Friday, November 23, 2012

Larry Bloch: 1953-2012

Larry Bloch: 1953-2012:
Larry Bloch, a founding member of radio free brattleboro, died last month of pancreatic cancer. He was 59.

Bloch was one of those rare and lucky folks for whom activism was a full-time vocation. After working with Greenpeace throughout the 1980s, he created the Wetlands Preserve in New York City in 1989. The nightclub became a magnet for many bands that rose to fame out of the "alternative" music soup of the 1990s.

The Wetlands also served as an activist hub and quasi-infoshop, with meeting space in the basement that incubated many ideas and causes.




Bloch sold the Wetlands in 1996 (the club would close in 2001, a victim of gentrification in lower Manhattan) and moved to Brattleboro, Vermont. There he founded Save the Corporations From Themselves, a retail outlet devoted to environmentally-friendly clothing and other goods.

The store also featured the Activist Attic, a convergence space much like what the basement of the Wetlands used to be.




It was through gatherings at the Attic where radio free brattleboro, an unlicensed 10-watt micropower FM station, was born in 1998. rfb had a long and storied run in Brattleboro and enjoyed a massive amount of support from the town. FCC field agents found hostile reception there on several fronts.

After the station was raided in June of 2003, it promptly returned to the air and launched an unprecedented campaign to document its community support. This resulted in the passage of a referendum by which the citizens of the town granted their own authorization for rfb's continued existence until such time as the FCC would give the community an LPFM license.




The FCC countered with a request for a court injunction to bar radio free brattleboro from broadcasting. This request was initially denied by a federal District Court judge, who was swayed enough by the station's demonstrable support to press the FCC for a more detailed justification to silence them.

Bloch was instrumental in organizing the station's defense. This deferral allowed radio free brattleboro to continue operating until June of 2005, when the station was raided again by the FCC. Ironically, just three months before this raid, a group called Vermont Earth Works was awarded an LPFM construction permit and the process began to build out the "legitimate" station. Mission accomplished.

As the direct descendant of radio free brattleboro, WVEW-LP features the sort of diversity to which all LPFM stations should aspire. Bloch held down a Tuesday evening slot, during which he would often play tapes from shows at the Wetlands, maxing out WVEW's online stream capacity in the process. Between rfb and WVEW, Bloch spent some 14 years on Brattleboro's airwaves, and his work in this particular arena stands to be his longest-lasting legacy.



WVEW is planning a tribute broadcast to air in Bloch's old time-slot, the date still to be determined.