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Mar 06th
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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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Features

What if God Was One of Us

What if God Was One of Us

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.

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Love Your Local Band

Hold Tight

Hold Tight

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.

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Crop Circles

How the confusion over GMOs is undermining the organic movement

 

Week of Festivals: Full Moon, Lantern Festival, Purim, Holi

It is a week of many different festivals along with a full moon, all occurring simultaneously. Thursday Chinese New Year celebrations end with the Lantern Festival (at full moon). Thursday is also the Pisces Solar festival (full moon), Purim (Jewish Festival) and Holi (Hindu New Year Festival). Sunday, March 8, Daylight Saving Time begins at 2 a.m. The festival of Purim celebrates the freedom of the Hebrew people from the cruel Haman (a magistrate) seeking to destroy them. Esther, the Queen of Persia, who was secretly Jewish, saved her people from death. The sweet cookie hamentaschen celebrates this festival. Friday, March 6, is Holi, the Hindu Spring Festival celebrated after the March full moon. Bonfires are lit the night before, warding off evil. Holi, the Festival of Colors, is the most colorful festival in the world. It is also the Festival of Love—of Radha for Krishna (the blue-colored God). It is a spring festival with singing, dancing, carnivals, food and bhang, a drink made of cannabis leaves. Holi signifies good over evil, ridding oneself of past errors, ending conflicts through rapprochement (returning to each other). It is a day of forgiveness, including debts. Holi also marks the beginning of New Year. At the Pisces Solar festival we recite the seed thought, “We leave the Father’s home and, turning back, we save.” Great Teachers remain on Earth until all of humanity is enlightened. The New Group of World Servers is called to this task and sacrifice. Sacrifice (from the heart) is the first Law of the Soul, the heart of which is Love. This sacrifice saves the world.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of March 6

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
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Latest Comments

 

Water Street Grill

YOLO gets reincarnated

 

What would make Santa Cruz better?

A lot more outdoor activities such as outdoor movies and concerts, food and art festivals, and more multicultural activites. Emmanuel Cole, Santa Cruz, Bicycle Industry Product Developer

 

Thomas Fogarty Winery

When looking for a bottle of something to have with dinner, Gewürztraminer 2012 is not the first wine to come to mind. Given the popularity of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Pinot Noir—to name but a few—Gewürztraminer sits low on the totem pole.

 

So Long, Louie’s

Louie’s Cajun Kitchen & Bourbon Bar closes, plus Back Porch pop-up, and 2015 Outstanding in the Field tour