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Dec 22nd
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Features

Return of ‘The Original Slacker’

Return of ‘The Original Slacker’

Like a good wine, J. Mascis gets better with age
In some ways, Several Shades of Why sounds like the kind of record J. Mascis should have been making all along. The laid-back acoustic strumming, lazy guitar slides and general folk lethargy of the album seem to be a better fit than the music Mascis became famous for crafting during the ’90s.

Back then, the founder and front man of Dinosaur Jr. was busy constructing massive squalls of feedback, jangling, overdriven guitar and fuzzed-out bass lines that were barely held together by propulsive and highly compressed drums.

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Love Your Local Band

Matt Masih and The Messengers

Matt Masih and The Messengers

Santa Cruz is indubitably a town that takes to a certain thread of fusion jam bands. Whether they be local products or artists coming through on tour, head out to any given Santa Cruz venue on any given night, and there’s a good chance you’re going to cross something funky, something danceable and (perhaps) something reggae-derived. Matt Masih and The Messengers is a band which easily falls into this category upon first inspection, but the six-piece’s frontman insists there’s much more to the equation. “There’s definitely a singer-songwriter background,” explains multi-instrumentalist Matt Masih. “The lyrics are involved with the shape and outline of the song,” more than most jam bands. Indeed, the project began about two years ago as the sort-of bedroom songs of Masih, who retains most of the creative control in the band. Though there’s room for the rest of the group to inject its own funky flavor—particularly the relatively new horn section—Masih’s songwriting process clearly keeps The Messengers grounded in pop sensibilities.

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Features

Teach the Children Well

Teach the Children Well

Rock duo Tartufi spreads DIY expertise
We all know that sharing is caring. Though if you’re a starving musician with little to share but your inherent melodic gifts, it’s easy to turn into a hoarder squirreling away any post-success wealth and industry wisdom. But for the two members of San Francisco’s exporters of dynamic angular rock, Tartufi, it’s always been about imparting lessons learned. According to Lynne Angel, vocalist, guitarist and looping maestro, there is no competition.

“I think a lot of people can get pretty selfish when it comes to music and can have kind of an ‘In It to Win It’ attitude,” the singer says. “We just like playing music with our friends and helping other people play music.”

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Love Your Local Band

Santa Cruz Jazz 2011

Santa Cruz Jazz 2011

Though it’s not a local band per se, the Jazz Society of Santa Cruz, as an institution, has served as an incubator for many local swing, big band, ragtime and cool jazz outfits since it was established in 2000. The nonprofit hosts a four-hour open jam session for local jazz musicians every Sunday at Bocci’s Cellar and has spawned many local bands by bringing together professionals and weekend warriors—giving people who might not otherwise meet, the opportunity to play in front of a relaxed, fun-loving crowd. Local jazz musician Stella D’Oro—who mesmerizes with Italian “Meglio Stasera”—says that the atmosphere on Sundays at Bocci’s Cellar—a 100-year-old former Italian restaurant at 140 Encinal St.—helped her hone her craft. “People there are very supportive,” D’Oro says, referring to both the musicians and patrons. “They’re great for supporting new musicians and people learning how to get started.” Steve Newman, president of the Jazz Society and master saxophonist, has been with the organization since the beginning. He describes the venue as a “time warp”—a modern day speakeasy where people go once a week to swing dance and get lost in the sounds. “It’s not just the musicians,” Newman says.

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Features

Getting Vocal

Getting Vocal

 

Sweet Honey in the Rock voices its opposition to racial profiling
The all-female, all-African-American vocal group Sweet Honey in the Rock has never shied away from tackling social and political issues. In the four decades since the D.C.-based ensemble’s inception, its members have used blues, reggae, African chanting, jazz improv and gospel styles as a platform for their views on everything from civil rights to domestic violence.

It was no surprise then, that when the controversial anti-illegal immigration act known as Arizona Senate Bill 1070 passed last year, Sweet Honey responded not only by joining the international Sound Strike boycott of Arizona, but also by releasing the song and video “Are We a Nation?” (Sample lyrics: “Does the color of your skin determine how and when you can be stopped and booked for the way that you look? Racial profile—this is not freedom’s style.”)

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Love Your Local Band

Birdhand

Birdhand

While most people were fighting fax machines at 9-5 jobs, Birdhand spent the first week of April destroying an abandoned church in Monterey. Shooting a music video to promote their new self-titled EP, produced by Darryl Jenifer of Bad Brains, the Santa Cruz rockers were armed with 10-foot poles and told to go wild. What should have been a dream come true, turned into a strange experience. “There were 15 uncomfortable film students watching us the whole time without saying anything,” says bassist Mason Rothschild. “It was the most awkward thing ever!” But according to singer/songwriter/guitarist Joey Weed, awkward moments make the band tick. “Before each show, we huddle up and get really weird—we talk about normal stuff, like how my stomach hurts or who didn’t take out the trash,” says Weed. Once the lights come on, though, the foursome delivers hard-hitting rock ‘n’ roll, with Queens of the Stone Age-like punk riffs and occasional violin and pan flute solos.

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Features

Residential Tourism

Residential Tourism

Titus Andronicus’ Patrick Stickles discusses consumption of music and housing
In a couple months I’ll be making the cross country move to New York City, so when Titus Andronicus frontman Patrick Stickles tells me he’s currently walking down a Brooklyn sidewalk, of course I have to take the opportunity to ask for advice on living in the borough which may well soon be my home.

“The smartest thing would be to avoid what my girlfriend calls ‘residential tourism,’” says the singer and guitarist. “Sometimes these young people are kind of like a disease that moves from place to place and consumes all the resources, and then moves on once they’ve had their fill of it.”

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Love Your Local Band

Young Performers Showcase

Young Performers Showcase

The axe is falling on music education in public schools. The star of James Durbin is rising on American Idol. Put those two trends together, and the purpose behind the Young Performers Showcase (Durbin is an alum of the event) becomes potently clear. Now in its third year, the fundraiser this Saturday, April 9, at The Rio Theatre, presents a full lineup of local youth strutting disparate skills to raise awareness and moolah to continue music programs in Santa Cruz City schools. It all started when Rick Linzer saw how the economic downturn was threatening music lessons. The veteran jazz saxophonist, who says that music “really saved my life in a lot of ways; it gave me a sense of purpose and camaraderie,” has gone on to coordinate an annual concert that provides family entertainment while ensuring that school bands can be armed with instruments and kids can be exposed to the nurturing and healing nature of music. As a music major in college, Linzer learned how effective music is in a child’s cognitive, social and emotional development. “Numerous studies show that [music] gives kids a sense of connection to school and helps with self-esteem, creative and analytical thinking, coordination, problem solving and team building,” he says.

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Features

Brothers in Arms

Brothers in Arms

There’s no sibling rivalry in indie folk-rock supergroup Middle Brother
Ego clashes and battles for control are inevitable in almost every band, but when you put three leaders of established acts together in one group, you’re just begging for trouble. Yet Middle Brother—the new band comprised of Matt Vasquez, Taylor Goldsmith and John J. McCauley III, frontmen for the indie folk-rock outfits Delta Spirit, Dawes and Deer Tick, respectively—seems to have avoided such pitfalls so far. According to Vasquez, the members of the group don’t mind taking turns hanging back, playing guitar and singing harmony.

“There’s zero ego when it comes to backing somebody up, because you believe in them, and you just want it to be as good as it can be,” the musician states. “We’re all fans of each other’s music so much. I love ‘Mom and Dad,’ I love ‘Daydreaming’ I love ‘Blood and Guts’—I begged Taylor to put ‘Blood and Guts’ on the record.”

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Features

The Seven-Album Itch

The Seven-Album Itch

The Appleseed Cast is still figuring itself out and finding its place
Back in the summer of 2006, I witnessed Russian Circles open up for The Appleseed Cast, and it was probably a terrible act for the headliners to have to follow. Still, what seemed like  an onstage mismatch seemed to epitomize the amorphous nature of The Appleseed Cast.

While Russian Circles are known for intense post-rock bombast, The Appleseed Cast will bring a more melodic, slow-boiled take on instrumental buildup when it descends upon the Rio Theatre on Friday, March 25. In fact, the band, based in Lawrence, Kan., has always felt a little out of place in more ways than one. During a career spanning seven full-length albums, the enemble has sort of hung out in a genre no man’s land, grabbing fans from the punk and indie scenes but truly endearing itself to neither. Likewise, the band’s music has found its own middle ground between instrumental and pop music.

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Love Your Local Band

Grizzel Toe

Grizzel Toe

Soggy winter rains have steeped Grizzel Toe, the latest project featuring Green Flash alums Raya Heffernan and Peter Wallner, throughout its gestation period, saturating life into the underground duo in preparation for a spring sprig to sprout. Seething in the clammy distortion of a washed-out ’90s shoegaze sound garden, Grizzel Toe echoes gritty EVOL-era Sonic Youth with an innate punk intensity that will leave any audience aching in admiration after being walloped by their wall of noise. “Our music is the color of bruises,” Wallner, who plays guitar and vocals, relents, “an eyesore you can’t stop touching, but want to.” With performances alongside the Growlers, Religious Girls, and Man/Miracle under their belts, Heffernan and Wallner have bled into the local circuit and are ready to take it to the studio for a four-track EP that should be out around May.

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Features

Water Through a Rusty Pipe

Water Through a Rusty Pipe

Damien Jurado is more a medium than songwriter
Damien Jurado is most often described as a singer-songwriter, and on the surface it’s an absolutely accurate designation as far as music labels go. The majority of the Seattle-based musician’s output has been driven by slow-boiled acoustic guitar and a pensive voice—other musicianship serving more as a framing for songs than genuinely part of the structure.

But to hear it described by Jurado himself—who will be entertaining at the Crepe Place on Wednesday, March 23—‘writing’ is not really part of the process of his song creation at all. ‘Channeling,’ however, might be a more accurate term.

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Is This a Dream?

A beginner’s guide to understanding and exploring the uncanny world of lucid dreams

 

Giving and Giving, Then Giving Some More

2014 is almost over. Wednesday, Dec. 17, the Jewish Festival of Light, Hanukkah, begins. We are in our last week of Sag and last two weeks of December. Sunday, Dec. 21 is winter Solstice, as the sun enters Capricorn (3:30 p.m. for the west coast). Soon after, the Capricorn new moon occurs (5:36 p.m. for the west coast)—the last new moon of 2014. Sunday morning Uranus in Aries (revolution, revelation) is stationary direct (retro since July 22). Uranus/Aries create things new and needed to anchor the new culture and civilization (Aquarius). We will see revolutionary change in 2015. Capricorn new moon, building-the-personality seed thought, is, “Let ambition rule and let the door to initiation and freedom stand wide (open).” Capricorn is a gate—where matter returns to spirit. But the gate is unseen until the Ajna Center (third eye), Diamond Light of Direction, opens. Winter solstice is the longest day of darkness of the year. The sun’s rays resting at the Tropic of Capricorn (southern hemisphere) symbolize the Christ (soul’s) light piercing the heart of the Earth, remaining there for three days, till Holy Night (midnight Thursday morning). Then the sun’s light begins to rise. It is the birth of the new light (holy child) for the world. A deep calm and stillness pervades the world.The entire planet is revivified, re-spiritualized. All hearts beating reflect this Light. And so throughout the Earth there’s a radiant “impress” (impressions, pictures) given to humanity of the World Mother and her Child. The star Sirius (love/direction) and the constellation Virgo the mother shines above. For gift giving, give to those in need. Give and give and then give some more. This creates the new template of giving and sharing for the new world.

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

Stocking Stuffers

The men behind the women of the Kinsey Sicks Dragapella Beautyshop Quartet explain their own special brand of ‘dragtivism,’ and their holiday show at the Rio
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Tramonti Pizza

Why there’s no such thing as too much Italian food in Seabright

 

Guitar or surfboard?

Guitar. The closest thing I ever came to surfing was sliding down a rock hill. Charlie Tweddle, Santa Cruz, Hats and Music

 

Fortino Winery’s Intriguing Charbono

At the opening celebration of the new Santa Clara Wine Trail in August, one of the wineries we visited was Fortino. This is where I first tasted their intriguing estate-grown Charbono—a varietal that is one of the rarest in California, with only 80 acres grown statewide.

 

Beyond the Jar

How Tabitha Stroup has built her rapidly expanding jam empire