Santa Cruz Good Times

Oct 07th
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Making Ugly Music

makingUglymusic1Dick Brundle reveals a new concert series

A former IBM scientist walks into a bar … Make the scientist Dick Brundle, the founder of Fiddling Cricket Concerts, and the bar a coffee bar—the Ugly Mug, that is—and you’ve got a formula for music that is no laughing matter. It’s common for a lot of people who live off the downtown grid to feel a yearning for live music in their neighborhood. But whereas most people simply long for it and gripe under their breath, Brundle, whose alter ego as a concert producer is a hobbie, makes it happen.

Since moving to Soquel five years ago, Brundle has been a loyal customer of the Ugly Mug, grabbing his cup of Joe at the local fixture at least three times a week. Recently, he asked owner Steve Volk to do something no businessman wants to hear: “Will you close your doors to customers?” It would all be in the name of live music for a new concert series promoting local performers in a more structured and promoted format than the usual open mic or tip jar set-up.

“The Ugly Mug is my local coffeeshop and I’ve seen music in there for tips, but I don’t think that format works for anybody except for maybe background cool jazz music,” Brundle says. “People who don’t want music get annoyed and musicians get annoyed because no one’s listening. And if you do that regularly on a regular night, you might as well do it as a concert.”

Volk, a fellow music lover, agreed to give it a go.

Now Brundle, whose Fiddling Cricket concerts have been putting on acoustic shows in small venues for 14 years and who served as the executive producer of the first three Waybacks CDs, has joined forces with Marky Starks of the Acoustic Canyon Society and Sandy Frye, a local musician with her own production company, to align with Volk for the new midweek series being trialed throughout the summer. Every Wednesday the café shuts down at 6:30 p.m. and reopens as a concert venue at 7 p.m. With a cover charge of $7, the series encompasses folk, bluegrass, Celtic, jazz and Americana. The lineup kicked off with the Chojo Jacques Trio followed by Chuck McCabe, Jimmy Chickenpants, local jazz songstress Paula Smith Alder and lap steel guitar marvel Patti Maxine, and this week’s installation on Wednesday, August 12, boasts the Michael Gaither Band.

“Musicians like a place to play where they can expect a significant audience who will listen to them and who will be there because they want to hear them,” the expert in semiconductors- turned-music promoter explains. With a mission to make different brands of acoustic music more accessible and up front in the community, Brundle and his cohorts are relying on their collective mailing lists of concertgoers to keep the series going as a new and consistent outlet for live music in another corner of town.

When asked how he initially got sidetracked from his day job to devote so much of his life toward nonpaying musical endeavors, the veteran editor of scientific journals for 25 years who doesn’t play an instrument explains, “I’ve found two things: Musicians are a lot more interesting than scientists, and all of them are organizationally dysfunctional. Though I’m not good at music and playing in public, I am good at organizing things.” Transitioning from the corporate science world to sweating over nonprofit concert producing, one might say that Brundle is, well, one mad scientist

The Coffee House Summer Concert Series is 7-9 p.m. Wednesdays at the Ugly Mug, 4640 Soquel Drive, Soquel. Tickets are $7. For more information, call 477-1341 or go to Learn more about Fiddling Cricket Concerts at


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