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  1. Illustration: Jesse Lenz
    Illustration: Jesse Lenz
  2. Illustration: Jesse Lenz
    Illustration: Jesse Lenz
  3. Illustration: Jesse Lenz
    Illustration: Jesse Lenz
  4. Illustration: Jesse Lenz
    Illustration: Jesse Lenz

Where to find alternative music

With Q101 gone, get your indie and alt-rock fix with these radio stations.


It’s been years since Q101 regularly played anything edgy or indie enough to earn the description alternative. But for those mourning the station’s early days, as well as its special programming, like Chicago-talent showcase Local 101, these stations—on the dial, online or via satellite—can give you the alt/indie new-music fix you crave.

WXRT, “Chicago’s Finest Rock”

(93.1 FM,
The city’s coolest non-college rock station features up-and-coming hometown bands on the show Local Anesthetic (Sundays, 7:30pm), and Chicago musicians Jon Langford, Nicholas Tremulis and Kelly Hogan rotate playing their favorite music as hosts of The Eclectic Company (Tuesdays, 10pm).
Recently heard
Sonic Youth, Gnarls Barkley, Foster the People

WHPK, “The Pride of the South Side”
(88.5 FM,
The University of Chicago’s community radio station has broadcast to the South Side for more than 50 years. Rock programs include indie show Rocktastrophe (Wednesdays, 6–8am), and noise, drone and psych-rock show Holy Mountain Radio (Wednesdays, 4–6am).
Recently heard
Battles, Blonde Redhead, Mastodon

WNUR, “Chicago’s Sound Experiment”
(89.3 FM,
Steve Albini and Arcade Fire’s Will Butler cut their teeth as DJs at WNUR, Northwestern University’s student-run station, spinning postpunk, no wave and noise wax on The Rock Show (Monday-Friday, 2–9pm).
Recently heard
Boards of Canada, Russian Circles, King Diamond

WLUW, “Chicago Sound Alliance”
(88.7 FM,
Loyola University’s community radio station features “local, indie and pure alternative music.” Programming includes Rock Sin Anestesia (Thursdays, midnight–2am; Wednesdays, 10pm–midnight), featuring Latin alternative tunes, and indie-rock show Shut Up and Listen (Tuesdays, noon–3pm).
Recently heard
Thee Oh Sees, Etran Finatawa, Robert Pollard

CHIRP, “The Chicago Independent Radio Project

Founded by ex-WLUW station head Shawn Campbell, this volunteer-run, Internet-only station spins independent and local music. CHIRP hopes to someday obtain a low-power FM broadcast license, as well.
Recently heard
Tortoise, Shabazz Palaces, Cocteau Twins

This listener-supported radio station out of Jersey City, New Jersey, is the longest-running freeform radio station in the nation, rated “best radio station in the country” four years in a row by Rolling Stone.
Recently heard
Pelican, TV on the Radio, Gillian Welch

KEXP, “Where the Music Matters”
This community station has broadcast out of Seattle since 1972, and members of Soundgarden and Mudhoney used to volunteer as DJs. Current rock shows play punk, hardcore, indie and more.
Recently heard
Cults, Best Coast, Eleanor Friedberger

Channel 30: The Loft, “Adventurous music for grown-ups”

(on Sirius XM Radio)
Celebrity-curated shows include Lou Reed’s New York Shuffle with Hal Wilner (Saturdays, 11pm), playing jazz and vintage rock, and the eclectic David Johansen’s Mansion of Fun (Sundays, 11am), with African, Cajun, ’60s pop and more.
Recently heard
Wilco, Neil Young, Neko Case

Channel 35: Sirius XMU, “North America’s Indie Rock Station”
(on Sirius XM Radio)
Programming includes XMU Sessions (Wednesdays, 8pm) with live performances and interviews with alt/indie artists, and Old School (Sundays, 8pm), featuring ’90s rockers like Pavement and the Pixies.
Recently heard
Grizzly Bear, Animal Collective, Modest Mouse

Channel 34: Lithium, “Grunge rock and ’90s alternative”
(on Sirius XM Radio)
Fly the flannel with this festival of fuzztone.
Recently heard
Nirvana, Green Day, Smashing Pumpkins

DIY, “Play music together”

This social-media site allows users to act as DJs, creating themed “rooms” such as “’90s Alternative” and “Folking Indie.” Other members can “tune in” and chat online. Launched in May, it now has more than 140,000 members.
Recently heard
Girl Talk, the xx, Florence and the Machine
This Internet radio service (and iPhone and Droid app), lets you create up to 100 customized stations. Give Pandora your favorite songs, artists or genres, and the program’s “Music Genome Project” will analyze the music to find similar fare. User feedback then helps refine its offerings.
Recently heard
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