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First Listen: Active Rock WNNX (Rock 100.5) Atlanta

Rock 100.5 WNNX AtlantaHere’s something you haven’t read in the radio trade publications much recently. “Active Rock is having a moment.”

That was Radioinsight publisher Lance Venta’s characterization of the Labor Day weekend format change activity, which spawned two new Active Rock outlets and saw two others relaunched. The most prominent change was WNNX (Rock 100.5) Atlanta, which, after five years as the market’s second, harder Classic Rock outlet, has returned to the format.

For a while, most of the traffic was in the other direction. Active Rock outlets were facing a new wave of challengers from library-based stations that chose not to mess with a relatively thin (and increasingly marginalized) pile of current hard rock. But over the last year, the available music has gotten better—at least in relative terms—and PDs have been willing to consider acts like Black Keys that they once chose to view as definingly Alternative. The harder Classic Rock model often meant a lot of library depth, so WNNX’s change is a vote for the available product, if “Twilight Zone” by Golden Earring—a song you could still hear on the station last week—is no longer perceived as stronger than any available new title.

Some Active Rock stations have become essentially the Mainstream Rock outlets of a decade ago. Others are beckoning back to the rock radio of the late ‘90s/early ‘00s, when the difference between Alternative and Active Rock came down mostly to reporting status. I also spent a very enjoyable 90 minutes on Labor Day weekend with WRXR (Rock 105.5) Chattanooga, Tenn., which continues to chug on with Volbeat, Ghost, Shinedown, Disturbed and the other acts that have dominated the format for the last decade (but rarely spread beyond it). But even they were playing Kongos, too.

WNNX definitely has Alternative in its DNA, and not just because the calls are carried over from format legend 99X. There are also echoes of former rock rival WKLS in its Project 9-6-1 days of the late ‘00s—a station that was trying to keep the Active/Alternative hybrid going, even as PDs in both formats did their best to pull the two formats into very opposing corners.

Here’s Rock 100.5 before the format change on Aug. 23, just before 2 p.m. The station was already promoting “the new sound of Rock 100.5” a week in advance of the change.

  • Van Halen, “You Really Got Me”
  • Guns N’ Roses, “Patience”
  • Aerosmith, “Living On The Edge”
  • Offspring, “Gone Away”
  • Ted Nugent, “Stranglehold”
  • Bon Jovi, “Livin’ On A Prayer”
  • Tom Petty & Heartbreakers, “Here Comes My Girl”
  • Nirvana, “About A Girl (Unplugged)”
  • Rolling Stones, “Start Me Up”
  • Cult, “Fire Woman”
  • AC/DC, “You Shook Me All Night Long”
  • 3 Doors Down, “Loser”
  • Pink Floyd, “Wish You Were Here”

And here’s the station in the same hour on Sept. 3, four days after the change.

  • Def Leppard, “Pour Some Sugar On Me”
  • Nirvana, “In Bloom”
  • Incubus, “Nice To Know You”
  • Linkin Park, “Faint”
  • Lit, “My Own Worst Enemy”
  • Greta Van Fleet, “Safari Song”
  • Bush, “Everything Zen”
  • Billy Idol, “White Wedding”
  • Black Keys, “Lo/Hi”
  • Collective Soul, “Heavy”
  • Led Zeppelin, “Whole Lotta Love”
  • Highly Suspect, “16”
  • Days Of The New, “Touch, Peel And Stand”
  • Trapt, “Headstrong”
  • Five Finger Death Punch, “Wrong Side Of Heaven”
  • Temple Of The Dog, “Hunger Strike”
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