Rockin’ Rags: The styles and sounds of KUSF’s Rock ‘n’ Swap

Clare Henry, Kasey Chesnutt, and Lillian Thomas (shown above) coordinated with classic Coogiesque sweaters. Photo illustration by Samantha Avila Griffin/SF Foghorn

Channeling Haight-Ashbury in the ‘70s and the grunge movement of the ‘90s, Rock ‘N Swap is a runway for vendors and students alike. KUSF’s annual event took place this Sunday, Apr. 7 in the McLaren Complex, and reigns as “Northern California’s largest record fair,” according to KUSF, USF’s radio station.

Within the first hour of the event, I counted a tally of at least 10 flannels, five Carhartt or bomber jackets, two floral button ups and about five beanies, one being worn including by the head and heart of KUSF herself, General Manager Miranda Morris. 

“This swap feels closer to pre-pandemic,” said Morris, reflecting on the past two and a half years when the swap was trying to regain its footing as a major event for the station. “We’re selling out of vendor tables pretty consistently,” she said.

Next to the rock-pop stand lived a $5 clothing rack, run by vendor Greg Martinez, with a wide variety from Bob Marley to Biggie, Nirvana to Led Zeppelin, Prince to The Beatles, even including a Lizzo shirt. I was able to snag a Nirvana and AC/DC T-shirt — please do not ask me to name five songs.

Vinyls at the event ranged from ‘90s alternative rock to the classics of the ‘80s, and all the way back to pre-‘30s jazz. Many tables had a stockpile of Black music, including some of the founders of the rock genre, Ray Charles and Prince. Alongside these were the vinyl recordings of soul music legends like Bessie Smith, The Temptations and The Supremes. 

Across the way sat two USF professors, not to teach but to sell. Spanish professor David Mendez-Alvarez sold classical vinyls and CD’s. Next to Mendez-Alvarez was Giacomo Fiore, a professor in the music department, selling not records he had collected, but rather vinyl records he had recorded himself and released in 2014 and 2022. “I think I’m one of the only ones that does this,” said Fiore.

Stationed towards the entrance was Thomas Navarro, a collector of Latin-American music. Dressed in Columbian leather and jeans, he looked like a true rockin’ biker from the “Grease” era. Navarro’s collection dates all the way back to the band Los Dug Dug’s self-titled release in 1971, to Shakira’s most recent release “Las Mujeres Ya No Lloran,” once again showing the variety of styles in the music collector scene.

USF students get free entry to the Rock ‘N Swap while visitors pay $3. (Left to right, Yan Chen, Georgia Engle) Photo illustration by Samantha Avila Griffin/SF Foghorn

The Rock ‘N Swap has “always been a fundraiser… The money that we generate from this goes to support the program,” Morris said. And the Swap is not just for the DJ’s, collectors and sellers, it is purposefully accessible for college students to engage with the music scene for under $25. When you’re in college and start discovering new music, especially in SF – it’s a good crossroads whether you’re a new DJ or an experienced mixer or producer in the music scene.” 

Editor-in-Chief: Megan Robertson, Chief Copy Editor: Sophia Siegel, Managing Editor: Jordan Premmer, Scene Editor: Inés Ventura

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