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Aug 20th
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Love Your Local Band

Yuji Tojo

Yuji Tojo

As a young man in Tokyo, guitar master Yuji Tojo’s life was filled with non-stop touring and too many Japanese talk show appearances to count. “Everything became too much,” says Tojo. So, he went to India on a spiritual journey. Upon his return, the musician began playing in a new way. Tojo describes his newfound spiritual sound as, “a really magical thing. It can have a healing energy too. I always write or play with energy and love and peace. I try to make people happy—it's my destination.” It seems he's finally reached that destination in our beach town, where he moved in the late ’70s. Playing bi-weekly at The Crow's Nest and monthly at Paradise Beach Grille, the self-proclaimed “Nice Guy from the East” is content to groove with the locals. Performing covers of artists like Ben Harper in his own style, jamming to reggae and flamenco guitar, Tojo’s music is ever-evolving. “I have a lot of influences from traditional Japanese music, to Indian music, European music and American music,” he says. During his live shows, his eccentric guitar work—tapping, slapping, harmonics, and somersaults on the guitar (he often plays behind his back and upside down)—adds to the fun, and contrasts with looped rhythmical patterns.

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Love Your Local Band

The Juncos

The Juncos

There’s a homegrown sensibility about The Juncos. Perhaps it’s their name—a little local bird that’s busy, territorial, not particularly shy, but also not well known. Or perhaps it’s the resonant chord that strikes deep within the band: no matter what befalls the world at large, The Juncos will keep playing. Spearheaded by locals Josh Lowe (banjo, guitar and vocals) and Jeff Kissell (double bass and vocals), The Juncos are the assimilation of indie roots, Americana, old jazz standards, jug band, honky-tonk, bluegrass, field hollers, and the occasional Pogues tune. Gathered around a wooden table, cluttered with tattooed forearms and beer, at one of their favorite haunts—The Crepe Place—Lowe and Kissell drop knowledge like a junco drops eggs. Kissell finds parallels for their timeless acoustic tunes: “I think there is a strong connection between punk and American roots music.

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Features

Easy Breezy Ballyhoo!

Easy Breezy Ballyhoo!These reggae groove masters school Cruzans on relaxation
Ballyhoo! is a band that wants your attention. Not because the members are needy or dependent, feeding off attention in a desperate attempt to fill some hole of self doubt. They are not that way at all—in fact, they are just the opposite.    
These guys want your attention because they think you might actually enjoy yourself for once, if you would only listen to their music. Maybe you'll get a laugh out of them, or a sense of satisfaction from their beachside tunes.
It’s no wonder, then, that they named the band Ballyhoo! Bassist J.R. Gregory describes the word as, “a loud expression. Like at a carnival—the announcer shouts a bunch of ballyhoo to get you over, to get your attention."
Amidst all the chaos of this modern world, with everyone running around to do work and chores and errands, sometimes we forget to take a moment to breathe, relax, and soak up some rays. Ballyhoo! hopes to change that, by saying, "Hey, it's alright to relax. Come with us, we'll show you how!" And with their Sublime/Incubus/311-inspired ska reggae dub grooves, it’s easy to just slip away to some imaginary beach paradise.
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Features

Ninja Unmasked

Ninja Unmasked

One-man band, Zach Deputy, loses beard, gains insight
Just the other week, Zach Deputy—the full-time funk, rock, and soul sensation from Bluffton, South Carolina—underwent some major physical alterations while in the hands of paid professionals. Not only was his famously bushy beard cut loose during what he refers to as the “Brooklyn Barbershop Disaster,” but he also received a navy blue front tooth from a temporary cavity-filling-from-hell, causing the ever-so-friendly and accomplished 29-year-old to feel unusually self-conscious, naked and afraid to smile.

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Features

Skype Hunt

Skype Hunt

Tracking the elusive Blonde Redhead in Winnipeg
As we all know, technology—more specifically, the rise of the Internet—has given birth to all sorts of new modes of communication that have made sharing ideas much faster and easier, in a strong sense, bringing all corners of the globe closer together. But technology can also be a real pain in the ass.

Winnipeg’s a lucky place. Not only has it just snatched an NHL franchise from Atlanta, but it’s also the first stop on Blonde Redhead’s current North American tour—the New York shoegaze-y three-piece comes to Big Sur’s Henry Miller Library, this Sunday. Because the band is up in Canada, their cell phones don’t work, and thus vocalist and frontwoman Kazu Makino has to call me via Skype. This goes fine for about two minutes, before we get disconnected.

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Love Your Local Band

Swingin’ Utters

Swingin’ Utters

After several decades and babies, one thing’s certain: the five punk rockers of Swingin’ Utters, signed to Fat Wreck Chords since the mid ’90s, are still lovers of diverse music and fighters of capitalism. The group longs to tour with bands that have inspired them since day one—The Clash, The Pogues, The Kinks and The Buzzcocks—and spends each day campaigning against “the man,” as evidenced by their day jobs: Johnny “Peebucks” Bonnel prints T-shirts, Spike Slawson works at a pizza joint, Jack Dalrymple is affiliated with the SPCA, and Darius Koski is a plumber. Their rebelliousness is nothing knew, however. The band sang of “Teenage Genocide” on 1995’s The Streets of San Francisco, and the theme resurfaces throughout their latest album, Here, Under Protest. What began as a couple teenagers playing garage rock—drummer Greg McEntee went to high school with Koski, and the two paired up with Bonnel on lead vocals, and original bass player Kevin Wickersham—turned into a hardcore band as they took over downtown, frequenting Zachary’s, The Poet & the Patriot and The Red Room. Now, Koski says he feels that he “personally and musically, know[s] everyone really well.

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Features

Ain’t That America

Ain’t That America

Oregon-based alt-country Bucket Boys are patriots in their own way
Back in 2000, when jailbirds Ulysses Everett McGill, Delmar O’Donnell and Pete Hogwallop broke out of Depression-era Mississippi and onto the silver screen in Joel and Ethan Cohen’s O Brother, Where Art Thou?, the trio’s ensuing adventure did not only draw attention to Homer’s “The Odyssey,” upon which the movie was based.

According to Kenny Feinstein—the Santa Cruz-born guitarist and mandolin player for The Water Tower Bucket Boys—the movie’s heroes helped turn the youth of this country (and him, in particular) on to the rich tradition of Americana music.

Specifically, Feinstein believes that “Man of Constant Sorrow”—an early 20th century song popularized by the film—provided the spark that ignited the bluegrass and folk revival, which has left a mark on the indie music scene for the past decade.

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Features

Monsters of Rock

Monsters of Rock

A Band of Orcs declares war on eardrums. Next conquest? The Catalyst.
Marilyn Manson once said that if every cigarette shortens your life by six minutes, then each game of Dungeons and Dragons delays the loss of your virginity by six weeks. If he was right, then all of the members of A Band of Orcs are undoubtedly still waiting for that first magical game of belly bump. Further decreasing their nookie prospects, these guys appear onstage in Orc costumes so lifelike it’s downright scary. The group’s World of Warcraft-friendly death metal music is perfectly suited to its over-the-top appearance—which, as long as we’re making geeky references, seems to take more than passing inspiration from the Gamorrean guards in Return of the Jedi.

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Love Your Local Band

Funkranomicon

Funkranomicon

Some band names are difficult to pronounce—Jamiroquai, Hoobastank and now, Funkranomicon. But that doesn’t keep lead singer Joe Neto from feeling its power. “I am an H.P. Lovecraft fan, and during a discussion with friends the word was uttered. My ears went up like a dog. We let everyone pronounce it whatever way they want”—as long as nobody wants to change it. “The name is what broke up the band in 2002. The new members wanted to change the band name.” Neto and drummer Tim Welch started the funk sensation in 1997. For the next five years, the groove masters snaked their way through many successful nights. Regrouping in summer 2009, everything just clicked. Neto recalls, “Scott Polland came in on rhythm guitar from Squeeze Daddy, a New Orleans zydeco band, and really mellowed it. Then, Jonathan Kessler joined the band on bass and that solidified it. Our first gig at The New Parish was a very electric evening.” The band’s Flavor Flav is John Williams, a smooth-talking sideman.

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Features

Kindred Spirits

Kindred Spirits

Punk-blues duo, Two Gallants, has been to hell and back
Numerous musicians paint an exaggerated or downright false picture of themselves, through their music, videos and on-stage antics. But when it comes to the romping, stomping, rambling tales of San Francisco drum-and-guitar duo Two Gallants, it would seem that the facts outweigh the fiction.

Though it is difficult to discern which came first—the ballads about hard living on the road, or the experiences themselves—one thing is clear: drummer Tyson Vogel, along with his musical partner in crime, guitarist, vocalist and lyricist, Adam Stephens, both know what it means to be a vagabond.

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Features

Put Smog Away

Put Smog Away

Bill Callahan on old monikers and atheistic anthems
Score one for the atheists. On Bill Callahan’s first album (he was then known as Smog), 1990’s Sewn to the Sky, there’s a song called “I Want to Tell You About a Man,” where we learn about a person who doesn’t drop acid, is not a member of the New York rave scene, and doesn’t even read Philip K. Dick books—didn’t everyone parse “The Man in the High Castle”?

Well, the man in that song is eventually found out to be Jesus Christ (don’t make him say it twice), and it’s left to the listener to figure out whether this is a piece of pompous proselytizing, or an instance of black humor. The issue seemed to be cleared up 19 years later on the Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle track called “Faith/Void,” where Callahan implores his listeners to “put God away.” In a strong sense, it seems like the first legitimate atheistic exultation since “Believe,” and in fact it turns out the idea was to create a song that a certain community could get behind.

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Love Your Local Band

Slow Gherkin

Slow Gherkin

After seeing regional ska band Skankin’ Pickle at Loudon Nelson Community Center, Slow Gherkin front man James Rickman says the idea to start a ska group was born. “We were so blown away by that band and their energy, and how people went crazy. It was so positive and such a good time, we knew we wanted to do that.” Slow Gherkin marinated in the summer of 1993—Zack “ZK” Kent and Phil Boutelle had just graduated from Santa Cruz High School with friends Rickman and AJ Marquez graduating two years later—and their live shows were the stuff of legends. Selling out the old Palookaville on the weekend, the band would return to school Monday surrounded by fans. Then, the members of Slow Gherkin lived every teenager’s fantasy—getting signed to a label. Asian Man Records owner Mike Park remembers, "Slow Gherkin was a pretty amazing band. The first time I saw them, they looked like they were still in junior high, but as I'm told now they were all in high school. But damn—a band that good playing ska as 13-16-year-old kids was pretty impressive.”

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Trending Now

Whether you live by the Vogue bible or choose to go into your day wearing what you slept in, odds are you wear clothes.

 

The Thought Form of Solution

It’s our last week of Leo before the sun enters Virgo (next Friday/Saturday). The planets this week make complex patterns and relationships (vibrational cadences and rhythms) with the outer planets, mainly Neptune—the planet that veils, obscures, protects and finally refines us. Neptune offers us entrance into a deeply spiritual sense of comfort and solace. Neptune is the personality ruler of Pisces (saviors of the world) and soul ruler of Cancer (world mother). “The fish goddesses who leapt from earth (Virgo) to water (Pisces) unitedly give birth to the Fish God (Christ, the Soul) who introduces the waters of life  (Neptune & Aquarius) into the ocean of substance (matter, mother bringing light to the world. Thus does Neptune work.” (Esoteric Astrology).

 

Final Cut

Cedar Street Video to close after 10 years at downtown location

 

Cultures Collide

No surprises, but lots to savor in foodie film ‘The Hundred-Foot Journey’
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Foodie File: Kauboi

Japanese-Western themed unites sushi with whiskey and beefgrill

 

How should Santa Cruz develop downtown around the San Lorenzo River?

Santa Cruz | Artist/Show Promoter

 

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

 

Have Mercy!

Looking for a frisky summer wine at a reasonable price? Look no further than Mercy Vineyards’ 2013 Sauvignon Blanc ($20). Richly textured “with an exotic flavor profile,” the wine reveals aromas of honeydew melon and honeysuckle, with anise appearing as a star attraction. Smidgeons of pineapple and honeycomb add a touch of sexiness to this well-balanced, easy-drinking wine, which pairs well with a variety of cuisine —especially ceviche, calamari and other not-too-heavy foods.