For more than 40 years, clued-in and/or colleged-up Miami residents have tuned in to the now sound found down the FM dial at 90.5. Those, of course, are the coordinates of the University of Miami's WVUM, undoubtedly one of the most adventuresome radio stations in the nation. Like the majority of higher education stations, WVUM is staffed by an ever-rotating onslaught of students who pride themselves on broadcasting the kind of tracks commercial radio jocks couldn't and wouldn't dare let air. But for listeners looking to hear the hippest of the au courant, there really is no other terrestrial radio option.
Running things at WVUM these days is the simply named Laura (of Miami), whose official position is programming and music director. But don't for a moment let that rather ho-hum moniker fool you, because this is one head-spinner who's crazy about the dizzy and the now. And any given day's playlist would stump even the savviest of new-sound seekers.
She was born Laura Sutnick in Bogotá and raised ping-ponging between the Colombian capital and the MIA. Her sound is similarly cosmopolitan: Laura's forte is new disco and the related electronica and Italo that helps make it go-go. On the fast track for her master's degree in music business and entertainment industries, Laura has also learned to let loose in the booth, be it on campus or in the club. And it's to her that hipsters turn when they wanna be brought back up to date.
Laura (of Miami)
Laura (of Miami): "Vamos a la Playa," Mondays 5 to 7 p.m. "Rotations," Thursdays 5 to 7 p.m. "Electric Kingdom," Thursdays 7 to 9 p.m. All shows on WVUM-FM, 90.50. With MillionYoung 10 p.m. Friday, February 5 at the Vagabond, 30 NE 14th St., Miami. Admission is free before 11 p.m., $5 after; ages 21+305-379-0508; thevagabondmiami.com
Laura got her start in Beantown at the dawn of the 21st Century. She was at Boston College, but her beats came about at a joint called Ecco Lounge (no relation to the Miami operation), where she held residency for close to two years. There she spun mostly the precursor to new disco — electroclash. If the likes of Miss Kittin, Adult, and Chicks on Speed ring a bell, well, your ears undoubtedly got blessed with the respective boom.
Post-Northeast found Laura, then under the name Lahora, swinging things in our stretch of the Sunshine State. Those days, she spun primarily at Soho Lounge (in the Hot Wheels room of Lolo's Vice parties) and I/O (when Poplife was still on 14th Street). Laura's tag-team partner during those heydays was none other than DJ Hottpants, and she and the shorts-clad dance man dropped enough freestyle and booty to keep even the roller rink at Gold Coast in a constant spin.
After a few more solid years of nonstop club rocking, Laura took a break and coursed through audio engineering school. And that sonic document she earned gave her an aural up on the competition. So when Laura enrolled at UM's music school, it was only fitting she'd be appointed queenpin at the namesake station.
January saw Laura keeping the heated beats everywhere from the Vagabond to the Electric Pickle, and next month will see her involved with the Synthesis fest at the Awarehouse. Still, it's on air where she's got the most going down. And the three weekly shows she helms keep her profile just about as high as can be.
But what of those shows? Well, Monday's drive-time Vamos a la Playa is her baby, and it's where the likes of Hot Toddy and 40 Thieves can be heard thumping alongside Runaway and Ulysses. And if Thursday's Rotations rounds on the more indie side of the electronica streetscape, the follow-up program, Electric Kingdom, allows some of Laura's favorite local heavies the opportunity to do what they do best, no matter what that may be.
Of course, it takes a certain confidence to turn over your own turntables to another talent. And it takes a certain talent to stand toe-to-toe with anyone in town. Add a mad need to know and to play only the newest or the rarest, an affinity for big beat obscurities, and a work ethic that eliminates sleep, and you've got the makings of one hell of a beat-keeper. How's that for ho-hum?
Laura (of Miami)'s current top five:
1. "Heartbreaker (Discodeine Remix)," Heartbreaker
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2. "Seven (The Twelves Remix)," Fever Ray
3. "I Can Talk (Moulinex Remix)," Two Door Cinema Club
4. "My Step," Little Dragon
5. "Bejan," Tanlines