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Features

Town and Country

Town and Country

This Frontier Needs Heroes crafts vintage folk in N.Y.

Jessica Lauretti, one half of the brother/sister folk group This Frontier Needs Heroes, sits next to me on a bench outside a coffee shop in Brooklyn, N.Y., where the band is based. I say, “I think a lot of people would expect a band with this kind of sound to come from somewhere other than a major metropolitan area.”

Lauretti gets pissed.

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Features

Slap Attack

Slap Attack

In the world of innovative jazz guitar, Raul Midón reigns king

Raul Midón has collaborated with the likes of Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock, Jason Mraz, and India Arie, but the classically trained guitarist, percussionist and pianist is quickly becoming nothing short of legendary in his own right.

His funkified, percussive guitar technique, and soulful vocals sell out shows from Paris to Tokyo to his home base in New York City, and Midón doesn’t play favorites. “I’ve always loved playing; I’ll play wherever they’ll have me,” he says. “I think in almost any city if you have fans in the audience, then you have a good audience.”

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Love Your Local Band

The Inciters

The Inciters

Remember the sweet soul music of the 1960s that would pour through the car speakers as you drove with the windows down, and had the power to make the world look brighter? Santa Cruz’s The Inciters know all about producing that mesmerizing groove. “Sweet Thing,” the breakaway single off the band’s latest album, Soul Clap, could trick someone into believing that Berry Gordy has signed a new group. “We think it’s our big hit,” says Rick Kendrick, founder, trumpet player, manager, and self-proclaimed “stress case” of The Inciters.

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Features

Three’s Company

Three’s Company

It’s always better when The Refugees are together

The story of how female folk supergroup The Refugees formed in 2007 isn’t exciting. Nor, at first glance, is the group itself.

Cindy Bullens, Wendy Waldman, and Deborah Holland weren’t snorting lines of ants in Hollywood. They weren’t trashing hotels in New York. But maybe that’s the secret to their combined 90-plus years of experience in the music industry and Grammy nominations—smash one too many guitars, and you don’t get a next gig.

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Love Your Local Band

North Pacific String Band

North Pacific String Band

North Pacific String Band—a busk-happy, five-piece—is well on its way to becoming Santa Cruz’s premier bluegrass collective. Though each member belongs to another local band (whether it’s Birdhouse, On The Spot Trio, or the Family Hogwash), the group came together a year ago with one goal: strictly bluegrass. Banjo player Jeff Wilson wastes no time trying to describe their music with vague nuances of emotional inspiration, but cuts straight to their passion for precise instrumentation. “So you’ve got the mandolin,” he starts, “which is like the snare drum in a string band; it provides percussion and rhythm and keeps time…

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Features

Island Fever

Island Fever

Blind Hawaiian rocker and multi-instrumentalist, Dayan Kai, heats up with sixth album
It’s not uncommon to experience a sense of déjà vu, when listening to Dayan Kai’s songs “Right Your Wrong” and “Give Free Your Love.” While the former is a classic rock anthem carried by distraught, raspy vocals, and the latter is a piano- and organ-laden, gospel-like number, both contain the same lyric: “Yesterday is just a fantasy.”

This is in no way due to a lack of songwriting material, though. For as long as Kai can remember, the succinct, anxiety-filled revelation that “Yesterday is just a fantasy,” has plagued him. Born blind, he admits, “I had to develop my memory because I couldn’t write them down so much.” Kai recalls the popular childhood game of Telephone—“By the time it gets back to you it’s something completely different from what you said,” says Kai. “Everything we think has happened is just our own perspective on what has happened … when will my perspective no longer be valid?” he often wonders.

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Love Your Local Band

Malima Kone

Malima Kone

At age 5, Salifou Kone’s grandfather gave him the nickname “Malima,” meaning “the way it is.” Twenty three years later, the nickname has taken on new meaning as the West African-born musician writes songs that tell stories of orphans, peace, love, humanity, daily life, and experiences in his homeland. “I write about what I see,” he explains.

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Features

Forward Ever, Backwards Never

Forward Ever, Backwards Never

D.C.-based SOJA lifts roots reggae to new heights

Reggae music has found itself a new beacon of hope, justice, and equal rights in Washington D.C.-based outfit SOJA (Soldiers of Jah Army). The group, whose humble beginnings can be traced back to high school talent shows, now sells out venues with its conscious lyrics and feel-good rhythms.

For lead singer and guitarist Jacob Hemphill, music has always been at the source of his being.

“I’ve been singing songs since I was 5 years old,” he says. “It’s just always been there, since before I could talk even.”

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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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Mercury Enters Libra

It’s the week of Burning Man, the temporary, intentional, alternative, art-filled community on the playas of Nevada. Mercury, messenger of the Sun, enters Libra this week. Libra is the equalizer, a sign of balance and right human relations. Sometimes with Libra, we can be indecisive and confused while learning how to make balanced and right choices. Sometimes to keep the peace we communicate only what others want to hear. Eventually, we learn how to speak from the heart.

 

Final Cut

Cedar Street Video to close after 10 years at downtown location

 

Banter and Spark

Engaging actors, wry script distinguish lightweight rom-com ‘What If’

 

Back to Silicon Beach

With a new wave of startups, the future of Santa Cruz tech looks more promising than ever
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Himalayan Kitchen

Chef Purna Regmi on the secrets of Nepalese cooking

 

What’s the nicest thing you’ve done for someone this week?

Germany  |  Beekeeper

 

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

 

A Cab To Be Coveted

I first tasted Villa del Monte’s 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon at a Fourth of July party, where the hosts had bought a case of it because they love it and didn’t want to run out. It’s one of those wines that will grab you—in the best way—with its full body and rich fruit characteristics.