Cast a new light on the Bay Area with these podcasts

Mikaela Beberman

 

From day-to-day life in San Quentin State Prison to mold inspection companies, Bay Area podcasts cover a wide array of themes. I’ve reviewed three of them based on several key points: creativity, engagement and production quality. 

 

Ear Hustle*:

 

My rating: 5 stars

Available on: Apple Podcasts, RadioPublic, Google Play, Stitcher, Pandora, RSS and Spotify 

*Rated explicit for foul language and mature content

 

Before I heard about Ear Hustle, I didn’t know that San Quentin prisoners produced a podcast. Once I started listening, I was not only amazed by the wide array of topics they cover, but I subsequently learned about the inner-workings of the U.S. criminal justice system through the podcast’s unique angle. The award-winning podcast is hosted by Earlonne Woods, a former prisoner at San Quentin, and Nigel Poor, a visual artist. The two guide the listener across various themes such as sex trafficking and falling in love with prison volunteers. From the moment I first clicked the play button, I was drawn in by the intense theme music. The slow drum beats allow for smooth transitions between sources, while more suspenseful or sad beats are added to echo the mood of the stories, producing an anticipatory response. The sources go on reflective tangents about their narratives, something that also invites the listener to reflect on how the podcast humanizes criminals, leaving a lasting impression long after the episode ends.

 

Bay Curious

 

My rating: 4.5 stars

Available on: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, NPR One, Stitcher, Spotify and RSS

 

Ever wondered about the wild parrots of San Francisco? Or why we hate the word “Frisco”? Bay Curious, a KQED podcast, answers these questions and more. The podcast stands out by taking questions from

listeners and investigating them. The people whose questions are chosen even get featured in the podcast, creating an interactive relationship between creator and  listener. This podcast was conceptualized by Olivia Allen-Price, the producer and host of Bay Curious. The peppy theme song and Allen-Price’s engaged voice all contribute to the bright mood of the podcast. Bay Curious is also a sonic experience, which effectively sets the scene for the listener. In one episode, Allen-Price explores the origins of the Bay Area favorite Dutch crunch bread, and visits a bakery where she records the sounds around her. She even provides a few seconds of bread ASMR, adding a humorous spin to the podcast. The one downside to the podcast is that sometimes the conversations can drag on. Aside from its minor faults, Bay Curious teaches the listener to think deeper about both the history and current events in the Bay Area with a fun twist, making it the perfect podcast to listen to on the go.

 

Rightnowish

 

My rating: 3 stars

Available on: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, NPR One, Stitcher, Spotify and RSS

 

Like Bay Curious, Rightnowish is a KQED podcast, but hosted by Pendarvis Harshaw. It covers local projects in the East Bay, especially art, and investigates how they impact the community––particularly people of color. Harshaw is a great conversationalist who easily makes his sources comfortable and fully engaged in the podcast. While Rightnowish does cover intriguing topics, such as Oakland’s Latinx game developers and masculinity, Harshaw does not go into as much depth as the other two podcasts. This is possibly due to the fact that the episodes are shorter, but the uniqueness of his topics invites further elaboration, which is something Harshaw should take more advantage of. There was also an editing mishap in one episode that interrupted the flow of conversation. Rightnowish seems to target artists and people from the East Bay as its audience more than anyone else, making Ear Hustle and Bay Curious the better choices for North Bay listeners.