When non-locals tune into the newly revamped 98/9 MORE-FM radio station, they will hear a genre-bending blend of rock en español, old alternative-rock and new alternative rock. They will hear a DJ speaking in English and Spanish. Or sometimes Spanglish. They will wonder if they have somehow landed on another planet.
But when locals from both sides of the San Diego/Tijuana border hear the mix of English and Spanish and the sounds of Maldita Vecindad, vintage Depeche Mode and new Chicano Batman, they will know exactly where they are: Home.
“One of the things that we are definitely trying to reflect first is that border culture is very different from anywhere else in the country,” said Cesar Gonzalez, the man behind San Diego’s beloved Mama Testa restaurant and 98/9’s new disc-jockey and spirit guide.
“For people here, going to Mexico is not an international trip. You’re just driving to TJ for lunch. Or if you’re in Tijuana, you’re just driving up to San Diego to go to Walmart. We don’t see it as going to a whole other country. We want the music we play to be like that. We want to tell people that music will unite us. Instruments might be called different things in different languages, but they sound the same. We have so much more in common than we like to acknowledge.”
At the moment, the playlist is still dominated by such rock en español stars as Café Tacuba, Soda Stereo and Aterciopelados.But MORE-FM has a long-running tradition of playing old-school alternative rock on the weekends, and it recently added Portugal the Man and Cage the Elephant to its weekday playlist. Bands on programmer Michael Halloran’s future must-play list include Daft Punk, LCD Soundsystem and San Diego “Cholo goth” band, Prayers.
The Tijuana-based station’s transformation into what MORE-FM is calling a “Baja California/SoCal radio station” will happen gradually. Gonzalez will be the only DJ for awhile, and Halloran and fellow programmer Andres Mendiolea will be slowly adding more old and new alternative rock to the rock en español lineup. But the station’s roots will be planted in homegrown soil.