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May 25th
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For the Record

mus twobandsTwo of Santa Cruz’s up-and-coming bands make their mark in the studio

With bands and venues constantly changing, Santa Cruz’s underground music scene is always struggling to build momentum. But things are looking up this summer, with two established groups, Vultures at Arms Reach and the Redlight District, unleashing highly anticipated releases.

“I was thinking about it the other day,” says Brian Rucker, drummer for Vultures at Arms Reach, as he takes a drag from his dwindling cigarette. “There are some really great bands in town, and the scene is pretty good right now.”

The sludge-metal trio formed in 2011, when bassist Nate Kotila’s jam band bought recording time, but couldn’t make it. Rucker, Kotila and singer-guitarist Travis Howe took the recording time for a heavy, impromptu session.

“I was surprised at how well it turned out,” remembers Howe, with a laugh. “I thought, ‘Oh wow, this is pretty good.’”

Since then, Vultures has recorded two EPs, both available for free on the band’s Bandcamp page. Their new release, Colossus, is the band’s first full-length. An appropriately named beast of an album, it begins with VAAR’s familiar sound: heavy, droning riffs absorbing the listener in a timeless haze of sludge influenced by Godflesh, Isis, the Melvins, and, of course, Black Sabbath. However, the band switches it up halfway with a beautifully morose instrumental, which leads into a song that finds Howe abandoning the stereotypical metal scream for clean singing with a pinch of repentance.

“We were experimenting with a whole bunch of weird things,” Kotila says.

“But it’s still us,” adds Rucker.

On the opposite end of the Santa Cruz scene’s music spectrum is the maverick, four-piece rock ‘n’ roll band the Redlight District. When singer Stephen “Frontman Sam” Sams and guitar player Gauldino “Nano” Guijosa met through a twist of fate and consciousness expansion, after both were abandoned by their friends at a party, the RLD was born, even if they didn’t know it yet.

“In the beginning, all we had was a case of wine and an acoustic guitar, both living out of a van,” Guijosa says.

“And some clothes,” Sams adds. “All we did was play rock ‘n’ roll.”

After several line-up changes, the band found their niche early in 2013, with the addition of local music teacher Dan Leitner on keys and then the thundering beat of Jamie Sanchez on drums. Their debut, four-song demo was released at the beginning of this year (and is free on their Bandcamp page), but RLD has already been holed up at Compound Recordings in Ben Lomond, working on their first EP, Dirty Magazine, to be released this summer.

“On the first day, we didn’t know what to expect, since this is our first recording as a band,” says keyboardist Dan Leitner. “But it’s been a great experience.”

Dirty Magazine serves up the Redlight District’s traditional, blues-battered rock ‘n’ roll, twice-fried in psychedelic sauce.

“I think we’re just psychedelic people,” Sams says. “It’s something that’s always there.”

Sams’ stage presence, Guijosa’s flamenco fingering, Leitner’s keys and Sanchez’s steady tempo make it easy to compare the RLD with the Doors, yet Dirty Magazine exemplifies the band’s reach beyond stereotypes. By drawing influence from jazz, soul and even hip-hop, the band captures the danger of rock, wrapped in a warm, heavy blanket of starry melodies.

“With the release of this EP, we can really push things and expand,” explains Sanchez. “We’re just getting started.”

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As the sun enters Gemini on Sunday, sign of speaking, communication, thinking, inter-relations, writing and understanding languages, the feast days of Pentecost & Shavuot (Catholic and Jewish festivals) occur. During Pentecost’s 50 days after Easter, tongues of fire appear above the heads of the disciples, providing them with the ability to understand all languages and all feelings hidden in the minds and hearts of humanity. It’s recorded that Pentecost began with a loud noise, which happened in an upper room (signifying the mind). The Christ (World Teacher) told his disciples (after his ascension) when encountering a man at a well carrying a water pot (signs for Age of Aquarius) to follow him to an upper room. There, the Holy Spirit (Ray 3 of Divine Intelligence) would overshadow them, expand their minds, give them courage and enable them to teach throughout the world, speaking all languages and thus able to minister to the true needs of a “seeking” humanity. Pentecost (50 days, pentagram, Ray 5, Venus, concrete and scientific knowledge, the Ray of Aquarius) sounds dramatic, impressive and scary: The loud noise, a thunderous rush of wind and then “tongues of fire” above the heads of each disciple (men and women). Fire has purpose. It purifies, disintegrates, purges, transforms and liberates (frees) us from the past. This was the Holy Spirit (Ray 3, love and wisdom) being received by the disciples, so they would teach in the world and inform humanity of the Messiah (Christ), who initiated the new age (Pisces) and gave humanity the new law (adding to the 10 Commandments of the Aries Age) to Love (Ray 2) one another. Note: Gemini is also Ray 2. Shavuot is the Jewish Festival of Gladness, the First Fruits Festival celebrating the giving of the 10 Commandments to Moses as the Aries Age was initiated. Thus, we have two developmental stages here, Jewish festival of the Old Testament. Pentecost of the New Testament. We have gladness, integrating both.

 

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