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Jul 31st
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Features

Walk the Walk

Walk the Walk

Santa Cruz’s own Otayo Dubb brings blue collar hip-hop to the Lagoon

he name Otayo Dubb—a moniker taken from the Swahili term for “ambush”—connotes the effect of the rapper’s blue collar hip-hop style. Straddling the underground hemispheres of street and conscious hip-hop, Dubb’s musical ambush is a bumping meditation on the struggles and joys of everyday working-class people.

Though born in Oakland, Calif., Dubb was raised by two working-class jazz musicians on the west side of Santa Cruz. His hunger for rhythm was established before birth, as his mother, an avid musician of Caribbean and West African influence, played congas while pregnant with him.

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Love Your Local Band

Sirenz

Sirenz

On a crisp November morning at The Bagelry in downtown Santa Cruz, Heather Houston swoops in like a hippified Uma Thurman, or perhaps an urban sherpa on a vision quest. Her quartet of a cappella singers, Sirenz, whose music sounds like a cross between Zap Mama and a goddess choir, has been seeking higher ground together for three and a half years. The project grew out of an earlier band called Dis Moi, which featured Samantha Keller, Houston and Tamara Fogel. When Fogel moved back to Canada, Houston brought in friends Molly Hartwell and Amber Mendez, and Sirenz was born. The group performs original compositions, as well as traditional songs from different cultures with original arrangements. Not your typical a cappella group, Sirenz is fresh, real, and eclectic. Mendez provides a "steady percussive beat which is different then you would hear in most a cappella groups—a little heavier on the bass,” explains Houston, and their voices lift and twist like a Celtic knot. She adds that their friendship "informs the way we sing and write with each other." The women will write independently and then come together and mid-wife each other’s songs in a creative birthing process that supports one another’s vision.

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Features

Hey, Hey, We’re the Pixies

Hey, Hey, We’re the Pixies

Pixies’ Joey Santiago on the making of an alt-rock classic

Doolittle, arguably the definitive album by the Boston-based alternative rock band the Pixies, hasn’t just stayed fresh over time—it’s actually gotten better. Or so it would seem from two different Rolling Stone reviews of the album: Somewhere between 1989 and 2002, Doolittle apparently went from merely being an above-average effort (three-and-a-half-stars) to being a proto-grunge Sergeant Pepper’s (five stars). The record has only improved since then. In 2003, NME magazine named it the second-greatest album in history, and in 2005, it landed smack-dab in the middle of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list.

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Love Your Local Band

At Risk

At Risk

With a physique that suits a hardcore frontman and a security guard equally well, Spencer Biddiscombe has an intense presence. And when you consider that during At Risk’s farewell concert in 2006, he roared lyrics over exploding drums and crashing guitars as windmilling teenagers rushed the stage, he might seem a bit intimidating to meet for coffee. In reality, Biddiscombe is a well-spoken man who claims his passion for the hardcore scene comes from “the energy and the honesty of the music.” He explains: “Generally it traces back as a more aggressive offshoot of punk. It tends to be a bit heavier and more aggressive. A lot of it is the energy and the community, at most of the shows most of the people know each other. It’s a different vibe than a big show with anonymous faces. There’s a lot of energy, and not a lot of separation—we’ll be playing on the floor wherever possible. Kids respond to that because it’s a lot different.” At Risk—whose current lineup includes Biddiscombe (vocals), Jim Sandeen (guitar), Donald Scully (guitar), Tom Arnott (bass), and Dustin Roth (drums)—emerged from multiple hardcore groups in 2002. After playing for five years together, releasing a full-length album, and earning a huge following, the band broke up in 2006. But after endless requests from fans, the guys have reunited to play an all-ages show at The 418 Project this Saturday.

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Features

The Sun Also Rises

The Sun Also RisesWebExclusive: In times of famine and feast Rich Robinson is under the same sun

Rich Robinson’s dad is dying. And his newborn son, Bleu, is a mere three months old. Experiencing grief and happiness simultaneously has become a strange constant in Robinson’s life. At 25, he had everything: as a member of the blues-rock outfit The Black Crowes, Robinson was in a “comfortable state” financially, married to a beautiful wife, and playing shows around the world.

But even at the peak of the Crowes’ popularity in the early- to mid-’90s, something was off. “I was living this life that was askew,” says Robinson, now 42. “My relationships with the people that were supposed to be my closest seemed damaged. My marriage was not a good fit for either of us and we weren’t facing up to that. Though I love my brother [Chris, co-founder of The Black Crowes], the fact that my working environment can be challenging has been well-chronicled. Nothing was working like it should have been, but by many people’s standards, it was a dream come true.”

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Features

On a Tear

On a Tear

San Diego blues/rock duo Little Hurricane rips its way into the music scene

Little Hurricane—the volatile yet smooth rock duo headed to The Crepe Place Thursday—plays what they refer to as “dirty blues”: “We say it’s blues, but it’s dirty with distortion and a little bit of grunge,” explains lead guitarist and vocalist Anthony Catalano (a.k.a. Tone). “I was in a rock band in high school and some of college, and there’s some influence from that. We try to bring a lot of extra energy when we play live.”

True to his word, Catalano blazes huge guitar riffs—with or without a slide, over the complex rhythms and alluring vocals of his rocking female accomplice, drummer Celeste Spina (a.k.a. CC). Though the band has been together for only a short time—forming in January of 2010—they’ve already earned acclaim in their hometown of San Diego, winning Best Alternative Band, and both Album of the Year, and Best Alternative Album with their debut effort Homewrecker, at the 21st annual San Diego Music Awards.

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Features

On the Road

On the Road

Jay Farrar channels Kerouac, reaches the heart of America

While most musicians tour to promote new albums, Jay Farrar is taking his act cross-country for the same reason Jack Kerouac and the Beat Generation hitchhiked the heartland: Farrar is in love with America.

A native of Belleville, Ill., Farrar became infatuated with the country at a young age: “In order for you to get anywhere, you have to drive through a big chunk of it,” he says. And like most young men, he found Kerouac in his early teens. “Here’s a method: just go out there and create and experience life,” he says of the writer. “That’s essentially what most people in bands do.”

While Kerouac was making-over Proust and Wolfe, Farrar was channeling Woodie Guthrie and The Byrds with early ’90s alt-country pioneers Uncle Tupelo. “It felt inspirational [to create something new], but we were conscious of the fact that we were drawing from other bands that had been over similar territory before,” he says. “The inspirational process is a chain.”

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Love Your Local Band

Wooster

Wooster

It's no accident that Wooster is one of the most popular bands on the local scene at the moment. Unlike some groups that get together to drink beer and rock out on the weekends, or others that craft complex music for musicians, this fun-loving quintet was assembled by singer/songwriter Brian Gallagher with one, crowd-pleasing goal: get people on the floor. "It's always good to get the room moving," Gallagher says. "I've always been into music that makes you dance." Though Gallagher now fronts the ska-tinged, pop-rock outfit—playing rhythm guitar and trading vocal lines with Wooster's other singer, Caroline Kuspa—he started his musical journey playing drums, and has never lost his percussionist sensibilities. "We really have a strong groove," Gallagher says. His lust for the beat led him to drummer Nate Fredrick and bassist Bobby Hanson, who together form a rock-solid, no-frills rhythm section—which, in turn, allows Gallagher and Kuspa to experiment with the wandering, lazily interweaving pop harmonies of "Ooh Girl" without fear that their voices will float off into the ether along with lead guitarist Zack Donoghue’s reverb-laden, bubbly chicken picking.

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Features

Beyond the Page

Beyond the Page

The talented teens of the Santa Cruz County Youth Symphony express themselves in orchestral music

"There’s a storm picking up,” Nathaniel Berman says from a podium at the front of the classroom. Suddenly a sea of violin bows start bobbing in the air and the bottom floor of Georgiana Bruce Kirby Preparatory School fills with the thundering sound of 33 instruments.

Using maritime analogies, Berman, a UCSC alumnus with a master’s degree in conducting, leads the Santa Cruz County Youth Symphony through Felix Mendelssohn’s “Hebrides Overture,” one of three orchestral pieces that the Youth Symphony will perform on Nov. 6 at the UCSC Music Center Recital Hall.

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Love Your Local Band

The Blue Tail Flies

The Blue Tail Flies

Combining dual sister singers and upright bass, a cajón slingin’ drummer, and the time tested trio of banjo, fiddle and guitar, The Blue Tail Flies have no trouble packing venues with a coordinated wall of their unique bluegrass inspired sound. Courtnay Field, one of the lead vocalists, describes their sound: “We say ‘Flygrass’, [because] we play such a variety of styles—between blues, bluegrass, and jazzy kind of swing. Plus, we have a bangin’ drummer, and she makes us a lot different than other bands.” The seven friends—all of whom met in Santa Cruz—try to have as much fun as possible at shows, feeding off audience participation. “We love the eccentric music fan: the guy that comes up to the front of the stage and hands you crazy juju beads … we’ve even got a tip that was a water bottle filled with flakes of gold. You never know what’s gonna come out of Santa Cruz,” says Field. After touring extensively and releasing an EP, the band is excited to enter the studio to record a full-length album.

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Features

8-Bit Punks

8-Bit Punks

Anamanaguchi crafts jubilant, hard-hitting Nintendocore

Punk rock means many things to many people. For some it's a genre of music, for others it's a lifestyle. If you ask Luke Silas, drummer for Brooklyn-based quartet Anamanaguchi, he'll tell you that for him and his band mates there is nothing that captures the DIY aesthetic of the punk movement more than the low-fidelity sounds of early Nintendo games.

"You have a shitty guitar," Silas says, carrying on an imaginary conversation with Johnny Rotten or Joey Ramone. "Well, we have these shitty square waves."

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Features

Keeping Music Alive

Keeping Music Alive

Annual Sing For Your Life benefit raises funds for local music programs

It’s no secret that California’s budget crisis has had a deep impact on high school curriculum. With administrators struggling to balance their budgets, everything deemed “non-essential” has been cut—especially music. “Keeping any kind of music program going is a constant struggle for schools,” explains Beth Hollenbeck, music director at Scotts Valley High School. With minimal funding, teachers like her are often unable to afford sheet music and other necessary supplies, as well as chaperones to accompany students to competitions or concerts.

To keep music alive, The Gold Standard Barbershop Chorus—a local chapter of the nationwide Barbershop Harmony Society—has hosted “Sing For Your Life” for the past eight years. Since its inception, the annual choral concert benefit has raised more than $45,000 for local music programs.

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Picture of Health

Santa Cruz just received a high ranking among California counties. But it may be hiding some of the biggest health dangers facing our area

 

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

 

Time Capsule

Actors age in real time in audacious, mesmerizing ‘Boyhood’
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Foodie File: Maharaja

Chef Didar Singh on Royal Taj’s reincarnation as Maharaja

 

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

 

Muns Vineyard Rosé of Pinot Noir

This vivacious cherry-pink Rosé is a simply beautiful summer wine.