Tuesday, July 23, 2013 | 7:15 p.m.
Bands come and go, but “The Homegrown Show,” a weekly local music showcase on KOMP 92.3, remains.
The Sunday night two-hour radio show, which celebrates 15 years on the air this month, has featured more than 1,000 bands from Las Vegas and surrounding areas.
“I didn’t have a strategy to get this far,” jokes show founder and host Laurie Steele, who moved to Las Vegas from Southern California in 1996 for a job with KKLZ. Taking an interest in the local rock music scene, she pitched a local music show to the station; they didn’t bite, but KOMP did and welcomed “The Homegrown Show” with open arms.
Originally airing for just an hour, the program soon expanded to an hour and a half and for the past 10 years has been running as a two-hour show that includes band interviews and in-studio performances, as well as live showcases Steele hosts periodically in town. Steele recently released a compilation CD featuring local acts like Ministry of Love, Sin City Sinners, Left Standing and several others to celebrate the show’s milestone.
“It was exciting to me to be able to be exposed to new music. If listeners like it, they become fans, and it becomes a domino effect and helps get them into the local scene. And that’s even more exciting to me,” Steele says of her tenure on the show.
She’s become something of a mother figure in the local alt-rock scene, providing bands with a critical first step of exposure on the way to building a fanbase and getting signed — all the more important in a city where the prevalence of swing-shift jobs make it more difficult for local bands to draw crowds to shows at night.
“We have had people make it on KOMP’s requested list. Any time you can get someone on a radio station to come out and help promote the scene, it’s just an amazing thing for a band. It gives you a lot of momentum,” says Matt Norcross, a former intern on the show and veteran of the local music scene who has played drums in bands like Zero Heroes, The Killers and his current longtime band Leaving Springfield. “Being on the show also helps give a band some chops, as far as doing interviews and live sets goes. If you’re suddenly thrown into a situation like that, you can sound like an idiot really quickly.”
The exposure works both ways, giving casual music fans, as well as those too young to go to shows, in Las Vegas the opportunity to learn about local bands.
"You have a lot of people who love music and listen to the radio but don't necessarily go to shows all the time or even at all," says local show promoter and music scene staple Patrick "Pulsar" Trout, whose band Ministry of Love was recently featured as a guest on the show. "My first real exposure to local bands as a kid was hearing them on the radio."
Though the pop-punk and alt-rock scene Steele caters to has dwindled since its peak in the early 2000s, she still receives a steady stream of submissions to the show thanks to a taste-making reputation that has stayed with the show over the years. Not just anyone can make it on the air.
“There are certain things I listen for. If the recording quality is not good, if the production is not good, if the singing is not good, it won’t get played,” she says.
Several bands who have been featured on the show have gone on to get signed, including Salt Lake City rockers Royal Bliss, local hard rockers Otherwise and The Killers.
The show has a legacy unto itself, having been featured in a BBC documentary about The Killers and an indie music book out of Canada, in addition to a slate of local awards, accolades and charity work with Toys for Tots and Turkeys for Troops.
While Steele has certainly been proud of all the bands who have gone on to enjoy success, it’s those still trying to break out that are why she sticks around.
“The real reason I do this show is because there are bands that are just as good as those who are signed. It’s a question of getting in front of the right people,” she says. “There are some bands that never got signed that are worthwhile. That’s kind of why I’ve been so dedicated because I don’t think signing a band determines what’s good or not.”
It’s that very attitude and dedication, and the longevity of the show itself, that locals say helps drive the momentum of the scene.
“She doesn’t just show up, give some face time and then leave. She stays the whole night, she talks to everyone,” Norcross says of Steele’s presence at local shows. “She doesn’t have to come out and support local music. She just loves to do it. And she’s still doing it. And that’s what’s really cool to me.”