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May 25th
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Features

The Sun Also Rises

The Sun Also RisesWebExclusive: In times of famine and feast Rich Robinson is under the same sun

Rich Robinson’s dad is dying. And his newborn son, Bleu, is a mere three months old. Experiencing grief and happiness simultaneously has become a strange constant in Robinson’s life. At 25, he had everything: as a member of the blues-rock outfit The Black Crowes, Robinson was in a “comfortable state” financially, married to a beautiful wife, and playing shows around the world.

But even at the peak of the Crowes’ popularity in the early- to mid-’90s, something was off. “I was living this life that was askew,” says Robinson, now 42. “My relationships with the people that were supposed to be my closest seemed damaged. My marriage was not a good fit for either of us and we weren’t facing up to that. Though I love my brother [Chris, co-founder of The Black Crowes], the fact that my working environment can be challenging has been well-chronicled. Nothing was working like it should have been, but by many people’s standards, it was a dream come true.”

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Features

On a Tear

On a Tear

San Diego blues/rock duo Little Hurricane rips its way into the music scene

Little Hurricane—the volatile yet smooth rock duo headed to The Crepe Place Thursday—plays what they refer to as “dirty blues”: “We say it’s blues, but it’s dirty with distortion and a little bit of grunge,” explains lead guitarist and vocalist Anthony Catalano (a.k.a. Tone). “I was in a rock band in high school and some of college, and there’s some influence from that. We try to bring a lot of extra energy when we play live.”

True to his word, Catalano blazes huge guitar riffs—with or without a slide, over the complex rhythms and alluring vocals of his rocking female accomplice, drummer Celeste Spina (a.k.a. CC). Though the band has been together for only a short time—forming in January of 2010—they’ve already earned acclaim in their hometown of San Diego, winning Best Alternative Band, and both Album of the Year, and Best Alternative Album with their debut effort Homewrecker, at the 21st annual San Diego Music Awards.

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Features

On the Road

On the Road

Jay Farrar channels Kerouac, reaches the heart of America

While most musicians tour to promote new albums, Jay Farrar is taking his act cross-country for the same reason Jack Kerouac and the Beat Generation hitchhiked the heartland: Farrar is in love with America.

A native of Belleville, Ill., Farrar became infatuated with the country at a young age: “In order for you to get anywhere, you have to drive through a big chunk of it,” he says. And like most young men, he found Kerouac in his early teens. “Here’s a method: just go out there and create and experience life,” he says of the writer. “That’s essentially what most people in bands do.”

While Kerouac was making-over Proust and Wolfe, Farrar was channeling Woodie Guthrie and The Byrds with early ’90s alt-country pioneers Uncle Tupelo. “It felt inspirational [to create something new], but we were conscious of the fact that we were drawing from other bands that had been over similar territory before,” he says. “The inspirational process is a chain.”

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Love Your Local Band

Wooster

Wooster

It's no accident that Wooster is one of the most popular bands on the local scene at the moment. Unlike some groups that get together to drink beer and rock out on the weekends, or others that craft complex music for musicians, this fun-loving quintet was assembled by singer/songwriter Brian Gallagher with one, crowd-pleasing goal: get people on the floor. "It's always good to get the room moving," Gallagher says. "I've always been into music that makes you dance." Though Gallagher now fronts the ska-tinged, pop-rock outfit—playing rhythm guitar and trading vocal lines with Wooster's other singer, Caroline Kuspa—he started his musical journey playing drums, and has never lost his percussionist sensibilities. "We really have a strong groove," Gallagher says. His lust for the beat led him to drummer Nate Fredrick and bassist Bobby Hanson, who together form a rock-solid, no-frills rhythm section—which, in turn, allows Gallagher and Kuspa to experiment with the wandering, lazily interweaving pop harmonies of "Ooh Girl" without fear that their voices will float off into the ether along with lead guitarist Zack Donoghue’s reverb-laden, bubbly chicken picking.

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Features

Beyond the Page

Beyond the Page

The talented teens of the Santa Cruz County Youth Symphony express themselves in orchestral music

"There’s a storm picking up,” Nathaniel Berman says from a podium at the front of the classroom. Suddenly a sea of violin bows start bobbing in the air and the bottom floor of Georgiana Bruce Kirby Preparatory School fills with the thundering sound of 33 instruments.

Using maritime analogies, Berman, a UCSC alumnus with a master’s degree in conducting, leads the Santa Cruz County Youth Symphony through Felix Mendelssohn’s “Hebrides Overture,” one of three orchestral pieces that the Youth Symphony will perform on Nov. 6 at the UCSC Music Center Recital Hall.

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Love Your Local Band

The Blue Tail Flies

The Blue Tail Flies

Combining dual sister singers and upright bass, a cajón slingin’ drummer, and the time tested trio of banjo, fiddle and guitar, The Blue Tail Flies have no trouble packing venues with a coordinated wall of their unique bluegrass inspired sound. Courtnay Field, one of the lead vocalists, describes their sound: “We say ‘Flygrass’, [because] we play such a variety of styles—between blues, bluegrass, and jazzy kind of swing. Plus, we have a bangin’ drummer, and she makes us a lot different than other bands.” The seven friends—all of whom met in Santa Cruz—try to have as much fun as possible at shows, feeding off audience participation. “We love the eccentric music fan: the guy that comes up to the front of the stage and hands you crazy juju beads … we’ve even got a tip that was a water bottle filled with flakes of gold. You never know what’s gonna come out of Santa Cruz,” says Field. After touring extensively and releasing an EP, the band is excited to enter the studio to record a full-length album.

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Features

8-Bit Punks

8-Bit Punks

Anamanaguchi crafts jubilant, hard-hitting Nintendocore

Punk rock means many things to many people. For some it's a genre of music, for others it's a lifestyle. If you ask Luke Silas, drummer for Brooklyn-based quartet Anamanaguchi, he'll tell you that for him and his band mates there is nothing that captures the DIY aesthetic of the punk movement more than the low-fidelity sounds of early Nintendo games.

"You have a shitty guitar," Silas says, carrying on an imaginary conversation with Johnny Rotten or Joey Ramone. "Well, we have these shitty square waves."

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Features

Keeping Music Alive

Keeping Music Alive

Annual Sing For Your Life benefit raises funds for local music programs

It’s no secret that California’s budget crisis has had a deep impact on high school curriculum. With administrators struggling to balance their budgets, everything deemed “non-essential” has been cut—especially music. “Keeping any kind of music program going is a constant struggle for schools,” explains Beth Hollenbeck, music director at Scotts Valley High School. With minimal funding, teachers like her are often unable to afford sheet music and other necessary supplies, as well as chaperones to accompany students to competitions or concerts.

To keep music alive, The Gold Standard Barbershop Chorus—a local chapter of the nationwide Barbershop Harmony Society—has hosted “Sing For Your Life” for the past eight years. Since its inception, the annual choral concert benefit has raised more than $45,000 for local music programs.

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Love Your Local Band

Sun Hop Fat

Sun Hop Fat

The music of Sun Hop Fat is at once strange and soothing. The Oakland-by-way-of-Santa-Cruz jazz and funk ensemble employs Eastern scales that sound familiarly alien—the music you would expect to hear in an old adventure movie when the hero enters a smoky Arabic watering hole. Then again, maybe it is the soundtrack to Scooby and Shaggy skulking around some old haunted mansion: trill, snake-charmer flutes and horns that rise and fall in ominously ornate chords. Sun Hop Fat's tunes are heavily influenced by Ethiopian jazz and the music of Mulu Astatke, who championed the sound in his native Ethiopia and was instrumental in importing the music to America. Bass player and founding Sun Hop Fat member Jesse Toews (who also plays in Santa Cruz "psychedelic Motown throwdown" outfit, Harry and the Hitmen) says that he and his band were drawn to Ethiopian jazz and other East African sounds because of the "seductive" note choices and interesting polyrhythms. While the music originated from African traditions, Toews explains, "because it is so close to the Middle East, it has all these Eastern scales," which give the music a "haunting element," especially to Western ears. The spooky sounds of Ethiopian jazz, combined with the group's penchant for American funk and soul, make his band the perfect choice for Halloween night at The Crepe Place—or "Creepy Place," as Sun Hop Fat trombone player and Crepe bartender Nick Gyorkos has been known to call it.

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Features

The Swing Must Go On

The Swing Must Go On

Jazz luminary Dottie Dodgion celebrates 67 years of making music

A conversation with Dottie Dodgion is like walking into a library filled with stories about the golden era of jazz and her full and fortunate life, accented with winks and humor. At 82 years old, Dodgion continues to awe behind the drum kit that cooked up the fire and cooled off the harmony with such legendary musicians as Charles Mingus, Billy Mitchell, and Stanley Turrentine.

Born in 1929 in Brea, Calif., and raised in Woodland, near Sacramento, Dodgion’s childhood memories are seasoned with humor, adventure, and the limitless freedom that came with having a father who was a “swinging drummer.”

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Features

Movin’ On Up

Movin’ On Up

WebExclusive: ‘X Factor’ contestant and Santa Cruz local Chris Rene wows judges, advances to top 17

It’s been almost a month since 28-year-old Chris Rene brought “The X Factor” stadium audience to its feet during the TV series’ debut episode. Since that fateful performance of his original R&B/rap song, “Young Homey,” the Santa Cruz raised garbage collector and recovering drug addict has been consistently wowing the show’s judges—particularly Simon Cowell and L.A. Reid—with his onstage charisma, down-to-earth personality, and, most importantly, his voice. After performing “Everyday People” by Sly & The Family Stone for Reid and Rihanna on Sunday’s top 32 episode, Rene earned the opportunity to advance to the top 17, as part of the group set to perform live next week. Eager to enter the public-voting round of the competition, beginning Tuesday, Oct. 25, Rene took some time out of his busy schedule to chat with GT about his experience on “The X Factor,” performing in front of music superstars, how Santa Cruz has shaped him as a person, and what he plans to do if he wins.

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Features

Audacious Americana

Audacious Americana

Jeffrey Foucault talks Top Ramen living and touring 200 nights per year

I would [sooner] have a loaded gun in my home [than] a television—you can teach a kid how to use a gun but you can’t teach a kid how to use a TV,” says singer/songwriter Jeffrey Foucault when asked about the meaning behind “Last Night I Dreamed of Television,” one of the darker songs off his latest effort, Horse Latitudes. Foucault’s poetic flair and bold approach to songwriting are evident in the track’s mysteriously atmospheric chords and powerful lyrics: “Last night I dreamed of television and I wept for break of day.”

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Gate Openers

Up-and-coming artists like Ryan Bingham are a great reason to show up early to the Santa Cruz American Music Festival

 

Gemini Sun, Pentecost, Shavuot—Enlightenment and Gladness

As the sun enters Gemini on Sunday, sign of speaking, communication, thinking, inter-relations, writing and understanding languages, the feast days of Pentecost & Shavuot (Catholic and Jewish festivals) occur. During Pentecost’s 50 days after Easter, tongues of fire appear above the heads of the disciples, providing them with the ability to understand all languages and all feelings hidden in the minds and hearts of humanity. It’s recorded that Pentecost began with a loud noise, which happened in an upper room (signifying the mind). The Christ (World Teacher) told his disciples (after his ascension) when encountering a man at a well carrying a water pot (signs for Age of Aquarius) to follow him to an upper room. There, the Holy Spirit (Ray 3 of Divine Intelligence) would overshadow them, expand their minds, give them courage and enable them to teach throughout the world, speaking all languages and thus able to minister to the true needs of a “seeking” humanity. Pentecost (50 days, pentagram, Ray 5, Venus, concrete and scientific knowledge, the Ray of Aquarius) sounds dramatic, impressive and scary: The loud noise, a thunderous rush of wind and then “tongues of fire” above the heads of each disciple (men and women). Fire has purpose. It purifies, disintegrates, purges, transforms and liberates (frees) us from the past. This was the Holy Spirit (Ray 3, love and wisdom) being received by the disciples, so they would teach in the world and inform humanity of the Messiah (Christ), who initiated the new age (Pisces) and gave humanity the new law (adding to the 10 Commandments of the Aries Age) to Love (Ray 2) one another. Note: Gemini is also Ray 2. Shavuot is the Jewish Festival of Gladness, the First Fruits Festival celebrating the giving of the 10 Commandments to Moses as the Aries Age was initiated. Thus, we have two developmental stages here, Jewish festival of the Old Testament. Pentecost of the New Testament. We have gladness, integrating both.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Off Her Meds

Kristin Wiig runs wild—and transcends her sketch comedy roots—as a truly strange character ‘Welcome to Me’
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Flats Bistro

Pizza with an artisan twist comes to Aptos Beach

 

What’s your take on Santa Cruz locals?

Santa Cruz locals are really friendly once you know them. I think a lot of them have a hard time leaving, and I would too. Ryan Carle, Santa Cruz, Biologist

 

Soquel Vineyards

If Soquel Vineyards partners Peter and Paul Bargetto and Jon Morgan were walking down the street wearing their winning wine competition medals, you’d hear them coming from a mile away. This year was particularly rewarding for the Bargettos and Morgan—they won two Double Gold Medals and five Gold Medals at January’s San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

 

Enlightened Flavors

Squash & Blossom’s artisanal alternative-flour delights, beet kvass from Cafe Ivéta, and the Santa Cruz Baroque Festival