for granted, and make the most out of life while you are in the right health to be able to do so, for you never know when you might find yourself in the hospital unexpectedly, as most do not plan such trips.

Chill on the Hill featured Weezer, Coheed and Cambria, Panic! At The Disco, The Wombats, The Struts, Night Riots, Vinyl Theatre, Arkells, Coleman Hell, Beartooth, Secoya, We Came As Romans, Andrew McMahon, Robert Delong, Kaleido, Civil Twilight, Five Hundredth Year, The Glorious Sons, X Ambassadors, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., Cold War Kids, a Silent Disco and a bunch of fun surprises. For more information on the 89X Chill on the Hill, visit For more by author Marisa Williams, visit and