The term "internet radio" may conjure some unsavory images: sad slacker dudes, perhaps, with bad haircuts ranting about conspiracy theories or playing pirated music from their moms' Florida rooms.
Banish those thoughts, at least when it comes to Jolt Radio. The South Florida web-broadcasting pioneer is based in the heart of Wynwood and features 37 DJs contributing to the station's unique blend of shows and sounds.
Founder John Caignet likes to keep the interviews local too. "It's what we love doing," he explains.
Jolt's exponential growth into a major player on Miami's scene traces back to Caignet's lifelong passion for music and an unusually worldly outlook. The Miami native left South Florida when he was 12, when his parents took him and his siblings to travel the world. When he returned at last in 2000, he decided to "just call it home."
A decade later, Caignet found himself frustrated with his musical directors at student stations at Miami Dade College and Florida International University. "When I finished college, I figured I'd do my own thing," he says.
Jolt's first home was in a loft by the remote Tamiami Airport, in "a fun little hub" that ultimately looked "too professional." He wanted something more laid-back, and two years ago he found it in the GAB workspace in Wynwood.
Besides the radio station setup, Jolt Radio's walls are lined with equipment: three bass amps, two guitar amps, pedal boards, three drum sets, an electronic drum set, mini keyboards, analog synths, and a lot of mixers.
It's not just decoration. Jolt has thrived by filling a unique niche, where local acts can earn residencies at the station. Bands such as Heavy Drag, Wastelands, Nun Hex, the Grey 8s, and Other Body have all set up shop in the studio to use it as a practice space.
Caignet also finds time to support local kids, like ones playing in their parents' garages in Kendall -- assuming they're any good. "We like collaborating with other people 'cause it adds to the whole thing," he says.
Jolt has also helped enrich Miami's live music scene by partnering with California's Burger Records to bring in bands that would never otherwise play in South Florida. Jolt interviews them in Wynwood before local promoters set them up with shows.
"I love curating events," Caignet says, "like when you go to a house party and they put out lights and have a make-out corner; to me, that's awesome. I prefer that to a nightclub."
Caignet has plenty on the horizon: Jolt is planning a massive fifth-anniversary show for September, and the station is set to shoot a TV show hosted by Caignet, who'll be accompanied by Frankie Guzman, AKA DJ Woozles, dressed as a plant. Like The Tonight Show meets Pee-wee's Playhouse with interviews, music, and screenings of local music videos, the series will be available on YouTube.
Whatever direction it grows, Caignet says, Jolt will stay committed to Miami's music culture. "If you anchor yourself somewhere," he says, "something is going to happen."
This year's three MasterMind Award winners will be announced February 26 at Artopia, our annual soirée celebrating Miami culture. For tickets and more information, visit newtimesartopia.com.
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