Making Waves

The way independently produced music goes from artist to listener is changing at a rapid and exciting rate. And WICN DJ Nick DiBiasio, like his counterpart Rich Fox at WCUW, plays a key role in the way music, especially that made by singer/songwriters, is heard and promoted.

Twice a week, DiBiasio drives to WICN's Chatham Street studios from his home in Harmony, Rhode Island, carting along a heavy, purple container filled with more than 100 CDs and a dozen vinyl slabs. On Thursdays, he mixes folk, Americana, and acoustic blues from Lynn Miles and Tom Rush to Leo Kottke and The Grateful Dead on The Contemporary Cafe. On Saturdays, those boundaries are expanded to include roots, world music, BritPop, and good old-fashioned rock and roll on Against The Grain.

DiBiasio's music journey began, as it did for many, when he saw The Beatles' first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. Thirty years later, he made his radio debut when a Providence classic-rock station asked him to represent the New England Beatles Fan Club during a Sullivan show anniversary program. Soon afterwards, while returning home from a music-buying excursion to Boston, he discovered WICN, which was airing Reverend Horton Heat's instrumental rave-up "Marijuana". When he called the station for more information, host David Ritchie sensed the passion; Ritchie knew he had found the right person to co-host Against The Grain.

On Last week's Contemporary Cafe (DiBiasio acquired the second program earlier this year), Vermont singer/songwriter Lisa McCormick performed selections from her new CD, Sacred (Ruthie's Noise Productions). She says programs like DiBiasio's are important to independent artists like herself. "It's my main way of promoting it."

Thanks to the internet, music fans, after hearing an artist, can visit that performer's website. McCormick uses her radio visits to guide fans to "It's important in terms of keeping a relationship with your audiences over time," says McCormick, who also sends out regular e-mail announcements, which in the case of cello-bopper Gideon Freudmann, read more like letters from long-lost friends.

In-studio appearances give returning musicians an opportunity to reach a market they wouldn't have otherwise had.

"Leigh Hilger sent me an e-mail and said she'd be in New England for Thanksgiving and asked if she could visit the show," DiBiasio explains. So after spending the day in Weymouth, the North Carolina resident will spend Thanksgiving night in front of a live studio audience in Worcester.

On December 4, DiBiasio celebrates his third anniversary at WICN with a visit from Anonymous, featuring Mary Ann Rossoni, Anni Clark drops in on her way to The Iron Horse from Maine on December 9, and the annual "Acoustic Christmas Special", which airs on December 23, features a live perfromance by Colleen Sexton.

DiBiasio's radio shows are just part of his musical mission. He promotes shows at Providence's In The Square Coffeehouse and hosts his own web page,, which features playlists from past programs, an updated listing of upcoming shows, and links to his guests' sites and to favorite performers'. As any music lover who's ever spent periods of time searching for a favorite piece of music knows, this is truly an age of progress.

Brian Goslow, Worcester Phoenix 11/99