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Apr 16th
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Features

Sound Gardener

Sound Gardener

Bluetech welcomes Don Quixote’s patrons to his sonic greenhouse
When Evan Bartholomew composes a song, he begins with what he calls “a tiny seed.” “I’m silent for a minute, and I hear … maybe it’s a bass line; maybe it’s a rhythm pattern; maybe it’s something my hand is tapping on the steering wheel while I’m driving in the car,” he explains. “And then I go in the studio and attempt to sow the seed—get it down, get that idea tracked.”

It’s fitting that Bartholomew—who performs his downtempo electronica music under the name of Bluetech—should reach for this particular metaphor: His home recording studio in Hawaii is filled with literal seedlings. The musician has a nursery of more than 2,000 bromeliads, a type of epiphyte (a plant that can grow without soil) found in the tropical Americas. Because the habitat for the plants he collects is being rapidly decimated, some of these species no longer exist in the wild. He hopes to use his music to draw attention to this situation.

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Love Your Local Band

Ben Flocks Quartet

Ben Flocks Quartet

Ben Flocks, 21-year-old sax extraordinaire, understands there is no place like home. A former member of Kuumbwa Jazz Honor Band (he calls Kuumbwa “a sacred place”) who played the Monterey Jazz Festival stage this September (“one of the greatest experiences of my whole life”), the Bonny Doon native is currently studying at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York City. There, he says, “350 jazz musicians are packed into two floors of a building in the Village.” He’s been looking forward to stretching his legs—and his refined musical skills—during his winter break and holiday return to town. “At school people tell me to bring my ‘Santa Cruz vibe,’ and now I’m trying to bring my New York vibe back and bridge these two places,” he says. Flanked by good friends and fellow Bay Area locals Jesse Scheinin on saxophone, Zach Brown on bass, and Michael Davis on drums, Flocks will lead his quartet through two sets at the Crepe Place, Thursday, Dec. 30.

 

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Features

In Flight

In Flight

The globe-trotting angelic strings of Carlos Reyes
What do MC Hammer, Marky Mark, the Pope and now Don Quixote’s have in common? They can all attest to the musical talents of Paraguayan violinist and harpist Carlos Reyes.

A child prodigy—he picked up the violin at age 3 and a half and had his first public performance at 5—Reyes grew up under the influence of his father, Carlos Reyes, Sr., a musical and national hero in Paraguay.

Through the years, the younger Reyes mastered the harp, guitar, bass, mandolin and keyboards, but his father always had one dream for his son: to become a respected classical concert violinist.

“My father started it all with me,” says Reyes, who remembers his house being filled with string instruments as a child. “We played our Paraguayan folk music as a family and did shows together, but that was just a side thing; the concert soloist was what I was being groomed for.”

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Love Your Local Band

Mothers

Mothers

Sometimes a band’s style of conversation perfectly parallels its music. Disjointed, loudly confident, unpredictable and pure non-stop entertainment, a sit-down talk with members of Mothers seems to take a cue from their full-throttle, metal-tinged songs. Behind their respective black attire, baby beards and cigarette smoke, singer/guitarist Matt Wilson and drummer Matt McClain chat about the new Santa Cruz quartet on the deck of Caffe Pergolesi. Guitarist Matt Hintze pops in for brief cameos as he wipes down the tables and works the venue as a nightshift barista. With bassist Dustin White (middle name: Matt), the band of Matts has transformed Wilson’s previous songwriting project—the more subdued Motorcycle Snakebite—into an abrasive, technical juggernaut in which McClain’s cymbal-breaking attacks furiously brew behind a jagged interlocking of guitars. Wilson says, “When people first see us they won’t understand what it is, but I think they’ll like it because—” McClain interjects, “Definitely not because of our looks!” Laughter ensues. Wilson’s sweet and earnest manner is a foil to McClain’s ceaseless sarcasm and jokester jabs (“We’re really influenced by Mariah Carey,” the drummer quips).

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Features

Souliving the Dream

Souliving the Dream

Soulive’s pursuits span the Beatles and new bands
Earlier this year it broke that Abbey Road Studios in London—the legendary halls first brought into public consciousness by the Beatles—was in dire financial straits, staring at closure in the face of urban development. It’s a sad commentary on the state of the music business.

Well, Soulive—the jazz-funk organ trio gracing the stage at Moe’s Alley on Wednesday, Dec. 15—knows a thing or two about the economics of running a studio. It also knows a thing or two about the Beatles, given its three-month-old LP of cover tunes, Rubber Soulive. And though Beatles covers may not be the most original of ideas, the inspiration behind Soulive’s take on these classics comes from a natural impulse.

“Initially, we’re like ‘Yo, let’s do a British Invasion album,’” explains drummer Alan Evans. “Obviously a lot of those tunes we wanted to do were Beatles tunes, so it just kind of evolved into what it became. We’ve done original albums forever, as long as we’ve been together. We’ve thrown in maybe a couple cover tunes on a few of those albums, but we just felt like it was time to do something completely different.”

Though it’s an album of pre-written material, Rubber Soulive is still true to expectations of the trio’s (rounded out by guitarist Eric Krasno and Alan’s brother, organist Neal Evans) faithful. While far from being abstract interpretations of the Beatles, the groove-based funk backbone of the band remains in tact. Still, one wonders if an all-covers album would have been possible under Soulive’s previous business arrangements.“We have all the control, we do whatever we want to do,” says Evans about creating the band’s own label, Royal Family Records. “For us it was always kind of frustrating that we’d be ready to record something, but no, you’d have to wait for a certain amount of time, things like that. Those kind of decisions that we just had no control over, that was really frustrating. Now it’s just that we have so much music we want to put out.”

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Love Your Local Band

The Getaway Girl

The Getaway Girl

Living up to her moniker as The Getaway Girl, Courtney Jones recently did something many East Coasters do: she fled to the sunnier shores of California. But it wasn’t without incident. Only one state away from her home in Virginia, Jones’ old Jeep Cherokee, which was lugging the singer/songwriter, her Yamaha mock grand piano and her acoustic guitar, beckoned for attention and started overheating. Trudging onward, a year ago she landed in Santa Cruz after, she recalls, “the welcoming committee at the border of California said, ‘Welcome to California—and just so you know, your car is shooting out black smoke!’” Along with that fixer-upper, the 24-year-old brought to town her songwriting skills she’d exercised in bands while living in North Carolina, a knack to play back anything she hears despite not knowing chords, and a determination to master the keys in original songs. And, like you’d suspect, she did so in perfect getaway form. “Once I moved out to California I was locking myself in my room for hours trying to figure out new chord progressions,” she says. The sweet result? Her solo musical project now greets listeners as a piano pop endeavor dripping in spacey ambiance and affecting lyrics that can bounce with a lighthearted bop or amble with languid fluidity reminiscent of Missy Higgins.

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Features

Don’t Stop Now

Don’t Stop Now

How The Bad Plus makes avant-garde accessible
If there were ever an oxymoron that made absolute sense, it would be the phrase “avant-garde populism” when applied to The Bad Plus—the progressive jazz trio that is making its near-annual stop at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center for two sets on Monday, Dec. 6.

Indeed, the group is defined by a few sets of sweet contradiction: classical and contemporary, proficient and accessible, vanguard and conventional. Made up of bassist Reid Anderson, pianist Ethan Iverson, and drummer Dave King, The Bad Plus has put out seven albums over its 10-year existence, and that tag of avant-garde populism—originally coined in the New York Times—continues to hover around aptly.

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Love Your Local Band

Molly’s Revenge

Molly’s Revenge

A challenge of being a Celtic band from California? Credibility. Living far from the Green Isle, the Santa Cruz-based players in Molly’s Revenge have had to work that much harder to get respect for playing traditional music native to a foreign region. Still, the members have mastered a rare style despite their stateside home, and it’s gained them plenty of nods from notable players. “We may not talk with the accents, but the music speaks with the accent for us,” says founder David Brewer, the man behind the Highland bagpipes. With John Weed on fiddle, Stuart Mason on guitar/mandola, and Peter Haworth on bouzouki, Molly’s Revenge catapults audiences (in both elite venues and casual pubs) into a wicked seizure fueled by strident Celtic covers and originals. It seems that emerging as outsiders to the scene has given the band the freedom to, shall we say, experiment. Don’t expect kilts, expect kick-ass takes on Celtic classics. While in Scotland and Ireland bands traditionally play sitting down, Molly’s Revenge treats its stage show with the dynamics and theatrics of a rock show; everyone performs standing, and flailing movements complement the stomping rhythms.

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Features

Another Roadside Attraction

Another Roadside Attraction

Le Serpent Rouge presents musical entertainment’s latest odd couple: jug band music and belly dancing
Rachel Brice of Le Serpent Rouge isn’t going to let a momentary setback spoil her good mood. “Right now we’re sitting by the side of the road with a broken-down vehicle, but that’s fine—we’ve done that twice already,” she cheerfully tells GT by cell phone. “We’re broken down and sick, but it’s fun!”

Brice, a former Santa Cruz resident currently residing in Portland, Ore., serves as artistic director and choreographer for The Indigo Belly Dance Company, in which she performs alongside her former Bellydance Superstar colleagues Mardi Love (Urban Tribal Belly Dance) and Zoe Jakes (Beats Antique, Yard Dogs Road Show). Brice explains that Indigo’s tribal fusion belly dance style, which contains elements of 1920s jazz, American tribal, electronic fusion and old-time dance forms, owes a great debt to turn-of-the-century vaudevillian variety shows. “Our belly dancing, in a lot of ways, is inspired by what we would imagine that we would want to do if we lived in that time,” she states.

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Love Your Local Band

Five Eyed Hand

Five Eyed Hand

When guitarist Chris Zanardi dishes out the inside scoop on his band Five Eyed Hand, there’s no shortage of quirky band member details befitting the ensemble’s fusion psychedelic-meets-funk soundscape. Drummer Derek Bodkin isn’t just an anomalous frontman from behind the kit, he’s also an award-winning professional whistler (he performs a whistle solo on the song “Good Mood Trot”). Bassist Jeb Taylor was struck by lightning as a child while hiking the Himalaya (“I think it messed up his vocals during his adolescent years and he’s the only member that doesn’t sing,” Zanardi laughs). Violinist Mike Henderson is known to untraditionally whip out the slide here and there (“He’s a virtuoso that plays everything from classical to rock”). With each member brandishing his own extensive resume of projects, Five Eyed Hand formed in 2006 to boast a motley crew of experiences and styles that continues to go strong. From sexy funk to beastly bluegrass jams to precise jazz instrumentals, the quartet hits Don Quixote’s with Marco Benevento on Friday, Dec. 3.

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Love Your Local Band

The Good Sams

The Good Sams

There’s nothing like a little ol’ power plant to spark the creative juices. It works in The Simpsons and it works in the Good Sams. While Moss Landing is commonly recognized for its two power plant towers, along with the famous flavors of Phil’s Fish Market, since 2006 the tiny tourist spot has also harbored a lesser-known force to be reckoned with: Smaller in stature but bigger in sound than the aforementioned landmarks, the hillbilly swing of the Good Sams fits the antique-loving scene of the neighborhood while infusing a youthful surf/skate punk aesthetic through its energy and lyrics. Still, let’s talk power plant. Singer/songwriter Andrew Dolan grew up watching the smoke linger out of the imposing towers and over his grandparents’ junkyard. “Every day when the smoke came out of the stacks it looked like things morphing into other things, it was nonstop entertainment,” the 28-year-old recalls. “So the power plant is a huge influence on us.” Take note of one of the trio’s original romps, “Plume’s Doom.” But while modern muses like power plants and skateboarding play some major roles in the local ensemble’s music, it’s the old-time string thumping and country crooning that lays the Good Sams’ foundation.

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Features

Tunes that Teach

Tunes that Teach

The Banana Slug String Band Celebrates 25 years
Children’s programming runs from the idiotic to the sublime. But rare is the children’s musical group with a socially conscious vibe—imagine the Wiggles with a soul or Soupy Sales with a vegan pie. For 25 years, Santa Cruz’s aptly named Banana Slug String Band has been entertaining tots around the globe with an eco-message of hope.

On Saturday, Nov. 13 at Kuumbwa Jazz, the ensemble will play two special anniversary shows for children (and their parents) at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. The band will be pre-releasing their upcoming CD and showcasing the newest songs from their vast catalogue in a family-friendly atmosphere.

Self-branded with monikers that reflect their love of all things outdoors and under the sea, lead guitarist  “Airy” Larry Graff, bass player Doug “Dirt” Greenfield, songwriter/guitarist “Solar” Steve Van Zandt and mandolin/guitarist “Marine” Mark Nolan all come from a background in nature studies. Together they make music that is deserving of its own animated Saturday morning show.

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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.