By Rick Flores
One of the first times Laurie Lewis ever played in public was at the studios of KPFA in Berkeley.
It happened late at night on Gert Chiarito’s folk music show. She was 14. Her dad took her there. As she puts it, “I was mostly very scared and nervous, but I think it probably started my love affair with community radio.”
Lewis will be sharing her love of community radio on Dec. 7 as a special guest performer at the KFCF 88.1 FM/Fresno Free College Foundation’s annual banquet. She will be speaking about her activist involvement and support of community radio, as well as performing musically with her band, The Right Hands, that evening.
“I think I have always had a strong sense of the power of community radio. I have depended on KPFA (simulcast locally on KFCF) for local news and information for decades. When we travel, which is often, I am always scanning the airwaves for the good local stations. They are few and far between out there, and so easily taken away from us, Lewis said.
In fact, Lewis’s passion for community radio led to her arrest as a protestor outside KPFA during the lockout in July 1999 when the Pacifica National Board would not allow staff, programmers and volunteers into the building, and KPFA was off the air for several weeks until a wave of local and national support turned the tide, forcing the Pacifica board to relinquish, allowing KPFA back on the air.
“When I was cooking dinner and heard the kerfuffle being broadcast over the KPFA news, it just seemed natural to turn off the stove and run up to the station to see if there was any way I could help,” Lewis reflects.
Her support for community radio continues with her performance at KFCF’s annual banquet—traditionally the station’s most important fund-raiser of the year. Joining Lewis will be her acoustic band, The Right Hands, which includes her longtime partner Tom Rozum.
“I am very fortunate indeed to have a long working relationship (over 20 years) with Tom Rozum, my singing partner.” She went on to explain, “We have an almost familial blend in our vocals by this time. In addition, he’s an excellent mandolinist who always finds the right thing to add to my songs. And he’s a great singer on his own, too!”
Rounding out the Right Hands are Patrick Sauber on banjo and harmony vocals, Andrew Conklin on bass and Chad Manning on fiddle.
Along with providing great folk and bluegrass acoustic music with her band, Lewis will talk about her involvement with progressive causes. “I think that one of the reasons I became so enamored of bluegrass and other rural music is that so much of it is rooted in imagery based in the natural world. I have always been a tree-hugger, I guess.”
Lewis went on to give a glimpse of what we can expect from her at the banquet. “I will talk a bit about what community radio, KPFA and KFCF in particular, means to me and to non-mainstream musicians and artists in general, and then we will play music rooted in traditional bluegrass but stretching out in many directions.”
The KFCF/Fresno Free College Foundation annual banquet with Lewis is scheduled for Dec. 7. Also, there will be the Free Speech Award winner and the KFCF Programmer of the year. The event begins with a meet-and-greet no-host bar at 5:30 p.m. Dinner will be served at 6:30 p.m. with Lewis and the Right Hands performing at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets may be ordered via KFCF.brownpapertickets.com or by calling 1-800-838-3006. For more information, call 559-233-2221.
Rick Flores is the host of Wasteland of the Free heard Tuesdays on KFCF 88.1 FM Fresno from 10 a.m. to noon. He operates a small family farm west of Easton.