For over 40 years now, clued-in and/or colleged-up Miami residents have tuned in to the now sound found down the FM dial at 90.5. Those, of course, are the coordinates of the University of Miami's own WVUM, undoubtedly one of the most adventurous radio stations in the nation. Like the majority of higher education stations, WVUM is staffed by an ever-rotating onslaught of students who pride themselves on broadcasting the kind of tracks commercial radio jocks couldn't and wouldn't dare let air. But for listeners looking to hear the hippest of the au courant, there really is no other terrestrial radio option.
Running things at WVUM these days is the simply named Laura (of Miami), whose official position is programming and music director. But don't for a moment let that rather ho-hum moniker fool you, because this is one head-spinner who's crazy about the dizzy and the now. And any given day's playlist would stump even the savviest of new sound seekers.
She was born Laura Sutnick in Bogota, and raised ping-ponging between the Colombian capital and the MIA. Her sound is similarly cosmopolitan: Laura's forte is New Disco and the related electronica and Italo that helps make it go-go. Currently on the fast track for her Master's Degree in Music Business and Entertainment Industries, Laura's also learned to let loose in the booth, be it on campus or in the club. And it's to her that hipsters turn when they wanna be brought bang up to date.
Laura got her start up in Beantown back at the dawn of the 21st century. She was at Boston College then, but her beats came about at a joint called Ecco Lounge (no relation to the Miami operation), where she held residency for close to two years. There she spun mostly the precursor to New Disco -- electroclash.
If the likes of Miss Kittin, Adult, and Chicks on Speed ring a bell, well, your ears undoubtedly got blessed with the respective boom.
Post-Northeast found Laura swinging things in our stretch of the Sunshine State, then under the name Lahora. Those days she spun primarily at Soho Lounge (in the Hot Wheels room of Lolo's Vice parties) and I/O (when Poplife was still on Fourteenth Street). Laura's tag team partner during those heydays was none other than DJ Hottpants, and she and the shorts-clad dance man dropped enough freestyle and booty to keep even the roller rink at Gold Coast in a constant spin.
After a few more solid years of non-stop club-rocking, Laura took a break and coursed through audio engineering school. And it was that sonic document she earned which gave her an aural up on the competition. So when Laura enrolled at UM's music school, it was only fitting she'd be appointed queenpin at the namesake station.
January found Laura keeping the heated beats everywhere from Vagabond to Electric Pickle, and next month will find her involved with the Synthesis fest at The Awarehouse. Still, it's on air where she's got the most going down. And the three weekly shows she does keeps her profile just about as high as can be.
But what of those shows? Well, Monday's drive-time "Vamos a La Playa" is her baby, and it's where the likes of Hot Toddy and 40 Thieves can be heard thumping alongside Runaway and Ulysses. And if Thursday's "Rotations" rounds on the more indie side of the electronica streetscape, the follow-up program, "Electric Kingdom," allows some of Laura's favorite local heavies the opportunity to do what they do best, no matter what that may be.
Of course it takes a certain confidence to turn over your own turntables to another talent. And it takes a certain talent to stand toe-to-toe with anyone in town. Add a mad need to know and to play only the newest or the rarest, an affinity for big beat obscurities, and a work ethic that eliminates sleep, and you've got the makings of one hell of a beat-keeper. How's that for ho-hum?
Laura (of Miami)'s Current Top Five:
1. "Heartbreaker (Discodeine Remix)," Heartbreaker
2. "Seven (The Twelves Remix)," Fever Ray
3. "I Can Talk (Moulinex Remix)," Two Door Cinema Club
4. "My Step," Little Dragon
Laura (of Miami). "Vamos a La Playa," Mondays 5 - 7 p.m. "Rotations," Thursdays 5 - 7 p.m.
"Electric Kingdom," Thursdays 7 - 9 p.m. All shows on WVUM-FM 90.5 With MillionYoung. 10 p.m. Friday, February 5. The Vagabond, 30 NE 14th St., Miami. Admission is free before 11 p.m., $5 after. Ages 21 and up; 305-379-0508; thevagabondmiami.com