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Apr 16th
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Love Your Local Band

Santa Cruz Jazz 2011

Santa Cruz Jazz 2011

Though it’s not a local band per se, the Jazz Society of Santa Cruz, as an institution, has served as an incubator for many local swing, big band, ragtime and cool jazz outfits since it was established in 2000. The nonprofit hosts a four-hour open jam session for local jazz musicians every Sunday at Bocci’s Cellar and has spawned many local bands by bringing together professionals and weekend warriors—giving people who might not otherwise meet, the opportunity to play in front of a relaxed, fun-loving crowd. Local jazz musician Stella D’Oro—who mesmerizes with Italian “Meglio Stasera”—says that the atmosphere on Sundays at Bocci’s Cellar—a 100-year-old former Italian restaurant at 140 Encinal St.—helped her hone her craft. “People there are very supportive,” D’Oro says, referring to both the musicians and patrons. “They’re great for supporting new musicians and people learning how to get started.” Steve Newman, president of the Jazz Society and master saxophonist, has been with the organization since the beginning. He describes the venue as a “time warp”—a modern day speakeasy where people go once a week to swing dance and get lost in the sounds. “It’s not just the musicians,” Newman says.

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Features

Getting Vocal

Getting Vocal

 

Sweet Honey in the Rock voices its opposition to racial profiling
The all-female, all-African-American vocal group Sweet Honey in the Rock has never shied away from tackling social and political issues. In the four decades since the D.C.-based ensemble’s inception, its members have used blues, reggae, African chanting, jazz improv and gospel styles as a platform for their views on everything from civil rights to domestic violence.

It was no surprise then, that when the controversial anti-illegal immigration act known as Arizona Senate Bill 1070 passed last year, Sweet Honey responded not only by joining the international Sound Strike boycott of Arizona, but also by releasing the song and video “Are We a Nation?” (Sample lyrics: “Does the color of your skin determine how and when you can be stopped and booked for the way that you look? Racial profile—this is not freedom’s style.”)

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Love Your Local Band

Birdhand

Birdhand

While most people were fighting fax machines at 9-5 jobs, Birdhand spent the first week of April destroying an abandoned church in Monterey. Shooting a music video to promote their new self-titled EP, produced by Darryl Jenifer of Bad Brains, the Santa Cruz rockers were armed with 10-foot poles and told to go wild. What should have been a dream come true, turned into a strange experience. “There were 15 uncomfortable film students watching us the whole time without saying anything,” says bassist Mason Rothschild. “It was the most awkward thing ever!” But according to singer/songwriter/guitarist Joey Weed, awkward moments make the band tick. “Before each show, we huddle up and get really weird—we talk about normal stuff, like how my stomach hurts or who didn’t take out the trash,” says Weed. Once the lights come on, though, the foursome delivers hard-hitting rock ‘n’ roll, with Queens of the Stone Age-like punk riffs and occasional violin and pan flute solos.

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Features

Residential Tourism

Residential Tourism

Titus Andronicus’ Patrick Stickles discusses consumption of music and housing
In a couple months I’ll be making the cross country move to New York City, so when Titus Andronicus frontman Patrick Stickles tells me he’s currently walking down a Brooklyn sidewalk, of course I have to take the opportunity to ask for advice on living in the borough which may well soon be my home.

“The smartest thing would be to avoid what my girlfriend calls ‘residential tourism,’” says the singer and guitarist. “Sometimes these young people are kind of like a disease that moves from place to place and consumes all the resources, and then moves on once they’ve had their fill of it.”

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Love Your Local Band

Young Performers Showcase

Young Performers Showcase

The axe is falling on music education in public schools. The star of James Durbin is rising on American Idol. Put those two trends together, and the purpose behind the Young Performers Showcase (Durbin is an alum of the event) becomes potently clear. Now in its third year, the fundraiser this Saturday, April 9, at The Rio Theatre, presents a full lineup of local youth strutting disparate skills to raise awareness and moolah to continue music programs in Santa Cruz City schools. It all started when Rick Linzer saw how the economic downturn was threatening music lessons. The veteran jazz saxophonist, who says that music “really saved my life in a lot of ways; it gave me a sense of purpose and camaraderie,” has gone on to coordinate an annual concert that provides family entertainment while ensuring that school bands can be armed with instruments and kids can be exposed to the nurturing and healing nature of music. As a music major in college, Linzer learned how effective music is in a child’s cognitive, social and emotional development. “Numerous studies show that [music] gives kids a sense of connection to school and helps with self-esteem, creative and analytical thinking, coordination, problem solving and team building,” he says.

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Features

Brothers in Arms

Brothers in Arms

There’s no sibling rivalry in indie folk-rock supergroup Middle Brother
Ego clashes and battles for control are inevitable in almost every band, but when you put three leaders of established acts together in one group, you’re just begging for trouble. Yet Middle Brother—the new band comprised of Matt Vasquez, Taylor Goldsmith and John J. McCauley III, frontmen for the indie folk-rock outfits Delta Spirit, Dawes and Deer Tick, respectively—seems to have avoided such pitfalls so far. According to Vasquez, the members of the group don’t mind taking turns hanging back, playing guitar and singing harmony.

“There’s zero ego when it comes to backing somebody up, because you believe in them, and you just want it to be as good as it can be,” the musician states. “We’re all fans of each other’s music so much. I love ‘Mom and Dad,’ I love ‘Daydreaming’ I love ‘Blood and Guts’—I begged Taylor to put ‘Blood and Guts’ on the record.”

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Features

The Seven-Album Itch

The Seven-Album Itch

The Appleseed Cast is still figuring itself out and finding its place
Back in the summer of 2006, I witnessed Russian Circles open up for The Appleseed Cast, and it was probably a terrible act for the headliners to have to follow. Still, what seemed like  an onstage mismatch seemed to epitomize the amorphous nature of The Appleseed Cast.

While Russian Circles are known for intense post-rock bombast, The Appleseed Cast will bring a more melodic, slow-boiled take on instrumental buildup when it descends upon the Rio Theatre on Friday, March 25. In fact, the band, based in Lawrence, Kan., has always felt a little out of place in more ways than one. During a career spanning seven full-length albums, the enemble has sort of hung out in a genre no man’s land, grabbing fans from the punk and indie scenes but truly endearing itself to neither. Likewise, the band’s music has found its own middle ground between instrumental and pop music.

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Love Your Local Band

Grizzel Toe

Grizzel Toe

Soggy winter rains have steeped Grizzel Toe, the latest project featuring Green Flash alums Raya Heffernan and Peter Wallner, throughout its gestation period, saturating life into the underground duo in preparation for a spring sprig to sprout. Seething in the clammy distortion of a washed-out ’90s shoegaze sound garden, Grizzel Toe echoes gritty EVOL-era Sonic Youth with an innate punk intensity that will leave any audience aching in admiration after being walloped by their wall of noise. “Our music is the color of bruises,” Wallner, who plays guitar and vocals, relents, “an eyesore you can’t stop touching, but want to.” With performances alongside the Growlers, Religious Girls, and Man/Miracle under their belts, Heffernan and Wallner have bled into the local circuit and are ready to take it to the studio for a four-track EP that should be out around May.

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Features

Water Through a Rusty Pipe

Water Through a Rusty Pipe

Damien Jurado is more a medium than songwriter
Damien Jurado is most often described as a singer-songwriter, and on the surface it’s an absolutely accurate designation as far as music labels go. The majority of the Seattle-based musician’s output has been driven by slow-boiled acoustic guitar and a pensive voice—other musicianship serving more as a framing for songs than genuinely part of the structure.

But to hear it described by Jurado himself—who will be entertaining at the Crepe Place on Wednesday, March 23—‘writing’ is not really part of the process of his song creation at all. ‘Channeling,’ however, might be a more accurate term.

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Features

Treasure Aisles

Treasure Aisles

Streetlight Records’ online tweets spark in-store treasure hunts
Within minutes of the announcement, a handful of die-hard Bright Eyes fans were combing the aisles of Streetlight Records in Downtown Santa Cruz, flipping through the albums and scouring the oft-overlooked bottom shelves—a singular, 140-character long hint resonating in their minds:

“Bright Eyes LP treasure hunters: It's here! Clue: It resides in the section of the artist who is Greek & has recorded songs in 12 LANGUAGES.”

It didn’t take long for one intrepid hunter to spot the fiery red, orange, yellow and black cover, hidden in the Nana Mouskouri vinyl section.

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Love Your Local Band

Shotgun Suitor

Shotgun Suitor

In a dimly lit bar a band is in full swing, busting out a hip-shaking honky tonk ballad. Out of nowhere, the lead guitarist starts traveling outside of the song, the standup bassist grabs a bow and, in a matter of seconds, the band is diving through a classical piece before finishing the set with a jazz standard. Welcome to the world of Shotgun Suitor. “I think we’re bringing a missing genre that a lot of original bands only touch on,” explains keyboardist Kyle Hamood. “We cover all of the bases.” And they certainly do, from original pieces to standard rock covers with a twist. It’s an impressive feat considering that Shotgun Suitor is still stretching its musical legs; forming only two and a half months ago, after singer and rhythm guitarist Chas Crowder moved to Santa Cruz from the soulful streets of Memphis. “[Bassist Paul Gerhardt] started calling me a couple of months ago saying, ‘You’ve got to get out here!’ So, I did,” Crowder says nonchalantly. Gerhardt and Hamood already had a budding musical friendship, so with Crowder in the mix they decided to call upon drummer Dallas Ezell, lead guitarist Wes Davis and vocalist Emily Gold.

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Features

Batman Returns

Batman ReturnsDark entries from the Gothfather himself, Peter Murphy
Mainstream American audiences got their first glimpse of Peter Murphy via his appearance in the 1983 vampire flick The Hunger, whose opening scene found the British vocalist performing inside a cage with his trailblazing post-punk band Bauhaus. Murphy delivered the cold, reptilian “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” in a tone bled dry of all human compassion, yet increasingly pleading. Grasping the wires of his enclosure, his eyes reflecting the urgency of the film’s title, the sleek, dapper frontman looked like the quintessential rising star, desperate to escape the confinement of day-to-day life and feed on the adulation of the masses.
It’s fitting that Murphy—who came full circle last year by appearing as a vampire in the film Twilight: Eclipse—is paying a visit to Santa Cruz, where The Lost Boys was filmed nearly 25 years ago. Those who attend the 53-year-old singer’s Rio Theatre show on Thursday, March 10 will witness a consummate showman at work: The man is blessed with a rich, regal baritone voice, a darkly gallant stage presence and a true flair for theatrics.
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Aries Solar Festival

Sunday is Palm Sunday. Symbolizing victory and triumph, paradise, sacrifice and martyrdom, the Pisces World Teacher entered Jerusalem (City of Peace) on a donkey (signifying humility).

 

Sugar: The New Tobacco?

Proposed bill would require warning labels on sugary drinks Will soda and other saccharine libations soon come with a health warning? They will if it’s up to our state senator, Bill Monning (D-Carmel). On Feb. 27, Monning proposed first-of-its-kind legislation that would require a consumer warning label be placed on sugar-sweetened beverages sold in California. SB 1000, also known as the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Safety Warning Act, was proposed to provide vital information to consumers about the harmful effects of consuming sugary drinks, such as sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, and sweetened teas.

 

Animal Magnetism

Bear, mouse dare to be friends in charming ‘Ernest and Celestine’ It’s not exactly Romeo and Juliet. It’s not even a romance, although it is a love story about two individuals separated by prejudice who find the courage to form an unshakable bond despite the rules and traditions that keep them apart.

 

Printer's Devil

Iconic editor Buz Bezore, who died last month at the age of 68, left a huge mark on Santa Cruz journalism   Eventually, it’s all a blur. You live long enough, and maybe a little too hard at times, so that when you hit the rewind button of faded memory, it moves so fast that you can hardly sort and gather the details. One scene skips to the next, and to the next, without proper editing or sequencing. Chronologies get distorted. Which came first: stealing the chickens or coloring the eggs?
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Foodie File: Yan Flower

Yan Belleville has owned Yan Flower, an affordable Chinese restaurant in Downtown Santa Cruz, with her husband Raymond for eight years, and it’s a family affair. Her brother, sister, sister-in-law, and cousins work there too. Locals know the joint for its massive lunch specials starting at $4.

 

How would you feel about a tech industry boom in Santa Cruz?

I feel like it would ruin the small old-town feeling of Santa Cruz. It wouldn’t be the same Surf City kind of vacation town that it is. Antoinette BennettSanta Cruz | Construction Management

 

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

 

Comanche Cellars

Pinot Noir 2010 I first tasted Comanche Cellars Pinot when a friend brought a bottle to share over lunch at Center Street Grill in Santa Cruz. Upon trying it, I knew I had to find out more about it.