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Apr 24th
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Features

The Tao of Steve

The Tao of Steve

Pondering the paradox of the rock virtuoso with guitar legend Steve Vai

Funny thing about rock guitarists: the more skill they have, the less seriously some people take them. While violinists, drummers and pianists are applauded for their technical proficiency, virtuosos of the electric guitar are often seen as the musical equivalent of overly musclebound bodybuilders.

As one of the fastest, flashiest axe-slingers alive, Steve Vai has learned to take the flak with the flattery. “What one individual sees as moving and inspiring in one performer, another may see as a form of total wankery,” offers Vai, who was aptly billed as a “stunt guitarist” during his days as a member of Frank Zappa’s band. “I’ve been the subject of it all, from ‘America’s best-kept secret musical genius’ to ‘His parents should have been neutered.’ After a while you just stop paying attention, and while critics are trying to figure it out, you just keep creating.”

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Love Your Local Band

Spurs

Spurs

Sometimes the best things come to those who wait. In 2012—a decade after they met—co-vocalists David Stockhausen and Terry McCants formed the folk band Spurs. Initially calling themselves Silver Spurs and performing country covers, the pair eventually made the switch to folk music at McCants’ urging. “The band started to shift when we saw an equally great, if not greater, response to our own music at shows,” says Stockhausen, who also writes the band’s songs.

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Features

A New Maestro in Town

A New Maestro in Town

Daniel Stewart takes the reigns of the Santa Cruz County Symphony

For Daniel Stewart, being selected as the new maestro for the Santa Cruz County Symphony is akin to hitting the vocational jackpot.

“The Greater Bay Area is my favorite place in the world,” says Stewart, who was born in San Francisco. “It’s a dream come true and a real joy to be back in the Bay Area. Music is like a passport: it can take you anywhere in the world. I’ve been lucky, it’s taken me to over 40 countries, but it’s really a special thing to wind up in a place where you really would like to be.”

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Love Your Local Band

Feed Me Jack

Feed Me Jack

It's not uncommon for young bands to cram a bit too much into every song they write, in an effort to pay homage to all the artists that have influenced them. Feed Me Jack's sound might warrant descriptors like "scatterbrained" or "over the top," but not in a negative way. If anything, theirs is a gleeful and infectious insanity. The UC Santa Cruz act's hairpin turns in style and abrupt shifts in tempo are like a good rollercoaster ride—whipping the listener around just enough without ever becoming disorienting. When Glenn Carson, Sven Gamsky, Robert Ross and Jake Thornton jump from Tera Melos-esque math-rock, to jazz-metal explosions, to straight-up jazz and, finally, to bouncy pop or light ska upstrokes—as they do on their debut album, Chumpfrey—it all somehow makes sense.

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Features

The Dark Knights

The Dark Knights

Danish punks, Iceage, prove their valor one aggressive anthem at a time

Iceage isn’t Bruce Wayne multiplied by four, per se. The bandmates don’t lead double lives. They don’t wear protective suits with built-in abs. And they certainly don’t have capes blowing in the wind behind them (if they did wear capes, they’d be sweat-matted and sticking to their skinny jeans).

The Copenhagen-bred twenty-somethings do, however, thrive in the darkness of their hard-hitting rock, instilling hope and admiration in fans, which includes the “Godfather of Punk” himself, Iggy Pop, who once spoke of Iceage in an ABC Radio interview: “It’s not easy to be that dark. A lot of people that try to express negative energy sort of just flail; they kind of come off like hamsters or something, where the more they try, the sillier it is.”

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Love Your Local Band

Scary Little Friends

Scary Little Friends

Sometimes it takes two or three listens before an album can truly be appreciated. But when it comes to Scary Little Friends’ debut LP, From the Beginning, it only takes 15 seconds. At the tail end of track six, “Devil’s Heart,” Chris Jones has a hair-raising outburst: “And you never get another chance / there's no tomorrow." Far from depressing, the line actually explains why Scary Little Friends formed. Bassist and UC Santa Cruz alumnus Jon Payne, now 34, has been friends with Jones since childhood.

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Features

Break a Leg

Break a Leg

Matt Pond took his lemons and made lemonade

Usually when people say “break a leg!” actual bodily harm isn’t what they have in mind. But unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened to Matt Pond.

“Right before we really got into [producing] the album, I broke my leg on tour,” Pond says. “And it led to this shift in the way I thought about what I was doing. Sometimes, when you’re doing what you love, you feel locked into it. It can become a routine. So when I broke my leg, I realized I really did love [making music] and there isn’t anything else I want to be doing.”

In the end, the accident helped determine the direction and feel of his most recent record, The Lives Inside the Lines in Your Hand. “I just learned to appreciate what I was doing and that was kind of the lens that I looked at while making this last album,” he explains.

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Love Your Local Band

Feral Fauna

Feral Fauna

Feral Fauna is like a musical phoenix that has risen from the ashes. Formerly a seven-piece electronic pop/soul outfit known as Audiafauna, the band has evolved into a “bluestronica” group led by singer Heather Deardorff and multi-instrumentalist Krikor Andonian. “Krikor and I met and connected on the idea of fusing electronic and live music, at the exact time when Audiafauna was disbanding,” explains Deardorff. “So the timing of our meeting, as well as having a similar vision of what we wanted to do with music, helped make the switch from Audiafauna to Feral Fauna very fluid.”

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Features

The Indispensable Expendables

The Indispensable Expendables

Local reggae-punk stars celebrate 15 years of skating, surfing and rocking out

Way back when they first started jamming with one another, the members of Santa Cruz reggae-punk outfit The Expendables used to joke that each member of the band could easily be replaced.

"We were all pretty bad at our instruments when we first started playing, and we would always call each other 'expendable,'" recalls Adam Patterson, the band’s drummer and vocalist. But if The Expendables have proven anything over the course of the 15 years they've been writing and performing music, it's that they are anything but a throwaway band.

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Love Your Local Band

Big Medicine Head

Big Medicine Head

When asked why Big Medicine Head keeps making music after all these years, Bob Gemmell, the band’s singer, lyricist and guitarist, sums it up: “We make the time.” They also take their time. The band’s forthcoming effort, The Handsome Years, due out next spring, was supposed be released before the 2013 Summer Love-Off—Big Medicine Head’s annual tour—but they knew the album wasn’t ready.

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Features

Back to Basics

Back to Basics

Sans band, Drew Holcomb gets reacquainted with his music

Drew Holcomb is not the man he was a few years ago. It’s normal for people to evolve over time, but Holcomb’s growth has played out in his music for all to see. This is most evident on Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors’ 2013 release, Good Light.

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Love Your Local Band

Rudebrat

Rudebrat

Upon discussing the title of his newest release, The Quick and the Dead EP, 23-year-old multi-instrumentalist and dubstep artist Jake Bratrude—scramble his last name and you get his stage name, Rudebrat—unintentionally describes his work ethic. “It’s like a saying from way back in the day during the Civil War,” Bratrude begins. “You have to be either really fast and pay a lot of attention [to] survive, or you can be slow and get left behind and die eventually.

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Best of Santa Cruz County 2014

The 2014 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll Come on in, and have a look around. There’s a lot to see—hundreds of winners selected by thousands of GT readers across Santa Cruz County. So if some of this looks familiar, it’s probably because you helped make it happen. But there are always new things to discover, too—you could go to a different winner or runner-up every day in the Food and Drink category alone, and you’d be booked just about until next year’s Best of Santa Cruz County issue comes out.

 

Something Essential Disappears

Lunar and solar eclipses follow one another. Lunar eclipses occur at full moons, and solar eclipses at new moons. Two weeks ago at the full moon we had the blood red moon—a total lunar eclipse (the next one is Oct. 8). On Monday night, April 28 (new moon), as the Sun, Moon and Earth align, a solar eclipse (Sun obscured) occurs. Eclipses signify something irrevocably is changed in our world. The Sun is our essential life force. Monday’s new moon, 9 degrees Taurus, is also an annular solar eclipse when the Moon moves centrally in front of the Sun, yet does not cover the Sun completely. The Sun's outer edges, still visible, form a “ring of fire” around the Moon.

 

Sugar: The New Tobacco?

Proposed bill would require warning labels on sugary drinks Will soda and other saccharine libations soon come with a health warning? They will if it’s up to our state senator, Bill Monning (D-Carmel). On Feb. 27, Monning proposed first-of-its-kind legislation that would require a consumer warning label be placed on sugar-sweetened beverages sold in California. SB 1000, also known as the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Safety Warning Act, was proposed to provide vital information to consumers about the harmful effects of consuming sugary drinks, such as sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, and sweetened teas.

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of April 17

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Palate-Stretching 101

A wine education with Soif’s experts As a veteran of many weekend wine “seminars” at Soif, I have to confess that I’ve never known less (going in) and learned more (coming out) than I did last week at the Spanish Wine Tasting with ace rep Brian Greenwood. These are classy, casual events and it’s hard to imagine having this much flavor fun anywhere for $20.

 

Martin Ranch Winery

Sauvignon Blanc 2011 One of my favorite wines is Sauvignon Blanc, and this one made by Martin Ranch is particularly lovely. Bright, crisp and refreshing, it’s perfect to pair with fish and shellfish—and good for picnics as it has an easy screw-cap bottle. There’s nothing worse than setting down your blanket, pulling out your sandwiches—and then realizing you don’t have a corkscrew.

 

Foodie File: Red Apple Cafe

Breakfast takes center stage at Gracia Krakauer's Red Apple Cafe Before they moved to Aptos, Gracia and her husband Dan Krakauer would visit friends in Santa Cruz County and eat at the Red Apple Café all the time. Then they moved up here from Santa Monica five years ago, and bought the Aptos location (there’s a separate one in Watsonville) from the family who owned it for two decades.

 

How would you feel about a tech industry boom in Santa Cruz?

I feel like it would ruin the small old-town feeling of Santa Cruz. It wouldn’t be the same Surf City kind of vacation town that it is. Antoinette BennettSanta Cruz | Construction Management