In 1990, Austin's music landscape looked and felt a lot different than it is today. The grunge scene was still gestating in the womb of Seattle, and college radio was more of a degree elective than a music genre.
That was before Halloween night 1991 when K-NACK radio (official call sign KNNC 107.7) hit the Austin airwaves and ushered in a new era of fearless alternative indie music that still resonates with musicians and listeners in the Live Music Capital. To many die-hard music fans who remember the (gasp!) pre-Spotify days of DJ-selected radio play, K-NACK is still the best music station to ever come out of Austin.
Mike Henry is one such die-hard. "K-NACK was where you learned about bands. There was no Internet in those days, so you had to tune in and trust what the DJs told you was cool. They changed how we looked at local music and how we found out what was happening in the rest of the world."
Henry has lived and worked in Austin's thriving music industry for over twenty years, first as a booking agent for the iconic Electric Lounge and now as co-owner of the east side's thriving ND. Having known and worked with many of the now legendary bands that got their start with K-NACK twenty years ago, Henry's fervor is still dialed up to 11.
"K-NACK was a huge supporter of local bands, and they committed to promoting them alongside these emerging national bands," says Henry. "I worked with Spoon back when they were just getting started, and they got heavy airplay. . . next to Nirvana, REM, Siouxsie and the Banshees and Depeche Mode. This was monumental for the local bands just getting on their feet."
"I worked with Spoon back when they were just getting started, and they got heavy airplay. . . next to Nirvana, REM, Siouxsie and the Banshees and Depeche Mode."
A handful of those memorable acts that made their debuts on K-NACK will be reuniting again —some after decades apart — to play their biggest hits this weekend. Henry and Austin radio legend Ray "Raydog" Seggern are hosting an epic K-NACK @ 20 Reunion at the ND featuring DJs and bands that made K-NACK so indelible in the minds of so many listeners.
Iconic bands like Sincola, Sixteen Deluxe, bo bud greene, Gomez (TX), Wannabes, The Sidehackers, David Garza, Wheel and Tony Salzo (of Fastball) will fill two packed evenings that will also include vintage K-NACK programming, commercials, and studio recordings. The gathered DJs in attendance will also participate in an "Airing of the Grievances" on Saturday evening, where the station's myths and urban legends will be explained and either affirmed or dismissed.
The seeds for the reunion were planted when Henry learned about a Facebook group called the Psychobaby Time Capsule where a pretty amazing group of K-NACK fans post memories and impressions of bygone days. "And I thought, 'Hey, I have a venue, let's have a show!' explains Henry. "I approached Ray, who I've known since my days as a booker, and we started making plans over Facebook. Now we've got 15 DJs flying in for the reunion and enough bands to fill two nights."
Ideally, Henry would like to introduce a new generation to these bands that got started thanks to the tiny independent station that waved its banner for six strong years above a Mexican restaurant in Georgetown's town square. "These guys laid the groundwork and influenced the bands that are playing now. Everyone on the scene now was too young to experience K-NACK, and we want to change that."
While young indie scenesters might not recognize all the names playing this weekend, Henry guarantees that everyone will recognize the influential sounds of these early 90s trendsetters. "It's not a retrofest where the music is quaint and kind of sucks," says Henry, smiling. "This is hands-down amazing music."
They say nothing good can last. And after this weekend, K-NACK will return to the annals of radio history. So now's your chance to relive the awesome glory days of alternative college rock when music didn't suck. "I can almost guarantee this will never happen again, seeing all these bands together," portends Henry. "Whatever is happening in town this weekend: This is way more important."