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Sep 01st
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Music - Features

Punk at Heart

Punk at Heart

Outcast turned electro musician, Steve Aoki, makes nonconformity cool
As a young boy growing up in Newport Beach, Steve Aoki stuck out like a sore thumb. He was too small to fit in with the jocks, he had a traditional Japanese home wherein no English was spoken, he loved rock music, and his father, a former Japanese Olympic wrestler and the founder of the Benihana restaurant chain, was an estranged figure living on the east coast.

“The status quo is very conservative, one-sided, with not much character,” Aoki says of Newport. “You’re either in, or you’re very out.”

When he couldn’t break into the athletic circle as a teenager, Aoki was welcomed with open arms into the punk community—a niche that the now-electro house musician credits as his inspiration in song and in life.

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Music - Features

Keep it Simple, Stupid

Keep it Simple, Stupid

Seattle indie pop trio strips down, unplugs
Simple and stripped-down though their songs may be, the Seattle-based, three-piece Seapony are a product of the electronic, interconnected modern world.

Seapony's story is one of cross-country flights, trans-continental record deals, drum machines, and the democratizing effects of social networking sites and the blogosphere. While their music—a fuzzy, bittersweet, laconic and lo-fi indie pop—would have appealed to fans of the Breeders and Blur circa 1993, it’s possible they would have never been discovered.

“We’ve all got full-time jobs,” songwriter Danny Rowland explains, taking a break from his job as a customer support representative at a third-party billing vendor. Before the web, the band would have played gigs, but considering the brevity of the tours they can take while working 9 to 5, it would have been difficult to gain exposure.

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Music - Features

It’s A Small World

It’s A Small World

Les Nubians sisters call for a ‘Nü Revolution’ in global citizenship
Nelson Mandela once said, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” French-Cameroonian sister duo, Les Nubians, approached their third album Nü Revolution with that same frame of mind.

Born in Paris, but raised in Chad, Celia and Helene Faussart have become famous for their eclectic mash-up of hip-hop, soul, R&B and Afro-Caribbean rhythms, flowing freely between French and English lyrics.

But up until this year, the duo had never recorded an album within the U.S. To celebrate global unity, Les Nubians began recording in Detroit during President Obama’s convention. “It was inspiring to start an album at such a historical time,” says Celia.

Working with U.S. producers, the duo hoped to bring their musical hybrid directly to Americans in a format and language they could relate to.

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Music - Features

Funky Shaman

Funky Shaman

For The Pimps of Joytime, the groove is sacred
If you ask Brian J, guitarist, singer and chief songwriter for the Brooklyn-based The Pimps of Joytime, what the “J” in his name stands for, he might tell you, but he certainly won’t respond if you call him by the moniker he inherited from his father.

And that isn’t because he has anything against his dad—the man who instilled J with his love of R&B, soul and funk by keeping the stereo pumping in his household. It’s because, as J puts it, his legal surname is “the name I use for government shit.”

When J is onstage with his band, as he will be tonight at Moe’s Alley, he doesn’t want to think about taxes or long lines at the DMV. He wants to lose himself in the unique primeval catharsis that can only be achieved through rhythm.

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Music - Features

There’s No Place Like Home

There’s No Place Like Home

Hometown heroes, Eisley, haven’t forgotten where they came from
Sherri DuPree is preparing to order food from one of her favorite restaurants when her phone rings. Asking her husband to grab something for her and apologizing for the background noise, DuPree—singer and songwriter for the Texas-based, indie-pop quintet Eisley—seeks out a quiet corner to talk about her band’s forthcoming tour in support of their third LP, The Valley, released March 1.

It’s just after 8 p.m. on a Wednesday in Tyler, Texas—a town of roughly 97,000 people, situated about 100 miles southeast of Dallas. This is where DuPree lives with her husband, and where she and her bandmates, all of whom are related, grew up. Tyler is also the city where the group recorded The Valley, and, if DuPree has her way, it will be her final resting place.

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Music - Features

Guitar Hero

Guitar Hero

Hendrix doppelganger Eric Gales schools DQ’s in the blues
All too many blues rock albums consist exclusively of AAB lyric schemes slung over the same 12-bar pattern we’ve heard millions of times before. Holding it all together are guitar riffs so clichéd that the player might as well use air quotes before and after playing them. The only real surprises for the listener are what the key and tempo of the next song will be, and whether the singer will complain about romantic troubles, financial hardship, legal issues or health concerns.

While some such songs do inhabit blues guitar monster Eric Gales’ latest album, Relentless, they’re outnumbered by tunes with far more original melodic, harmonic and lyrical information. If there’s such a thing as “progressive blues rock,” Gales’ music might just fall under this category. The main attraction here is Gales’ fiery lead guitar playing: His triplet flurries, brazen double stops and demon-conjuring string bends led Guitarist magazine to name him Best Blues Player of 2010.

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Mercury Enters Libra

It’s the week of Burning Man, the temporary, intentional, alternative, art-filled community on the playas of Nevada. Mercury, messenger of the Sun, enters Libra this week. Libra is the equalizer, a sign of balance and right human relations. Sometimes with Libra, we can be indecisive and confused while learning how to make balanced and right choices. Sometimes to keep the peace we communicate only what others want to hear. Eventually, we learn how to speak from the heart.

 

Final Cut

Cedar Street Video to close after 10 years at downtown location

 

Banter and Spark

Engaging actors, wry script distinguish lightweight rom-com ‘What If’

 

Back to Silicon Beach

With a new wave of startups, the future of Santa Cruz tech looks more promising than ever
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Himalayan Kitchen

Chef Purna Regmi on the secrets of Nepalese cooking

 

What’s the nicest thing you’ve done for someone this week?

Germany  |  Beekeeper

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

A Cab To Be Coveted

I first tasted Villa del Monte’s 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon at a Fourth of July party, where the hosts had bought a case of it because they love it and didn’t want to run out. It’s one of those wines that will grab you—in the best way—with its full body and rich fruit characteristics.