Santa Cruz Good Times

Tuesday
Feb 09th
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

 

On the Run

Is there hope for California’s salmon?

 

Chinese New Year of the Red Fire Monkey

Monday, Feb. 8, is Aquarius new moon (19 degrees) and Chinese New Year of the Red Fire Monkey (an imaginative, intelligent and vigilant creature). Monkey is bright, quick, lively, quite naughty, clever, inquiring, sensible, and reliable. Monkey loves to help others. Often they are teachers, writers and linguists. They are very talented, like renaissance people. Leonardo Da Vinci was born in the year of Monkey. Monkey contains metal (relation to gold) and water (wisdom, danger). 2016 will be a year of finances. For a return on one’s money, invest in monkey’s ideas. Metal is related to wind (change). Therefore events in 2016 will change very quickly. We must ponder with care before making financial, business and relationship changes. Fortune’s path may not be smooth in 2016. Finances and business as usual will be challenged. Although we develop practical goals, the outcomes are different than hoped for. We must be cautious with investments and business partnership. It is most important to cultivate a balanced and harmonious daily life, seeking ways to release tension, pressure and stress to improve health and calmness. Monkey is lively, flexible, quick-witted, and versatile. Their gentle, honest, enchanting yet resourceful nature results often in everlasting love. Monkeys are freedom loving. Without freedom, Monkey becomes dull, sad and very unhappy. During the Spring and Autumn Period (770 - 476 BC), the Chinese official title of Marquis (noble person) was pronounced ‘Hou,’ the same as the pronunciation of ‘monkey’ in Chinese. Monkey was thereby bestowed with auspicious (favorable, fortunate) meaning. Monkey years are: 1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016.  

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of February 5

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Wine and Chocolate

West Cliff Wines gets its game on, plus a brand new chocolate cafe on Center Street

 

How would you stop people from littering?

Teach them from the time that they’re small that it’s not an appropriate behavior. Juliet Jones, Santa Cruz, Claims Adjuster

 

Dancing Creek Winery

New Zinfandel Port is a ruby beauty

 

Venus Spirits

Changing law could mean new opportunity for local spirits