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Love Your Local Band

Mr Free

Mr Free

Geoff Gary, known to most by his stage name, Mr Free, has lived everywhere from Cairo to Tokyo and held many diverse jobs along the way—one valet job at a Kauai hotel even led him to freestyle rap for the rock band Creed. “They came to stay at the hotel and we ended up kickin’ it,” remembers Free. “One thing led to another, and I rhymed for them.” Free, who first began dabbling in hip-hop during his time at the University of Maine, was moved by the band’s response to his lyrics. “I never really took it too seriously until I met Creed,” he says. “They even said to me, before they even heard my music, ‘Do you do anything musical? Because you have the presence of a star.’ … That’s what got me started—kind of this belief in me that transcended my own belief.” Following their serendipitous meeting, Creed’s lead vocalist/lyricist, Scott Stapp, took Free under his wing—a mentorship that would eventually lead to Free opening for Creed and rapper Common on tour. Currently based in Santa Cruz, Free’s energetic reggae-infused tracks are reminiscent of the boom bap-style prevalent in East Coast hip-hop, which is characterized by a hard bass drum and snapping snare. Thought-provoking lyrical content is the foundation for his danceable hits, like “Not Guilty” off his latest album, Edge. In the song, Free puts the planet on trial, and everyone—from Bob Marley to Gandhi—comes to testify. While he acknowledges that dirty club bangers are often the big money-makers, Free favors quality over quantity. “As a writer, there’s times when I’m listening to a beat and I’m like, I could easily make a raunchy song to this,” he explains, “but no, let me choose a different path and really stand firm and say something.”

 INFO: 8 p.m. Thursday, Mar. 8. The Crow's Nest, 2218 E. Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz. $5. 476-4560.

Features

It’s (Not) Always Sunny

It’s (Not) Always Sunny

Colorado band, Bad Weather California, embraces chaos, crafts accidental rock masterpieces

"I died once," Chris Adolf says matter of factly. It was the winter of 1999 as best he can recall. While winding down Highway 65 from Mesa, Colo. on the way to Grand Junction, the driver of the Jeep Cherokee he was in overcorrected and sent the vehicle rolling. He flew out of the sunroof and landed 30 feet from the vehicle, airways clogged with mud and snow, his face mangled, struggling to escape the clutch of death that ultimately came, if only fleetingly.

Adolf, lead singer and songwriter for the Denver-based band Bad Weather California, can hardly recall what happened next. Apparently, a team of ski patrol medics and vacationing doctors came upon the accident and kept him alive until the helicopter lifted him from the cold, icy road.

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Features

Homeward Bound

Homeward Bound

Girls’ J.R. White talks about his formative years in Santa Cruz

s with any artistically inclined town, the music venues in Santa Cruz are of a cyclical nature, spaces opening and closing, scenes and genres moving from one locale to another. But aside from its annual New Year’s Eve galas, the Cocoanut Grove—a local institution of 105 years—has stood outside it all, reveling in the quiet dignity of its big band and swing roots of the ’30s and ’40s.

That’s all about to change—and there couldn’t be a more appropriate act to usher in a new era for the venue than Girls, an indie rock band clearly harkening back to an older one. The duo, made up of singer/guitarist Christopher Owens and bassist Chet “J.R.” White, leans toward Buddy Holly sensibilities (if Buddy Holly used opiates as a creative catalyst), and will bring the time warp with it when it visits the venue on March 1.

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Love Your Local Band

The Joni Show

The Joni Show

For Jayme Kelly Curtis, the inspiration for “The Joni Show”—a Joni Mitchell tribute concert at Kuumbwa Jazz on March 3—reaches back to Curtis’ girlhood in an artist colony on Cape Cod. The Felton-based singer-songwriter remembers herself as a 15-year-old putting on headphones with one of Mitchell’s double records open on her lap, and reading along with the hand-written lyrics. “Directly connecting the eye and the ears to the brain in an intimate, closed-in experience like that—it was just a magical refuge to be with her,” she says. Mitchell continues to affect Curtis’s life today. “There’s not a day that goes by that I’m in a conversation or dealing with some situation that one of her lyrics doesn’t pop into my head,” says Curtis. An accomplished musician in her own right with three albums, including 2008’s Mid Life Chrysalis, Curtis hopes to share that “magical refuge” with the community with the help of 19 local musicians.

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Features

Synthetic Soul

Synthetic Soul

Denver disco and electro-funk trio Juno What?! will move you

When Joey Porter sings onstage, it’s easy to get distracted by the giant straw that stretches from his mouth all the way down to the effects pedal sitting beside his vintage keyboard, a 1982 Roland Juno-106. Porter—one-third of the far-out funk collective from Denver, Colo., known as Juno What?!—isn’t sipping on anything but his own feel-good lyrics, voiced like a robot thanks to this ingenious and manipulative contraption: the talk box.

“I’ve been using the talk box for 20 years,” says Porter, a Tennessee native. “I really like soulful music, but I don’t have a soulful singing voice. A white boy in Nashville turns funk musician … doesn’t make sense to me either.”

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Features

The Power of Positive Thinking

The Power of Positive Thinking

Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s Albert Mazibuko opens up

More than 40 years ago, Joseph Shabalala had a series of dreams that manifested in the path and sound of his choral group Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Incredibly, Shabalala’s vision of a 10- to 30-member a cappella group that tours the globe singing dreamy harmonies and uniting people of all ages and backgrounds came to fruition. Now, Ladysmith is internationally recognized as the world’s foremost ambassadors of South African music, and along for the entire ride has been Albert Mazibuko.

Since the group’s inception in 1960, Mazibuko has been a core member. It took 20 years of playing before Ladysmith’s first album went gold, and 30 years before Paul Simon helped make the band a household name with Graceland. More amazing than the incredible obstacles the band has overcome or its mind-blowing musical offering, is how mellow Mazibuko is.

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Love Your Local Band

New World Ape

New World Ape

Cole Berry currently serves as world-fusion/funk band New World Ape’s percussion virtuoso, but if his passion for their eclectic brand of music ever wanes, he’s got other plans. “If I wasn’t in this band right now, I’d probably just be in the Andes,” he admits. Fortunately, it’s that immutable wanderlust that feeds his band’s musical fire. The core five of the seven- to eight-piece ensemble met while studying at UC Santa Cruz. In 2009, a year after graduating, Berry was contacted by drummer Beaumont Bradbury. “I was actually in La Paz, Bolivia, recovering from some intestinal issues,” recalls Berry, “and I got this email from him saying he wanted to kind of put together this serious progressive dance band, and I said yeah, count me in.”

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Features

Attack of the Gypsies

Attack of the Gypsies

Diego’s Umbrella brings the heat—sometimes naked

If you mixed a gallon of coffee with a ball of fire and a fifth of tequila and slammed the whole thing in one gulp, you’d have one hell of a night—but if you prefer a blown mind to a ruptured stomach, you should see Diego’s Umbrella instead. They seem to have a similar effect on fans.

 “[It’s funny to see] people’s reactions to the show,” says Tyson Maulhardt, one of the band’s guitarists. “They lose control of their limbs sometimes and kind of flail around. Even when we’re playing for people who’ve never heard us before, by the end they’re definitely dancing and having a great time. I don’t think we’ve ever met an audience that wasn’t there with us by the end.”

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Features

From Angels to Skeletons

From Angels to Skeletons

JGB frontman Melvin Seals discusses his gospel roots, and the memory of Jerry Garcia

Born into a sheltered life of church and gospel in Berkeley, Calif., soulful organist Melvin Seals seemed like a promising candidate to back up the likes of Stanley Cooke or Aretha Franklin. It’s funny how life throws curve balls at you.

Seals would eventually tour and record with Jerry Garcia, frontman of the Grateful Dead, for 15 years until Garcia’s untimely passing in 1995. Since then, Seals has worked diligently to honor the memory and music of his dear friend with the help of the JGB.

Though Seals was surrounded by hippies, living in San Francisco during the 1960s, he maintained his musical roots.

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Love Your Local Band

Boostive

Boostive

A few weeks ago, seven experimental trip-hoppers could be seen walking the streets of Market and 6th in San Francisco. Sage, the producer, bassist, and founder of this all-male collective of students, called Boostive, refers to that area as “the ghetto” and “the crack block.” But beneath the tough exterior is the group’s studio. For Sage, the streets provide “that vibe of being real—that whole vibe is going to be in our album just from recording there.” Their self-titled EP marks the debut of Sage’s collaboration with several friends: Dylan Webber (guitar), Nathan Kocivar (saxophone, keys), Andrew Hawes (drums), Mulligan B (engineer, guitar), Travis Gibbs (trombone), and Al Bundi (MC). “We use a lot of vinyl chops to get our sound and overdub some real instruments and drums,” says Sage. “The vinyl [is] for old school sound [such as] ’90s hip-hop. You can hear the crackle of the records in our recordings …

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Features

Big Sound, Little Instrument

Big Sound, Little InstrumentHow Jake Shimabukuro has rekindled interest in the ukulele with his innovative style

When it comes to musicianship, "virtuoso" is not a word you often hear paired with "ukulele player." It's easy to think of the diminutive instrument as little more than a prop—a decoration hanging on a restaurant wall to invoke an island aesthetic, or swaying side to side along with the bobbling hula girl figurine in a car.

But there is no better way to describe Jake Shimabukuro—a lanky, 34-year-old with a gift for coaxing dynamic rock, pop, jazz, and classical arrangements out of an instrument most often used for background strumming in Hawaiian tunes and twee indie-pop songs.

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Features

Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweethearts

Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweethearts

Camper Van Beethoven returns to Santa Cruz for two intimate Crepe Place shows

Long before the Simon Cowell era, the members of the alternative rock band Camper Van Beethoven were the Santa Cruz musicians who had “made it.” Adorning their lively, all-over-the-map sound with an endearing sense of wit, they wooed the populace with a charmingly nonsensical ditty called “Take the Skinheads Bowling” (after all, isn’t it the angriest people who need a little constructive fun?) and a cover of Status Quo’s “Pictures of Matchstick Men,” from their most commercially successful album, 1989’s Key Lime Pie.

With CVB’s 30th anniversary coming up next year, the band is playing a short run of smaller gigs—including two shows at The Crepe Place on Saturday, Feb. 11—to get warmed up for the release of its forthcoming record. The group recently began mixing down this as-yet-untitled album, the first we’ve heard from CVB since 2004’s New Roman Times. According to guitarist Greg Lisher, the band tried out a new approach to writing this time: “Back in the day, [vocalist/guitarist] David [Lowery] would bring his songs to us at rehearsal, and we would write our respective parts. So it was always pretty democratic in that sense, but it was all based on what David was bringing to the table.” For the new album, the band simply got together and came up with ideas on the fly: “Someone would throw something out, someone else would respond and someone else would play off of that.”

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Mars Enters Scorpio: The Nine Tests

Over the years I’ve mentioned the nine tests of Mars and Scorpio. The tests are given to everyone—unawakened, beginning to awaken, and the awakened. The purpose is to test our strength, courage, ability to adapt, discriminate and have discernment. To see if we are deceived by illusion or are “warriors triumphant, emerging from the battle.”

 

Final Cut

Cedar Street Video to close after 10 years at downtown location

 

Roger That

The late film critic Robert Ebert profiled in lively doc, ‘Life Itself’

 

The Maestra Returns

Cabrillo Festival’s Marin Alsop is back to ‘rock the boat of tradition’
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Time is Ripe

Local fruit harvests hit markets, Storrs Winery celebrates ‘Best White’, and a salt fix from heaven

 

I remember Santa Cruz when…

Santa Cruz | Librarian

 

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

 

Hunter Hill Cabernet Sauvignon

Smooth with soft tannins, this velvety crimson Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 is delicious and very drinkable.