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Aug 30th
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Features

One Busy Slacker

One Busy Slacker

The Santa Cruz Jazz Festival will run 8 a.m.-10 p.m.
Friday and Saturday, March 26-27, at Cabrillo College

Ken Emerson brings the islands to this year’s Santa Cruz Jazz Festival

The last time Ken Emerson performed in town, it was the ‘70s and he was sharing an informal public stage with a historical figure. Back then he was studying art history and psychology at Cabrillo College and frequenting Pacific Avenue for busking sessions with some other notable locals—including one saw player, Tom Scribner. Yes, the saw player now immortalized with a statue in front of Bookshop Santa Cruz.

“In the mid-‘70s [the Pacific Avenue mall] was incredible and Santa Cruz was so happening!” Emerson remembers, his voice blown out from a Bay Area gig the night before our chat. “I played out there on guitar, Tom played saw, and another guy played plectrum guitar. Tom knew all these Hawaiian songs from the 1915 period so I learned quite a bit of Hawaiian music from him. I owe a lot to that guy.”

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Love Your Local Band

The Down Beets

The Down Beets

While most bands are busy employing more technology in their show, splattering the stage from one end to the other with cutting-edge gear, the Down Beets are running in the opposite direction—and it’s made them run into each other. Last spring the 4-year-old alt-country bluegrass quartet decided to simplify things by changing into a one-mic format. At first, however, crowding around a single mic took a bit of getting used to. Singer Sheila Golden explains: “I totally got whacked in the head a few times by the banjo, I’ve whacked Jay [Lampel] with the guitar, and at a couple shows Jeremy [Lampel] had to run around to the other side to get near the mic. It can be really comical but we’re getting better.” “Getting better” has meant burgeoning into a sweet Del McCoury performance style that’s revolutionized the band.

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Features

If It Ain’t Broke, Break It

If It Ain’t Broke, Break It

Experimental Xiu Xiu rewrites the rules
To adapt to shifting norms, the formula for producing mainstream music introduces "shock" elements that push pop music into the future. From Lady Gaga's alien wardrobe and unknown gender, to Madonna dancing with a black Jesus against a backdrop of burning crosses, to the Sex Pistols' prediction of "no future," what unsettles popular sentiments is eventually incorporated into the mainstream.

So how long will it take for FM radio to rotate a Xiu Xiu track like "Support Our Troops OH! (Black Angels OH!)" from 2004's Fabulous Muscles? Summoning the most desolate, dissonant recesses of experimental music pioneer John Cage's catalog, the song—if you wish to call it that—paints a landscape portrait of a post-siege Fallujah. Quiet, malfunctioning electronics are randomly interrupted by bursts of feedback and clanking metal. Jamie Stewart, the brainchild behind Xiu Xiu, speaks over the ambience: "Did you know you were going to shoot off the top of a 4-year-old girl's head ... and her dad would say to you, 'Please, sir, can I take her body home?' ... Why should I care if you get killed?"

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Love Your Local Band

The Mystery Lights

The Mystery Lights

What could four young guys from Salinas and Santa Cruz possibly have in common with one (insert uncontrollable gag here) Paris Hilton? Try a four-story mansion in the Hamptons. No joke. Last summer, the crafty garage rockers in the Mystery Lights enjoyed two weeks pimpin’ it out in an extravagant pad that’s also been used to house the Maiden of Vain. Flown to New York by the band’s Closet Trekkie Records, who signed the quartet after coming across its MySpace, the Lights fulfilled an agenda of playing nine East Coast shows and recording the entire time.

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Features

Bull’s-Eye

Bull’s-EyeRoy Zimmerman’s satirical songwriting hits many targets
Under bleak Midwest skies, comedic singer-songwriter Roy Zimmerman pulls over by the side of the highway to talk about his place in the musical history books. For a man whose body of work encompasses duets with Laura Love and a fan base that includes Joni Mitchell and the Dead Kennedys—you would think Zimmerman would be relaxing in an air-conditioned tour bus. Instead he drives himself to all his gigs and acts as his own press agent. “I’m in Okemah, Oklahoma,” Zimmerman boasts over the phone. “The birthplace of Woody Guthrie.”
Zimmerman honed his chops at the San Jose Repertory Theatre writing  musical reviews in the 1980s skewering the yuppies that peppered the Silicon Valley (“YUP!”, “Up the YUP!” and “YUP it UP!”). The punning pundit-with-guitar blossomed during the comedy boom of that time. “I had a duo during that time with [Santa Cruz virtuoso] Stevie Coyle and we were called the Reagan Brothers,” the witty comic remembers. “We played the Comedy Store and all the clubs and learned a lot about standing and delivering.”
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Love Your Local Band

Cool Band Now

Cool Band Now

Ingredients: Nick Green’s guitar, Chris Hopkins’ bass, Logan Bean’s drums, ample 4-track tape recorders, a hell of a lot of irreverence, and a pinch of freak pop with the rock. Stir ingredients together in a mixer with a lot of attitude and humor on tape, then set out on a stage to cool. The result? Cool Band Now. Friends who grew up in Livermore going to punk shows and pizza parlors together, the trio formed in Santa Cruz as a reaction against the sometimes stifling nature of taking music too seriously. With each member having spent plenty of time and energy on previous projects and recordings, Cool Band Now began over a year ago as a spontaneous endeavor to just have fun. “It’s a trapping feeling sometimes when you spend so much time on a recording to make it sound perfect,” Bean says, “so this was a lo-fi escape from all that.” When Green and Hopkins (whose words sometimes grace GT pages) first haphazardly started recording sound collages that flexed their multi-instrumental talents (there’s a bit of synth, a bit of punk distortion, a bit of indie acoustic guitar) the tracks were made with the idea of television commercial breaks in mind: whacky, experimental and short—very short; some “songs” run 15 seconds long.

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Features

Stand by Your Mac

Stand by Your Mac

One singer-songwriter doesn’t take her cello sitting down

Lindsay Mac is about to get on a flight. Leaving her home in Cambridge, Mass., the 31-year-old singer-songwriter has booked herself a seat to fly out to the West Coast for her latest tour, which comes to Don Quixote’s on Monday, March 8. Next to her on the plane won’t be a band member, a stranger or, thankfully, a crying baby. “Cello Mac,” as she refers to her instrument of choice when giving it a passenger name for a plane ticket, gets to join the compartment for human bodies.

“Now that oversize luggage is charged so ridiculously it’s not nearly the savings it was to check my cello in,” she begins, “so buying a seat for it is worth it.” While giving her cello an assigned seat is normal during her travels, onstage it’s a different story.

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Love Your Local Band

Wild Rovers

Wild Rovers

‘Tis the season when the green Guinness flows and the Wild Rovers procure the kind of set to match the liquid meal: Celtic, multi-layered and strong, their songs—like the drink—will put you in a dizzying spin of pub-friendly sing-alongs. And that’s why they’re the busiest band in Santa Cruz during St. Patrick’s Day. With six shows in town during the next two weeks, the Wild Rovers have been called to arms for an annual musical onslaught that starts this Wednesday opening for the Young Dubliners and culminates in a headlining show at the Catalyst Atrium on the day itself, Wednesday, March 17 (with stints at the Boardwalk, Poet & Patriot, and the Crow’s Nest in between). This, perhaps, surprises no one more than the band itself. After all, before forming in 2004, none of the members had any previous experience with Celtic music.

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Love Your Local Band

Funk ’n’ Rock for Haiti

Funk ’n’ Rock for Haiti

While naysayers continue to barrage Obama for not implementing change fast enough, one local teen has been inspired by local humanitarians and by the president, and is taking matters into his own musically gifted hands. Barney Greer, a 15-year-old Santa Cruz alto sax star, is harnessing his talent and the talents of his peers to raise funds for Haiti through a teen concert at Kuumbwa Jazz on Friday, Feb. 26. “I noticed people and places around me that were wanting to help Haiti and doing things to make it happen,” Greer says. “Even Obama wrote an article about why Haiti matters. I read it and I realized that I had a band and a phone—to make calls, to make a benefit.” With no previous experience putting together a large event of this kind, the Harbor High student began spearheading this week’s Funk ‘n’ Rock for Haiti concert. What he describes as a “clash of genres,” the evening boasts a teen lineup of four local bands, starting with the high energy of the self-explanatory Funky Dosage six-piece, the dance rock of Jackie Rocks Band, the funk and jazz fusion of Greer’s own quartet, Barney and the Dinosaurs, and ending with the Kuumbwa Jazz Honor Band winding it all down into a straight ahead jazz closing. Greer is giving proceeds to International Medical Corps, an organization that sends medical training, relief and supplies to places in need.

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Features

Messiah Complex

Messiah Complex

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros spread the good word

If it’s the job of a messiah to convert the unbelievers, then Edward Sharpe—aka Alex Ebert—has some work in front of him. Stumbling upon the former Ima Robot frontman’s band at this past October’s Treasure Island Music Festival, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros are the kind of act that immediately invited my skeptical inquiry. Not since The Polyphonic Spree had I seen a band with such a definitive “shtick.”

For those who have never seen them live (or their appearance on David Letterman), the group is a dozen-or-so-strong baroque ensemble with a singular and undeniable hippie aesthetic that it will bring to the Rio Theatre on Monday, March 1. Ebert usually dances around shirtless and shoeless, nappy hair tied in a crown, while the rest of the band easily could have taken its wardrobe from the set of Little House on the Prairie. Still, Ebert denies collusion, stating that “it’s just us being who we are. If we coordinated it’d be obvious. We’d be wearing all black, or all white or something.”

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Features

Four-String Samurai

Four-String Samurai

Violinist Laura Albers uses her superpowers to rekindle the spirit

Laura Albers is a veritable Wonder Woman with a violin: She works as the Associate Concertmaster of the San Francisco Opera orchestra, holds bachelor and master of music degrees from The Cleveland Institute of Music and Juilliard, races as a triathlete and also happens to be double-take beautiful. Oh, and did we mention that she started playing the violin at age 2?

No, that isn’t a misprint. Albers, who will perform at Cabrillo College Distinguished Artists Concert & Lecture Series’ “Rekindling the Spirit of the Age of Enlightenment” (an all-Mozart program taking place at Cabrillo Music Recital Hall on Saturday, Feb. 27 and Sunday, Feb. 28), took up music as a 2-year-old with the help of her mother, violin teacher Ellie LeRoux. “I wanted a violin because that’s what she had,” Albers explains.

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Features

Mirah’s Bug Life

Mirah’s Bug Life

The indie queen draws inspiration from the ground up

Don’t box Mirah in. This becomes crystal clear to me about 10 minutes into my phone interview with the 35-year-old indie musician when I suggest that entomology writings are an odd place to draw artistic inspiration from. I am swiftly taken to task, admonished for harboring a narrow view of music, and informed that such a muse can come from anywhere. I feel I’ve just learned a great deal about the songstress.

Originally hailing from Philadelphia, Mirah Yom Tov Zeitlyn now lives in San Francisco after having spent a number of years residing in the Pacific Northwest and splitting time between Seattle and Portland. “There are just such beautiful views everywhere, the air is really good,” says Mirah of her new home. “I like to climb and get up high—whether it be on my bike or on foot—to get views of the ocean.”

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Mercury Enters Libra

It’s the week of Burning Man, the temporary, intentional, alternative, art-filled community on the playas of Nevada. Mercury, messenger of the Sun, enters Libra this week. Libra is the equalizer, a sign of balance and right human relations. Sometimes with Libra, we can be indecisive and confused while learning how to make balanced and right choices. Sometimes to keep the peace we communicate only what others want to hear. Eventually, we learn how to speak from the heart.

 

Final Cut

Cedar Street Video to close after 10 years at downtown location

 

Banter and Spark

Engaging actors, wry script distinguish lightweight rom-com ‘What If’

 

Back to Silicon Beach

With a new wave of startups, the future of Santa Cruz tech looks more promising than ever
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Himalayan Kitchen

Chef Purna Regmi on the secrets of Nepalese cooking

 

What’s the nicest thing you’ve done for someone this week?

Germany  |  Beekeeper

 

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

 

A Cab To Be Coveted

I first tasted Villa del Monte’s 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon at a Fourth of July party, where the hosts had bought a case of it because they love it and didn’t want to run out. It’s one of those wines that will grab you—in the best way—with its full body and rich fruit characteristics.