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Jul 22nd
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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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Features

Why the Caged Bird Sings

Why the Caged Bird Sings

UFOs, gender confusion and a canary from hell—An Horse’s Kate Cooper tells all
My phone conversation with guitarist/vocalist Kate Cooper is off to one hell of a start. Rocking a likeable Aussie accent, she’s just informed me, “We’re driving through the desert, and there are UFOs everywhere.”

This, of course, raises an important question—“Huh?” Cooper clarifies: she and Damon Cox, the other half of her Sleater-Kinney/Tegan and Sara-influenced indie-rock band An Horse, have just driven past Gila, Arizona’s quaintly decorated Best Western Space Age Lodge.

Cooper’s lighthearted banter comes as a bit of a pleasant surprise, given the sometimes gut-wrenching nature of the material on An Horse’s latest album, Walls: various songs address topics ranging from relationship turmoil to the removal of a brain tumor. The pair, who have opened for such acts as Death Cab for Cutie, Silversun Pickups, Cage the Elephant and the aforementioned Tegan and Sara, will play many of these new tunes live at The Crepe Place on Friday.

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Features

Sound Bites

Sound Bites

Backstage Lounge dishes live shows and small portions

There’s a new kid on the block, and she’s proving that sometimes less is more. Seeing the bigger picture, the newly revamped Backstage Lounge is thinking small when it comes to its size, its stage and its servings.

A little sibling to the mammoth Rio Theatre located next door, Backstage Lounge has started hosting its own live music in Santa Cruz, at 1209 Soquel Ave. Laurence Bedford, the owner of both, admits he’s undergoing “a lack of sleep these days.”

Like a symbiotic relationship between venues, The Rio serves as the crocodile to the Backstage Lounge’s plover bird; the Dr. Evil to a Mini-Me. The idea is that one concert’s crowd will feed the other, with Backstage Lounge’s chef, Lenny Calandrino, literally feeding all.

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Love Your Local Band

Craig’s Brother

Craig’s Brother

In Orange County, there’s an all-ages venue in a nondescript strip mall called Chain Reaction. Though still going strong, the stage’s heyday was late ’90s and early ’00s pop punk. Alongside A.F.I. and The Ataris merch, you’ll also find shirts from bands like Death on Wednesday, Slick Shoes, and Craig’s Brother, a homage to a bygone era. “It’s really cool that we came from a particular time period and we have a specific sound,” says Craig’s Brother frontman Ted Bond. “Now that [the genre] is kind of over, there’s no bandwagon; we can authentically say it’s our sound.” Much as Chain Reaction stands as a monument to another era, so does Craig’s Brother as a band. Still featuring the line-up it had before breaking up for seven years, the four punk rockers returned with 2011’s The Insidious Lie, which functions like a follow-up to 2001’s Lost At Sea—it’s a familiar sound, just with 2011 production values. Nowadays, the band recognizes that its chance for stardom (Yellowcard singer Ryan Key was once even part of the group) has probably passed with the popularity of Further Seems Forever (a fellow Tooth & Nail act), and the cavalcade of pop punkers who rotated through MTV2.

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Features

Don’t Call Me Dude

Don’t Call Me DudeChoppin’ it up with guitar ace Les Dudek - GT Online exclusive
It can’t be easy having a last name that’s just one letter away from “Dude.” Before they’ve even met you, some people are going to picture you as a longhaired, Harley-riding type, who plays air guitar to Steve Miller’s Fly Like an Eagle album between bong rips.

If that’s the image that comes to your mind when you hear the name Les Dudek, you’re off the mark. Yes, Dudek is longhaired. And yes, he’s been known to ride a Harley. But this guy actually played guitar on Fly Like an Eagle and a few other Steve Miller albums.

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Features

Punk at Heart

Punk at Heart

Outcast turned electro musician, Steve Aoki, makes nonconformity cool
As a young boy growing up in Newport Beach, Steve Aoki stuck out like a sore thumb. He was too small to fit in with the jocks, he had a traditional Japanese home wherein no English was spoken, he loved rock music, and his father, a former Japanese Olympic wrestler and the founder of the Benihana restaurant chain, was an estranged figure living on the east coast.

“The status quo is very conservative, one-sided, with not much character,” Aoki says of Newport. “You’re either in, or you’re very out.”

When he couldn’t break into the athletic circle as a teenager, Aoki was welcomed with open arms into the punk community—a niche that the now-electro house musician credits as his inspiration in song and in life.

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Love Your Local Band

Extra Large

Extra LargeYou would be hard pressed to find a more upbeat group of musicians than Extra Large, the longtime local band known for their feel- good tunes and fun-loving attitude. The group has been a staple at local outdoor festivals for years now and has been repeatedly voted Local Band of the Year in the Good Times annual Best Of Santa Cruz issue—and it’s not hard to see why. Extra Large glows with positivity, creating a family atmosphere onstage that is, by many accounts, simply contagious. They produce this feeling with songs that rarely stray from major scales, bright guitar tones, shimmering steel drums, and funk- and island-inspired rhythms. But according to percussionist and vocalist Valerie Leal, wife of the group’s founder Russ Leal, the communal feeling exuded by Extra Large also has a lot to do with the band’s attitude. “We’re not a band that’s just up there performing,” she says. “Every time we play it’s a big party for everybody, including us. There’s a total involvement between us and the audience.
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Love Your Local Band

Jr. Boogie & Jake Nielsen

Jr. Boogie & Jake Nielsen

Not much thought goes into the music of local blues duo Junior Boogie and Jake Nielsen. That’s not to say that harmonica player and vocalist Jeremy “Junior Boogie” Heinemann and guitarist Jake Nielsen don’t care about their craft. It’s just that, as traditional bluesmen, they know the blues isn’t something you think about. “It’s something that I just feel,” Heinemann says. “It’s something I grew up feeling. To play the blues you have got to understand and live the blues.” Heinemann says his mother instilled him with a love for the blues at a young age—turning him on to artists like Muddy Waters and blues harp masters Little Walter and James Cotton. He picked up the harp at 15 and he hasn’t put it down since. Heinemann’s partner, Nielsen, has a similar tale. He first picked up a bass at age 13 and a guitar at 16, egged on by his uncles who all play. Nielsen, like Heinemann, also says that he is in love with the blues because of “the feel of it.

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Features

Keep it Simple, Stupid

Keep it Simple, Stupid

Seattle indie pop trio strips down, unplugs
Simple and stripped-down though their songs may be, the Seattle-based, three-piece Seapony are a product of the electronic, interconnected modern world.

Seapony's story is one of cross-country flights, trans-continental record deals, drum machines, and the democratizing effects of social networking sites and the blogosphere. While their music—a fuzzy, bittersweet, laconic and lo-fi indie pop—would have appealed to fans of the Breeders and Blur circa 1993, it’s possible they would have never been discovered.

“We’ve all got full-time jobs,” songwriter Danny Rowland explains, taking a break from his job as a customer support representative at a third-party billing vendor. Before the web, the band would have played gigs, but considering the brevity of the tours they can take while working 9 to 5, it would have been difficult to gain exposure.

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Features

It’s A Small World

It’s A Small World

Les Nubians sisters call for a ‘Nü Revolution’ in global citizenship
Nelson Mandela once said, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” French-Cameroonian sister duo, Les Nubians, approached their third album Nü Revolution with that same frame of mind.

Born in Paris, but raised in Chad, Celia and Helene Faussart have become famous for their eclectic mash-up of hip-hop, soul, R&B and Afro-Caribbean rhythms, flowing freely between French and English lyrics.

But up until this year, the duo had never recorded an album within the U.S. To celebrate global unity, Les Nubians began recording in Detroit during President Obama’s convention. “It was inspiring to start an album at such a historical time,” says Celia.

Working with U.S. producers, the duo hoped to bring their musical hybrid directly to Americans in a format and language they could relate to.

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Features

Funky Shaman

Funky Shaman

For The Pimps of Joytime, the groove is sacred
If you ask Brian J, guitarist, singer and chief songwriter for the Brooklyn-based The Pimps of Joytime, what the “J” in his name stands for, he might tell you, but he certainly won’t respond if you call him by the moniker he inherited from his father.

And that isn’t because he has anything against his dad—the man who instilled J with his love of R&B, soul and funk by keeping the stereo pumping in his household. It’s because, as J puts it, his legal surname is “the name I use for government shit.”

When J is onstage with his band, as he will be tonight at Moe’s Alley, he doesn’t want to think about taxes or long lines at the DMV. He wants to lose himself in the unique primeval catharsis that can only be achieved through rhythm.

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A Year of Creative Self-Expression

Wednesday, after a year in Cancer’s nourishing waters, Jupiter enters fiery Leo. Next Tuesday, the sun joins Jupiter in Leo. Leo is the sign of the three fires of life, of seeking our individuality, our gifts and talents. Life for the next year will be quite dramatic, expressive, creative and generous. Jupiter, the heart of Aquarius, is the planet of expansion and truth, distributing Ray 2 of Love and Wisdom.

 

Final Cut

Cedar Street Video to close after 10 years at downtown location

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of July 18

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >

 

Art Files: Opposites Attract

Using found objects, Victoria May seeks beauty in dichotomy and tension, the creepy and absurd
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Desserts at Seabright’s La Posta, a pop-up breakfast, local ethnic cuisine, and a long-lost varietal 

 

What is the most outrageous thing you did as a kid?

Santa Cruz | Retired

 

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

 

Loma Prieta’s Pinotage

Although drinking alone is not half as much fun as drinking with others, after a busy day of dashing around, I came home and poured myself a glass or two of Loma Prieta’s Pinotage 2010 (saving a bit for my husband). There’s something about taking that first sip of a worthy wine that gives one an all-over glow.