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Dec 20th
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Love Your Local Band

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Music - Love Your Local Band

The Cranks

The Cranks

To say the players in Aptos’ raging psychobilly duo, The Cranks, wear dedication on their sleeves would be a major understatement, overlooking a key detail surrounding the crew of Mike Hilden (guitars/vocals) and Américo Castillo (drums). It’s actually worn tattooed to their sleeve—The Cranks logo sprawled across Castillo’s forearm, leaving no doubt of his hardcore loyalty to the music. “We may not be the best musicians,” Castillo admits, “but no one can do what The Cranks do.” Rattling on a hybrid blend of Mexican corridos, Norteño rhythms, rockabilly rags and hard-nosed, foot-stomping Led Zeppelin rock, The Cranks are six-year veterans to the Santa Cruz scene—having  emerged from the ashes of the enigmatic trio, Sapos Muertos. After releasing a second album, The Cranks II, in October (only to rush back to the studio to start recording a third full-length, The Cranks III) the group has solidified its sound of organic, gritty, in-the-trenches roots rock that’s simultaneously perfect for the smoky dim aura of a grungy bar and the down-home warmth of a sunny Sunday barbecue. “We like to play with a lot of roots ideas,” Hilden raps, “but [we] don’t confine ourselves to one style.”

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Music - Love Your Local Band

Wangari

Wangari

 

Censorship—the blasphemous term in music. Usually it’s applied to a bleeped out four-letter word, a phrase here and there. A whole song, even. Censoring an entire language? Unthinkable. But that’s a reality Sharon Wangari, the vocal soul and core behind the trio known simply as Wangari, is battling. Singing in her Kenyan mother tongue of Kikuyu is an act of preservation, not just an exercise in world music poetics. Because of tribal warfare the use of the Kikuyu language has been banned in Nairobi, and, needless to say, it’s gotten the singer “worked up.” Wangari explains, “I come from a family of freedom fighters, and our grandfather fought for independence so that we could be free and use our language.” She says the language is disappearing (“My friends don’t speak it because they think it’s primitive, and it’s being wiped off the face of the earth”), so the 24-year-old is now bringing it to listeners through modern acoustic music.

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Music - Love Your Local Band

Patti Maxine

Patti Maxine

At 72, Patti Maxine is one of the busiest players in Santa Cruz and she’s not slowing down. A solo performer and a member of the Island Breeze Band, ROMP, and the Saddle Pals, she’s also been in high demand by local folk musicians and Hawaiian music emissaries like Eddie Kamae and Cyril Pahanui. Anyone who’s witnessed her confident slinging of the slide guitar knows why. Still, it wasn’t necessarily by choice that the brazen stage veteran first picked up the lesser known style. As a young teen living in Roanoke, Va., Maxine sought to study the standard guitar. Her music teacher had other plans for her. “Unbeknownst to me at age 14, my teacher brought out a lap steel,” she says of her surprise  introduction to a guitar whose raised strings beg to be swiped rather than pressed down. “He laid it on my lap and I played with a steel bar, and that was it for me.” Soon she was playing Hawaiian music and winning contests despite the fact that the slide was rarely ever seen in a woman’s hands. “Me and this instrument was like a match made in heaven,” she says.

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Music - Love Your Local Band

Ben Flocks Quartet

Ben Flocks Quartet

Ben Flocks, 21-year-old sax extraordinaire, understands there is no place like home. A former member of Kuumbwa Jazz Honor Band (he calls Kuumbwa “a sacred place”) who played the Monterey Jazz Festival stage this September (“one of the greatest experiences of my whole life”), the Bonny Doon native is currently studying at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York City. There, he says, “350 jazz musicians are packed into two floors of a building in the Village.” He’s been looking forward to stretching his legs—and his refined musical skills—during his winter break and holiday return to town. “At school people tell me to bring my ‘Santa Cruz vibe,’ and now I’m trying to bring my New York vibe back and bridge these two places,” he says. Flanked by good friends and fellow Bay Area locals Jesse Scheinin on saxophone, Zach Brown on bass, and Michael Davis on drums, Flocks will lead his quartet through two sets at the Crepe Place, Thursday, Dec. 30.

 

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Music - Love Your Local Band

Mothers

Mothers

Sometimes a band’s style of conversation perfectly parallels its music. Disjointed, loudly confident, unpredictable and pure non-stop entertainment, a sit-down talk with members of Mothers seems to take a cue from their full-throttle, metal-tinged songs. Behind their respective black attire, baby beards and cigarette smoke, singer/guitarist Matt Wilson and drummer Matt McClain chat about the new Santa Cruz quartet on the deck of Caffe Pergolesi. Guitarist Matt Hintze pops in for brief cameos as he wipes down the tables and works the venue as a nightshift barista. With bassist Dustin White (middle name: Matt), the band of Matts has transformed Wilson’s previous songwriting project—the more subdued Motorcycle Snakebite—into an abrasive, technical juggernaut in which McClain’s cymbal-breaking attacks furiously brew behind a jagged interlocking of guitars. Wilson says, “When people first see us they won’t understand what it is, but I think they’ll like it because—” McClain interjects, “Definitely not because of our looks!” Laughter ensues. Wilson’s sweet and earnest manner is a foil to McClain’s ceaseless sarcasm and jokester jabs (“We’re really influenced by Mariah Carey,” the drummer quips).

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Music - Love Your Local Band

The Getaway Girl

The Getaway Girl

Living up to her moniker as The Getaway Girl, Courtney Jones recently did something many East Coasters do: she fled to the sunnier shores of California. But it wasn’t without incident. Only one state away from her home in Virginia, Jones’ old Jeep Cherokee, which was lugging the singer/songwriter, her Yamaha mock grand piano and her acoustic guitar, beckoned for attention and started overheating. Trudging onward, a year ago she landed in Santa Cruz after, she recalls, “the welcoming committee at the border of California said, ‘Welcome to California—and just so you know, your car is shooting out black smoke!’” Along with that fixer-upper, the 24-year-old brought to town her songwriting skills she’d exercised in bands while living in North Carolina, a knack to play back anything she hears despite not knowing chords, and a determination to master the keys in original songs. And, like you’d suspect, she did so in perfect getaway form. “Once I moved out to California I was locking myself in my room for hours trying to figure out new chord progressions,” she says. The sweet result? Her solo musical project now greets listeners as a piano pop endeavor dripping in spacey ambiance and affecting lyrics that can bounce with a lighthearted bop or amble with languid fluidity reminiscent of Missy Higgins.

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Music - Love Your Local Band

Molly’s Revenge

Molly’s Revenge

A challenge of being a Celtic band from California? Credibility. Living far from the Green Isle, the Santa Cruz-based players in Molly’s Revenge have had to work that much harder to get respect for playing traditional music native to a foreign region. Still, the members have mastered a rare style despite their stateside home, and it’s gained them plenty of nods from notable players. “We may not talk with the accents, but the music speaks with the accent for us,” says founder David Brewer, the man behind the Highland bagpipes. With John Weed on fiddle, Stuart Mason on guitar/mandola, and Peter Haworth on bouzouki, Molly’s Revenge catapults audiences (in both elite venues and casual pubs) into a wicked seizure fueled by strident Celtic covers and originals. It seems that emerging as outsiders to the scene has given the band the freedom to, shall we say, experiment. Don’t expect kilts, expect kick-ass takes on Celtic classics. While in Scotland and Ireland bands traditionally play sitting down, Molly’s Revenge treats its stage show with the dynamics and theatrics of a rock show; everyone performs standing, and flailing movements complement the stomping rhythms.

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Music - Love Your Local Band

Five Eyed Hand

Five Eyed Hand

When guitarist Chris Zanardi dishes out the inside scoop on his band Five Eyed Hand, there’s no shortage of quirky band member details befitting the ensemble’s fusion psychedelic-meets-funk soundscape. Drummer Derek Bodkin isn’t just an anomalous frontman from behind the kit, he’s also an award-winning professional whistler (he performs a whistle solo on the song “Good Mood Trot”). Bassist Jeb Taylor was struck by lightning as a child while hiking the Himalaya (“I think it messed up his vocals during his adolescent years and he’s the only member that doesn’t sing,” Zanardi laughs). Violinist Mike Henderson is known to untraditionally whip out the slide here and there (“He’s a virtuoso that plays everything from classical to rock”). With each member brandishing his own extensive resume of projects, Five Eyed Hand formed in 2006 to boast a motley crew of experiences and styles that continues to go strong. From sexy funk to beastly bluegrass jams to precise jazz instrumentals, the quartet hits Don Quixote’s with Marco Benevento on Friday, Dec. 3.

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Music - Love Your Local Band

The Good Sams

The Good Sams

There’s nothing like a little ol’ power plant to spark the creative juices. It works in The Simpsons and it works in the Good Sams. While Moss Landing is commonly recognized for its two power plant towers, along with the famous flavors of Phil’s Fish Market, since 2006 the tiny tourist spot has also harbored a lesser-known force to be reckoned with: Smaller in stature but bigger in sound than the aforementioned landmarks, the hillbilly swing of the Good Sams fits the antique-loving scene of the neighborhood while infusing a youthful surf/skate punk aesthetic through its energy and lyrics. Still, let’s talk power plant. Singer/songwriter Andrew Dolan grew up watching the smoke linger out of the imposing towers and over his grandparents’ junkyard. “Every day when the smoke came out of the stacks it looked like things morphing into other things, it was nonstop entertainment,” the 28-year-old recalls. “So the power plant is a huge influence on us.” Take note of one of the trio’s original romps, “Plume’s Doom.” But while modern muses like power plants and skateboarding play some major roles in the local ensemble’s music, it’s the old-time string thumping and country crooning that lays the Good Sams’ foundation.

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Music - Love Your Local Band

Birdhouse

Birdhouse

What a difference a year can make. Last Halloween, when a group of friends thought the best way to spend the masked affair would be to jam out some Grateful Dead tunes at a Santa Cruz house party, little could they have guessed that by the next Day of the Dead they’d be garnering notice for playing solid original tunes under the name Birdhouse. Now, with no covers in sight, the quartet balances jazz virtuosity with jam band dexterity, and the resulting patchwork morphs with each show. A conglomerate of UC Santa Cruz and Cabrillo College students, the guys in Birdhouse, according to drummer Jeff Wilson, formed “to play old time, good feeling rock music with a country feel, but we’re all jazz guys.” With guitarist/lead vocalist Daniel Talamantes (“He’s constantly on his typewriter all day writing,” Wilson says), lead guitarist Jeff Carter, and bassist Chris McIntyre rounding out the crew, Birdhouse lights up an ever-changing set through a knack for tight improv and technical precision. An appreciation for bluegrass and funk certainly informs the set, with Wilson favoring African rhythms and atypical syncopation as the lively undercurrent to the band’s rock meanderings, while Carter’s stinging pedal steel guitar is scene-stealing.

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Is This a Dream?

A beginner’s guide to understanding and exploring the uncanny world of lucid dreams

 

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.

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

Stocking Stuffers

The men behind the women of the Kinsey Sicks Dragapella Beautyshop Quartet explain their own special brand of ‘dragtivism,’ and their holiday show at the Rio
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Fortino Winery’s Intriguing Charbono

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