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Oct 02nd
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Love Your Local Band

beer STELLA

Music - Love Your Local Band

Wooster

Wooster

It's no accident that Wooster is one of the most popular bands on the local scene at the moment. Unlike some groups that get together to drink beer and rock out on the weekends, or others that craft complex music for musicians, this fun-loving quintet was assembled by singer/songwriter Brian Gallagher with one, crowd-pleasing goal: get people on the floor. "It's always good to get the room moving," Gallagher says. "I've always been into music that makes you dance." Though Gallagher now fronts the ska-tinged, pop-rock outfit—playing rhythm guitar and trading vocal lines with Wooster's other singer, Caroline Kuspa—he started his musical journey playing drums, and has never lost his percussionist sensibilities. "We really have a strong groove," Gallagher says. His lust for the beat led him to drummer Nate Fredrick and bassist Bobby Hanson, who together form a rock-solid, no-frills rhythm section—which, in turn, allows Gallagher and Kuspa to experiment with the wandering, lazily interweaving pop harmonies of "Ooh Girl" without fear that their voices will float off into the ether along with lead guitarist Zack Donoghue’s reverb-laden, bubbly chicken picking.

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Music - Love Your Local Band

The Blue Tail Flies

The Blue Tail Flies

Combining dual sister singers and upright bass, a cajón slingin’ drummer, and the time tested trio of banjo, fiddle and guitar, The Blue Tail Flies have no trouble packing venues with a coordinated wall of their unique bluegrass inspired sound. Courtnay Field, one of the lead vocalists, describes their sound: “We say ‘Flygrass’, [because] we play such a variety of styles—between blues, bluegrass, and jazzy kind of swing. Plus, we have a bangin’ drummer, and she makes us a lot different than other bands.” The seven friends—all of whom met in Santa Cruz—try to have as much fun as possible at shows, feeding off audience participation. “We love the eccentric music fan: the guy that comes up to the front of the stage and hands you crazy juju beads … we’ve even got a tip that was a water bottle filled with flakes of gold. You never know what’s gonna come out of Santa Cruz,” says Field. After touring extensively and releasing an EP, the band is excited to enter the studio to record a full-length album.

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Music - Love Your Local Band

Sun Hop Fat

Sun Hop Fat

The music of Sun Hop Fat is at once strange and soothing. The Oakland-by-way-of-Santa-Cruz jazz and funk ensemble employs Eastern scales that sound familiarly alien—the music you would expect to hear in an old adventure movie when the hero enters a smoky Arabic watering hole. Then again, maybe it is the soundtrack to Scooby and Shaggy skulking around some old haunted mansion: trill, snake-charmer flutes and horns that rise and fall in ominously ornate chords. Sun Hop Fat's tunes are heavily influenced by Ethiopian jazz and the music of Mulu Astatke, who championed the sound in his native Ethiopia and was instrumental in importing the music to America. Bass player and founding Sun Hop Fat member Jesse Toews (who also plays in Santa Cruz "psychedelic Motown throwdown" outfit, Harry and the Hitmen) says that he and his band were drawn to Ethiopian jazz and other East African sounds because of the "seductive" note choices and interesting polyrhythms. While the music originated from African traditions, Toews explains, "because it is so close to the Middle East, it has all these Eastern scales," which give the music a "haunting element," especially to Western ears. The spooky sounds of Ethiopian jazz, combined with the group's penchant for American funk and soul, make his band the perfect choice for Halloween night at The Crepe Place—or "Creepy Place," as Sun Hop Fat trombone player and Crepe bartender Nick Gyorkos has been known to call it.

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Music - Love Your Local Band

The Devil Himself

The Devil Himself

Five years ago, The Devil Himself got its start while playing cards. “We got formed around a poker table,” recalls guitarist/singer Dave Christensen. “We all used to play and it kept coming up in conversation that we all played different instruments. We kept saying we should jam, but our lives wouldn’t allow it. Finally it came together and we haven’t stopped playing since.” Flash forward to today, and the Santa Cruz-based alternative metal band—also featuring guitarist Dan Burnham, drummer Jason Goldberg, and bass guitarist Austin Wilhoit—has just released its fifth album and third full-length, Speak No Evil, on Oct. 8. The record is the final segment in a three-part series, also featuring See No Evil and Hear No Evil, that sounds like a thundering bastard child of Tool, with electric surges and hauntingly heavy vocals that mirror a grittier Chevelle. Frequently packing local venues with head-banging moshers, the band hopes to become the voice of a generation looking for answers to hypocrisy and freedom from despair.

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Music - Love Your Local Band

Stan Soroken

Stan Soroken

If you’ve visited Severino’s Bar and Grill on a Thursday evening in the last decade, you know that no one pours smooth jazz from the bell of a trumpet quite like Stan Soroken. This month, Soroken joins the long list of esteemed musicians—including Velzoe Brown and Don McCaslin—to receive a Brownie Award by the Santa Cruz Jazz Society for his contributions to the local scene. It’s been a long journey for Soroken, who spent three weeks just trying to produce noise from his horn as an 8-year-old in Salinas. Eventually he found his groove with the help of Spike Jones’ tuba player and a member of the San Francisco Symphony.

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Music - Love Your Local Band

The McCoy Tyler Band

The McCoy Tyler Band

After years of playing in rock and metal bands, guitarist McCoy Tyler decided to pursue his own sound. “I had a vision in my head of something a little more roots- and acoustic-based,” he says. His new trio, The McCoy Tyler Band, is the realization of that vision. And though the project is extremely young—a mere four months—the band already has a well-developed sound, an EP called What the Mountains Have Seen, a backlog of all new material ready to take on tour, and a definite direction: keep it simple and sweet. To achieve its signature sound, the band incorporates a slightly unusual set of instrumentation for folk: a small drum set, an upright bass, a lone guitar, and subtle use of acoustic amplification. Tyler admits the instrumentation choice was difficult, but worth the challenge, “one thing that was a concern to me, [was] how to incorporate a drum kit into the style of music and songs that I was writing … but a full band has more presence, and to have an upright bass makes us feel more legit.”

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Music - Love Your Local Band

Pipa Piñon & Dreambeach

Pipa Piñon & Dreambeach

When Pipa Piñon hired a temporary bassist for a gig, little did she know that she and Daniel Vee Lewis would end up married and tour together for more than two decades. When asked to describe their sound, Piñon and her husband respond with warm smiles, “avant-garde electric folk jazz.” Much like the community that has nurtured and influenced their sound, the Santa Cruz-based band, Dreambeach, passionately embraces freedom of expression; creating music that is honest, powerful and at times unusual. “We sound like we’re from Santa Cruz,” says lead singer and lyricist Piñon, whose ethereal voice soars, whispers, and sometimes even speaks, over Lewis’ subtle, yet solid bass lines. “Everyone hears this album [and] they say it sounds like water and open ocean,” Lewis adds. Both the comparison, and the band’s moniker hit the nail on the head. Dreambeach’s sound is loose and vaporous, settling in like a chilling mist that casts a contemplative spell over the listener.

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Music - Love Your Local Band

Eliquate

Eliquate

Elliot Wright, the mastermind behind local hip-hop outfit Eliquate, has discovered that a live performance becomes especially explosive when combined with the lyrical swagger of sharp rhymes. What started out as a two-man operation—himself and producer/guitarist Jamie Schnetzler—evolved into something greater after the pair ran into technical difficulties at a show. With a broken iPod and no song to play over, Wright, “basically turned to the guys, and said, ‘play a groove in [the key of] G.’” Schnetzler and two sit-in musicians ended up improvising the rest of the show, giving Wright the opportunity to freestyle all night. He had the time of his life, and has been liberated from the shackles of digital beats ever since—fans have been responding too, with crowds multiplying since the group became a five-man band.

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Music - Love Your Local Band

Taylor Rae

Taylor Rae

In June next year, after the San Lorenzo Valley High School graduates toss their caps, 17-year-old Taylor Rae Vencill will head for the stars—on Hollywood Boulevard, that is. But Vencill doesn’t aspire to be the next Julia Roberts, rather she hopes to end up .2 miles east of Grauman’s Chinese Theater at Musicians Institute, the college of contemporary music that birthed Jeff Buckley and Weezer bassist, Scott G. Shriner. There, the Ben Lomond singer-songwriter—who has taken vocal lessons since age 8 and taught herself guitar at 12—hopes to become immersed in music. “It’s something I have to do,” Vencill says of songwriting. “I don’t feel good until it’s done.” Inspired by nature and Santa Cruz’s residents, Vencill writes mature songs for her age—lyrics off her self-titled album, like “Will you ever come back around and tell me the truth, because falling in love with thin air isn’t so hard to do,” prove she’s well beyond her years. Asked about her songwriting process, Vencill explains, “I get into a zone, almost like a coma, and then when I come out of it, I can’t believe I came up with it.”

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Music - Love Your Local Band

The Chop Tops

The Chop Tops

Santa Cruz psychobilly veterans The Chop Tops are in the midst of an insane 10,000 mile tour—35 shows across 20 states, in just five weeks. Having survived the East Coast earthquake, the band now finds itself driving into the keister of one of the biggest hurricanes in recent memory, Irene. Putting the “psycho” in rockabilly is nothing new for these road warriors who eschew the corporate model of rock and roll and live every day grateful for the opportunity to be independent working musicians. Stand-up guy and drummer (a la Slim Jim Phantom of The Stray Cats) Sinner started the band 16 years ago and is currently enjoying his eleventh U.S. tour.

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On the Waterfront

As the wharf celebrates its centennial, a personal reflection on its essential place in Santa Cruz’s history

 

Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, occurs this year during Libra, the sign of creating right relations with all aspects life and with earth’s kingdoms. We contemplate (the Libra meditation) forgiveness, which means, “to give for another.” Forgiveness is not pardon. It’s a sacrifice (fire in the heart, giving from the heart). Forgiveness is giving up for the good of the other. This is the law of evolution (the path of return).

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of September 26

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
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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

 

Apricot Wine for Dessert

Thomas Kruse Winery, a participant in the new Santa Clara Wine Trail, has been around for a long time—since 1971, to be exact. When our little group arrived to try some wine at the Kruses’ low-key tasting room, Thomas Kruse and his wife Karen were there to greet us. Theirs is a small operation, and they’re proud to offer quality wine at affordable prices. “Because we are small and low-tech, it’s easy to relate to the whole winemaking process,” says Karen—and the Kruses take pride in making wine “just like it has been made for centuries.”