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Sep 02nd
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Love Your Local Band

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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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Music - Love Your Local Band

The Best Friends

The Best Friends

“Who threw away a perfectly good white boy?!” screams a rowdy passerby on Haight Street in San Francisco, addressing The Best Friends vocalist/guitarist, Aiden Ward. Ward yells back for a high-five. Having chopped off his shoulder-length blond locks, Ward does seem clean-cut now, but don't let his ’do fool you. Fans fall for The Best Friends’ melodic dance funk with every shout: “booty scones,” “give me back my grandma!,” “I need another drink,” and “wahahaha,” are just a few of the lyrics chanted during their concerts. Bassist Derek Burte compares the spectacle to their banner: “We have a big sign. It's been caught in the rain, run over a few times. It says The Best Friends, with two dinosaurs high-five-ing.” Sometimes on stage, when they play their song “Dinosaurs,” keyboardist Benjamin Einstein and Ward “have a dinosaur battle,” says Ward. “I imagine myself as a T-Rex,” Ward admits. “I'm more of a Velociraptor,” counters Einstein.

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Music - Love Your Local Band

Nathan Dennen

Nathan Dennen

Like the ebb and flow of the tide, singer/songwriter Nathan Dennen keeps getting pulled back to Santa Cruz. In what he says feels like a past life, Dennen split his time between his home in Oakdale, and his grandfather’s house in Rio del Mar. Today, he lives in San Francisco, where he’s been inspired by “groovy music, with a lot more soul.” In the city, Dennen has created what he calls, a “little niche of music that I was really inspired to recreate and expand upon—taking old-timey music and giving it a modern flair.” To produce the ragtime saloon sound on his self-titled debut album, he used a piano built in the early 1900s, and even mixed the album on tape. “I would leave the little pops and buzzes in there to keep that raw sound,” he says. Focused on reviving Scott Joplin-esque northern jazz melodies first, and letting lyrics fall into place second, Dennen says he’s always surprised to get feedback from fans about his lyrics.

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Music - Love Your Local Band

The Expendables

The Expendables

It’s ill-advised to get a tattoo of your lover’s name, but not the name of local reggae/ska/punk outfit, The Expendables. Despite the impermanence suggested by the moniker, many fans invested in Expendables-themed ink, long before the guys offered free tickets to the Vans Warped Tour in an online tattoo contest. Devotion to the band dates back to 1997, when guitarist Raul Bianchi, drummer Adam Patterson, bassist Ryan DeMars, and lead vocalist/guitarist Geoff Weers—now living on the same block in Pleasure Point—met in high school. Immediately, they began constructing feel-good jams about drinking (they’re sponsored by Jägermeister), smoking and partying, through optimistic and philosophical lyrics. “Positive people have a better time in life,” says Patterson. “It’s no fun being grumpy all the time. Don’t sweat the small things … there is a good side to everything, even if you don’t see it.”

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Music - Love Your Local Band

Jerry and the Silly Monsters

Jerry and the Silly Monsters

Although Juicy Fruit no longer wafts throughout the Westside, a sweetness still lingers about the Wrigley Building’s successor, The Digital Media Factory, thanks to Jerry and the Silly Monsters, and its delectable blend of bubbly, children’s pop-rock. “I’ve listened to a lot of bad children’s music over the years,” says lead vocalist/guitarist Toby Salciccia, otherwise known as “Jerry.” Desiring to change the genre’s reputation, Salciccia turned to his day job—co-manager of Happy Days Children’s Learning Center—for inspiration to create songs that are “positive and educational for kids, and fun for parents.” There, he befriended parent Craig Comstock, who introduced Salciccia to his future bandmates: bassist Ian Babcock (“Bob”) and drummer Scott McPherson (“Murray”) of Ribsy’s Nickel; McPherson’s daughter, Ashley (“Gigi” on stage); and vocalist/ukulele player Moreah Walker (“Gigi” in the studio). The result? Jerry and the Silly Monsters—a mix of clever, motivational lyrics and complex rock music. “We’re really starting to take on more of a family-like nature, now that we’ve had the opportunity to work [together] and know each other,” says Salciccia of their chemistry.

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Music - Love Your Local Band

Stryder Callison

Stryder Callison

Stryder Callison just got a new app for his iPhone. “Voice Tutor” is a vocal warm-up that helps singers like himself perfect pitch, and it’s a sign that the local rocker’s old habits—he “used to smoke cigarettes, stay up until six, and scream” the night before a show—are long gone. He’s finally taking himself seriously. After recording his first solo album, Years in the Making, Callison learned first hand what happens when you push your voice to its limit. “The more you abuse your vocal cords, it creates a little red bump,” he says. “When you sing or even talk, your vocal cords won't vibrate at the right speed.” Callison's late night jam sessions earned him a vocal polyp—a swollen growth on one of  his vocal cords—that Whitney Houston and Julie Andrews can sympathize with. Over the following year, Callison began repairing his voice by allowing himself to speak for only one minute every hour.

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Mercury Enters Libra

It’s the week of Burning Man, the temporary, intentional, alternative, art-filled community on the playas of Nevada. Mercury, messenger of the Sun, enters Libra this week. Libra is the equalizer, a sign of balance and right human relations. Sometimes with Libra, we can be indecisive and confused while learning how to make balanced and right choices. Sometimes to keep the peace we communicate only what others want to hear. Eventually, we learn how to speak from the heart.

 

Final Cut

Cedar Street Video to close after 10 years at downtown location

 

Banter and Spark

Engaging actors, wry script distinguish lightweight rom-com ‘What If’

 

Back to Silicon Beach

With a new wave of startups, the future of Santa Cruz tech looks more promising than ever
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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

 

A Cab To Be Coveted

I first tasted Villa del Monte’s 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon at a Fourth of July party, where the hosts had bought a case of it because they love it and didn’t want to run out. It’s one of those wines that will grab you—in the best way—with its full body and rich fruit characteristics.