It’s a project Osbaldo “Oz” Lucero, Jose “Posole” Lopez and Juan “Cujo” Hernandez started out of sheer annoyance with how the city of Salinas is portrayed in the media, and the perception there’s nothing for young people to do. They started it out of annoyance with their own annoyance, too, because if they were going to sit around and complain, wouldn’t it be just as easy to do it with an audience and maybe make good things happen?
What the three longtime friends did was as simple as hooking up some cheap microphones to a cell phone, hitting record, and talking about anything and everything even vaguely related to the Salad Bowl of the World. They are freewheeling, profane, amused and amusing: Oz, Posole and Cujo, friends since high school in the mid-2000s, are the trio behind the Salinas Underground Podcast, or SUP. As in, “’Sup.’”
“We want you to know what the hell is going on in the city of Salinas,” says Oz, the group’s de facto spokesman.
The trio records its show every Sunday night at the XL Publichouse in Oldtown Salinas (or, if a guest is under the age of 21, at the adjacent Mi Tierra restaurant). They sometimes change it up and do a livestream from one of the venues at Salinas’ First Friday Artwalk in Oldtown. It depends on their moods.
Topics are equally mood-driven. The first podcast of the New Year saw Cujo – the nickname comes from the Stephen King book – talking about a New Year’s Eve party where it was 39 degrees Fahrenheit and everyone was outdoors “freezing their asses off.” Another recent show had them wondering about small business owners being burned out of their establishments during police protests in Ferguson, Missouri. In late November, the trio livecasted from outside the National Steinbeck Center during the Holiday Parade of Lights, an event Posole wryly equates to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, only much, much smaller.
“Isn’t honking against the law?” Cujo wonders during the parade podcast.
“There’s no rules, dude,” Oz responds.
In the SUP universe, there really are no rules. Oz says the podcast idea came to him after he launched a blog – also out of frustration at how the outside world perceives Salinas – that focused on the local soccer scene. The success of his salinassoccer.com led to a gig writing about the San Jose Earthquakes for lastwordonsports.com. But Salinas, and its image issue, remained in his head.
“I love to read, but I realize there are a lot of people who don’t read, and this gave me a different medium,” he says. “The Adam Corolla podcast sucked me in. It was great, uncensored radio on demand.”
Oz and Cujo were classmates at Alvarez High, while Posole went to Alisal High. But the three went to the same house shows, helping their friends lug instruments and hook up sound equipment in backyards and garages around town. Early last year, Oz asked Cujo, who plays bass in the local metal band War Corpse, the simplest way to get something recorded. Cujo provided the mics and they played around with podcasting apps.
“If you have a cellphone, you can do a podcast,” Oz says. “It’s just that easy.”
Of course, there’s a greater meaning to the podcast than three friends sitting around telling jokes and riffing on life behind the Lettuce Curtain.
“It fills a niche that is not heavily furnished, and that’s the niche for the millennials in Salinas,” says Dan Vorhies, a commercial realtor who also runs an open mic night during the First Friday Artwalk. “Even when they’re being goofy, they’re still smart. They produce a show that’s attractive to the young, urban, smart population in Salinas.”
What the podcast holds for the new year: A burrito contest Oz has been trying to get off the ground for months. He’s modeling it after the now-famous Burrito Bracket contest held by ESPN’s fivethirtyeight.com blog, in which blogger Anna Maria Barry-Jester and data geek Nate Silver ate their way through 64 burritos around the country.
The SUP contest is a wee bit smaller, but to Oz, it’s no less important. He’s lined up six participating restaurants, all downtown. They’ll livecast the contest from the Salinas Farmers Market sometime in the next two months.
Oz says the trio is working its way toward having standard segments on its shows, like news, upcoming events and a “metal minute” focusing on metal music. He’s thinking about making the show more political, he also doesn’t want to be concerned with self-censorship.
“We want to be a new-age bulletin board for Salinas,” he says, and adds later, “You need a lot of energy to make a difference in this county.”