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May 23rd
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Music

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Love Your Local Band

Nathan Dennen

Nathan Dennen

Like the ebb and flow of the tide, singer/songwriter Nathan Dennen keeps getting pulled back to Santa Cruz. In what he says feels like a past life, Dennen split his time between his home in Oakdale, and his grandfather’s house in Rio del Mar. Today, he lives in San Francisco, where he’s been inspired by “groovy music, with a lot more soul.” In the city, Dennen has created what he calls, a “little niche of music that I was really inspired to recreate and expand upon—taking old-timey music and giving it a modern flair.” To produce the ragtime saloon sound on his self-titled debut album, he used a piano built in the early 1900s, and even mixed the album on tape. “I would leave the little pops and buzzes in there to keep that raw sound,” he says. Focused on reviving Scott Joplin-esque northern jazz melodies first, and letting lyrics fall into place second, Dennen says he’s always surprised to get feedback from fans about his lyrics.

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Features

Southern Comfort

Southern Comfort

Mississippi-bred Paul Thorn sings of preachers, pimps, and small town America
One way to hear about the real-life effects of Capitol Hill rivalries is to read the newspaper. Or you could talk to somebody who travels to small towns for a living, entertaining the downtrodden and picking up fans along the way. Enter Paul Thorn—a Mississippi singer/songwriter who has been traversing America’s back roads for more than a decade, crafting musical stories based on the lives of the common man and pumping blood back into the heartland.

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Features

All Grown Up

All Grown Up

Indie-rap crew, Atmosphere, shows signs of evolution in sound and maturity
Upon listening to the latest effort from Minneapolis indie-rap crew Atmosphere, the word "maturity" comes to mind. And while it is arguably a fair adjective to describe the new album, The Family Sign, the group's front man, Sean Daley, doesn't like it.

"I make rap music, so 'mature' is kind of a bad word," says Daley, the MC better known as Slug. He prefers the word, “evolved.” "Ultimately, this is music for kids," he explains.

The group's sixth LP has passion, machismo and plenty of snark—only in a more grown-up kind of way. And Slug is fine with that.

"I can't freak the funk," he says. "I can't make another God Loves Ugly"—2002's ode to debauchery and depression, wherein Daley bemoans the loss of his fictional muse, Lucy Ford, while drowning in booze.

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Love Your Local Band

The Expendables

The Expendables

It’s ill-advised to get a tattoo of your lover’s name, but not the name of local reggae/ska/punk outfit, The Expendables. Despite the impermanence suggested by the moniker, many fans invested in Expendables-themed ink, long before the guys offered free tickets to the Vans Warped Tour in an online tattoo contest. Devotion to the band dates back to 1997, when guitarist Raul Bianchi, drummer Adam Patterson, bassist Ryan DeMars, and lead vocalist/guitarist Geoff Weers—now living on the same block in Pleasure Point—met in high school. Immediately, they began constructing feel-good jams about drinking (they’re sponsored by Jägermeister), smoking and partying, through optimistic and philosophical lyrics. “Positive people have a better time in life,” says Patterson. “It’s no fun being grumpy all the time. Don’t sweat the small things … there is a good side to everything, even if you don’t see it.”

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Features

A Stitch in Time

A Stitch in Time

Michael Daugherty weaves orchestral music and electric guitar in ‘Gee’s Bend’
The electric guitar is an instrument seldom heard in symphonic music, but it’s the keystone of “Gee’s Bend,” the latest musical offering from renowned Ann Arbor, Mich., composer Michael Daugherty. Electric guitar and orchestra commingle in the piece, creating a timbral and stylistic patchwork in which rock, folk and contemporary classical music converge. “Gee’s Bend” makes its west coast premiere at the Civic on Saturday, Aug. 13 as part of this year’s Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music.

Daugherty, a longtime festival favorite, found inspiration for the piece in the quilters of Gee’s Bend, Ala. One of the poorest areas of the south, Gee’s Bend is populated mainly by African American descendents of slaves from the Civil War era. The town’s residents are known for their innovative style of quilting, noted for its vivid colors and unusual patterns.

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Love Your Local Band

Jerry and the Silly Monsters

Jerry and the Silly Monsters

Although Juicy Fruit no longer wafts throughout the Westside, a sweetness still lingers about the Wrigley Building’s successor, The Digital Media Factory, thanks to Jerry and the Silly Monsters, and its delectable blend of bubbly, children’s pop-rock. “I’ve listened to a lot of bad children’s music over the years,” says lead vocalist/guitarist Toby Salciccia, otherwise known as “Jerry.” Desiring to change the genre’s reputation, Salciccia turned to his day job—co-manager of Happy Days Children’s Learning Center—for inspiration to create songs that are “positive and educational for kids, and fun for parents.” There, he befriended parent Craig Comstock, who introduced Salciccia to his future bandmates: bassist Ian Babcock (“Bob”) and drummer Scott McPherson (“Murray”) of Ribsy’s Nickel; McPherson’s daughter, Ashley (“Gigi” on stage); and vocalist/ukulele player Moreah Walker (“Gigi” in the studio). The result? Jerry and the Silly Monsters—a mix of clever, motivational lyrics and complex rock music. “We’re really starting to take on more of a family-like nature, now that we’ve had the opportunity to work [together] and know each other,” says Salciccia of their chemistry.

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Features

Odd Man Out

Odd Man Out

Electric guitarist D.J. Sparr mixes things up at The Cabrillo Festival
Imagine a musician showing up to a symphony rehearsal with a Marshall amplifier in tow, and an electric guitar strapped to his back—the string players brace themselves, the violist covers her ears. It’s hard to be a rocker in a classical environment—but it’s just another day in the life of D.J. Sparr.

The guitarist/composer loves a good riff, but he also has a doctorate in composition and is well-versed in symphony rehearsal etiquette. After all, no classically-trained musician wants to be blown off stage by a guy who sounds like he belongs at Lollapalooza.

From outside Chautauqua Auditorium in Boulder, Colo., Sparr reflects, “You have to know how to adjust your volume, and it sounds silly, but there aren’t many electric guitarists who could come to a symphonic rehearsal and know how to deal with that—outside a couple of guys in New York, Chicago and LA.”

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Love Your Local Band

Stryder Callison

Stryder Callison

Stryder Callison just got a new app for his iPhone. “Voice Tutor” is a vocal warm-up that helps singers like himself perfect pitch, and it’s a sign that the local rocker’s old habits—he “used to smoke cigarettes, stay up until six, and scream” the night before a show—are long gone. He’s finally taking himself seriously. After recording his first solo album, Years in the Making, Callison learned first hand what happens when you push your voice to its limit. “The more you abuse your vocal cords, it creates a little red bump,” he says. “When you sing or even talk, your vocal cords won't vibrate at the right speed.” Callison's late night jam sessions earned him a vocal polyp—a swollen growth on one of  his vocal cords—that Whitney Houston and Julie Andrews can sympathize with. Over the following year, Callison began repairing his voice by allowing himself to speak for only one minute every hour.

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Features

Black and Blue

Black and Blue

Regardless of life’s punches, Jesse Sykes stays committed to the music
For Jesse Sykes, a Sunday morning in Seattle is a walk in the park—more like the woods, actually. Once she returns home though, reality sets in for the 44-year-old vocalist/guitarist, and she’s faced with the question that has plagued her for the last three years: “How can you understand life, if you haven’t addressed death?”

The question stems from both the blissful and detrimental events that have come to define her Seattle-based band, Jesse Sykes and The Sweet Hereafter, during the extended recording period of their fourth LP, Marble Son, which began in September 2009. “We took our time because we didn’t even know if there would be an outcome,” says Sykes.

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Features

Blast from the ’90s

Blast from the ’90s

ONLINE EXCLUSIVE
Gin Blossoms guitarist, Jesse Valenzuela, talks cake, rituals and ESP

Their chart-topping hits “Hey Jealousy” and “Follow You Down” were the soundtrack to the ’90s, and this week, Gin Blossoms is headlining a free concert at The Boardwalk on Friday, August 5. On the eve of their performance, GT spoke with Jesse Valenzuela, guitarist for the Arizona-based rock outfit, about the band’s latest album, gridlock on the 405 freeway, chocolate cake, pre-show rituals, psychic powers, and more …

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Features

Finding Nirvana

Finding Nirvana

Composer Paul Dooley finds inspiration in film, math and grunge rock

When he was only 12, Paul Dooley felt transformed after watching Shine, an Australian film starring Oscar winner Geoffrey Rush, who plays a gifted but mentally mad pianist. Once the credits rolled, Dooley took to the piano, but instead of losing his mind, he found musical enlightenment by combining his two loves: classical music and raw, Seattle grunge sound.

“I taught myself how to play music by playing pieces by other people, and then changing them to make them my own—I improvised a lot,” recalls the 27-year-old composer and percussionist. He remembers his early piano days being jam-packed with countless renditions of Nirvana’s 1991 release Nevermind, particularly the song “Come As You Are.”

Dooley’s appreciation of both the classical and alternative rock genres sparked an unwavering interest in composition.

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Love Your Local Band

Ashwin Batish

Ashwin Batish

Ashwin Batish breathes sitar. He wakes up every morning, puts on his shirt, then grabs his eastern axe. Bringing his self-coined musical fusion, Sitar Power, to Don Quixote's this Sunday, Batish says he is excited to connect with the audience: “I think it’s the sharing of an experience. And there’s a lot of people, I believe, that live for that. Sharing an experience is seriously like bonding.” The Batish family is big on bonding. When he started playing music at 14, he would break from his sitar studies to sing along to Beatles records with his sister. Meanwhile, his father, S.D. Batish, was actually hanging out with the Fab Four in London, giving them sitar lessons. His father was later offered a teaching job in Santa Cruz, and the family quickly made it their home. In the ’70s, Batish and his father would play at their family's restaurant every night, in the same way that he and his son, tabla player Keshav, perform together today.

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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