Even as we in NYC slowly, oh, so s-l-o-w-l-y, inch closer to returning to whatever our new normal will be, Radio Free Brooklyn presents another installment of our ongoing series featuring our indefatigable hosts who continue to do their shows from attics, window seats, closets — and now, a bathroom: #RFBatHome (Part 6): Ali Darling, of “Witchtape Radio Hour.”
P.S. I saw youse wearing your masks this weekend — keep on keepin’ on!
Your friendly redheaded editorial director,
It was 9:50 p.m. on a Tuesday in early April and I was in my bathtub frantically texting Calvin Williams of “Lush Vibes Radio.” It was my first at-home broadcast of “Witchtape Radio Hour” and, come to think of it, my first new broadcast since early March when Radio Free Brooklyn’s studios closed due to COVID-19. Here’s an excerpt from our text tizzy:
Me: “Does the broadcast just… start?”
Calvin: “Yes, as long as it is scheduled, it’ll kick in at 10:01.”
Me: “And what about Spotify, I control it from the interface?”
Calvin: “Yeah, as long as it’s connected to your session. Take a picture and send it to me to make sure you’re all set.”
Now, I have to admit, I knew the answer to both questions was yes — but now my fears were quelled. The week before, after our fearless (and delightful!) leader Tom Tenney had thoughtfully explained the nuances of Audio Hijack on a Zoom call — I had a completely internal panic attack. At its root: the thought of possibly doing something to “break” RFB. I’d spent four years’ worth of Tuesdays taking over the airwaves of Radio Free Brooklyn, first on DeKalb Avenue in the bike store-turned-record store basement, then at the Bogart Street studio and The Rec Room. I knew how to do this — but the idea of hurting our studio, our baby, haunted me. And as the clock ticked down to 9:58 p.m., I found myself pacing my apartment.
Radio Free Brooklyn is a creatively cozy and safe space for so many of us, and it has always been the highlight of my week: adventuring through my city, taking a few trains or sometimes a cab, all to be a part of something as magical as radio. The studio became my home, the gear my familiars, my fellow hosts my creative coven. But there I was, about to settle into my favorite spot in my tiny Upper East Side studio apartment — the bathtub (more commonly known as “the cauldron”) — with my laptop and mic set up on a milk crate. I found myself in a new ritual, one I didn’t expect to blossom. I took three deep breaths to ground myself, burned some herbs as an offering for Mercury and the goddesses of Radio, and as the clock struck 10:01 p.m., the stream came alive. The stars had aligned, my show was beaming through the airwaves… and I finally felt the ethereal sense of comfort I longed for since early March.
When I set out to do this four years ago, I’d wanted to bring comfort when it was needed most, in a space that brought me the most comfort. Even in a bathtub, it didn’t take long to find my voice again. A different tone than before: calmer, deeper, more at ease (maybe it was the dope bathroom acoustics). Eventually, my cat (and co-host) Theodosia found her way into the cauldron, curled up in my lap and slept through most of her first shift, which I forgave; because that’s exactly what is needed right now. We are collectively mourning the loss of normalcy in our daily experience, specifically in the interpersonal relationships that are necessary for all facets of life. Humans, while we may not look it, are a multitude of stars searching for deeper connection and meaning to those around them. And this is what Radio Free Brooklyn provides; a place where we can examine and process these shifts through music, stories — and connecting with other galaxies wearing human suits.
Now, nearly two months later, I find myself with the deepest, most profound gratitude for my coven at Radio Free Brooklyn — and our listeners for reminding me of the light I carry through the darkness. Everywhere we turn, we are reminded of the pain the human collective is carrying, and if Witchtape Radio Hour can provide solace for listeners, I will humbly and joyfully hold that space each and every Tuesday — live from my “caldron” — and when we hosts can all be in the studio again. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Tune in to “Witchtape Radio Hour,” Tuesdays at 10:00 p.m.