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Love Your Local Band

On The Spot Trio

On The Spot Trio

For a lot of bands, there’s one definitive show that changes everything; an inextinguishable fire is lit and there’s no turning back. Call it something in the stars, call it the apex moment when all the hard work culminates into one triumphant display of maturation, call it Fate casting down her signal to say, “I’ve been watching you and I’m here to help.” For Santa Cruz’s burgeoning Hammond organ trio, On The Spot, that gig was last September at San Francisco’s Boom Boom Room. Three years since first assembling, having joked around from the start that someday Soulive would be sitting in the crowd at one of their shows, guitarist Danny Mayer, organ player Kris Yunker, and drummer Emery Nelson were invited to play—insert jaws dropping here—a Soulive after-party.

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Features

Walk the Lineage

Walk the Lineage

Warren Hood and band come from Texas royalty
There’s something about hearing Warren Hood’s Texas drawl that is gracious and inviting—as he speaks about his recent experience at Merlefest, you can almost imagine his spurs spinning with excitement. “I got to play with Elvis Costello and Little Feat,” relays Hood from his home in Austin. “It was not just business as usual.”

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Love Your Local Band

Your Music Olympicks

Your Music Olympicks

Tin and aluminum are the traditional gifts for a 10-year anniversary, but Your Music Magazine is seeing gold, silver and bronze. For a decade now, YMM has been sponsoring Your Music Olympicks, a battle of the bands bringing out some of the hardest hitting unsigned local musicians from the Bay and Sacramento. Each year bands compete to earn the title of “best band” not only by earning points at specific YMO events based on audience vote, but individual members can also raise their band’s standing by winning in categories such as Best Vocals, Best Guitar Solo, and more.

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Features

Out of Africa

Out of Africa

Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars survived war and bring the spotlight home
It’s a peculiar thing how it’s often those in positions of the greatest suffering who find the means to extol higher spiritual powers, radiate the brightest light, and dance as though there lies no problem at their feet. Take for example the spiritual songs of slaves, the hymns and folk songs of America during segregation and the anti-war era, or the political songs of South Africa during Apartheid. Music doesn’t just move, it can bolster a movement. So while you might be modest in your socio-economic standing, you can always remain brazenly rich when it comes to melody. Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars know this well.

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Love Your Local Band

Blackbird Raum

Blackbird RaumThe beautiful thing about music is its versatility. A song can be a story, a dance party or a soapbox for the band; a couple of minutes mixed with various instruments to communicate a smorgasbord of ideas. Nobody understands this better than the members of Blackbird Raum. By fusing harmonizing vocals singing allegorical lyrics with accordions, banjos, washboards, mandolins, a washtub bass and even saw blades, the quintet creates pure, fast-paced Americana. The origins of the ensemble started around 2003, when accordion player Zack and banjoist Caspian met while drifting on the open highway and bonded over their similar anarchist ideology and love of punk music. “A lot of the music we’re playing is about a time in our life when we were traveling around riding trains and squatting,” Caspian explains. “We couldn’t play traditional punk, so we took random instruments and taught ourselves how to play them.” The founding duo went on to play streets and house parties wherever they went, later adding Mars on mandolin/saw, David on washtub bass, and a then 15-year-old named K.C. on washboard. Since then, Blackbird Raum has continued traveling the dusty roads, playing for anyone who will listen, whether it’s a huge show like the Northwest Folklife Festival or passers-by on Pacific Avenue. Last year saw the release of their second full-length, Under the Starling Host, a compilation of songs channeling ideas of environmentalism, community and fighting for your beliefs. Taking their name from the Hermetic demon, Raum (a crow that adopts human form in order to steal from the rich), with antiquated instruments in hand, these vagabonds create something entirely new out of the ancient. “I feel there’s truth to us calling this demon when we play,” says K.C. “Our music promotes ‘out with the old and in with the reality,’” Zack chimes in. “There’s more to this world than what our society has to offer. The truth is out there.”

INFO: West Coast tour kickoff show on May 21 TBA. Myspace.com/blackbirdraum.
Features

Wisdom without Words

Wisdom without Words

Red Sparowes give history lessons through instrumental music
Post-rock is challenging music. It’s not exactly jazz, and it doesn’t take the same kind of abstract understanding to wrap one’s head around; but still, instrumental music can often initially be outside of the comfort zone of many rock faithful who eventually gravitate from the softer croons of Death Cab towards the drifting soundscapes and sludgy guitars of acts like Mogwai and Explosions in the Sky.

Moreover, there’s the confusing issue of how music without lyrics is used to express specific thematic elements that a vocalist might directly address. If Explosions’ “Six Days at the Bottom of the Ocean” is about a sunken Russian Submarine, do specific movements in the song correlate to specific happenings on board? Or is it a more general inspiration?

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Features

The Great Liberator

The Great Liberator

Is Stanley Clarke the Rosa Parks of the electric bass?
With all the Victor Wootens, Michael Manrings and Marcus Millers out there, it’s easy to forget that not so very long ago, the electric bass was relegated to the back of the musical bus: While the lead instrumentalists frolicked in the spotlight, the bassist’s job was to do little more than keep time with the drummer and lay down simple grooves.

Then came Stanley Clarke. With the possible exception of Jaco Pastorius, no musician has done more than Clarke to help establish the bass guitar as a lead instrument in its own right. In the early ’70s, Clarke—previously known for his work with the fusion group Return to Forever as well as with jazz players like Joe Henderson, Dexter Gordon, Stan Getz, Art Blakey and Pharoah Sanders—took flight as a solo artist. Though it was almost unheard-of for a bass player to act as the leader of a band, Clarke’s undeniable skills made short work of the naysayers’ prejudices. 

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Love Your Local Band

Audiafauna

Audiafauna

“None of us have ever played anything like this before,” singer Kelly Koval says of her five bandmates in Audiafauna and the surprising folktronica sound they’ve stumbled upon. “There’s no real lead instrument,” she continues. “It all just builds into one. We are one big instrument.” And as one big instrument, the 22-year-old and her cohorts are making one big impression. A fresh mosaic of acoustic strings, electronic soundscapes, dreamy vocals and brash hip-hop nuances, Audiafauna combines the classical with the cutting-edge—and it’s making plenty of ears perk up around town.

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Features

Metal Machine Music

Metal Machine Music Pat Metheny’s robot band rocks the Civic
In the music documentary film Dig!, a member of the neo-psychedelic rock band The Brian Jonestown Massacre comments that the group’s vocalist, Anton Newcombe, would love to be able to clone himself so as to be able to play all the instruments himself. Science might have a little way to go before such a scenario can be actualized, but the ever-inventive Pat Metheny, a pioneering jazz guitarist who’s won no less than 17 Grammy Awards in 12 different categories, has done the next best thing: He’s created the “New Orchestrion,” a device that uses the technology of solenoid switches and pneumatics to control instruments such as vibraphones, percussion, keyboards, glass jugs and a “guitar-bot” with four single-stringed necks. By commanding his robot army via a MIDI-equipped guitar and programmed computer sequences, Metheny has the enviable ability to be his own backup band.
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Love Your Local Band

Vibrant EYEris

Vibrant EYEris

Vibrant EYEris isn’t just about music, it’s about a movement to open the third eye with heavy dubstep beats. “Hip-Hop has become a divine element in my life,” states lyricist Numerous. “It’s strength through struggle,” agrees co-founder and beats maestro Enthusiast, “It symbolizes freedom and the human desire to expand consciousness.” With this mission in mind, Vibrant EYEris has already dropped two albums; 2010’s EP U>F>E>P, and last year’s debut full-length, Hip Hop Don’t Stop. It all started in early 2009. “I had been looking for a permanent beat producer for a while,” Numerous explains, “and when Enthusiast played me his latest work I started busting some intense freestyles.” Thus began a powerful and productive collaboration. By fusing thick dubstep beats with the flow of conscious hip-hop, Vibrant EYEris has created a unique sound of smart dance music—a party with a message. Since forming, the ensemble has played more than a hundred shows, everywhere from house parties to opening up for hip-hop veterans and fellow conscious rappers, Dead Prez, this last February. Boasting musical influences spanning Jimi Hendrix to Gift of Gab, and political influences like Ron Paul, Vibrant EYEris uses music as a way to transcend the barriers of everyday society. Making big plans for 2010, the group is getting  ready to drop a second full-length, Illadellica, later this year. For now,  the pair’s included a drummer, Rosta, for a rare mix of live and digital beats with each performance, which it will bring to this week’s Your Music Magazine Olympicks on Friday, April 23, at Cypress Lounge. While it’s too early to tell just where Vibrant EYEris is headed, the guys are keeping all options open. “As far fetched as it sounds,” Numerous says with a cracked smile, “I’m hoping technology will advance quickly enough so that we can rock on another planet or galaxy, maybe at some crazy intergalactic space rave.” Time will only tell, but until then keep your EYEris open for the next generation of hip-hop. | Mat Weir

 

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Features

Deer in Spotlights

Deer in Spotlights

Rhode Island’s Deer Tick works hard, plays harder
There are certain bands which just beg to be played in a raucous drinking establishment: glasses banging, cigarettes glowing, hips shaking. With its worn-in sound, dusty country aura, and vocalist John McCauley’s raspy drawl, Providence, R.I.’s Deer Tick is the kind of act which could challenge The Hold Steady for the title of World’s Greatest Bar Band.

Coming around to the Crepe Place on Saturday, April 24, Deer Tick has already made waves with its rick-rollicking live show, which—as attendees at their March show at San Francisco’s Independent discovered—may or may not include male nudity.

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Features

Music for the Future

Music for the Future

Two worlds collide for PremaSoul’s universal appeal
What do you get when you combine Southern soul music, jazz rhythms and Hindu devotional chanting? It could be called universal love. In fact that’s what Sheela Bringi and Clinton Patterson call their band: PremaSoul. “Prema is a sanskrit word that means universal love,” says Bringi, whose parents moved to the United States from India in the ’70s. She explains further, “My first love of music came from devotional singing, or bajans. It’s infused into everything I do musically. I love to take these old melodies and play them in new ways, in new settings, for new audiences.”

PremaSoul combines Bringi on vocals, flute and harp, with Clinton Patterson singing, playing keyboards and trumpet. The band also includes a divine rhythm section of bass, tabla and drumkit. PremaSoul will be performing that unique blend in a concert to benefit Haiti relief efforts at 8 p.m. on Saturday, April 24, at Kuumbwa Jazz. Tickets are $20 in advance and available at Gateways Books. All proceeds will help fund a new orphanage for Haitian children whose parents were killed in the recent earthquake. For more information about humanitarian efforts in Haiti and worldwide by Amma and the MA Center, see embracingtheworld.org.

How did Bringi, an Indian flute player from Colorado, meet Patterson, a jazz keyboardist from Georgia? Both were students at California Institute for the Arts in Southern California. “I was playing music at a Thai restaurant,” Clinton reminisces. “I played music there for two years and one evening Sheela came in and we started talking. Eventually we got together and started playing music.” Their first album was titled Sound Travels and their new EP is A Shrine to All Things.

“I’ve always been interested in pulling music together from different places.” says Clinton. “A vast majority of significant things in American music have come from Black American culture, or people’s perspectives on that culture. I’m bringing my own personal connection to blues, rock ’n’ roll and R&B.”

“PremaSoul is about breaking down boundaries,” adds Bringi, who studied piano and classical Indian vocals as a child. “Early on my mom and dad encouraged me in any kind of artistic pursuit that I wanted. I began piano lessons when I was 4 or 5. Later I took flute lessons and fell in love with Indian flute. In high school I played piano in the jazz band.” She also honed her musical skills at Mills College in Oakland. “It just blew my musical world right open,” she remembers. “I came into contact with so many great musicians, like Fred Frith and Cecil Taylor. It was all based in improvisation. It got me in touch with a musical sense that can only happen when you get together with a group of people and don’t know what you’re going to create, but do it in the moment.”

Playing a concert to benefit children in Haiti seems perfectly in sync with the deeper meaning of PremaSoul. “I was excited when this opportunity came up for us,” reflects Bringi. Patterson agrees; “When things are happening anywhere in the world and people need support, there is no difference between helping someone in Haiti or helping someone that lives next door. That’s also the way that I think about making music. I try to ignore artificial barriers between different musical cultures and traditions.”

Bringi concisely explains her motivation for creativity: “I express my love for the world through music. It’s a way of opening the heart, expressing devotion and calming the mind.” Patterson, her musical partner, adds, “PremaSoul is a way of taking things I really love, putting them together and hopefully making something new, making some progress. It’s music for the future.”


PremaSoul performs at 8 p.m. Saturday, April 24, at Kuumbwa Jazz, 320-2 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $20. For more information, call 427-2227. John Malkin is a local writer, musician and host of The Great Leap Forward each Wednesday at 7 p.m. on Free Radio Santa Cruz, 101.1 FM and freakradio.org. Read about the poverty and political instability contributing to the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti in Paul Farmer’s The Uses of Haiti and Noam Chomsky’s forthcoming Hopes and Prospects (Haymarket).

 
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Mars Enters Scorpio: The Nine Tests

Over the years I’ve mentioned the nine tests of Mars and Scorpio. The tests are given to everyone—unawakened, beginning to awaken, and the awakened. The purpose is to test our strength, courage, ability to adapt, discriminate and have discernment. To see if we are deceived by illusion or are “warriors triumphant, emerging from the battle.”

 

Final Cut

Cedar Street Video to close after 10 years at downtown location

 

Roger That

The late film critic Robert Ebert profiled in lively doc, ‘Life Itself’

 

The Maestra Returns

Cabrillo Festival’s Marin Alsop is back to ‘rock the boat of tradition’
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Time is Ripe

Local fruit harvests hit markets, Storrs Winery celebrates ‘Best White’, and a salt fix from heaven

 

I remember Santa Cruz when…

Santa Cruz | Librarian

 

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

 

Hunter Hill Cabernet Sauvignon

Smooth with soft tannins, this velvety crimson Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 is delicious and very drinkable.