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…
” Stevee Stubblefield provides the “chunk” beat on the mandolin and vocals, with Alex Bice (bass, vocals), Evan Penza (guitar, vocals), Jase Purat (fiddle), and Wilson rounding out their coastal brand of Americana. Citing John Hartford as an influence, their complex style comes mostly from the “newgrass” school, which incorporates heavy jazz into traditional bluegrass instrumentation. “We try not to associate ourselves with one genre or the ‘jam band’ label,” says Wilson. “That pigeonholes us into what a lot of people sort of associate with something like Phish. We’re into jazz and being very precise—constantly revamping everything, adding more harmonies here and there.” While focused on recording its first full-length album, Steak and Eggs, the band will join Birdhouse and Emily Moldy on The Catalyst stage on Thursday, March 22. Besides promoting their new music, the band is also spreading the word about Stubblefield’s growing project, North Pacific Company—a collective created to help foster community engagement with local artists. “We all need a place to gather and bring more people in,” says Wilson, welcoming like-minded musicians, painters, poets, and anyone else of the same independent spirit.
INFO: 8:30 p.m. Thursday, March 22. Catalyst, 1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. $5/adv, $8/door. 423-1338. Photo: Terry Way Photography
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