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Apr 17th
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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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Love Your Local Band

Birdhouse

Birdhouse

What a difference a year can make. Last Halloween, when a group of friends thought the best way to spend the masked affair would be to jam out some Grateful Dead tunes at a Santa Cruz house party, little could they have guessed that by the next Day of the Dead they’d be garnering notice for playing solid original tunes under the name Birdhouse. Now, with no covers in sight, the quartet balances jazz virtuosity with jam band dexterity, and the resulting patchwork morphs with each show. A conglomerate of UC Santa Cruz and Cabrillo College students, the guys in Birdhouse, according to drummer Jeff Wilson, formed “to play old time, good feeling rock music with a country feel, but we’re all jazz guys.” With guitarist/lead vocalist Daniel Talamantes (“He’s constantly on his typewriter all day writing,” Wilson says), lead guitarist Jeff Carter, and bassist Chris McIntyre rounding out the crew, Birdhouse lights up an ever-changing set through a knack for tight improv and technical precision. An appreciation for bluegrass and funk certainly informs the set, with Wilson favoring African rhythms and atypical syncopation as the lively undercurrent to the band’s rock meanderings, while Carter’s stinging pedal steel guitar is scene-stealing.

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Features

A Galaxie-Sized Legacy

A Galaxie-Sized Legacy

Dean Wareham still revels in 20-year-old songs
Back in August I found myself standing outside of The Blank Club in San Jose one evening, speaking with a musician friend who was passing through town on tour. Per usual, our conversation eventually turned to old shoegaze bands, with one of us making the crack that, though the reunited Swervedriver had played the Fillmore in San Francisco earlier in the year, pre-breakup there was no way it could have ever played a venue that size.

Really, we could just as easily have been talking about Galaxie 500, America’s best answer to the almost-forgotten shoegaze scene happening in England in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Though the band lasted only four years, leading man Dean Wareham—coming to Don Quixote’s on Friday, Nov. 12 with his own band to reinterpret Galaxie 500 material—seems remarkably comfortable being shadowed by the legacy of a group that ended nearly 20 years ago.

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Love Your Local Band

DJ Rob Monroy

DJ Rob Monroy

Psychedelic beams of light penetrate a fog-filled room and scatter off of a mirror ball down onto the dance floor. The crowd of gyrating bodies instinctively twists to the electronic pulse of the speakers as the turntables spin in their hypnotic trance. “A lot of it comes down to beat matching and keeping them together, “ explains DJ Rob Monroy with a satisfied grin. “If the beats are falling apart the people will get distracted.” Monroy knows what he’s talking about. Performing since 1994, he’s one of the longest spinning DJs in Santa Cruz with a plethora of dance parties under his belt—including Raindance events with his friend DJ Lil John. Monroy was also the resident DJ for Back to Basics night at the Blue Lagoon, which had a respectable seven-year run in Santa Cruz. But despite his love for electronic music, his origins as a DJ began in an unlikely place. “I’m a Dead Head,” he says. “Grateful Dead shows were the first place I felt comfortable dancing ecstatically.” As the years went on and drugs began to crumble the positive community aspects of Dead shows, Monroy began finding ambiguous fliers for “DJ gatherings” at undisclosed locations.

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Features

Café Musique

Café Musique

Café Musique fits more than a few different costumes

What better way to celebrate a holiday that encourages identity experimentation than with a band that defines its music as somewhere between a Jewish Ladino tune, a Venezuelan waltz, a Canadian pop song, Hungarian gypsy music and good old-fashioned Americana?


“You put a show on Oct. 31 and there’s no telling what will happen,” jokes Duane Inglish, Café Musique’s accordion player, of the ensemble’s upcoming performance at Don Quixote’s, at 1 p.m. on the Day of the Dead.


At this week’s Halloween afternoon gig, the five-member band out of San Luis Obispo will debut new music from its sophomore effort, Catching Your Breath, released in July. The 13-track album guides listeners on an existential journey from dreamlike “Cascata De Lagrimas,” to Eddie Cantor’s 1920s ditty “Dinah,” to the unofficial Canadian national anthem “Hallelujah.”

 

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Features

Bonnie 'Prince' Billy

Bonnie 'Prince' Billy

Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy talks about his early punk leanings, and his surprising work with famous friends
In a profile for the New Yorker in 2007, Will Oldham’s own mother describes the singer-songwriter as “ornery,” referring to both his contentious relationship with the press and his overall demeanor.

I just don’t see it. In fact, in the course of my chat with the man otherwise known as Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy—coming to Don Quixote’s in Felton with opener Big Eagle on Monday, Oct. 25—there are a couple myths about the Louisville-bred indie folk-rocker I feel have been kind of busted. Not only is Oldham pretty friendly, thoughtful, and forthcoming, but it also seems that his Jandek-like reputation for elusiveness is a bit overblown.

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Features

Out On The Streets

Out On The Streets

The Morning Benders find success and homelessness
If you want to learn what it was like for The Morning Benders’ Chris Chu to work with co-producer Chris Taylor (of Grizzly Bear fame) on the band’s 2010 album, Big Echo, you can refer to, well, pretty much any other interview with Chris Chu. Just how many times has that topic come up?

“I guess I couldn’t tell you because I’ve lost count,” says the vocalist and frontman. “I might say over 100 times.”

If nothing else, having to answer the same question over and over is evidence that The Morning Benders—coming to the Rio Theatre on Friday, Oct. 15—are moving up in the indie world. Yet success is a relative thing in the post-Napster generation, as the band’s grueling touring schedule would suggest.

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Features

The Three Folkateers

The Three Folkateers

City Folk brings together old friends for timeless tunes
The first time that Kimball Hurd met Roger Feuer, he was offered a scotch, the two got out their instruments, and they proceeded to play for a few hours—all before having a full conversation.

Twenty years later, Hurd, Feuer and longtime friend Keith Greeninger, make up City Folk, a Bay Area folk band most often compared to Crosby, Stills and Nash. On Saturday, Oct. 9 at Kuumbwa Jazz, the band intends to prove that it still puts music before all else.

In the same way that Woody Guthrie used folk music to shed light on the unjust conditions faced by working class people, the members of City Folk seek to inspire by supporting global solidarity and environmentalism.

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Love Your Local Band

The Atomic Aces

The Atomic Aces

Head for the fallout shelters, the Atomic Aces are set to ignite a fiery explosion of upbeat, down and dirty rock ’n’ roll. “You’ll want to dance to our songs,” explains Mercy Vasseur, lead singer and debutant of the Aces. “They’re a nice fusion of different things for every age group.” And there might just be something to this. Atomic Aces dissect elements of country, rockabilly, and Western swing, only to splice them together with the best parts of rock and punk. The result is a blaze of hip beats and head-nodding twang, showing the young kids something new and giving the old timers a flash of something familiar.

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Features

It’s A Small World

It’s A Small World

Pianist Robert Edward Thies revisits the past
When most children were dreaming of becoming firefighters, doctors and astronauts, 4-year-old Robert Edward Thies was aspiring to be a classical musician.

On Oct. 2, the now 39-year-old distinguished pianist will help kick off the Santa Cruz Symphony’s 2010/2011 season with a concert called “Out of this World,” which will showcase three pieces, two of which inspired him as a young boy.

Thies will play George Gershwin’s jazzy “Rhapsody in Blue,” a composition originally written for the Paul Whiteman Band, which has held a special place in his heart since childhood. While he has been given the opportunity to perform the piece on several occasions throughout his career—this will be the third time this year. To him, it never gets old.

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Love Your Local Band

The Terrible

The Terrible

Standing in the center of Metavinyl, the record mecca in Downtown Santa Cruz owned by drummer Jonathon Schneiderman, the first thing the four members of The Terrible tell me is that they’re not really much of a band. Qué? Friends who’ve been jamming for a decade, they don’t play shows very often (a handful this year) and they don’t really practice (“I’ll practice the day of the show onstage at the Blue Lagoon,” guitarist Nick Gyorkos laughs, referencing this week’s gig). Like a space rock vampire that emerges after long bouts of sleep to clench audiences with a piercing attack before retreating, the hard-driving quartet may not take itself seriously, but listeners do. Plus, lining the wall behind the guys is a big clue that begs to differ with their claim: a slew of copies of The Terrible’s new record, their brown cardboard sleeves screenprinted with art by Stacie Willoughby and neatly wrapped in plastic. There are 300 limited-edition prints of the record, with a 21-minute haze of throbbing psychedelic rock on each side ready to melt your player needle, and it’s the impetus behind The Terrible’s performance with Mammatus and Indian Giver at 9 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 1 at The Blue Lagoon.

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Features

Animal Collective's Deakin Goes Solo

Animal Collective's Deakin Goes Solo

Deakin crafts tunes, and more, on his own
In certain circles, Animal Collective is a veritable god-like force, essentially unassailable critically for creating some of the most important experimental music of an entire generation.

Conversely, member Josh Dibb (aka Deakin, coming to the Brookdale Lodge on Tuesday, Sept. 28 with supporting act Price Rama), doesn’t have the kind of confidence you’d expect of a prophet. However, he does have at least one thing in common with Jesus Christ.

“Carpentry, I think, has been my other really big source of money and work, aside from music,” says Dibb, recalling his days as a set-builder for what he calls “off, off Broadway” productions in New York City. This was during a time after dropping out of Brandeis University in Massachusetts, a decision that clearly still weighs on him.

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Growing Hope

Campos Seguros combats sexual assault in the Watsonville farmworker community Farm work was a way of life for Rocio Camargo, who grew up in Watsonville as the daughter of Mexican immigrants. Her parents met while working the fields 30 years ago, and her father went on to run Fuentes Berry Farms.

 

Cardinal Grand Cross in the Sky

Following Holy Week (passion, death and burial of the Pisces World Teacher) and Easter Sunday (Resurrection Festival), from April 19 to the 23, the long-awaited and discussed Cardinal Cross of Change appears in the sky, composed of Cardinal signs Aries, Libra, Cancer, and Capricorn, with planets (13-14 degrees) Uranus (in Aries), Jupiter (in Cancer), Mars (in Libra) and Pluto (in Capricorn), an actual geometrical square or cross configuration. Cardinal signs mark the seasons of change, initiating new realities.

 

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.
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Foodie File: Red Apple Cafe

Breakfast takes center stage at Gracia Krakauer's Red Apple Cafe Before they moved to Aptos, Gracia and her husband Dan Krakauer would visit friends in Santa Cruz County and eat at the Red Apple Café all the time. Then they moved up here from Santa Monica five years ago, and bought the Aptos location (there’s a separate one in Watsonville) from the family who owned it for two decades.

 

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

 

Trout Gulch Vineyards

Cinsault 2012—la grande plage diurne The most popular wines on store shelves are those most generally known and available—Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which are all superb for sure. But when you come across a more unusual varietal, like Trout Gulch Vineyards’ Cinsault ($18), it opens up a whole new world.