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Dec 21st
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Love Your Local Band

The Cranks

The Cranks

To say the players in Aptos’ raging psychobilly duo, The Cranks, wear dedication on their sleeves would be a major understatement, overlooking a key detail surrounding the crew of Mike Hilden (guitars/vocals) and Américo Castillo (drums). It’s actually worn tattooed to their sleeve—The Cranks logo sprawled across Castillo’s forearm, leaving no doubt of his hardcore loyalty to the music. “We may not be the best musicians,” Castillo admits, “but no one can do what The Cranks do.” Rattling on a hybrid blend of Mexican corridos, Norteño rhythms, rockabilly rags and hard-nosed, foot-stomping Led Zeppelin rock, The Cranks are six-year veterans to the Santa Cruz scene—having  emerged from the ashes of the enigmatic trio, Sapos Muertos. After releasing a second album, The Cranks II, in October (only to rush back to the studio to start recording a third full-length, The Cranks III) the group has solidified its sound of organic, gritty, in-the-trenches roots rock that’s simultaneously perfect for the smoky dim aura of a grungy bar and the down-home warmth of a sunny Sunday barbecue. “We like to play with a lot of roots ideas,” Hilden raps, “but [we] don’t confine ourselves to one style.”

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Features

Bird Calls

Bird Calls

Multi-instrumentalist Andrew Bird goes loopy in church
It’s kind of appropriate that Andrew Bird hails from the Windy City. If you’ve never heard the anointed expert whistler pucker his lips, it sounds like an eerie breeze through the trees, maybe more akin to extraterrestrial avifauna or solar wind than anything earthbound. One might call them Bird calls.

Forming his mouth more like an instrument than an organ, it’s no surprise that the multi-talented indie darling Mr. Bird is slated for two nights at the Rio Theatre, Friday and Saturday, Jan. 28 and 29.

“The whistling came out of playing the violin,” explained the multi-instrumentalist to online publication IndieLondon in 2009. “The violin is an extremely painful instrument to learn to play and the whistling was so casual. There’s a certain geometry and fluidity to it.”

 

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Features

A Man Possessed

A Man Possessed

Wovenhand’s David Eugene Edwards pulls out all the punches
In the same month that a new Anthony Hopkins flick does its best impression of The Exorcist, there’s news that the Catholic Church is reporting a rise in demonic possession. Whether or not David Eugene Edwards believes in Linda Blair’s head-spinning character, he is clearly a man of faith. The former 16 Horsepower frontman’s current project, Wovenhand—dropping by the Crepe Place on Wednesday, Jan. 26—is known for its boisterous live shows, with Edwards playing with the passion of a man possessed.

“It’s beyond my control, to be honest with you,” explains Edwards regarding the disconnect between Wovenhand’s on-record pensiveness and its on-stage onslaught. “When I see certain bands, I want to be punched in the face. Basically that’s how I go about it, just to really take over the room and get everyone’s attention for as long as you can.”

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Features

Spirited Away

Spirited Away

Bobby Hutcherson on spontaneity, technique and music as prayer
With all the records under Bobby Hutcherson’s belt—about 70, if you include his recordings as a sideman—you’d think he would spend the occasional day sitting at home, listening to his music and reminiscing about old times. Not so, says the legendary post-bop/free jazz/hard bop vibraphonist.

“If you listen to yourself, then you program yourself, and you say to yourself, ‘Oh, I like what I just played right there,’” the musician states. “And every time you get to that spot in that song, you play that! Music should be like the wind: You don’t know where it came from; you don’t know where it went. It only passes through once.”

Hutcherson, who appears at Kuumbwa Jazz on Monday, Jan. 24 (three days after his 70th birthday), has an unusually linear playing style for a vibraphonist. He notes, however, that it’s possible to “flirt around with the harmonics” even while playing a horizontal melodic line.

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Love Your Local Band

Wangari

Wangari

 

Censorship—the blasphemous term in music. Usually it’s applied to a bleeped out four-letter word, a phrase here and there. A whole song, even. Censoring an entire language? Unthinkable. But that’s a reality Sharon Wangari, the vocal soul and core behind the trio known simply as Wangari, is battling. Singing in her Kenyan mother tongue of Kikuyu is an act of preservation, not just an exercise in world music poetics. Because of tribal warfare the use of the Kikuyu language has been banned in Nairobi, and, needless to say, it’s gotten the singer “worked up.” Wangari explains, “I come from a family of freedom fighters, and our grandfather fought for independence so that we could be free and use our language.” She says the language is disappearing (“My friends don’t speak it because they think it’s primitive, and it’s being wiped off the face of the earth”), so the 24-year-old is now bringing it to listeners through modern acoustic music.

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Features

Rainy Day Music

Rainy Day Music

’Tis the season for The Album Leaf
This winter California has seen more than its share of torrential rain, and The Album Leaf offers the kind of soundscapes which provide a perfect complement to the wet season; there isn’t a better song than “Shine” to have a track of forceful pitter patter layered beneath it. Indeed, Jimmy LaValle’s project is distinct mood music, and it will be coming to the Crepe Place for two nights this week, Tuesday, Jan. 11 and Wednesday, Jan. 12.

Although The Album Leaf may lend itself to distinct emotional interpretation, instrumental music is a funny thing. The electronically-based project has increasingly used vocals on latter albums, but in the absence of words, the emotion that one may project upon a given song may well have no relation to the feelings originally infused in it. Ironically, “The Light” may be the perfect soundtrack to a rainy day. But for all we know it was conceived on a sunny summer afternoon.

“There are songs that I’ve had that I feel [were written] when I was in a good space and happy,” says LaValle. “Then a lot of people think those songs are really sad and vice versa. I think it’s really cool how that works.”

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Love Your Local Band

Patti Maxine

Patti Maxine

At 72, Patti Maxine is one of the busiest players in Santa Cruz and she’s not slowing down. A solo performer and a member of the Island Breeze Band, ROMP, and the Saddle Pals, she’s also been in high demand by local folk musicians and Hawaiian music emissaries like Eddie Kamae and Cyril Pahanui. Anyone who’s witnessed her confident slinging of the slide guitar knows why. Still, it wasn’t necessarily by choice that the brazen stage veteran first picked up the lesser known style. As a young teen living in Roanoke, Va., Maxine sought to study the standard guitar. Her music teacher had other plans for her. “Unbeknownst to me at age 14, my teacher brought out a lap steel,” she says of her surprise  introduction to a guitar whose raised strings beg to be swiped rather than pressed down. “He laid it on my lap and I played with a steel bar, and that was it for me.” Soon she was playing Hawaiian music and winning contests despite the fact that the slide was rarely ever seen in a woman’s hands. “Me and this instrument was like a match made in heaven,” she says.

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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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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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Guitar or surfboard?

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Fortino Winery’s Intriguing Charbono

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Beyond the Jar

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