Final Listen: KITS (Alt 105.3) San Francisco

Even when Top 40 was beginning its rebound in the mid-‘90s, ending the 1993-95 period when the format looked like it could truly become extinct, there were stations still changing format to something else, and group heads saying that the traditional “all-the-hits” model of Top 40 would never exist again.

Musically, I feel cautiously optimistic about Alternative now. It has more overlap with the pop mainstream in a while, even without the reverse crossovers that were such a lightning rod nine months ago. There is a waiting list of songs that could be on Top 40. But it was also the first music format affected by streaming more than a decade ago. And having KFOG San Francisco out of the format for two years didn’t make life more tenable for Audacy’s KITS (Alt 105.3), now Adult Hits Dave FM.

As “Live 105” under Audacy predecessor Entercom, KITS was the station that kick-started the New Rock revolution when it began its evolution from CHR in 1986. The early ‘80s success of KROQ Los Angeles began a land rush to Alternative that failed to sustain. Live 105 touched off a new group of larger owners putting the format on full-market signals over the next six years.

We gave KFOG a Final Listen in 2019. Here’s Alt 105.3 on the morning of its format change, just before 11 a.m. on Friday, October 15:

  • Empire of the Sun, “Walking on A Dream”
  • Beastie Boys, “Sabotage”
  • Fall Out Boy, “Sugar We’re Going Down”
  • Girl In Red, “Serotonin”
  • Green Day, “She”
  • Incubus, “Drive”
  • Cannons, “Bad Dream” (staged as “an Audacy music discovery”)
  • Sublime, “What I Got”
  • AWOLNation, “Sail”
  • Bring Me the Horizon, “DiE4u” (staged and backsold as “an Audacy pick of the week”)
  • MGMT, “Time to Pretend”
  • All Time Low f/Blackbear, “Monsters”
  • Muse, “Starlight”
  • Cage the Elephant, “Social Cues”
  • Fun. f/Janelle Monae, “We Are Young”
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Love Rollercoaster”
  • Dirty Heads, “Vacation”

During that time, Audacy’s syndicated personality Megan Holiday was doing a mix of local and national breaks, including teasing upcoming Red Hot Chili Peppers and Cannons shows. There was also a jingle reminiscent of the ones you would have heard on Alternative radio a decade (or more) ago: “Here’s more Alternative music we found while cleaning out our storage facility downtown!” KITS flipped an hour later, although not without the brief return of Alternative over the weekend for technical reasons.

So after nearly 40 years with Alternative radio in some form, will somebody fill the format hole? Or the Triple-A hole that includes much of the same music these days. iHeart’s KOSF would have been a logical candidate. iHR likes the format and their syndicated Woody Show could return to the market without the shotgun marriage that was its time on KFOG. But KOSF’s “80s Plus” Classic Hits format was up sharply in September. Former KITS APD/MD Aaron Axelson launched his online Flood FM earlier this year in seeming anticipation of just such an opening. Bonneville also has Triple-A on AC KOIT’s HD-2 channel Highway 1 Radio. 

KITS and KFOG had their own considerable legacies to compete with. In nearby Sacramento, Audacy’s , Audacy’s KKDO (Alt 94.7) launched more than a decade ago with an intentionally minimalist presentation that filled the hole left by sister KWOD, but allowed the station to make a fresh start. Over the last decade, KKDO has been and good place to hear new Alternative music.

Here’s KKDO at 11 a.m. Friday:

  • Tai Verdes, “A-O-K”
  • AWOLNation, “Sail”
  • Glass Animals, “I Don’t Wanna Talk (I Just Wanna Dance)”
  • Ramones, “Blitzkrieg Bop”
  • All Time Low f/Blackbear, “Monsters”
  • Black Keys, “Gold on the Ceiling”
  • AJR, “Way Less Sad”
  • Bring Me the Horizon, “DiE4u”
  • Owl City, “Fireflies”
  • Maneskin, “Beggin’”
  • Weezer, “Buddy Holly”
  • Imagine Dragons, “Demons”
  • Walk the Moon, “Can You Handle My Love?”
  • Beck, “Loser”
  • Yeah Yeah Yeahs, “Heads Will Roll”
  • Dirty Heads f/Travis Barker & Aimee, “Rage”

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