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Features

A Gifted MC

A Gifted MC

Hip hop offers an escape for Blackalicious frontman Gift of Gab

It may be that Tim Parker needs less oxygen than an average human being. Parker, better known as Gift of Gab, often raps for what seems like an eternity without taking a breath. The vocal identity of Bay Area hip hop duo Blackalicious, Gift of Gab is recognized for his lightning-fast lyrical constructions and tongue twisting rhymes.

“I like to be an instrument of the beat,” Parker explains of his rapid-fire raps. “Different beats call for different cadences.” Indeed, the MC doesn’t always rap fast, and Parker denies that he possesses some kind of super-human lung capacity. “I’ve had (breath-holding) contests with other people; some of ’em I win, some of ’em I don’t.”

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Love Your Local Band

Amanda West

Amanda West

Singer Amanda West is hiding out. Sort of. Having just returned from the Folk Alliance convention, the songstress (and producer of August’s WomanSong all-female concert in Big Sur) is busy off stage compiling the 12 tracks to her sophomore release. “I’ve actually been trying not to book shows because I’m working on a new album,” she says, making this week’s Cayuga Vault show on Saturday, Dec. 5 (alongside world-folk duo HuDost) all the more tantalizing for fans of her deeply cathartic folk. A special winter show, the concert will likely be her last for a while as she heads into the studio to lay down a record she describes as happier than 2008’s The Way to the Water. It will reflect what she says are her more recent experiences “connecting with the Universe and finding confidence.” “The images around the new CD are persimmon fruits,” she reveals. “It’s related to one of the songs on the album that’s become a symbol of inner knowing, strength and self empowerment.”

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Features

Funky Punks

Funky Punks

Dragon Smoke’s Moore and Mercurio’s punk pasts

As the rhythm section of the powerhouse New Orleans funk-jazz jam band Galactic and its soulful spin-off group Dragon Smoke, bassist Robert Mercurio and drummer Stanton Moore are known for laying down the kind of grooves that could start a dance party in an emergency ward. Who’d have guessed that both musicians grew up not on the friendly sass of funk music, but on the raw hostility of punk rock?

Moore, who surprised some members of the funk community a few years ago by recording with the hardcore band Corrosion of Conformity, admits to having listened to his fair share of GBH and Minor Threat records as a teenager in Metairie, Louisiana. At age 16 or 17, however, he began to explore jazz music as a means of becoming a better rock drummer. From jazz, it was a quick jump to funk. “To me, [funk] was kind of in between the rock thing and the jazz thing,” he explains.

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Features

Gypsy Queens

Gypsy Queens

For Po’ Girl, home is where the harmony is

Speaking from a gas station in Canada on her band’s way to Vancouver, singer Allison Russell shares her admiration for one B.B. King—because of his admiration for the road.

“B.B.’s an example of a true performer who loves his audience and what he does,” she begins. “He says, ‘Nobody pays me to play, they just pay me to travel.’ I think that’s how we feel about what we do as well.”

Referencing her three bandmates in Po’ Girl, the founding member of the 6-year-old Canadian urban roots ensemble admits that although they love being a crew of troubadours, they are now “consciously attempting to have a little balance.” That “balance” has translated into two new CD releases this summer (Deer in the Night and Po’ Girl Live) and a change from 300 shows last year to just over 250 this year—that’s not exactly the most relaxing schedule.

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Love Your Local Band

Tether Horse

Tether Horse

When one door closes, another door opens. Singer Matthew Chaney can attest to that. Dropping out of school to take a hiatus from his studies as an environmental science major, the singer-songwriter dove into the music scene a year ago armed with plenty of folk songs, equally infectious as affecting, and a crew of friends to fill out his rising acoustic ensemble, Tether Horse. “The idea of dropping out of school links in with the name of the band,” Chaney explains. “It’s that whole idea of being tethered to our society’s idea of the right direction to go and that if you want to be successful you have to follow these set of rules. I wanted to do something apart from that.” At a crossroads and confronting new opportunities, the 24-year-old says he had “a bit of a freak out moment” before choosing the right-brained path to close the books and hit the stage.

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Features

Labor of Love

Labor of Love

The Cayuga Vault celebrates a decade of banking on originality

Listening to Linda Kimball and Pete Coates tell stories about their 10 years helming the Cayuga Vault, you can expect to do more than a few double takes.

The history of the eclectic music venue has been quite a tale from the start, and the pair’s passion for the grassroots venture that Coates labels “a calling” is obvious. So is their rapport with another. Romantic partners during the first four years of the Vault, the two remain extremely close as friends and business partners to this day. “Not many people can say they could overcome that!” Coates jokes, noting their multi-faceted relationship and the changes it went through in the Vault’s beginnings.

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Features

Flowering in the Attic

Flowering in the Attic

Loch Lomond emerged out of unexpected places

Ritchie Young didn’t get out much over the summer between his junior and senior years in high school. He was grounded. Young’s father put the rambunctious adolescent on house arrest after he hospitalized a friend—a nail-gun fight gone awry, Young explains with a chuckle.

The singer songwriter of the Portland-based, chamber pop ensemble Loch Lomond can laugh about it now. His friend has long since recovered and they still talk to this day.  He recalls how stir-craziness drove him to the attic of his central Oregon home that summer. It was there that he was met with two very distinct instruments: his father’s old rifle and a guitar.

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Love Your Local Band

Future Dog

Future Dog

If you prefer to sit back and let a jazz set gently simmer in the background, beware of Future Dog; the band is out to change your mind and musically kick the seat right out from under you. Calling themselves “ambassadors of the neo-speakeasy,” the three gents are unconventional members of the growing jazz-funk trio revival that’s been coming out of the Santa Cruz woodworks lately. Why unconventional? Somehow electronica and rap influences have made their way into the band’s set. And, ironically, founder/bassist Brett Wiltshire says it’s all to get back to jazz’s earliest days. “Jazz originated in the party scene of a smoky speakeasy with dancing but it’s progressed into a genre where people sip wine and clap in between songs,” he says.

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Features

The Voice of Brazil

The Voice of Brazil

Milton Nascimento speaks the universal language no matter what may be against him

Here in modern-day America, the music censors deal with controversial lyrical content by slapping warning labels on albums and/or axing swear words from the radio versions of songs. One memorable example of this came early this year, when U.S. radio stations made Britney Spears change the title of her single “If U Seek Amy” (which, not so coincidentally, sounds an awful lot like “F-U-C-K me” when sung) to the less inflammatory “If U See Amy.”

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Features

Miracles Happen

Miracles Happen

No longer under construction, Man/Miracle’s debut takes shape

At first glance, Oakland-based rock quartet Man/Miracle may seem the complete opposite of North Korea’s Ryugyong Hotel, better known as the “Hotel of Doom” because it’s remained unfinished since 1987; it’s a 105-story pyramid admonished as an eyesore and modern architectural disaster. Drummer Tyler Corelitz, however, disagrees. Corelitz, who founded Man/Miracle in Santa Cruz with childhood friend Dylan Travis fronting, says the ominous building now gracing the cover of the band’s debut album, The Shape of Things, “matches visually what we had in our heads.”

Why is that confusing? Because Man/Miracle gets in your head via a rapid firing of bright pop melodies and dance-heavy energy crashing together in hand clapping, crowd chorusing and garage rock madness. Travis often convulses at the mic with his pipes wailing like Erasure’s Andy Bell (or the way Morrissey would if he were ever uncontrollably happy), and the band’s songs tend to be of the kind you want to avoid listening to on Highway 17 when it’s raining; their high-octane momentum follows a stop-and-start zeal that compels you to do the same. Bouncy, uptempo, uplifting. No oppressive communist regime or drab building in sight.

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Features

No Strings Attached

No Strings Attached

Emily Wells does classical violin and hip hop her way

More and more, old school strings are blazing in innovative ways; the trend of classical instrumentation in modern music is taking that which has long been and transferring it into what’s up next in unceremonious ways. For 27-year-old Emily Wells, a violinist since the age of 4 who procures experimental folk, what pulls her strings is hip hop. “I love rap music and Vivaldi,” her press bio begins. “Nina Simone and Biggie Smalls make my world go round.” Take a listen to any track off last year’s The Symphonies: Dreams Memories & Parties, and your scrunching eyebrows will relax into a state of understanding: a filo dough layering of pulsing violin strings encase hip hop backbeats and punchy vocals that meander between operatic croons, rap attitude and folk sweetness.

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Features

Comeback Kid

Comeback Kid

Former Sin in Space leader Cassidy Meijer kicks the dust off in The Cobwebs

At the start of the present decade, things were looking bright for local vocalist/guitarist Cassidy Meijer: His indie rock band Sin in Space was one of the most popular bands in town, and there was a sense among Santa Cruz audiences and music journalists that the group was going to make a big noise in the national college rock scene.

That never happened. Throughout his time in Sin in Space, Meijer was living with a heroin addiction stemming from an auto accident he was in at age 18, which left his left hand and pelvic bone broken. “Instead of dealing with the trauma, I got drugged … and liked to stay drugged,” he chuckles. Meijer’s habit led to the demise of Sin in Space in the mid-2000s, after which the vocalist and his girlfriend Sky ended up on the streets of Santa Cruz, San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley, living in bushes and “doing whatever we could to make money to get drugs and stay well.”

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Cedar Street Video to close after 10 years at downtown location

 

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Foodie File: Maharaja

Chef Didar Singh on Royal Taj’s reincarnation as Maharaja

 

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

 

Muns Vineyard Rosé of Pinot Noir

This vivacious cherry-pink Rosé is a simply beautiful summer wine.