The boombox is like a bodily extension to Miguel Nuñez.
“I'm new-school to the old-school. But I saw the boombox, and I just knew immediately I could be that guy walking around the city with a boombox, blasting music,” Nuñez said.
Nuñez goes by the name BoomBoxxChuck and is well-known for his passion for vintage music systems.
“I'm recognized for something I never even thought would happen in my life, which is carrying a boombox and rocking a style like that,” he said.
Born in the 1980’s, an era when boomboxes were prolific in urban American pop culture, Nuñez's love for the style and music of the time started at an early age.
“The elements are like graffiti, DJing, break dancing, b-boy and b-girl, and MCing, which is like rapping.” he said. “Everyone could have a style, everyone could be themselves. I think that's what a lot of the culture promoted in the early days.”
Fast forward to today, when Nuñez is not working at Pokéz vegetarian Mexican restaurant, he is often seen walking the city streets, audibly spreading his love of retro beats to all who cross his path.
“One of the things I appreciate about the most is the interactions I have with people,” he said. “I have conversations with all kinds of people, all kinds of walks of life, all ages, all ethnicities, and I just see something so sacred in that.”
Nuñez’s collection of boomboxes is made up of specially selected personal favorites. The only thing hindering his acquisitions is lack of space to store them.
“I will hunt them down every weekend, every chance I get, every flea market,” he said. “When you see one out of nowhere you test it out and negotiate the price.”
Even if a machine is not fully functional, Nuñez says there is always a use for it as a prop for videos and photography.
The bigger the box, the bigger the size and number of batteries it requires. Nuñez holds hope that a battery company might take note of his mass consumption and possibly help him along the way.
“Batteries are a very consistent part of rocking a boombox, playing a boombox. It's a trip how many batteries I may have gone through,” he said. “Eventually, I want to send the battery company a portfolio like, ‘hey, what's up?,’ I could be a potential marketing gadget.”
Audio cassette tapes are becoming more like treasured vinyl. Nuñez says tape sales, especially for local bands, have made a resurgence. He says most record stores in San Diego sell cassette tapes.
“Something about the old fashioned physical copy, reading the credits and the details, or the special shout-outs,” he said.
In a time when technology has allowed us to have so much more than we did in the past, to BoomBoxxChuck, it is the past that feeds the present. For him, the self-expression born of retro culture will always play on a loop.
“I'm just doing me and playing my role, and that's all I want to do at the end of the day
— serve my purpose,” he said. “If that inspires people or encourages people to learn about the culture or encourages people to be themselves, then I'm all for that.”