Annual Manual » Annual Manual: Nightlife

Who: Tim Johnstone

Behind the microphone with one of Boise's favorite DJs


Tim Johnstone is a familiar voice to many Boiseans. He's the music director and morning show co-host at 94.9 FM The River, a job he took after working as regional promotion director for Virgin Records in both Denver and Seattle, and serving many tours of duty in the Boise music scene.

How long did you work at the Record Exchange?

Too many years to count, 15 or something ... man. Well, let's say through college, after college, through another career and then here for another 15 years or so after that. It was awhile.

What has changed in the time you've been involved in the Boise music scene?

For one thing, there were not nearly as many places for kids to play, for the all-ages scene as there are now. There were only a couple all-ages clubs basically set up for the punk rock shows and everybody kept to their own scene for the most part. And in the last 10 years, there has been an explosion in places that support music. ... Downtown Boise used to roll up and die at 5 p.m. Literally, there was The Bouquet and couple other bars you could go see music, and now it seems like most places that are going to be open figure on having live music of some sort, even if it's dueling pianos.

Who do you want people to remember?

There was a Boise band called Famous in Spain that I still find myself humming songs that they had.

Did you make it to Treefort Music Fest?

I got to see a little bit of it. I think my favorite thing about Treefort was the energy it brought to downtown Boise, and for a couple of days there, I was like, "Am I in Boise, or am I in Austin, [Texas]?" Cause, having done SXSW for quite a long time and watching what would happen there in the streets of Austin, I just loved that there was a little bit of that, here where I live, and it made Boise feel bigger than it is, and yet at the same time smaller, because it was like our community of people who were all there showing what Boise could be for a music city. I am so impressed with the job that was done on something so big, for the first year that it happened. I just think that was remarkable.

What are some of the most memorable events you've witnessed as part of the Boise scene?

We've had some events at The Record Exchange that were fairly unbelievable. The first time Ben Harper came through Boise, he didn't do a show anywhere else. I didn't think we were going to survive that one just from the amount of people that showed up. And then there will always be the great and unfortunate and horrendous Billy Corgan experiment that was the in-store with the Smashing Pumpkins here. It was maybe the worst day of my life.

Who are you rooting for?

More than anything, I'm rooting for really great songs. Because you can have all the little production gizmos you need to make something sound like it should be played on the radio, or you can have all these people who can twist your vocals so that they sound good--which by the way is not what great records are all about--but if you don't have a great song, if you're not telling an interesting story, if you don't have sort of the basic building blocks there, then I don't think it really matters.

What hurdles does the Boise music scene face?

I would hope that Boise gets a little bit more respectful for the people that are onstage. Obviously, if you're out to have fun, to have a beer and everything, that's great, but, I still think that's one hurdle that Boise audiences have to get past. And I've lived in Seattle and Denver and been to shows all over the place, and it seems to be worse here than it is in a lot of other places. I think that's one hurdle and maybe the biggest for me personally.

View more of this interview below.

[ Video is no longer available. ]