A deep abiding love of music sometimes seems less like a hobby than an infection that overtakes your entire life. It scrambles the senses, driving people to happily undertake the most quixotic quests with little hope for any compensation for all their time and effort. Such is the life of Jim Shelburne and his online live-music show Wild Nite Radio.
The station — which can be found at wildniteradio.com — broadcasts out of a Lorain basement remodeled specifically for this purpose. The main room features four cameras, a dartboard, a Jägermeister shirt thumbtacked to the wall, and a bar in the back where Shelburne presides, interacting with the sound and video booth on a computer while he simultaneously monitors the bulletin board and video feed. With its low-rent rec-room ambiance, it looks a little like the set of Wayne's World.
The wall opposite the sound booth includes the front grill of a Ford Ranger bursting through the ceiling. Shelburne spotted the piece while taking his car in for service at John Lance Ford, which, at the moment, is the show's solitary sponsor. They let him take it home, where he painted it, lit it, and gave it a skull hood ornament.
Indeed, the entire operation is a reflection of Shelburne's self-taught hands-on spirit — from the home's remodeling and wiring to the website's audio and visual streaming. "I've heard a million times in my life, 'You can't do it,'" says Shelburne. "Well, you know something, yes you can. You just have to figure out how."
Every Saturday, he hosts two bands on the show (which runs from 6 to 10 p.m.). This particular week, Six Gun Sister kick things off. They load in and soundcheck with the help of Wild Nite audio engineer Corwin West, a.k.a. C-Dogg, Shelburne's nephew. C-Dogg had the idea for Wild Nite Radio a few years ago while working with Shelburne on the Sportstalk Cleveland webcast, which would occasionally feature bands. C-Dogg suggested they do their own show focusing only on music. They've been live every weekend since the second week of August 2008. (Marky Mark, who joined in late June, handles the cameras and video.)
Shelburne, who got his Wild Man moniker while DJing for a strip show years ago, discovered Six Gun Sister at the Hi-Fi. This is their third time on the show. Formerly known as Sister Morphine, they're a trio in search of a guitarist, with drummer Les Horton's Hellrazor bandmate Tom Tiratto sitting in for now. They play Guns N' Roses-style hard-rock boogie with raw, metal-inspired intensity. They're fronted by a redheaded singer named Colleen, who amplifies the music's gritty glam spirit with her sultry voice.
The whole affair is supercasual, like it's just a bunch of old pals hanging out in a practice space having a good time. Numerous notes of encouragement and appreciation arrive via the bulletin board, including a couple from Colleen's husband, who's watching at home.
Six Gun Sister are followed by the Heights Band. They came to Wild Nite Radio the way most bands and all of its fans do: word of mouth. Shelburne doesn't care about genres — he's hosted everything from metal and rock to country and hip-hop.
Though their beards, long hair, and flannel shirts suggest "hippie jam band," the group's sound is revelatory blues-psych, reminiscent of Blue Cheer, but with an even more chaotic undercurrent that threatens to fly apart at any moment.
Midway through the set, there's the night's only call-in (even though more than 2,600 listeners tuned in, according to Shelburne): Becca from Wadsworth. She requests a song, compliments the band, and scores one of the free oil changes Shelburne is giving away from his sponsor. Her voice is broadcast throughout the room, and everyone says hello. A few moments later, the band passes around a bottle of Jack Daniel's, and everyone takes a swig.
As amazing as the Heights Band sound, their finest moment comes near the end of their set, when bassist Kyle Finley hits up Shelburne for some swag. He's sold out of everything but a single hoodie, which typically goes for $30, but which he sells for the $10 Finley has in his pocket — less than cost. It's emblematic of Shelburne's approach: It's never about money.
A former karaoke DJ who quit when it became more about making fun of people than doing your best to make them sound good, Shelburne continues to pour sweat and cash into the project. All he asks for in return is that the artists have a good time.
He's added a couple more shows to the station's lineup — DJ Studda, who plays R&B and hip-hop Mondays through Thursdays, and DJ Zero, who spins on Sundays — and there's a vast archive of all the bands that have played on his Saturday-night show. The site's ratings are climbing, but Shelburne mostly sees Wild Nite Radio as a way to help unsigned artists who love making music.
"We were talking to a friend that had never played out before he played our show, and he ended up getting three gigs out of it," says Shelburne. "We haven't made a penny. It's just love. We know something is going to happen soon, and when it does, it's going to benefit everybody."
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