Santa Cruz Good Times

Monday
Sep 22nd
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Funky Punks

music_DragonsmokeDragon Smoke’s Moore and Mercurio’s punk pasts

As the rhythm section of the powerhouse New Orleans funk-jazz jam band Galactic and its soulful spin-off group Dragon Smoke, bassist Robert Mercurio and drummer Stanton Moore are known for laying down the kind of grooves that could start a dance party in an emergency ward. Who’d have guessed that both musicians grew up not on the friendly sass of funk music, but on the raw hostility of punk rock?

Moore, who surprised some members of the funk community a few years ago by recording with the hardcore band Corrosion of Conformity, admits to having listened to his fair share of GBH and Minor Threat records as a teenager in Metairie, Louisiana. At age 16 or 17, however, he began to explore jazz music as a means of becoming a better rock drummer. From jazz, it was a quick jump to funk. “To me, [funk] was kind of in between the rock thing and the jazz thing,” he explains.

Mercurio, who spent a good portion of his teen years playing in punk bands in Washington, D.C., recalls an evening in the late ’80s that proved to be the turning point in his journey from punk to funk: When he and his friends learned that the punk show they wanted to see was sold out, they decided to check out the R&B bar next door. What they found was a much friendlier scene than the kind to which they’d grown accustomed. “They were playing funk and having such a good time in there,” the bassist says.

From that point, Mercurio started listening to more P-Funk and James Brown and sitting in with local R&B bands. “I think [those bands] were excited to have a bunch of young kids there,” he says. “It was as different for them as it was for us, like, ‘Wow! What are these young white kids playing?’ and we were like, ‘Wow! Look at these guys that can really play their instruments!’”

When Mercurio moved to New Orleans at age 17 to attend Tulane University, the city’s flourishing funk scene made short work of his remaining punk rock leanings. However, he still feels his punk influence shows in his slightly aggressive style of playing.

Mercurio and Moore, who have been playing together for almost 20 years in such ensembles as Galactic, Frequinox and the backup bands for Papa Mali and Leo Nocentelli, make their way to Moe’s Alley on Thursday, December 3, with the New Orleans supergroup Dragon Smoke (also featuring keyboardist/vocalist Ivan Neville of Dumpstaphunk and acclaimed guitarist/vocalist Eric Lindell, the latter of whom also grew up on good old-fashioned punk rock). Though Dragon Smoke is sure to appeal to fans of Galactic, the former band is less rooted in New Orleans funk and more in Memphis soul than the latter. As Mercurio points out, it’s also considerably more vocal-oriented. “Usually these super-jams are not really based around vocalists; it’s more based around instrumentalists, instrumental jams, improvisation and whatnot,” Mercurio observes. “This band is focused around the vocals of Ivan Neville and Eric Lindell, and Stanton and I are more of a rhythm section. There still is a lot of spontaneity and improv, but it’s all streamed together and connected to the vocals.”

Moore says Dragon Smoke’s music is lighter in feel than the muscular funk of Galactic. “My trio [Stanton Moore Trio] is like driving a convertible sports car, and Galactic is like driving a Mac truck,” he ventures. “Dragon Smoke falls somewhere in the middle.”


Dragon Smoke plays at 9 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 3, at Moe’s Alley, 1535 Commercial Way, Santa Cruz. Tickets are $20 in advance or $25 at the door. For more information, call 479-1854.

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Catwalk on the Wild Side

Meet the artists and designers behind this year’s edition of FashionART, SantaCruz’s most outrageous fashion show

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Watch List

From Google to the government to data brokers, why your privacy is now a thing of the past

 

The Peace Equation

Sunday is the United Nations’ International Day of Peace, a global peace-building day when nations, leaders, governments, communities and individuals are invited to end conflict, cease hostilities, creat 24 hours of non-violence and promote goodwill. Monday is Autumn equinox as the Sun enters Libra (right relations with all of life). The Soul Year now begins. We work in the dark part of the year (Persephone underground) preparing for the new light of winter solstice. Tuesday to Wednesday is the Virgo new moon festival. We know two things about peace. “The absence of war does not signify peace.” And “Peace is an ongoing process.” In its peace-building emphasis, the UNIDP, through education, attempts to create a “culture of peace, understanding and tolerance”. Esoterically we are reminded of the peace equation: “Intentions for goodwill (and acting upon this intention) create right relations with all earth’s kingdoms which create (the ongoing process of) peace on earth.” At noon on Sunday, in all time zones, millions of participating groups will observe a moment of silence for peace on earth. Bells will ring, candles will be lit, and doves released as the New Group of World Servers recite the Great Invocation (humanity’s mantram of direction). To connect with others around the world see www.cultureofpeace.org    Let us join together with the mother (Virgo). Goodwill to all, let peace prevail on earth. The dove is the symbol for the day.
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Sweet Treats

Local cannabis bakers win award for cookies

 

What fashion trends do you want to see, or not see?

Santa Cruz  |  High School Guidance Counselor

 

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

 

Santa Clara Wine Trail

My memories of growing up in England include my mother pouring port after Sunday dinner—and sometimes a glass of sherry before dinner. My family didn’t drink much wine back then, but we certainly made up for it with the port and sherry.