3 Up Front
After over a decade of delivering hardcore skate punk to the people, 3 Up Front shows no signs of slowing down. In 2008 they released their third album, & Jake, filled with powerful punk anthems about the hardships of life and personal struggles while still enjoying the good times with loved ones. Since then the Santa Cruz locals have toured countless miles, opening up for heavy-hitting punk bands like Bad Religion, NOFX, Green Day and Pennywise.
7 Come 11
On their way to becoming the Crepe Place’s house band thanks to their Tuesday night residency, local Hammond organ trio 7 Come 11 turn out an engaging amalgam of funk, jazz and jam-rock with swaths of ’70s rock thrown in for good measure. Guitarist Danny Mayer, drummer Kris Di Noto and Hammond player Gianni Staiano keep things rooted with down-low grooves that leave ample space for experimentation and improvisation. Appropriate given the band’s Lady Luck-invoking name, 7 Come 11 perform with an assurance that comes naturally when all the players are confident in their alchemy-producing musical rapport.
10th Avenue Band
10th Avenue Band spent twenty years performing all over the world and has recently returned to Santa Cruz. This local favorite plays swinging Dixie blues and dance music in the style of Sinatra and other past music legends.
A band of Orcs
A band of Orcs, by definition, are not pleasant creatures. Besides being typically described as wart-covered, slimy-skinned monsters, they’re also known for their lack of table manners, wild mood swings and atrocious personal hygiene. Appropriately, Santa Cruz metal quintet A Band of Orcs does not play pleasant music. The fearsome fivesome dresses up as hulking armor-clad beasts and snarls out fantasy geek lyrics (if you can understand them) while shredding blistering guitar scales and head-pounding blastbeat drums. The group is also at the center of the local metal revolution, recording compilation records, helping fledgling bands, and coming up with pun-imbued nicknames for shows,
The music of AZA is alternately ecstatic, passionate, haunting, and joyous. Masterfully crafted compositions give way to blistering improvisations as Fattah Abbou and Mohamed Aoualou weave their way through traditional Tamazight (Berber) music and dance. This time around the dynamic and dexterous Moroccan-born duo will play without their unusually skilled cohorts in order to explore a more intimate set. Expect a multitude of plucked and bowed strings, sharp polyrhythmic percussion and tight harmonies annunciated in numerous languages. Aza is a local musical treasure, but be warned – it is near impossible to avoid falling madly in love with these two musicians as they peel away your inhibitions by revitalizing an ancient music that is also really, really groovy.
Camper Van Beethoven
While their status as a Santa Cruz band who "made it" is well-known, Camper Van Beethoven's reunion couldn't come at a better time to reconsider their considerable influence on modern music. Mixing punk, folk, guitar-skronk, country, ska and gypsy music, the band pioneered a sound in the mid-'80s that has in the decades that followed become the archetype of folk-tinged indie rock. CVB have pulled off the feat of releasing a CD, New Roman Times, that is just as vital as any of their work released during their formative years. Far from being a nostalgia act, the band have shown the young ones how it's done with an album just as eclectic, caustic and memorable as any of their work. It may not be 1985 anymore, but the opportunity to see this band play an intimate hometown venue like the Attic twenty years later is just as much of a treat. Vermillion Lies opens the show.
Any tribute band can turn out rote performances of the songs of bygone bands, but to truly capture the spirit of another band—that’s a rare talent. Santa Cruz-based China Cats are unabashedly a Grateful Dead tribute band, but instead of attempting to perform note-perfect renditions of the band’s chestnuts, they attempt to capture that most intangible yet compelling aspect of the Dead’s live shows: the endless jam session. This is no small undertaking, but the China Cats pull it off with an impressive command of their instruments and a symbiotic musical interplay that befits the Grateful Dead’s legacy.
With hair slicked high and cuffs rolled tight, this trio of rock & roll outlaws have been slinging their personal brand of “revved-up rockabilly” since 1995 and, like a finely tuned machine, show no signs of stopping. And why should they? In 2009 three of their songs were featured in the videogame Wet, and 2010 saw the release of their sixth album, Deadly Love.
The Coffis Brothers
Let’s say someone took the Santa Cruz Mountain-grown vintage Americana of Devil Makes Three, mixed it with the familial element of the Avett Brothers and sprinkled in a taste of Old Crow Medicine Show hero-worship—they just might have come up with something that sounds like the Coffis Brothers. Born and bred in Ben Lomond, Jamie and Kellen Coffis first debuted their boot-tapping folk rock on KPIG's "Please Stand By" radio show. Jamie, the elder, plays keyboard and younger Kellen doles out doleful riffs on harmonica while strumming a guitar. At Don Quixote's, the brothers Coffis will be backed by the Mountain Men: Henry Chadwick, Mason Hutchinson and Kyle Poppen.
The adventurous metal of Santa Cruz’s Cylinder is hewn from pure American steel. Guitarist Nick Boyd declares the band to be “straight up, no bullshit hard rock,” which is the most apt description of Cylinder’s sound. Cylinder has the tightness of a well-oiled machine, which earned it the title of winner of 2008’s Your Music Olympicks. Given their commitment and well-wrought sound, it’s only a matter of time before these local boys get their breakthrough and become mainstays on hard rock radio.
Danjuma & Onola Danjuma
Danjuma & Onola Danjuma, who originally came to the U.S. from the metropolis of Lagos, Nigeria in 1985 as part of O.J. Ekemode and the Nigerian All-Stars, now calls Santa Cruz home. Together with his band Onola he plays Afrobeat, funk and world dance music. This convergence of diverse international percussion and Putamayo-worthy vocals will keep toes tapping and hips swaying all night long.
The Devil Himself
Specializing in potent riffage and full-throated primal screams, Santa Cruz’s The Devil Himself brings a distinctively personal perspective to metal. Letting loose a lifetime of personal demons and emotional baggage, lead singer and guitarist Dave Christensen is an emotive and visceral presence leading the band. His compatriots—guitarist Dan Burnham, bassist Shane Hunington and drummer Jason Goldberg—match Christensen’s intensity, with muscular yet inventive arrangements. The band’s sophomore release, the Way Souls Sway, is one of the heaviest and most credible slabs of heavy metal to emerge from Santa Cruz in recent years.
The Devil Makes Three
Coming on like the ghost of a bullet-riddled hillbilly, Pete Bernhard, Cooper McBean and Lucia Turino are exhuming the rootsy, backporch country rockin’ acoustic trio with otherworldly success. The Devil Makes Three spins a wicked web of transfixing tales—the songwriting is at times as captivating as a campfire, straddling the line between the grand tradition of the gritty, whiskey-swilling depressives of yore and your modern-day barfly. They’ve also got giddy, rollicking, two-stepping romps for those looking to cut a rug. But most importantly, they play the hell out of their instruments, picking and strumming with bloodied-finger intensity, coming together with a loose, relaxed style of playing and bringing it all home with Bernhard’s scrappy, scratchy voice and twangy vocal harmonies.
The Down Beets
There’s no lack of string bands in Santa Cruz, but when the results soar as high as the Down Beets, it’s tough to mind. Comprised of Strungover’s Jeremy and Jason Lampel, Sheila Golden on vocals and Mike Luke of the proto-alt-country ’90s band Moonshine Willy, the Down Beets have an impressive pedigree. The band’s nimble picking and witty songcraft lend their performances an easygoing energy, with Golden’s vocals soaring above the tight arrangements.
Although the Expendables long ago transcended the status of fledgling hometown band, these guys are local boys through and through. Their homegrown blend of surf, rock, reggae, ska and punk has the stamp of Santa Cruz all over it, and their I-knew-them-when fans are many and true. Their nonstop touring has brought them nationwide acclaim and earned them an ever-expanding fanbase here, there and everywhere. Their latest release, Prove It, even cracked the Billboard and iTunes charts. Not bad for some good-time-loving locals.
The origin of Fainting Goats can be traced back to one fateful evening in a Juneau, AK karaoke bar circa mid 2003. It is here that future band members, executing near perfect El Debarge classics were suddenly vaporized and teleported to a small garage in laid back Santa Cruz CA's east side. A gestation period began, orchestrated by towering Sophia Loren like beings on floating, stone surfboards. A series of dreams revolving around turbo charged pinto wagons, boy meets girl, and city sized sombreros in the sky introduced a catalyst.
Flor De Caña
A seven-piece outfit specializing in Cuban Son music (the early 20th-century form that gave rise to salsa), Santa Cruz’s Flor De Caña takes its name from the Caribbean sugarcane flower, an apt descriptor of the band’s buoyant sound. As a top-flight rhythm section lays down the foundation, Flor De Caña works audiences into a frenzy with tight horn arrangements and powerful four-part vocal harmonies. It’s an all-night dance party.
Stirring up a swirling sonic concoction of garage, surf, soul, post-punk, psychedelia and straight-ahead rock, the Santa Cruz-based Groggs bring to the local music scene an unfiltered, swaggering, ass-kicking good time. The power trio—Keith Thompson on guitar and vocals, Ryan Allbaugh on bass and Justin Ward on drums—takes the anti-rock-star stance, playing music for the sake of the party, encouraging everyone to join the merriment and working crowds into a frenzy with their unpretentious outlook, infectious riffs and hard-hitting blast of heavy, dingy, Nuggets-inspired rock & roll.
Harry and the Hitmen
Somehow managing to successfully filter Motown mega-hits through a swirling, Dead-inspired musical hookah of extended jams and improvisation, Harry and the Hitmen are one of Santa Cruz’s liveliest and most loveable bands. From “Respect,” “My Girl” and “Soul Man,” to “Nowhere to Run” and “Reach Out, I’ll Be There,” these creators of the “psychedelic Motown throw-down” have the jams to get the party started and the chops to pull it off.
Local purveyors of Northern Soul—think Manchester and Liverpool, not Detroit and New York—the Inciters have been taking the Bay Area by storm with their high-energy musical heroics. The 11-member band—complete with a full horn section and a good-sized handful of capable vocalists—has a knack for setting the joint a-jumping with their R&B-driven, funky-soul sound. With bass lines thick enough to eat, super-contagious little guitar riffs, lock-it in-the-pocket drumwork and horns so punchy it hurts, one would be wise to put the Inciters on a bands-to-watch list. They are talented, tight and on the rise.
The White Album Ensemble
The talented and local members of the White Album Ensemble have done what the Beatles themselves never could – they played the entire classic album straight through in an impressive display of ingenuity and skill. Then they performed the entire Rubber Soul and Revolver albums. Most impressively and recently the band performed Sgt. Pepper and Magical Mystery Tour complete with live string quartet, tabla drums, tambura drones, and trumpet fanfares. So basically, these guys know every Beatles song inside and out. Now they are taking that talent and going acoustic at the intimate and sonically pleasing Kuumbwa. This is a great opportunity to comfortably hear this great and powerful music performed live. All you need is love.
Ripping their way through the American roots music landscape in high-energy style, the Santa Cruz-based Juncos are a down-home band that is more throwback than revival. This is a group that understands the strength of a good song and how to let it stand on its own. They can coax the sweet out of some harmonies, get the floorboards jumping with their foot-stomping tunes and wind their way through just about any roots-based genre. From jug music and rockabilly to folk, honky-tonk and old-timey, the Juncos whip up a thick and hearty musical stew.
Weaving haunting songs of love and longing onto a musical loom of folk, Celtic and old-time traditions, multi-instrumentalist Lauren Shera—who moonlights with the band Honeymoon—has been quietly making a big name for herself. Based in Monterey, Shera has gained the attention of the national folk audience and has shared stages with some of today’s finest songwriters including Ray LaMontagne, Shawn Colvin, Nancy Griffith and Billy Bragg. Her latest release, Once I Was A Bird, features musical contributions by Abigail Washburn and Kristen Hersh (Throwing Muses).
Before Oakland-based noise-pop band Man/Miracle was celebrated as one of the great Bay Area up-and-comers, it was a Santa Cruz party band playing local house concerts and coffeehouses and building a reputation for stirring audiences into a frenzy with its high-energy balance of pop, rock and noise. Now the band’s on the rise, enjoying a tour with indie-rock fixture Rogue Wave, mentions on NPR, critical acclaim for its new album The Shape of Things and a positive review by the notoriously scathing Pitchfork.
Ray Brown’s Great Big Band
For the last three decades Ray Brown has been at the forefront of jazz education in the Monterey Bay Area, both at Cabrillo College in Aptos and UCSC. While his ears are remarkable and his teaching style effective in the extreme, the man’s real talent lies in arrangement. He’s penned charts for Stan Kenton and Count Basie and his book of arrangements is a highly coveted repository of harmonic invention. He’s a treasure, whether as a musician, an arranger, a teacher or a mentor.
One of Santa Cruz’s most dependable live acts, Sambada brings a high-octane cocktail of samba, salsa, reggae and hip-hop to every party. It’s a formula that has worked for the band over the past decade, garnering it a fanatical following on the road. The brainchild of local Brazilian expatriates Papiba Godinho and Dandha da Hora, Sambada’s percussive stew drives a brand of polyglot funk and Brazilian soul that has become the group’s unmistakable trademark.
Serendipity Project is undeniably a product of Santa Cruz: only this town could produce a group that credibly pulls of an amalgam of conscious hip-hop, ’70s funk throwbacks, after-hours jazz, smoldering blues and jam band-inspired instrumental explorations. It’s a feat that has made the six-piece a touring machine on the festival circuit over the past nine years, all while using Santa Cruz as a home base.
A former Marine, Sista Monica was originally inspired to get into showbiz after seeing her childhood neighbor M.C. Hammer performing on the Arsenio Hall Show. Since getting into the game, the gospel music artist has become a favorite on the festival circuit, belting out blues, soul and inspirational songs. Her powerful pipes have earned her comparisons to Etta James and Mavis Staples and a number of awards—in 2002 she was named Monterey Bay Blues Festival's Artist of Year, and in 2005 she was anointed Santa Cruz County Artist of the Year.
Electronic/Rock act Sound Tribe Sector 9 has built a following with crazy light shows, visual art and space-out jams.
Sourgrass isn’t your grandaddy’s funk band. Lead singer Jay Palmer may have been a screamo in a former life, but the band still qualifies as funk under the statute of rhythm: thou shalt give thy bassist license.
Favorites among the psychobilly and horror-punk crowd, the Stellar Corpses are a locally grown, internationally recognized band of zombied-out, fun-loving pranksters. Their music, an amalgamation of rockabilly, hardcore, country, metal and punk, is a furious, high-energy romp complete with spooky stories, sing-along anthems and good old rawk & roll. Clever songwriting, tight musicianship and an infectious on-stage energy, along with multiple tours across the U.S. and an 11-country tour of Europe, have earned the Corpses a throng of loyal fans and a reputation as one of the finest undead bands around.
Bringing snot-nosed punk-rock energy to old-time folk, the local boys in Tater Famine are one of the more accomplished folk-punk bands to emerge from Santa Cruz in recent memory. Full of swagger, down-home authenticity and righteous rage, the band raises an impressive ruckus with their all-acoustic setup, demonstrating that you don’t necessarily need distortion to rock a crowd. The band has been a local favorite for years, but it’s gaining a loyal following up and down the West Coast thanks in part to its 2008 debut …An Untimely Fashion, a fine document of the band’s kinetic energy.
Tether Horse’s sound has matured into a muscular thing that very confidently puts the rock back into alt-country. Though the Santa Cruz band started out with a frenetic yet melancholy acoustic-based approach, they’ve recently turned the amps up, giving singer Matthew Chaney’s soulful laments an added rough-and-tumble charge. Thanks to Chaney’s well-observed songwriting and the melodic nuances of J.J. McCabe’s violin and cello, Tether Horse manages to sound both tightly arranged and eternally restless, evoking the promise and potential of the open road as well as the humbling realization that you’re not sure where to take it.
Blending horn-driven, harmony-rich jams with rocking guitar riffs, deep funk grooves and reggae rhythms, Wooster has made a name for itself as one of the most exciting area bands. Deeply rooted in a Santa Cruz music scene that tends to eschew genre labels in favor of music that moves the heart and feet, Wooster gets crowds swaying with its heartfelt love songs, ups the ante with a steady-rockin’ number and then blows the roof off the joint with a high-energy heart-pumper played with abandon.
Sherry Austin with Henhouse
Sherry Austin with Henhouse blends folk, country and rock for a harmonious result they describe as “gritty folk with a bit of twang.” The band has performed regularly at the Davenport Roadhouse for the last four years, and can frequently be heard on KPIG radio. Harmony is the name of their game, as Henhouse unites the voices of four different female singers in a joyous union of music matrimony. With frontwoman Sherry Austin on rhythm guitar and vocals, Sharon Allen on vocals and guitar, Tracy Parker on bass and vocals, and Patti Maxine on lap steel and dobro, the band performs both original songs and popular covers. Much lyrical ground is traversed along the way: from sweet love songs to American freedom anthems, these chicks have it all.