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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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Love Your Local Band

John Miller

John Miller

John Miller’s an impressive cat. He’s only 21 years old—still young enough to speak about his formative years vividly—yet he gives an interview with the confidence (yet fortunately without the exasperation) of a touring veteran. Luckily, he has the back story to match that zeal. Despite being just a few miles east of Watsonville, Aromas is the kind of community that feels like it might as well be light years away from Santa Cruz. Nowadays you can find Miller working at New Deal Clothing right in the heart of Downtown Pacific, but that feels like a far cry from the singer songwriter’s home town he left as a teenager. It was during those years when Miller first started composing music, playing with a few nondescript bands during high school. Conversely, such experiences probably pushed him toward his future solo foray. “That was when I got my first taste of other musicians and working as a team on musical projects,” explains Miller. “It’s really hard forming chemistry with other people.” In one sense, then, some of the folk rocker’s influences and analogs aren’t surprising—Elliott Smith, Jeff Buckley, Conor Oberst—and Miller willingly admits to projecting a similarly downtrodden aesthetic. Still, it’s lyrically relevant to the younger generation, and musically relevant to anyone who enjoys smart, modern acoustic guitar-led songs. In fact, trying an album out won’t cost you a dime, as Miller has made his year-old debut full-length, Shades of Autumn Everywhere, available for free on his website, john-miller-music.com. Not that he’s necessarily thinking big picture, but the 21-year-old has admittedly done this as a marketing strategy. “As long as I’m breathing, I’m open to whatever comes my way,” says Miller about his next move. “Anything that comes at me, I’m not going to disregard it."


 

INFO: 9 p.m. Friday, May 20. Crepe Place, 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. $7/adv, $10/door. 429-6994.

Features

There’s No Place Like Home

There’s No Place Like Home

Hometown heroes, Eisley, haven’t forgotten where they came from
Sherri DuPree is preparing to order food from one of her favorite restaurants when her phone rings. Asking her husband to grab something for her and apologizing for the background noise, DuPree—singer and songwriter for the Texas-based, indie-pop quintet Eisley—seeks out a quiet corner to talk about her band’s forthcoming tour in support of their third LP, The Valley, released March 1.

It’s just after 8 p.m. on a Wednesday in Tyler, Texas—a town of roughly 97,000 people, situated about 100 miles southeast of Dallas. This is where DuPree lives with her husband, and where she and her bandmates, all of whom are related, grew up. Tyler is also the city where the group recorded The Valley, and, if DuPree has her way, it will be her final resting place.

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Features

Guitar Hero

Guitar Hero

Hendrix doppelganger Eric Gales schools DQ’s in the blues
All too many blues rock albums consist exclusively of AAB lyric schemes slung over the same 12-bar pattern we’ve heard millions of times before. Holding it all together are guitar riffs so clichéd that the player might as well use air quotes before and after playing them. The only real surprises for the listener are what the key and tempo of the next song will be, and whether the singer will complain about romantic troubles, financial hardship, legal issues or health concerns.

While some such songs do inhabit blues guitar monster Eric Gales’ latest album, Relentless, they’re outnumbered by tunes with far more original melodic, harmonic and lyrical information. If there’s such a thing as “progressive blues rock,” Gales’ music might just fall under this category. The main attraction here is Gales’ fiery lead guitar playing: His triplet flurries, brazen double stops and demon-conjuring string bends led Guitarist magazine to name him Best Blues Player of 2010.

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Love Your Local Band

3UpFront

3UpFront

The goal of a “battle of the bands” contest seems straightforward: rock harder than the competition, woo the judges, earn the cash prize. But for local skate punk outfit 3upFront—named after the physical placement of their microphones onstage—Saturday’s annual Your Music Olympicks Finals at The Catalyst is important for two reasons: sticking it to the man and boobs. Now before you get your panties in a twist, consider this—should the foursome win the $5,000 grand prize, a sizable portion will go toward promoting their upcoming “Boobies or Bust” Breast Cancer Awareness Tour. Kicking off in July, the tour will benefit the Susan G. Komen and Breast Cancer Awareness Funds, with 100 percent of the profits going to education and research.

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Features

When Instruments Speak

When Instruments Speak

Hussain & Sharma return for an evening of energized Indian tabla and santoor
Mention Zakir Hussain and rhythmic magic comes to mind. He’s played percussion with Yo Yo Ma, Van Morrison and Pharoah Sanders, bringing an innovative approach to Indian tabla drumming. After growing up in Southern India with his father, legendary tabla player Ustad Alla Rakha, Hussain came to the US in 1970, and George Harrison invited him to play on Living In The Material World. Friday, the renowned cofounder of Shakti fusion band and music composer returns to The Rio.

Good Times: How it is performing with Shivkumarji Sharma?
Zakir Hussain: I must’ve been 15 when I first played with him, and he comes from the same part of India as my family. There’s this very instinctive reaction that we have that makes the music a lot of fun and a lot of joy.

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Features

Holy Hybrid

Holy HybridLa Santa Cecilia breaks the Latin music mold
Klezmer music? Gypsy jazz? Covers of Doors and Beatles tunes? Clearly, this isn’t your typical Latin music group. Yes, La Santa Cecilia plays its fair share of cumbia, bolero, bossa nova, tango and rumba, but rather than being mere preservers of tradition, these six Los Angeles musicians are purveyors of what they call a “modern-day creative hybrid of Latin culture, rock and world music.”
According to the ensemble’s guitarist, Gloria Estrada, the diversity of La Santa Cecilia’s repertoire is a reflection of its members’ backgrounds. “The great thing about L.A. is that you can go to one part of town, and you’re in Little Tokyo; you go a few blocks, and you’re in a Mexican community, or a Jewish, Korean, El Salvadoran or Central American community,” she says. The musician adds that five members of the group are of Mexican descent, and bassist Alex Bendana was born in Venezuela, “but he was raised in L.A. by Mexican people—L.A. has a lot of Mexicans—so he’s an honorary Mexican. So we’re definitely bicultural in the sense that we have our parents’ background and culture and so forth, and at the same time, we grew up with American influence, hearing all kinds of music, eating all kinds of food and seeing different holidays be honored around L.A.”
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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.