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Apr 15th
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Love Your Local Band

Steep Ravine

Steep Ravine

For the members of bluegrass/folk band Steep Ravine, springboards are important. “Bluegrass is a springboard for our compositional ideas,” says violinist Jan Purat. “A lot of bluegrass bands play traditional bluegrass or learn a Bill Monroe mandolin solo and play it note for note. But with us, each player brings something special to the table when they’re soloing. We’re not intentionally trying to make these songs sound new, but that’s what pours out of us.”

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Features

Fringe Folk

Fringe Folk

Janis Ian: still a voice for the marginalized

As the 18th-century writer Jonathan Swift once observed, “When a true genius appears, you can know him by this sign: that all the dunces are in a confederacy against him.” Gender bias aside, that statement rang especially true in the mid-’60s, when the racial tension of the times voiced itself through a 14-year-old folk singer/songwriter with a genius-level IQ. Sung from the perspective of a white girl being condemned for having a black boyfriend, Janis Ian’s song “Society’s Child” earned its precocious young composer numerous death threats. Strangers spit in her food at restaurants, tripped her at concerts and sent her copious amounts of hate mail, sometimes placing razor blades in the envelopes to make her cut her fingers. One especially enterprising dunce (or perhaps a confederacy of them) even burned down an Atlanta radio station for playing “Society’s Child.”

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Love Your Local Band

Dan Frechette and Laurel Thomsen

Dan Frechette and Laurel Thomsen

Maybe it was fate. Or perhaps it’s simply yet another example of social media's power to bring people together. Whatever the case, local violinist Laurel Thomsen says it seems as if she and prolific Canadian singer-songwiter Dan Frechette were made to collaborate. The 36-year-old Frechette, a Manitoba-native who has penned more than 1,300 songs in his career, first reached out to the 31-year-old Thomsen after seeing one of her performances on YouTube. "All of a sudden, I saw this video," Frechette recalls. "I thought, ‘Wow! That woman really has it.'"

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Features

Widowspeak’s Golden Hour

Widowspeak’s Golden Hour

Dream pop duo pays homage to the ’70s with pastoral imagery and matching jackets

On TLC’s ’90s anthem “Waterfalls” the fearless lady trio preaches, “Don’t go chasing waterfalls. Please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to.”

But when it came to Widowspeak’s sophomore LP, Almanac, release in January, the Brooklyn, N.Y. dream pop duo made the bold decision to ignore that advice.

The band chose to feature a photograph of a waterfall on the cover, not solely for its beauty, but because it provides thematic and geographical context to the album, which was recorded in a 100-year-old barn in the Hudson River Valley in New York State.

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Love Your Local Band

Steven Graves

Steven Graves

Local singer-songwriter Steven Graves was a land management consultant in Southern California for almost 25 years before he retired in 2011 to pursue a full-time music career. The switch has been gratifying for him. “When you have a career doing something you’re passionate about that you feel has meaning, then that’s very satisfying,” Graves says. “Not everybody can do that, so I am grateful I’m able to.” And Graves is not the only one.

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Features

Longing for the Sun

Longing for the Sun

Seattle-based production duo creates moody atmosphere with effected vocal samples

You take a sound—any sound—record it and then change its nature by a multiplicity of operations.”

So begins Summer’s Gone, the debut LP from Seattle-based electronic duo Odesza, with a distinguished-sounding gentleman explaining the basics of sound editing. “You record it at different speeds, you play it backwards, you add it to itself over and over again. You adjust filters, echoes, acoustic qualities. You combine segments of magnetic tape. By these means and many others you create sounds which no one has ever heard before.”

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Love Your Local Band

Sean Ryan Duo

Sean Ryan Duo

There are plenty of guitarists, bassists, keyboardists and singers who will tell you that music is the only thing they could ever see themselves doing. But for Sean Ryan, music is just about the only thing he has ever done—literally. At 25 years old, Ryan has more experience working as a professional musician than many of his contemporaries will have by their mid-30s. He began drumming for his father's smooth jazz trio when he was 11, squeezing in home-school lessons in between gigs at clubs, private parties, weddings and restaurants.

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Features

Tight-lipped

Tight-lipped

Seattle band, Pickwick, leaves its songs open to interpretation

Rarely does a band avoid putting an autobiographical slant on its music. But when it comes to Pickwick’s forthcoming release, Can’t Talk Medicine, due out on March 12, singer/songwriter Galen Disston and multi-instrumentalist Kory Kruckenberg are determined to keep their distance.

“Each of the songs on the record is about an idea, character, moment or story I heard about that seemed to be completely without context,” Disston says. “They seemed completely original to me. None of it is personal or autobiographical.”

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Love Your Local Band

The Subtle Tease

The Subtle Tease

Nothing stays the same, for better or for worse. It's something that Jon Banda, frontman for The Subtle Tease, thinks about often. Just before the alternative indie rock/electronica quartet from Watsonville formed in 2009, Banda was in a dark place. “I was totally secluded and really having a hard time getting through a couple things,” he says. Serendipitously, Banda bumped into an old friend from Watsonville High School, bassist Clay Alves, and the first thing Alves asked him was if he was still playing guitar.

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Features

Perfecting Imperfection

Perfecting Imperfection

‘Old soul’ singer Brad Mackeson rejects overproduction

These days, you aren’t going to surprise anyone in the world of indie rock by attempting to breathe new life into old folk chord progressions. A quick glance at some of this year’s biggest Grammy winners will tell you that.

But there is a reason that a generation of up-and-coming musicians have been dusting off old Bob Dylan records and finding a use for the harmonicas that were shelved during the ’80s and ’90s. Folk music resonates with people in a way other genres can’t.

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Love Your Local Band

Eliquate

Eliquate

When Elliot Wright was attending UC Santa Cruz in 2006, he would show up at parties, plug his iPod into a sound system and rock the microphone. “When I moved to Santa Cruz I found so many amazing musicians that I realized I had to step up my game,” says Wright. That solo act evolved into Eliquate, a five-member hip-hop outfit featuring Jamie Schnetzler (guitar), Cosmo Stevens (bass), Dan Wells (drums) and Tanner Christiansen (samples, keys, percussion).

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Features

Making The Pieces Fit

Making The Pieces Fit

Violinist and looping master Kishi Bashi to play Moe's Alley

It took the virtuosic violinist Kaoru Ishibashi—a man known for his work with indie-prog masters such as Of Montreal and Regina Spector—more than a year to get to the point where he was comfortable enough to play his solo material in front of an audience.

It wasn't writer's block, nor was it due to him being a perfectionist. To understand why it took so long before Ishibashi, who goes by the stage name Kishi Bashi, was ready to tour, one needs to simply look up his performances online. His NPR Tiny Desk Concert is a good start.

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Aries Solar Festival

Sunday is Palm Sunday. Symbolizing victory and triumph, paradise, sacrifice and martyrdom, the Pisces World Teacher entered Jerusalem (City of Peace) on a donkey (signifying humility).

 

Sugar: The New Tobacco?

Proposed bill would require warning labels on sugary drinks Will soda and other saccharine libations soon come with a health warning? They will if it’s up to our state senator, Bill Monning (D-Carmel). On Feb. 27, Monning proposed first-of-its-kind legislation that would require a consumer warning label be placed on sugar-sweetened beverages sold in California. SB 1000, also known as the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Safety Warning Act, was proposed to provide vital information to consumers about the harmful effects of consuming sugary drinks, such as sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, and sweetened teas.

 

Animal Magnetism

Bear, mouse dare to be friends in charming ‘Ernest and Celestine’ It’s not exactly Romeo and Juliet. It’s not even a romance, although it is a love story about two individuals separated by prejudice who find the courage to form an unshakable bond despite the rules and traditions that keep them apart.

 

Printer's Devil

Iconic editor Buz Bezore, who died last month at the age of 68, left a huge mark on Santa Cruz journalism   Eventually, it’s all a blur. You live long enough, and maybe a little too hard at times, so that when you hit the rewind button of faded memory, it moves so fast that you can hardly sort and gather the details. One scene skips to the next, and to the next, without proper editing or sequencing. Chronologies get distorted. Which came first: stealing the chickens or coloring the eggs?
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Foodie File: Yan Flower

Yan Belleville has owned Yan Flower, an affordable Chinese restaurant in Downtown Santa Cruz, with her husband Raymond for eight years, and it’s a family affair. Her brother, sister, sister-in-law, and cousins work there too. Locals know the joint for its massive lunch specials starting at $4.

 

How would you feel about a tech industry boom in Santa Cruz?

I feel like it would ruin the small old-town feeling of Santa Cruz. It wouldn’t be the same Surf City kind of vacation town that it is. Antoinette BennettSanta Cruz | Construction Management

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

Comanche Cellars

Pinot Noir 2010 I first tasted Comanche Cellars Pinot when a friend brought a bottle to share over lunch at Center Street Grill in Santa Cruz. Upon trying it, I knew I had to find out more about it.