Back to Archives

Radio waves good-bye

Diana Arens will host her last â€"Free Things Are Cool” this month

Email Article Print Article Share on Facebook Share on Reddit Share on StumbleUpon

Diana Arens has been a fixture on KAOS 89.3 FM since 1991. Her show, “Free Things Are Cool,” is a mix of live and recorded music by some of the Northwest’s most influential and acclaimed artists. Folks such as Elliott Smith, Beck, Wanda Jackson, and Bikini Kill have all appeared on Arens’ show. And the list goes on. Modest Mouse, Heavens To Betsy, Kimya Dawson, Jonathan Richman, Crispin Glover, Stuart Murdoch before Belle and Sebastian, and historian Howard Zinn.

Arens is leaving KAOS in late January to pursue writing projects and a little thing she likes to call sleep. When I spoke with her on a cool December evening in downtown Oly, Arens was filled with appreciation for the experience broadcasting at KAOS has afforded her. 

“I feel privileged to have had ringside seats to some of the most special performances in Olympia and to be able to share them with a wider audience,” says Arens.

I asked her about the inspiration for the show, and like so many old-school Olympians, she credits K Records founder Calvin Johnson with helping to set her on the path. She also recounted an influential exchange she shared with Jeff Bartone, who until recently was the technical director at the Capitol Theater.

“Jeff said that I was ‘an ambassador for Olympia’ and if I saw an opportunity to make something happen I should make something happen,” she explains.

Arens took this advice to heart and moved beyond the realm of radio into organizing live events and producing music for local artists and labels. Chris Sand, aka Sandman: The Rappin’ Cowboy, who claims to hold the record for most appearances on “Free Things Are Cool,” enjoyed Arens’ production assistance on two of his CDs and credits her with introducing him to the Oly music scene.

“Diana Arens has always been such an encouraging ally for me as a musician,” says Sandman. “In ’94 she invited me onto her show after seeing me perform, and it felt like playing on ‘Free Things Are Cool’ ushered me into the punk rock underground of Olympia. It was like an Oly stamp of approval.”

What will Olympia do without “Free Things Are Cool” to support the work of artists such as Sandman and the many others who have enjoyed the benefits of this unique venue for exposure and expression? Johnson sees it in a positive light. “We’re not losing Diana,” explains Johnson. “She’s still here, and I hope that this will mean that she’ll have more time to produce shows in town.”

And on the subject of the legacy of the show: “Some people say that you can’t buy happiness, but I think ‘Free Things Are Cool’ is a better philosophy of life,” adds Johnson. “It’s a nicer and more poetic way to say ‘burn down the mall.’”

Arens’ last show will be Wednesday, Jan. 23, at 9 p.m. She will be joined by a sampling of guests who have been on the show in the past.

[KAOS 89.3 FM, “Free Things Are Cool,” Wednesdays, 9-11 p.m.,]

comments powered by Disqus