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Dec 25th
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Features

The Evolutionists

The Evolutionists

Bluegrass band-turned-rockers embrace change, new challenges

Kenny Feinstein, the multi-instrumentalist, singer and sole remaining founding member of Water Tower Bucket Boys, has seen his share of changes occur in the band over the years. For example, their moniker has recently been shortened to Water Tower.

“We took ‘Bucket Boys’ off our name because we lost our banjo player and gained a drummer about a year and a half ago,” Feinstein explains. “We’ve started leaving bluegrass music behind to a certain extent, from a traditional standpoint, because we’re a lot more rockin’ now. So we changed the named to just Water Tower because Bucket Boys has that traditional sound to it and makes it sound like the Soggy Bottom Boys.”

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Love Your Local Band

Amanda West

Amanda West

Amanda West started singing sometime after she began walking, but before uttering her first words. Or that's what she's been told, at least. "My mother says that I sang before I talked," the Santa Cruz-based singer-songwriter recounts. "I just always loved singing." When the 11-year-old West picked up a guitar for the first time—a cheap garage-sale find belonging to her "hippy" parents—she says it was more in the interest of having "someone accompany me when I sang" than out of a particular urge to strum. It makes sense when you think about it.

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Features

Waiting for Snow to Melt

Waiting for Snow to Melt

José González on the chilly atmosphere pervading Junip’s mesmerizing new record

Ten years ago, I used to have music as my hobby. My main thing was studying biochemistry,” reflects José González, from his home in Gothenburg, Sweden. “Nowadays, I have music as my work, but also as my hobby.”

As a full-time musician, the established indie folk singer/guitarist has had the opportunity to put out two LPs. He also has a knack for composing covers that rival their originals—Kylie Minogue’s “Hand on Your Heart” and The Knife’s “Heartbeats” being two prime examples.

But these days, it’s his work with Tobias Winterkorn (keys) and Elias Araya (drums) that has the internet abuzz.

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Love Your Local Band

The Inciters

The Inciters

Betsy Jane Kniffen may have performed the national anthem at the opening Santa Cruz Derby Girls bout in March, but the lead siren of The Inciters has no intention of going solo. “The Inciters are a team,” she says, “and I’m honored to be a part of it.” While Kniffen fronts the 11-piece electric-soul outfit, her four back-up singers and band put on a mesmerizing synchronized show.

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Features

The Gypsy

The Gypsy

French-born jazz vocalist Cyrille Aimée lives for musical freedom and improvisation

Cyrille Aimée is a musical gypsy. Her sound incorporates elements of Latin American, American, Brazilian and other styles of jazz, she has recorded albums as a duet with Diego Figueiredo, she currently performs with the Surreal (same pronunciation as her first name) Band, and she is working on a new album with yet another band.

As it happens, Aimée can actually blame gypsies for her love of jazz. “I grew up in Samois-sur-Seine, which is a little town in France where Django Reinhardt used to live,” she says. “Every year they have the Django Festival in his honor, and so gypsies from all parts of Europe come and honor him and play guitar. I started hanging out with the gypsies and became obsessed with their music, their way of living, their freedom. What drew me to jazz music was the freedom of it, all the improvisation, and the fact that it’s a style of music that is constantly changing.”

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Love Your Local Band

Transoceana

Transoceana

Danny Moriarty’s musical influences have been known to impact his life beyond his local rock band, Transoceana. “I went through two periods,” confesses the singer, guitarist and songwriter. “I borrowed Bono’s mullet look from the ’80s for a while, and then I dressed like I was from the ’70s and had big hair like Jimmy Page.” Bono and Page are also symbolic of Transoceana’s evolution as a band during their three years together.

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Love Your Local Band

The Tilt

The Tilt

Although Jesse Malley, lead singer of the outlaw country, blues and rock ’n’ roll band The Tilt, no longer lives in Santa Cruz, she was born and raised here and this is where her love of music and performance began. “My dad worked at The Catalyst for 27 years, so I got to see a lot of music acts come through town,” she says. “Music always seemed to me to be such an incredible way to express yourself that I just stumbled upon my voice and jumped into it.” That jump eventually led to Malley heading down to San Diego to pursue a music career, and her band The Tilt has just released their full-length debut, Howlin’.

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Features

Making Sense of Soul

Making Sense of Soul

Allen Stone wants to give R&B back some of its depth

Whether fairly or unfairly, R&B and soul music often get typecast. Much of the music is groove-inducing and has an overtly romantic, sensual or sexual side to it, and the suggestive lyrics only reinforce this mood. That is fine and well, but for R&B and soul singer Allen Stone, it is not enough.

“I love music that’s about love, and I love R&B songs, but I also like songs that have influence on culture,” Stone says. "I believe that if you’re given a microphone you need to use it in a positive way, and I feel like pop culture, more often than not, doesn’t. I think that [pop stars] are very bad stewards of the microphone they’ve been given, and the voices they’ve been given, and they tend to talk about pretty futile and shallow things, rather than subjects which uplift the children in our culture, or the teenage culture, or the young adult generation. If you’re given a microphone, you should say something that’s deeper than, ‘I’m going to the club and I’m going to drink cognac.’”

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Love Your Local Band

The Driftless

The Driftless

Megan Saunders and the rest of the members of The Driftless—Blair McLaughlin, Jeffrey Kissell and Rob Smith—love their band. “We have a good time with it,” says Saunders (mandolin, banjo, vocals). “I’ve been in bands off and on for a lot of my life and sometimes it can take a lot of work, but with this group there isn’t any of the ego or drama you tend to get. ... It’s fun.” Not only is this evident when speaking with Saunders, who will use some variation of this quote roughly half a dozen times during our interview, but you can sense it in their music, too.

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Features

Once a Junkie…

Once a Junkie…

Coming out of a cold winter with Cowboy Junkies’ Michael Timmins

The title The Wilderness does a fine job of conveying the stark tone of the Canadian alt-folk/rock group Cowboy Junkies’ newest release, whose dominant themes are loss, loneliness and desperation. Much of the album’s somber feel can be chalked up to the state of confusion that the band’s guitarist and chief songwriter, Michael Timmins, recently found himself in as he grappled with relationship, family and aging issues.
As Timmins puts it, The Wilderness is about being at a point in life “where you look up, and you realize that you’re at a place of great beauty in some ways, but also a place which can be a little bit frightening. You’re a little bit lost: You never really expected to find yourself here, and you don’t really know where you are.”

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Love Your Local Band

Bryn Loosley

Bryn Loosley

Bryn Loosley is methodical when it comes to his music. “If you locked me in a room for two hours and told me I could come out after I’d written a song, I’d still be in there at the end of the two hours,” Loosley chuckles. This helps explain why his forthcoming release, Blood Year, is coming out five years after his last record, 2008’s The Wrecker. A full-time teacher, Loosley cannot write, record and tour as often as other musicians do, so sometimes he has to challenge himself.

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Love Your Local Band

The Gembrokers

The Gembrokers

“The heart of the ocean beats in mine,” The Gembrokers confess on the stripped-down track “Mountain Lion,” off their 2012 self-titled release. This notion—a tranquil, undulating heartbeat—permeates the trio’s sound. But unlike the sea, which has existed since the beginning of time, The Gembrokers came together just four and a half years ago, when Dorothy (guitar/banjo/autoharp/harmonica) saw two people—Chelsea (slide guitar/fiddle) and Amelia (guitar/banjo/accordion/fiddle) - playing music in a UC Santa Cruz meadow.

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Dancing In the Rain

District Attorney Bob Lee’s death in October stunned the Santa Cruz community, but he had battled cancer fiercely—and privately—for more than a decade. Now one of his closest friends reveals the remarkable inside story

 

Giving and Giving, Then Giving Some More

2014 is almost over. Wednesday, Dec. 17, the Jewish Festival of Light, Hanukkah, begins. We are in our last week of Sag and last two weeks of December. Sunday, Dec. 21 is winter Solstice, as the sun enters Capricorn (3:30 p.m. for the west coast). Soon after, the Capricorn new moon occurs (5:36 p.m. for the west coast)—the last new moon of 2014. Sunday morning Uranus in Aries (revolution, revelation) is stationary direct (retro since July 22). Uranus/Aries create things new and needed to anchor the new culture and civilization (Aquarius). We will see revolutionary change in 2015. Capricorn new moon, building-the-personality seed thought, is, “Let ambition rule and let the door to initiation and freedom stand wide (open).” Capricorn is a gate—where matter returns to spirit. But the gate is unseen until the Ajna Center (third eye), Diamond Light of Direction, opens. Winter solstice is the longest day of darkness of the year. The sun’s rays resting at the Tropic of Capricorn (southern hemisphere) symbolize the Christ (soul’s) light piercing the heart of the Earth, remaining there for three days, till Holy Night (midnight Thursday morning). Then the sun’s light begins to rise. It is the birth of the new light (holy child) for the world. A deep calm and stillness pervades the world.The entire planet is revivified, re-spiritualized. All hearts beating reflect this Light. And so throughout the Earth there’s a radiant “impress” (impressions, pictures) given to humanity of the World Mother and her Child. The star Sirius (love/direction) and the constellation Virgo the mother shines above. For gift giving, give to those in need. Give and give and then give some more. This creates the new template of giving and sharing for the new world.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Pinned Down

Actors shine in true-crime wrestling drama ‘Foxcatcher’
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Best Bites of 2014

A look back at the year in good taste

 

What downtown business is good for both one-stop shopping and last-minute gifts?

The Homeless Garden Project store. Because it is a community effort and has really useful and beautiful things, and allows you to connect with a lot of folks who are doing great work in Santa Cruz. Miriam Greenberg, Santa Cruz, UCSC Professor

 

Vino Tabi Winery

One of Santa Cruz’s most happening areas to go wine tasting is in the westside’s Swift Street Courtyard complex. Ever since a group of about a dozen wineries got together and formed Surf City Vintners (SCV), the place has been a hive of activity, and a wine-tasting mecca. Adding to the mix is the lively Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing beer company—making Swift Street Courtyard a perfect spot for a glass of wine or a pitcher of ale.

 

Betty’s Eat Inn

Yes, she’s a real person; no, this isn’t her