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Love Your Local Band

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Music - Love Your Local Band

North Pacific String Band

North Pacific String Band

North Pacific String Band—a busk-happy, five-piece—is well on its way to becoming Santa Cruz’s premier bluegrass collective. Though each member belongs to another local band (whether it’s Birdhouse, On The Spot Trio, or the Family Hogwash), the group came together a year ago with one goal: strictly bluegrass. Banjo player Jeff Wilson wastes no time trying to describe their music with vague nuances of emotional inspiration, but cuts straight to their passion for precise instrumentation. “So you’ve got the mandolin,” he starts, “which is like the snare drum in a string band; it provides percussion and rhythm and keeps time…

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Music - Love Your Local Band

Malima Kone

Malima Kone

At age 5, Salifou Kone’s grandfather gave him the nickname “Malima,” meaning “the way it is.” Twenty three years later, the nickname has taken on new meaning as the West African-born musician writes songs that tell stories of orphans, peace, love, humanity, daily life, and experiences in his homeland. “I write about what I see,” he explains.

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Music - Love Your Local Band

Mr Free

Mr Free

Geoff Gary, known to most by his stage name, Mr Free, has lived everywhere from Cairo to Tokyo and held many diverse jobs along the way—one valet job at a Kauai hotel even led him to freestyle rap for the rock band Creed. “They came to stay at the hotel and we ended up kickin’ it,” remembers Free. “One thing led to another, and I rhymed for them.” Free, who first began dabbling in hip-hop during his time at the University of Maine, was moved by the band’s response to his lyrics. “I never really took it too seriously until I met Creed,” he says. “They even said to me, before they even heard my music, ‘Do you do anything musical? Because you have the presence of a star.’ … That’s what got me started—kind of this belief in me that transcended my own belief.” Following their serendipitous meeting, Creed’s lead vocalist/lyricist, Scott Stapp, took Free under his wing—a mentorship that would eventually lead to Free opening for Creed and rapper Common on tour. Currently based in Santa Cruz, Free’s energetic reggae-infused tracks are reminiscent of the boom bap-style prevalent in East Coast hip-hop, which is characterized by a hard bass drum and snapping snare. Thought-provoking lyrical content is the foundation for his danceable hits, like “Not Guilty” off his latest album, Edge. In the song, Free puts the planet on trial, and everyone—from Bob Marley to Gandhi—comes to testify. While he acknowledges that dirty club bangers are often the big money-makers, Free favors quality over quantity. “As a writer, there’s times when I’m listening to a beat and I’m like, I could easily make a raunchy song to this,” he explains, “but no, let me choose a different path and really stand firm and say something.”

 INFO: 8 p.m. Thursday, Mar. 8. The Crow's Nest, 2218 E. Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz. $5. 476-4560.

Music - Love Your Local Band

The Joni Show

The Joni Show

For Jayme Kelly Curtis, the inspiration for “The Joni Show”—a Joni Mitchell tribute concert at Kuumbwa Jazz on March 3—reaches back to Curtis’ girlhood in an artist colony on Cape Cod. The Felton-based singer-songwriter remembers herself as a 15-year-old putting on headphones with one of Mitchell’s double records open on her lap, and reading along with the hand-written lyrics. “Directly connecting the eye and the ears to the brain in an intimate, closed-in experience like that—it was just a magical refuge to be with her,” she says. Mitchell continues to affect Curtis’s life today. “There’s not a day that goes by that I’m in a conversation or dealing with some situation that one of her lyrics doesn’t pop into my head,” says Curtis. An accomplished musician in her own right with three albums, including 2008’s Mid Life Chrysalis, Curtis hopes to share that “magical refuge” with the community with the help of 19 local musicians.

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Music - Love Your Local Band

New World Ape

New World Ape

Cole Berry currently serves as world-fusion/funk band New World Ape’s percussion virtuoso, but if his passion for their eclectic brand of music ever wanes, he’s got other plans. “If I wasn’t in this band right now, I’d probably just be in the Andes,” he admits. Fortunately, it’s that immutable wanderlust that feeds his band’s musical fire. The core five of the seven- to eight-piece ensemble met while studying at UC Santa Cruz. In 2009, a year after graduating, Berry was contacted by drummer Beaumont Bradbury. “I was actually in La Paz, Bolivia, recovering from some intestinal issues,” recalls Berry, “and I got this email from him saying he wanted to kind of put together this serious progressive dance band, and I said yeah, count me in.”

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Music - Love Your Local Band

Boostive

Boostive

A few weeks ago, seven experimental trip-hoppers could be seen walking the streets of Market and 6th in San Francisco. Sage, the producer, bassist, and founder of this all-male collective of students, called Boostive, refers to that area as “the ghetto” and “the crack block.” But beneath the tough exterior is the group’s studio. For Sage, the streets provide “that vibe of being real—that whole vibe is going to be in our album just from recording there.” Their self-titled EP marks the debut of Sage’s collaboration with several friends: Dylan Webber (guitar), Nathan Kocivar (saxophone, keys), Andrew Hawes (drums), Mulligan B (engineer, guitar), Travis Gibbs (trombone), and Al Bundi (MC). “We use a lot of vinyl chops to get our sound and overdub some real instruments and drums,” says Sage. “The vinyl [is] for old school sound [such as] ’90s hip-hop. You can hear the crackle of the records in our recordings …

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Music - Love Your Local Band

Katie Ekin

Katie Ekin

It’s hard to believe that 20-year-old folk pop singer-songwriter Katie Ekin’s years in the music industry can be counted on a single hand. She picked up acoustic guitar five years ago, played her first show three years ago, and debuted her seven-track, self-titled EP in December 2010. Inspired by music of the ’50s and ’60s, Ekin—whose vocal range is naturally as melodious as a songbird (see track three, “Cuckoo”)—has a keen understanding of love, astutely arranged in the lyrics of her songs. “I love oldies … the fun, pop-feeling, sock hop,” confesses Ekin. Aside from Carole King and Lesley Gore, singer of “It’s My Party,” her influences include Elvis Presley, Ricky Nelson, The Beatles and The Beach Boys, whose music was regularly played by her father throughout her childhood. “My dad is just such a fun person, and every time I’d see him perform when I was little, he had the best stage presence,” remembers Ekin. “I gain confidence from being on stage and I relate that back to my dad.” It is onstage that Ekin feels most comfortable expressing herself. “My main thing has always been love,” she says. “In high school, I wouldn’t really tell people how I felt—I put it in a song.” Her vulnerability is especially evident in “Underneath the Christmas Tree,” a song in which she asks her crush, “Won’t you be my present, baby?” The feel-good track is so irresistible, with Ekin’s sweet and sultry voice, that Zooey Deschanel herself would be proud to own the copyrights. Head to The Abbey two days before Valentine’s Day to hear Ekin belt out several original love songs, while accompanying herself on ukulele and guitar. Given the holiday, Ekin is planning an upbeat set that is, in her own words, “not so heartbreaking—I’ll try to keep it on a happy theme.”

 INFO: 8:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 12. The Abbey, 350 Mission St., Santa Cruz. No cover. 429-1058.

Music - Love Your Local Band

Miss Lonely Hearts

Miss Lonely Hearts

“I feel like modern country—it’s just a f*cking mess. No doubt,” says Wyatt Hesemeyer, lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist for Miss Lonely Hearts. “A lot of people that are trying to play ... ’50s country do it by making it as over the top as they can,” he adds, “they’re yodeling and wearing oversized cowboy hats, they try to make it cute, but it wasn’t supposed to be cute. It was supposed to heartfelt or interesting or funny.” Hesemeyer, whose warm, raw vocals intoxicate the listener like a glass of Bulleit Rye Whiskey—his favorite brand—has a characteristic bluntness that imbues his music with honesty instead of camp. Backed by a full band—Patrick O’Connor (drums), Keith Cary (lap steel), Mischa Gasch (upright bass), and Parker McDonald (lead guitar)—Miss Lonely Hearts cranks out pure country with a splash of  shufflin’ 1950s rock and roll. And according to Hesemeyer, their unadulterated sound has a big draw.

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Music - Love Your Local Band

Steven Graves

Steven Graves

Steven Graves has started to dream in songs. The 48-year-old Capitola resident heard the lyrics to his latest in the gray space between waking and sleep. “I wrote the whole song in about 20 minutes, got up, laid down the guitar parts—I’ve never been able to do that before,” he laughs. A dream is a fitting metaphor for Graves’ career. A former land use consultant, he left the field in 2010 to pursue his passion for music.

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Music - Love Your Local Band

Skinny Ricky & The Casual Encounters

Skinny Ricky & The Casual Encounters

Emblazoned with their Tumblr address and the simple statement “We got soul,” the vintage matchbook calling card of Skinny Ricky & The Casual Encounters perfectly embodies the spirit of the band: resurrecting the past with a touch of class and a unique twist. The local group plays classic ’60s soul music, and, according to bassist Mikael Witte, they have a clear mission in mind. “One of the main goals of the group is to bring this kind of music back that a lot of people aren’t aware of existing,” says Witte. “To bring it in the way that we play it, and to make them feel that it’s still relevant, and that it’s something that will make you feel something.”

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International Earth Day—Mother Earth Day

Every April 22, humanity celebrates International Mother Earth Day and Earth Day. As more than a billion people participate in Earth Day activities every year, Earth Day has become the world’s largest civic observance. The massive concern to build right relations between humanity and the living being we call Earth is evidence of humanity’s love of the Mother. In 2009, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed April 22 International Mother Earth Day, with a significant resolution affirming “the interdependence existing among human beings, other living species (the kingdoms—mineral, plant, animal and human) and the planet itself, the Earth which we all inhabit.” The Earth is our home. Celebrating Earth Day helps us define new emerging processes (economic, social, political) focused on the well-being of the kingdoms. Through these, humanity seeks to raise the quality of life, foster equality and begin to establish right relations with the Earth. We dedicate ourselves to bringing forth balance and a relationship of harmony with all of nature. Learn about planting a billion trees (the Canopy Project); participate in 1.5 billion acts of green. Disassociation (toward Earth) is no longer viable. We lose our connection to life itself. Participation is viable—an anchor, refuge and service for all of life on Earth. Visit earthday.org; harmonywithnatureun.org; and un.org/en/events/motherearthday for more information. From Farmers Almanac, “On Earth Day, enjoy the tonic of fresh air, contact with the soil, companionship with nature! Go barefooted. Walk through woods, find wildflowers and green moss. Remain outside, no matter the weather!” Nature, Earth’s most balanced kingdom, heals us. The New Group of World Servers is preparing for the May 3 Wesak Buddha Taurus solar festival. We prepare through asking for and offering forgiveness. Forgiveness purifies and like nature, heals.

 

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