LYNN — WFNX, the Lynn-housed radio station that broke some of the biggest music acts to date, has made its visual return, thanks to former DJ Julie Kramer.
From 1983 to 2012, the alternative rock radio station had its broadcast tower in Boston but was stationed in Lynn, on a top floor of the current LynnArts building. Kramer, a North Shore native, was the station’s well-known disc jockey and staff photographer for almost 25 years.
“FNX was one of the top alternative stations in the country, breaking bands before anybody and always being on the forefront of new music,” said Kramer. “We played Nirvana before anybody and helped break Mumford & Sons. We were playing so much music before anybody else, I believe we helped create what became the alternative music movement.”
The longtime Boston radio station was also one of the first in the country to host its own big-time, multi-artist concert with the FNX Birthday Bash, according to Kramer. And as computers began to take over the music world, they began to broadcast online and became internationally known as the alternative rock station breaking iconic acts left and right.
WFNX was more than just a radio station, they were a lifestyle host, she said. Not only did they broadcast the music of local bands and rock and roll’s biggest stars, but they dove into the entertainment scene throughout the Boston community. The station was a lifeline for anyone with an FM radio.
Earlier this year, Kramer’s boyfriend rummaged through her basement and found more than 10,000 negatives of photos during her WFNX tenure. He wanted her to show off her photography skills and she wanted to walk down memory lane with listeners of the old radio station.
WFNX was sold to Clear Channel in 2012 for an estimated $14.5 million.
“I was devastated, on the floor crying, when the station ended,” said Kramer. “I couldn’t even go back on the air, I waited a day before I came back and did a final show. FNX was my life.”
After thinking about it for only a few seconds, Kramer decided to run an exhibit. The Basement Archives: Vol I: The Ghosts of WFNX debuted on Oct. 13 and will have its last showings from 1-5 p.m. at 545 Washington St. on Saturday, Oct. 20 and Sunday, Oct. 21. Kramer said she needs time to work on more negatives, but future volumes of the exhibit are already being planned.
“Over 400 people came to the first exhibit,” she said. “They were crying and emotional but everyone was so happy to reminisce and share their experiences, even some of my old FNX coworkers. It was a total love fest and a feel-good time making people remember what it was all about back then.”
Kramer plans on bringing the exhibit to Boston and across the country, from New York City to Los Angeles. She said she wanted the first one to be in Lynn so she could bring the famed radio station back home. To suit her basement archives theme, Kramer and friends built out the Washington Street space to really give the exhibit that dark basement feel.
For more than two decades, Kramer interviewed and photographed some of music’s biggest icons, including Lenny Kravitz, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Elvis Costello, and David Bowie. The list of legends goes on and that is one of many reasons why Kramer has future volumes of The Basement Archives already on her mind.
“Anybody who was anyone came to that station if they were playing in town,” she said. “I got to meet and photograph some of my idols and have special moments with people that helped shape my musical life.”
Kramer has a true appreciation for her old photographs, given the times were very different back then and music lovers were unable to just whip out cellphones and grab a quick “selfie.” She said the artists were always real cool and happy to take downtown walks with her throughout Lynn and pose for some photos.
As a full-time employee for online radio station Indie617.com and a mother of a 13-year-old and a 17-year-old, Kramer is putting together these exhibits in her, very minimal, spare time. For those unable to attend Volume I’s last showings, they can check out some of Kramer’s photos at JulieKramer.com.
“FNX was the soundtrack to a lot of people’s lives growing up,” said Kramer. “I wanted to show people this slice of life and the amazing time we had together breaking new music.”