Just like the moon’s gravitational pull causes the rise and fall of ocean tides, Moonlit Mayhem aims to create similar passion-filled sound waves.
Mario Sutka is the host of Moonlit Mayhem, which airs Thursdays from 10 p.m. to midnight. The music show, now on its fourth season, is free-flowing and listeners never know what they’re going to get— just the way Mario likes it.
“It’s experimental to a degree,” said Mario. “Not the music that I play, but just the formatting. Really, it’s just whatever I’m feeling off the top of my head.”
And he’s not just trying to supply his audience with new songs. He’s offering them a range of emotions packaged up as melody and lyrics. How do you form a human connection when there’s air waves between two people? Mario’s on a mission to find out.
During the show’s first season, Mario and his co-host at the time used to plan the music in advance and save the last five minutes for songs they chose on the spot. He soon realized that he favored the freedom and flexibility of picking the music while the show was happening.
The music began mirroring his mood in real time and almost acted as a radio diary of what his emotions were during a given show. His aim, however, isn’t to archive his own feelings. It’s to expose good music and wavy vibes.
“Once in a while, I’ll interview my friends that are in bands around San Diego. It’s really the DIY rock scene in San Diego, but I do listen to everything,” he said. “There’s a bunch of people I got to know when I went to community college and now I have a platform to promote their stuff.”
In between songs, you won’t hear Mario getting into lengthy discussions. He prefers to let the music do most of the talking. The self-proclaimed music nerd plays a healthy mix of pump-up jams and chill songs in order to produce a balance for his listeners.
“To me, a piece of music is wonderful because ignite a fire in you or calm you.”
Mario is the marketing director of KCR, in charge of the radio station’s social media and Music on the Mesa (MotM).
MotM is hosted Thursdays at the farmers’ market. A KCR booth is set up from noon to 1 p.m. and staff members play music, give away concert tickets and talk to inquisitive minds about what opportunities they can find at KCR. It’s how Mario first found out about the radio station.
He is now in charge of running the event, and though it is one more responsibility he is committed to, he doesn’t see it as a burden. Quite the opposite, in fact.
“I like my alone time but I like being around people. I need a good blend and Music on the Mesa gave me that.”
Mario is all in when it comes to KCR. He hosts Moonlit Mayhem, a two-hour show every week and did a season in the summer. He’s on the board of directors and the face of the organization on Thursdays in the farmers’ market. Mario could be considered, by all means, a college radio superstar.
However, it wasn’t always this way. He used to be a division 1 swimmer at California State University, Bakersfield and had grown accustomed to seeing himself as a swimmer first, anything else second.
He sustained a career-ending injury during his freshman year and his world seemingly began spinning off its axis. The identity he’d built for more than 10 years was suddenly gone.
“I thought I’d just cut my losses and come back home,” he said about the life-altering event.
The transition was onerous and at times, discouraging, as most students who have had to return to community college after attending a university can relate to.
Mario chose to focus his perspective on the silver linings that came with returning to his hometown of San Diego, such as attending SDSU and being clearer with his goals before graduation.
“I just kind of want to use my show, crazy enough as it sounds, as a beacon where it’s ‘Hey, somebody’s out there.’ Not to be a super emotional water sign or whatever, but it doesn’t have to suck. It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.”
So how does someone alone in a studio generate a bond with listeners they don’t get to see? Mario’s still trying to figure it out, but he knows music has the power to do it.
What does he miss most about being in elementary school?
The childlike wonderment he had about everything and the optimism about what was yet to come.