My Favorite Basement in New Jersey

May 1, 2022
Grady Trexler

The best three hours of my week, each week, are spent in a dark, poorly-ventilated basement in Bloomberg Hall, in a room with old garage-sale couches and a leather chair that plasters the seat of your pants with leather strips that have peeled off the seat.

Of course, there’s also a fourteen-channel control board and a collection of six thousand vinyl records, countless CDs, and a healthy mix of cassette tapes thrown in. I’m talking about the three hours each week I spend doing a show for WPRB, Princeton’s very own community-supported, independent radio. On Tuesdays from 8-11 p.m., I spin three hours of (depending on who you ask) the best or the worst sounds ever to grace the airwaves of New Jersey and Philadelphia: noise rock, coldwave, spoken word poetry, ambient, dance-punk, drone, industrial techno, grindcore and more. It’s a happy little piece of time I’ve carved out for myself each week, totally devoid of anything academic.

The station, which we refer to as “New Jersey’s Only,” is independent of the university itself, instead supporting itself via membership drives with monthly and recurring donations. I joined in the fall of my sophomore year, after training to be a DJ the preceding spring, and WPRB quickly subsumed my other extracurriculars to be the one that (enjoyably) took up most of my time. Listening to music has always been a big part of my life, but my involvement with the station took it to another level. Being responsible for three hours of interesting radio each week means I need to find three hours of music I’m excited about, every week, to share with listeners on air.

WPRB’s broadcast radius reaches into the heart of Philadelphia, giving the students at Princeton who are DJs (who only make up a little more than half of PRB’s programming) a unique opportunity to break out of the orange bubble and interact with folks other than the usual assortment of students, professors and staff we see every day on campus. When I go to concerts in WPRB attire, or otherwise leave the campus community, it’s not uncommon for listeners to recognize our logo and ask me about the station.

The best extracurriculars are ones that give you a sense of community and fulfilled-ness outside of your academic life. For me, WPRB has been important in both regards. Some very close friends are radio friends, and I rarely feel like the work I do for the station is tiresome or stressful — even when it can be a time commitment. Plus, we have some of the best merch on campus … which is always a perk.