“None of us have ever played anything like this before,” singer Kelly Koval says of her five bandmates in Audiafauna and the surprising folktronica sound they’ve stumbled upon. “There’s no real lead instrument,” she continues. “It all just builds into one. We are one big instrument.” And as one big instrument, the 22-year-old and her cohorts are making one big impression. A fresh mosaic of acoustic strings, electronic soundscapes, dreamy vocals and brash hip-hop nuances, Audiafauna combines the classical with the cutting-edge—and it’s making plenty of ears perk up around town.
Vibrant EYEris isn’t just about music, it’s about a movement to open the third eye with heavy dubstep beats. “Hip-Hop has become a divine element in my life,” states lyricist Numerous. “It’s strength through struggle,” agrees co-founder and beats maestro Enthusiast, “It symbolizes freedom and the human desire to expand consciousness.” With this mission in mind, Vibrant EYEris has already dropped two albums; 2010’s EP U>F>E>P, and last year’s debut full-length, Hip Hop Don’t Stop. It all started in early 2009. “I had been looking for a permanent beat producer for a while,” Numerous explains, “and when Enthusiast played me his latest work I started busting some intense freestyles.” Thus began a powerful and productive collaboration. By fusing thick dubstep beats with the flow of conscious hip-hop, Vibrant EYEris has created a unique sound of smart dance music—a party with a message. Since forming, the ensemble has played more than a hundred shows, everywhere from house parties to opening up for hip-hop veterans and fellow conscious rappers, Dead Prez, this last February. Boasting musical influences spanning Jimi Hendrix to Gift of Gab, and political influences like Ron Paul, Vibrant EYEris uses music as a way to transcend the barriers of everyday society. Making big plans for 2010, the group is getting ready to drop a second full-length, Illadellica, later this year. For now, the pair’s included a drummer, Rosta, for a rare mix of live and digital beats with each performance, which it will bring to this week’s Your Music Magazine Olympicks on Friday, April 23, at Cypress Lounge. While it’s too early to tell just where Vibrant EYEris is headed, the guys are keeping all options open. “As far fetched as it sounds,” Numerous says with a cracked smile, “I’m hoping technology will advance quickly enough so that we can rock on another planet or galaxy, maybe at some crazy intergalactic space rave.” Time will only tell, but until then keep your EYEris open for the next generation of hip-hop. | Mat Weir
A group of people stand in line waiting for popcorn at last year’s Burning Man Decompression party in San Francisco—organized, calm and fixating on their next salty snack fix. Flash forward 20 minutes later to a scene in which said popcorn line has morphed into an all-out dance party in which any remaining “line” is buried beneath an amorphous unit of booty-shakers and stilt-walkers crowding around one feverish Santa Cruz ensemble, Trip Delight Fantastic. “
While most bands are busy employing more technology in their show, splattering the stage from one end to the other with cutting-edge gear, the Down Beets are running in the opposite direction—and it’s made them run into each other. Last spring the 4-year-old alt-country bluegrass quartet decided to simplify things by changing into a one-mic format. At first, however, crowding around a single mic took a bit of getting used to. Singer Sheila Golden explains: “I totally got whacked in the head a few times by the banjo, I’ve whacked Jay [Lampel] with the guitar, and at a couple shows Jeremy [Lampel] had to run around to the other side to get near the mic. It can be really comical but we’re getting better.” “Getting better” has meant burgeoning into a sweet Del McCoury performance style that’s revolutionized the band.
What could four young guys from Salinas and Santa Cruz possibly have in common with one (insert uncontrollable gag here) Paris Hilton? Try a four-story mansion in the Hamptons. No joke. Last summer, the crafty garage rockers in the Mystery Lights enjoyed two weeks pimpin’ it out in an extravagant pad that’s also been used to house the Maiden of Vain. Flown to New York by the band’s Closet Trekkie Records, who signed the quartet after coming across its MySpace, the Lights fulfilled an agenda of playing nine East Coast shows and recording the entire time.
Ingredients: Nick Green’s guitar, Chris Hopkins’ bass, Logan Bean’s drums, ample 4-track tape recorders, a hell of a lot of irreverence, and a pinch of freak pop with the rock. Stir ingredients together in a mixer with a lot of attitude and humor on tape, then set out on a stage to cool. The result? Cool Band Now. Friends who grew up in Livermore going to punk shows and pizza parlors together, the trio formed in Santa Cruz as a reaction against the sometimes stifling nature of taking music too seriously. With each member having spent plenty of time and energy on previous projects and recordings, Cool Band Now began over a year ago as a spontaneous endeavor to just have fun. “It’s a trapping feeling sometimes when you spend so much time on a recording to make it sound perfect,” Bean says, “so this was a lo-fi escape from all that.” When Green and Hopkins (whose words sometimes grace GT pages) first haphazardly started recording sound collages that flexed their multi-instrumental talents (there’s a bit of synth, a bit of punk distortion, a bit of indie acoustic guitar) the tracks were made with the idea of television commercial breaks in mind: whacky, experimental and short—very short; some “songs” run 15 seconds long.
‘Tis the season when the green Guinness flows and the Wild Rovers procure the kind of set to match the liquid meal: Celtic, multi-layered and strong, their songs—like the drink—will put you in a dizzying spin of pub-friendly sing-alongs. And that’s why they’re the busiest band in Santa Cruz during St. Patrick’s Day. With six shows in town during the next two weeks, the Wild Rovers have been called to arms for an annual musical onslaught that starts this Wednesday opening for the Young Dubliners and culminates in a headlining show at the Catalyst Atrium on the day itself, Wednesday, March 17 (with stints at the Boardwalk, Poet & Patriot, and the Crow’s Nest in between). This, perhaps, surprises no one more than the band itself. After all, before forming in 2004, none of the members had any previous experience with Celtic music.
While naysayers continue to barrage Obama for not implementing change fast enough, one local teen has been inspired by local humanitarians and by the president, and is taking matters into his own musically gifted hands. Barney Greer, a 15-year-old Santa Cruz alto sax star, is harnessing his talent and the talents of his peers to raise funds for Haiti through a teen concert at Kuumbwa Jazz on Friday, Feb. 26. “I noticed people and places around me that were wanting to help Haiti and doing things to make it happen,” Greer says. “Even Obama wrote an article about why Haiti matters. I read it and I realized that I had a band and a phone—to make calls, to make a benefit.” With no previous experience putting together a large event of this kind, the Harbor High student began spearheading this week’s Funk ‘n’ Rock for Haiti concert. What he describes as a “clash of genres,” the evening boasts a teen lineup of four local bands, starting with the high energy of the self-explanatory Funky Dosage six-piece, the dance rock of Jackie Rocks Band, the funk and jazz fusion of Greer’s own quartet, Barney and the Dinosaurs, and ending with the Kuumbwa Jazz Honor Band winding it all down into a straight ahead jazz closing. Greer is giving proceeds to International Medical Corps, an organization that sends medical training, relief and supplies to places in need.
Two months ago, Santa Cruz jazz songstress Nicole Wilson was performing in front of Costa Rican president and Nobel Peace Prize-winner, Oscar Arias. “He was definitely the most prestigious audience member I’ve ever sung for,” the 31-year-old says, letting out a laugh at the randomness of the momentous experience. Frequenting the country each year and having forged a strong connection with Costa Rica’s vibrant jazz community, Wilson was asked to join the premier Tico Jazz Band as a guest for a special event. The performance posed her breathy pipes against the big band’s robust sound—but with a full horn section and drums commandeering a loud, blaring set-up, it had her belting out as hard as she could to try and compete with the instrumental onslaught. “I’m used to singing with a small combo with guitar, so I had to almost shout into the mic,” she remembers. On Thursday, Feb. 25, Wilson’s classically trained vocals are being showcased the way she prefers—with 3-year-old jazz trio Hold Tight.