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May 24th
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Love Your Local Band

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Music - Love Your Local Band

Snail

Snail

In 1968, when Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple hit the world stage, there was a local group called Snail. Jamming at Harvey West Park, bandleader Bob O’Neill recalls not being the most hardened musicians: “We were like, ‘Would you like to use our equipment?’ We were very young and very nice.” Though not as renowned as their British brothers, Snail is infamous in Santa Cruz. “Our biggest influences were Jeff Beck, Jimi Page and Eric Clapton. We weren’t heavy metal exactly. We had the lyrical side of it with harmonies, so it was kind of a hybrid,” says guitarist Ken Kraft. With a division of harmonies and arrangements, Snail was more like Cream, rocking blues with a psychedelic twist. In 1970, Snail took out a loan, bought Marshall amplifiers and began playing major venues. Selling out the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium and Selland Arena in Fresno with Santana, Snail became an arena band, still true to their roots. “We played a concert on the beach in Capitola, thousands showed up, but the police never did,” says Kraft, crediting huge turnouts in the ’70s to lack of TiVo. “There weren’t as many distractions back then—there were only three TV stations.” Forty years later, Kraft and O’Neill remain bandmates and friends. As songwriters, the Lennon/McCartney of the band, it’s no surprise that Kraft is currently the White Album Ensemble guitarist, singer and musical director.

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Music - Love Your Local Band

Matt Masih and The Messengers

Matt Masih and The Messengers

Santa Cruz is indubitably a town that takes to a certain thread of fusion jam bands. Whether they be local products or artists coming through on tour, head out to any given Santa Cruz venue on any given night, and there’s a good chance you’re going to cross something funky, something danceable and (perhaps) something reggae-derived. Matt Masih and The Messengers is a band which easily falls into this category upon first inspection, but the six-piece’s frontman insists there’s much more to the equation. “There’s definitely a singer-songwriter background,” explains multi-instrumentalist Matt Masih. “The lyrics are involved with the shape and outline of the song,” more than most jam bands. Indeed, the project began about two years ago as the sort-of bedroom songs of Masih, who retains most of the creative control in the band. Though there’s room for the rest of the group to inject its own funky flavor—particularly the relatively new horn section—Masih’s songwriting process clearly keeps The Messengers grounded in pop sensibilities.

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Music - Love Your Local Band

Santa Cruz Jazz 2011

Santa Cruz Jazz 2011

Though it’s not a local band per se, the Jazz Society of Santa Cruz, as an institution, has served as an incubator for many local swing, big band, ragtime and cool jazz outfits since it was established in 2000. The nonprofit hosts a four-hour open jam session for local jazz musicians every Sunday at Bocci’s Cellar and has spawned many local bands by bringing together professionals and weekend warriors—giving people who might not otherwise meet, the opportunity to play in front of a relaxed, fun-loving crowd. Local jazz musician Stella D’Oro—who mesmerizes with Italian “Meglio Stasera”—says that the atmosphere on Sundays at Bocci’s Cellar—a 100-year-old former Italian restaurant at 140 Encinal St.—helped her hone her craft. “People there are very supportive,” D’Oro says, referring to both the musicians and patrons. “They’re great for supporting new musicians and people learning how to get started.” Steve Newman, president of the Jazz Society and master saxophonist, has been with the organization since the beginning. He describes the venue as a “time warp”—a modern day speakeasy where people go once a week to swing dance and get lost in the sounds. “It’s not just the musicians,” Newman says.

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Music - Love Your Local Band

Birdhand

Birdhand

While most people were fighting fax machines at 9-5 jobs, Birdhand spent the first week of April destroying an abandoned church in Monterey. Shooting a music video to promote their new self-titled EP, produced by Darryl Jenifer of Bad Brains, the Santa Cruz rockers were armed with 10-foot poles and told to go wild. What should have been a dream come true, turned into a strange experience. “There were 15 uncomfortable film students watching us the whole time without saying anything,” says bassist Mason Rothschild. “It was the most awkward thing ever!” But according to singer/songwriter/guitarist Joey Weed, awkward moments make the band tick. “Before each show, we huddle up and get really weird—we talk about normal stuff, like how my stomach hurts or who didn’t take out the trash,” says Weed. Once the lights come on, though, the foursome delivers hard-hitting rock ‘n’ roll, with Queens of the Stone Age-like punk riffs and occasional violin and pan flute solos.

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Music - Love Your Local Band

Young Performers Showcase

Young Performers Showcase

The axe is falling on music education in public schools. The star of James Durbin is rising on American Idol. Put those two trends together, and the purpose behind the Young Performers Showcase (Durbin is an alum of the event) becomes potently clear. Now in its third year, the fundraiser this Saturday, April 9, at The Rio Theatre, presents a full lineup of local youth strutting disparate skills to raise awareness and moolah to continue music programs in Santa Cruz City schools. It all started when Rick Linzer saw how the economic downturn was threatening music lessons. The veteran jazz saxophonist, who says that music “really saved my life in a lot of ways; it gave me a sense of purpose and camaraderie,” has gone on to coordinate an annual concert that provides family entertainment while ensuring that school bands can be armed with instruments and kids can be exposed to the nurturing and healing nature of music. As a music major in college, Linzer learned how effective music is in a child’s cognitive, social and emotional development. “Numerous studies show that [music] gives kids a sense of connection to school and helps with self-esteem, creative and analytical thinking, coordination, problem solving and team building,” he says.

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Music - Love Your Local Band

Grizzel Toe

Grizzel Toe

Soggy winter rains have steeped Grizzel Toe, the latest project featuring Green Flash alums Raya Heffernan and Peter Wallner, throughout its gestation period, saturating life into the underground duo in preparation for a spring sprig to sprout. Seething in the clammy distortion of a washed-out ’90s shoegaze sound garden, Grizzel Toe echoes gritty EVOL-era Sonic Youth with an innate punk intensity that will leave any audience aching in admiration after being walloped by their wall of noise. “Our music is the color of bruises,” Wallner, who plays guitar and vocals, relents, “an eyesore you can’t stop touching, but want to.” With performances alongside the Growlers, Religious Girls, and Man/Miracle under their belts, Heffernan and Wallner have bled into the local circuit and are ready to take it to the studio for a four-track EP that should be out around May.

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Music - Love Your Local Band

Shotgun Suitor

Shotgun Suitor

In a dimly lit bar a band is in full swing, busting out a hip-shaking honky tonk ballad. Out of nowhere, the lead guitarist starts traveling outside of the song, the standup bassist grabs a bow and, in a matter of seconds, the band is diving through a classical piece before finishing the set with a jazz standard. Welcome to the world of Shotgun Suitor. “I think we’re bringing a missing genre that a lot of original bands only touch on,” explains keyboardist Kyle Hamood. “We cover all of the bases.” And they certainly do, from original pieces to standard rock covers with a twist. It’s an impressive feat considering that Shotgun Suitor is still stretching its musical legs; forming only two and a half months ago, after singer and rhythm guitarist Chas Crowder moved to Santa Cruz from the soulful streets of Memphis. “[Bassist Paul Gerhardt] started calling me a couple of months ago saying, ‘You’ve got to get out here!’ So, I did,” Crowder says nonchalantly. Gerhardt and Hamood already had a budding musical friendship, so with Crowder in the mix they decided to call upon drummer Dallas Ezell, lead guitarist Wes Davis and vocalist Emily Gold.

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Music - Love Your Local Band

Ploughman

PloughmanMost bands can speak volumes of their humble beginnings, but few will tell you of a genesis as abrupt and haphazard as Ploughman's, whose first practice session was a live performance at The Red last year. Almost as if acting out a band's version of a love story, Ploughman is slated to play The Catalyst Atrium for its CD-release party on the night of its first anniversary. Romance aside, the foursome's soulful improvisation and laid-back brand of bluesy rock may not melt hearts, but it will surely set toes tapping. Ploughman's upcoming album, Scratching the Surface, is a subtly polished collection of mellow, well-aged rock with harder moments taking you back to the Toadies and softer ones revisiting the Grateful Dead, although neither bands are mentioned when singer Eric Smith talks inspiration.
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Music - Love Your Local Band

Local Acts Done Good

Local Acts Done Good

Think Santa Cruz is soundproofed by the surrounding mountains, one snaky Highway 17, and that thing called the Pacific Ocean? Think again. A couple of acts have eschewed the confines of small town beach living and taken their big sounds to some big Hollywood spotlights. Congrats are in order to Wooster and James Durbin, two very different acts whose musical pursuits have recently put a star next to our town on the musical map.

Shuffling together a taut rock and reggae concoction that pops with tasty nuggets of suave blues, seductive soul and edgy funk, Wooster took the Ford-sponsored “Gimme the Gig” national contest by storm. Out of 2,500 applicants, the septet led by Brian Gallagher was chosen as one of the top seven finalists to hit the infamous Whiskey A Go Go stage in Los Angeles last month to strut some serious goods in an attempt to win a recording session with no other than Don Was. Though it returned sans a contract, Wooster’s rise in the ranks during the seven-month contest and subsequent Hollywood exposure have added to the local band’s sweltering reputation. 

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Music - Love Your Local Band

The Huxtables

The Huxtables

The Huxtables have been around. As in, lots of local bands now DIY-ing it were still diapering it when these guys went from playing their first show 16 years ago—a McKinleyville house party—to dicing up local stages. Somehow, the dust has never managed to settle on the band’s frenetic rock that bounces with more pop than your last illegal fireworks display. And in all these years, the only thing missing in the career of a veteran band that needs no introduction is … a debut album. Say what? You read it correctly: Despite a parade of EPs and 2003’s Fire is Sabotage compilation, The Hux never managed to package one proper full-length CD. None, zilch, nada. Until now. “We’d always been a side project for the first 10 years of our existence, so we never had the drive to get into the studio to record a full-length until three years ago,” says founding bassist AJ Marquez, formerly of Slow Gherkin.

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Gemini Sun, Pentecost, Shavuot—Enlightenment and Gladness

As the sun enters Gemini on Sunday, sign of speaking, communication, thinking, inter-relations, writing and understanding languages, the feast days of Pentecost & Shavuot (Catholic and Jewish festivals) occur. During Pentecost’s 50 days after Easter, tongues of fire appear above the heads of the disciples, providing them with the ability to understand all languages and all feelings hidden in the minds and hearts of humanity. It’s recorded that Pentecost began with a loud noise, which happened in an upper room (signifying the mind). The Christ (World Teacher) told his disciples (after his ascension) when encountering a man at a well carrying a water pot (signs for Age of Aquarius) to follow him to an upper room. There, the Holy Spirit (Ray 3 of Divine Intelligence) would overshadow them, expand their minds, give them courage and enable them to teach throughout the world, speaking all languages and thus able to minister to the true needs of a “seeking” humanity. Pentecost (50 days, pentagram, Ray 5, Venus, concrete and scientific knowledge, the Ray of Aquarius) sounds dramatic, impressive and scary: The loud noise, a thunderous rush of wind and then “tongues of fire” above the heads of each disciple (men and women). Fire has purpose. It purifies, disintegrates, purges, transforms and liberates (frees) us from the past. This was the Holy Spirit (Ray 3, love and wisdom) being received by the disciples, so they would teach in the world and inform humanity of the Messiah (Christ), who initiated the new age (Pisces) and gave humanity the new law (adding to the 10 Commandments of the Aries Age) to Love (Ray 2) one another. Note: Gemini is also Ray 2. Shavuot is the Jewish Festival of Gladness, the First Fruits Festival celebrating the giving of the 10 Commandments to Moses as the Aries Age was initiated. Thus, we have two developmental stages here, Jewish festival of the Old Testament. Pentecost of the New Testament. We have gladness, integrating both.

 

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