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Sep 02nd
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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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Love Your Local Band

Katie Ekin

Katie Ekin

It’s hard to believe that 20-year-old folk pop singer-songwriter Katie Ekin’s years in the music industry can be counted on a single hand. She picked up acoustic guitar five years ago, played her first show three years ago, and debuted her seven-track, self-titled EP in December 2010. Inspired by music of the ’50s and ’60s, Ekin—whose vocal range is naturally as melodious as a songbird (see track three, “Cuckoo”)—has a keen understanding of love, astutely arranged in the lyrics of her songs. “I love oldies … the fun, pop-feeling, sock hop,” confesses Ekin. Aside from Carole King and Lesley Gore, singer of “It’s My Party,” her influences include Elvis Presley, Ricky Nelson, The Beatles and The Beach Boys, whose music was regularly played by her father throughout her childhood. “My dad is just such a fun person, and every time I’d see him perform when I was little, he had the best stage presence,” remembers Ekin. “I gain confidence from being on stage and I relate that back to my dad.” It is onstage that Ekin feels most comfortable expressing herself. “My main thing has always been love,” she says. “In high school, I wouldn’t really tell people how I felt—I put it in a song.” Her vulnerability is especially evident in “Underneath the Christmas Tree,” a song in which she asks her crush, “Won’t you be my present, baby?” The feel-good track is so irresistible, with Ekin’s sweet and sultry voice, that Zooey Deschanel herself would be proud to own the copyrights. Head to The Abbey two days before Valentine’s Day to hear Ekin belt out several original love songs, while accompanying herself on ukulele and guitar. Given the holiday, Ekin is planning an upbeat set that is, in her own words, “not so heartbreaking—I’ll try to keep it on a happy theme.”

 INFO: 8:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 12. The Abbey, 350 Mission St., Santa Cruz. No cover. 429-1058.

Features

An Offer We Can’t Refuse

An Offer We Can’t Refuse

Adam Theis’ army of musicians, Jazz Mafia All-Stars, marches to Kuumbwa

Adam Theis is a musical whirlwind. As the kingpin of the Jazz Mafia, a San Francisco-based collective of jazz musicians that routinely backs up everyone from Carlos Santana to Thomas Dolby to legendary rapper Lyrics Born, Theis is at the center of the cyclone. Factor in his symphonic work with his hand-picked orchestra, and you can understand why in 2009, Theis was awarded the sought- after Gerbode-Hewlett Foundation Emerging Composers Grant—which brought his vision of an army of musicians working together one step closer to fruition.

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Love Your Local Band

Miss Lonely Hearts

Miss Lonely Hearts

“I feel like modern country—it’s just a f*cking mess. No doubt,” says Wyatt Hesemeyer, lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist for Miss Lonely Hearts. “A lot of people that are trying to play ... ’50s country do it by making it as over the top as they can,” he adds, “they’re yodeling and wearing oversized cowboy hats, they try to make it cute, but it wasn’t supposed to be cute. It was supposed to heartfelt or interesting or funny.” Hesemeyer, whose warm, raw vocals intoxicate the listener like a glass of Bulleit Rye Whiskey—his favorite brand—has a characteristic bluntness that imbues his music with honesty instead of camp. Backed by a full band—Patrick O’Connor (drums), Keith Cary (lap steel), Mischa Gasch (upright bass), and Parker McDonald (lead guitar)—Miss Lonely Hearts cranks out pure country with a splash of  shufflin’ 1950s rock and roll. And according to Hesemeyer, their unadulterated sound has a big draw.

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Features

Beats with Brains

Beats with Brains

Hip-hop collective Doomtree meditates on technology with ‘No Kings’

Indie rock fans would be forgiven if they mistook the tale of Twin Cities hip-hop collective Doomtree for that of folk strummer Bon Iver.

After all, just as Justin Vernon did with For Emma, Forever Ago, the seven-member crew laid down all the demos for their forthcoming album, No Kings, while sequestered in a remote Wisconsin cabin—far away from the noise and lights of the city and out of cell phone reception.

"We definitely wanted to isolate ourselves from distractions," says Margret Wander a.k.a. Dessa, a singer and emcee with the group.

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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.