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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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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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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.