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Dec 22nd
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Love Your Local Band

bud Shocktop

Music - Love Your Local Band

At Risk

At Risk

With a physique that suits a hardcore frontman and a security guard equally well, Spencer Biddiscombe has an intense presence. And when you consider that during At Risk’s farewell concert in 2006, he roared lyrics over exploding drums and crashing guitars as windmilling teenagers rushed the stage, he might seem a bit intimidating to meet for coffee. In reality, Biddiscombe is a well-spoken man who claims his passion for the hardcore scene comes from “the energy and the honesty of the music.” He explains: “Generally it traces back as a more aggressive offshoot of punk. It tends to be a bit heavier and more aggressive. A lot of it is the energy and the community, at most of the shows most of the people know each other. It’s a different vibe than a big show with anonymous faces. There’s a lot of energy, and not a lot of separation—we’ll be playing on the floor wherever possible. Kids respond to that because it’s a lot different.” At Risk—whose current lineup includes Biddiscombe (vocals), Jim Sandeen (guitar), Donald Scully (guitar), Tom Arnott (bass), and Dustin Roth (drums)—emerged from multiple hardcore groups in 2002. After playing for five years together, releasing a full-length album, and earning a huge following, the band broke up in 2006. But after endless requests from fans, the guys have reunited to play an all-ages show at The 418 Project this Saturday.

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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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Giving and Giving, Then Giving Some More

2014 is almost over. Wednesday, Dec. 17, the Jewish Festival of Light, Hanukkah, begins. We are in our last week of Sag and last two weeks of December. Sunday, Dec. 21 is winter Solstice, as the sun enters Capricorn (3:30 p.m. for the west coast). Soon after, the Capricorn new moon occurs (5:36 p.m. for the west coast)—the last new moon of 2014. Sunday morning Uranus in Aries (revolution, revelation) is stationary direct (retro since July 22). Uranus/Aries create things new and needed to anchor the new culture and civilization (Aquarius). We will see revolutionary change in 2015. Capricorn new moon, building-the-personality seed thought, is, “Let ambition rule and let the door to initiation and freedom stand wide (open).” Capricorn is a gate—where matter returns to spirit. But the gate is unseen until the Ajna Center (third eye), Diamond Light of Direction, opens. Winter solstice is the longest day of darkness of the year. The sun’s rays resting at the Tropic of Capricorn (southern hemisphere) symbolize the Christ (soul’s) light piercing the heart of the Earth, remaining there for three days, till Holy Night (midnight Thursday morning). Then the sun’s light begins to rise. It is the birth of the new light (holy child) for the world. A deep calm and stillness pervades the world.The entire planet is revivified, re-spiritualized. All hearts beating reflect this Light. And so throughout the Earth there’s a radiant “impress” (impressions, pictures) given to humanity of the World Mother and her Child. The star Sirius (love/direction) and the constellation Virgo the mother shines above. For gift giving, give to those in need. Give and give and then give some more. This creates the new template of giving and sharing for the new world.

 

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