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.
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.
‘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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
Asylum Street Spankers give God a ride on a new gospel tour
When a band that’s known for its comical forays into drug- and sex-themed tracklists puts out a live album of gospel tunes, heads are going to turn. “Doesn’t that seem like the natural order?” jokes Asylum Street Spankers’ founding member and washboard enthusiast, Wammo. “I don’t think anyone in the band is very religious, but there’s more to gospel than just religion. Musically, these songs are amazing!”
“These songs” are gospel covers, plus two original songs (written by Wammo) on Asylum Street Spankers’ ninth release, humbly entitled God’s Favorite Band. It’s no subtle endeavor, but the Spankers are no subtle ensemble.
Two months ago, Santa Cruz jazz songstress Nicole Wilson was performing in front of Costa Rican president and Nobel Peace Prize-winner, Oscar Arias. “He was definitely the most prestigious audience member I’ve ever sung for,” the 31-year-old says, letting out a laugh at the randomness of the momentous experience. Frequenting the country each year and having forged a strong connection with Costa Rica’s vibrant jazz community, Wilson was asked to join the premier Tico Jazz Band as a guest for a special event. The performance posed her breathy pipes against the big band’s robust sound—but with a full horn section and drums commandeering a loud, blaring set-up, it had her belting out as hard as she could to try and compete with the instrumental onslaught. “I’m used to singing with a small combo with guitar, so I had to almost shout into the mic,” she remembers. On Thursday, Feb. 25, Wilson’s classically trained vocals are being showcased the way she prefers—with 3-year-old jazz trio Hold Tight.
Rickie Lee Jones talks politics, panthers, and prayers
What better way to enjoy Valentine’s Day than with a singer who explores the joys and struggles that come with love? And think bigger than superficial pop songs of romantic love. Sure, Rickie Lee Jones sings about lovers—gained and lost—on her latest album, Balm in Gilead, but as usual she casts a wider net, embracing love of family, radical political action, equality, freedom and a deep gratitude for life. Rickie Lee Jones performs at 8 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 14, at the Rio Theatre. Tickets are available at pulseproductions.net and Streetlight Records.
When I last spoke with Jones, she was working hard to get President Bush out of office. So, I thought I’d begin by asking her about how things have changed—or stayed the same—with Obama in the White House. “I did not vote for Obama,” she reveals. “He was another guy in a suit, like Bush, brought in from unseen forces at the last minute to usurp the more qualified candidate, Clinton. I was very disappointed that a man was brought in, a man of color, before a woman was given a seat of equality.”
Santa Cruz easily makes up for the relative lack of touring brand-name acts with an independent scene that is as diverse as it is fiercely loyal. Perhaps no other band better personifies this ethos than Acid Tapestries. An indie rock amalgam, the four-piece ties together strands of the past five decades of rock and alternative music into a driving, melodic ruckus landing somewhere between Pavement and a psyched-out Vampire Weekend. Naturally, it's been very well-received in town. "The Santa Cruz music scene has been great to us," explains Lee Bedrouni, the bespectacled bassist. "We've received a hell of a lot of support from organizations like TINARL and from other local bands like San Narciso, Green Flash and No Jet Left." In return, Bedrouni has nurtured the scene by regularly featuring new local music on KZSC, where he currently hosts a Friday night local music showcase entitled "The Rising Tide."