Showing posts with label Critique. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Critique. Show all posts

Friday, February 21, 2014

Crab in Honey - Fever the Ghost's Sparkling EP

It was only a dream. 

I sat up in bed to see the time. 4:21 AM. The song, Calico, by Fever the Ghost playing in my head as I attempted to make sense of the strange dream I had just had. Something about time travelers... That's it. The band Fever the Ghost were time travelers in my dream and had come to visit... from the future or the past... or deep space, I'm not quite sure.

I don't recall any of the details of the strange dream now, but I'm impressed that Fever the Ghost had invaded my psyche to influence my subconscious. 

On the previous day, Mr. Postman had delivered the parcel that contained my new Fever the Ghost EP, Crab in Honey... a beautifully crafted, double 7" record set, that I played a half dozen times. So far, it's the best thing I've heard this year. 
Fever the Ghost is a fairly new phenomenon, and according to a mysterious entity* named Luther, the band has "been charged with sparkling** the Los Angeles music scene." He added that "it is imperative that their sparkling is enjoyed by as many receptors*** as possible..." and warned of grave consequences for the band should there be failure to sparkle sufficiently.

Fever the Ghost materialized in 2013 under the direct supervision of Swell Swann Corporation. The ethereal ensemble is garrisoned by Casper, Bobby, Mason and Nick O who hermetically indurate with tranquil like-mindedness. Their sparkling EP, Crab in Honey, is sticky and sweet but requires some effort to crack through its tough crustaceaous exoskeleton to access and enjoy the tender interior. Good eatin'

I'm looking forward to hearing more from this phantasmal ensemble and plan to witness them as they materialize at Kilby Court in Salt Lake City, UT on March 18, 2014.

It was only a dream... or was it?

* Luther Russell produced Fever the Ghost's first 7" single, Rounder/Her Earth 

** The musical fertilization of souls via energy-dust formed by the vibrations from a performance or recording.

*** Those beings who are receptive to sparkling.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Best Album of 2011 - Denney Joints' Bedtime - A Midnite Snack Any Time of Day

"I wanted to go the sausage fest* but instead, I was in Watsonville, where nothing happens." Denney Joints.

Living in Santa Cruz, California has afforded me numerous opportunities to see some of the world's most influential** performers. Nevertheless, the local talent from this quaint beach community is among the best I've experienced, anywhere. Most notably, a sort of mad musical scientist of a young man who calls himself Denney Joints and his band, Midnite Snack. I've been fortunate to see Denney play live a handful of times at various venues around Santa Cruz, and the shows have always been a real treat.

Denney Joints, a 4.0 art student at San Francisco State University, is no stranger to the Bay Area music scene. He became locally infamous with an early band called "Happy Meal" and his latter-band, Midnite Snack, has enjoyed positive press and reviews throughout the Bay Area.

A few months ago, Denney Joints released his long-awaited "Bedtime" CD. I love Bedtime, and have listened to it too many times to number. My own words can't adequately describe the simple beauty and angsty edginess of this thoughtful recording, so I talked to Denney and others to gain a better understanding of Mr. Joints, and his Best Album of 2011, Bedtime.

"All of bedtime is biographical," Denney told me. "I picked up my guitar in the back room at work where I wrote all of these songs and drank quarts of Hi-Life and smoked dope every day," he joked.

One of the major themes throughout Bedtime seems to be escapism, and Denney weaves an emotional tale of partying with friends in Santa Cruz, idealistic abandonment of responsibility, and whimsically wishful fit-in fantasies. The first track, "Cookin" is about the anticipation of a party at Denney's house, to which he had invited a girl from the local grocery store. "She never came to the party," lamented Denney. However, while working out the song in the back room at work, he came up with the two chords, FM7 and G13, which he described to me as, "a lazier-than-punk take on chords that require no effort to play and sound wonderful." Denney Joints' unmistakable signature sound.

Denney seems to possess a natural, encyclopedic knowledge of music, and is comfortable navigating through stylistic changes. He employs numerous subtle musical influences that keep the music entertaining and interesting. But Denney has no desire to become a commercial success, and claims to despise commercial music. "I love simple music," explained Denney, "but commercial music skips the feeling and goes straight for spectacle." Denney Joints' Bedtime is simple, yet thoughtful and deliberate, and according to music critic, Joey McNeill, "exhibits a kind of dreamlike quality, and a kind of farcical poke at pop music." Denney's distance from commercialism has allowed him to maintain a pure vein of creativity with the attitude that, "if people feel it, great, but if they don’t, I will not change anything to make them bite the hook."

The lyrics on Bedtime are witty and are occasionally presented in a code language that Denney calls Scumbag Select, a clever language in which the pronunciation of words are phonetically skewed based on a set of complicated letter-swapping rules that he has obviously mastered and employs with great skill. Half the fun of Bedtime is dissecting the lyrics.

Nick Overhauser,*** lent his expertise to the Bedtime project by playing on and recording the album. Nick told me that, in his opinion, "Bedtime is an ode to an angry young weirdo who sees little value in the ways of the modern world." Gazing out the window from behind the counter at Denney's workplace and, "seeing people in groups getting along and looking quite ordinary." Denney Joints' observations have become something wonderfully creative, entertaining and satisfying. Joey McNeill related that he "hadn't thought about these things for a long time," and went on to say that, "Denney has found common experiences and truths in the boredom and frustrations that we all share in our youth." Denney says that Bedtime is "emotionally autobiographical," meaning that "the lyrics themselves don't address actual events directly." This gives Bedtime a universal, cross-generational quality and appeal. Even my mom would like it.

All of the tracks on the album are noteworthy, and if life was fair, all of them would be known by everyone. I won't attempt to pin any particular style or genre on the music of Bedtime other than to say that it is eclectic, and uniquely Denney Joints. There is one particular track on the album that deserves special attention and can only be described as "timeless". The Creek Song is jovial, happy harmony and blissful balance. A perfect late summer day spent with the best of friends whilst nestled in the arms of a loving Mother Nature. The Creek Song is a masterpiece, and will forever be one of my favorites.

Denney Joints' Bedtime was mastered at Indigital Studios in Santa Cruz, CA by Mason Rothschild, who**** described Denney as, "an amazing jewel of a mad genius," and went on to say that when Denney gave him the original recordings, they were "wrapped in notes and emotional requests about each song." Although I wonder sometimes if Bedtime is comedic, it is obvious that Denney is serious about his music, and, like Beefheart and Zappa, has eccentric demands, from everyone who contributes to his projects. "I knew that I was up against something completely different," recalls Nick Overhauser who described the first stretch of recording Bedtime as "convoluted and wacky", but by the time the album had been completed, Nick considered it to be one of his favorite projects.

I asked Denney about his selection of personnel for Bedtime, and his on-stage band, Midnite Snack. He told me that generally, people bore him with their "lack of focus and musical accomplishment" but praised his own band, saying that they all "exceed the bar" and that their playing is "precise." Midnite Snack is a fluid membership of friends***** who give their all to Denney's live performances that take me back to the newness I experienced at some late-seventies, and early-eighties punk shows. Denney isn't punk, but he possesses some of the same qualities and attitudes. Bedtime is smart, clever and involved, yet maintains a cohesive structure. Nick Overhauser told me, the most impressive thing about Denney's conceptual work to him, is that, "every album follows a theme with repeated lyrical ideas and melodies... without being too obvious or on the nose." Joey McNeill observed that Denney Joints "has taken frustration and made it enlightening" and called Bedtime "a kind of commentary about how carefully and methodically the introvert moves his way out into the public like a reluctant, escaped hamster who, oblivious to his boundaries, nibbles away at the crackers in our cupboard."

Listening to Bedtime is like eating crackers, you just can't quit. BEWARE! Denney Joints' catchy songs get stuck on mental repeat and run through the mind continuously. I usually just give in and play the damn CD to get it out of my head. I've discovered that Bedtime is a Midnite Snack that can be enjoyed any time of day or night, and Rhetro Zenberg is happy to announce Denney Joints' Bedtime as the Best Album of 2011.

Have a Nice Snack!

Click here to enjoy Denney Joints' Sausage Fest commercial from KPIG Radio, Santa Cruz

**There are far too many to name them all, but a sampling of my most memorable performances would certainly include: Laurie Anderson, Adrian Belew Power Trio, King Crimson, Ravi Shankar, the Residents...

***In addition to being a recording expert, Nick Overhauser played drums on Bedtime and has played for Sheena, Mountain Animal Hospital, Ship of the Sierras, Midnite Snack, and is currently on tour with Birdhand.

****Audio engineer Mason Rothschild, has played in Midnite Snack and is currently touring with the band, Birdhand.

*****To stay fresh, Midnite Snack changes personnel every Venusian cycle. There have been at least eight members of Midnite Snack so far, including two bassists named Mason, (Rosenberg and Rothschild), and three members of the popular indie band, the Vox Jaguars, (Sam Copperman, Trevor Hope and Mason Rosenberg), but Denney says he has no plans for a Vox Jaguars cover, and now that Denney has moved to Oakland, he may resurrect Midnite Snack there, with fresh faces.

Denney Joints - The Coolest Cat On The Couch

Monday, July 5, 2010

HOMELAND of the Brave New World

The 4th of July is always a fun holiday for most of America, and especially in our family because Mighty Mo celebrates her birthday on the 4th. This year (her 44th) - our agenda was fourfold, 1) To photograph California Central Coast lighthouses; 2) To provide a field test for Mighty Mo's new Canon PowerShot SD 1400 IS - that some really nice guy gave her for her birthday - and compare it to our older model camera, the Canon PowerShot A710 IS; 3) Visit some California State Beaches for the first time, and use some of the passes we purchased to support the financially crippled California State Parks; 4)And maybe most importantly : ) to review Laurie Anderson's latest and timely release, appropriately called HOMELAND. What a perfect theme for our West Coast tour, and the lighthouses that stand as the sentinels to our homeland.

The Lighthouses

Lighthouses are kind of mysterious... almost magical.
Their never-ceasing watchfulness always peering through the darkness and fog directing the mariners upon the black deep.

When I was in sixth grade, our teacher selected a handful of kids in the class to take turns reciting the same poem about a lighthouse. I nervously waited as the other kids presented the poem as best they could. I had to go last, and felt a little self conscious about reading aloud.
I was, however, a confident and talented singer. Therefore, rather than suffering humiliation in front of class, I hid behind my strength, and sang a rousing version (to the tune of the Beatles', "Don't Pass Me By"). When I was done, the class erupted with hoots, hollers and applause. The teacher liked it too, and even called for an encore. The entire class joined in the singing of the lighthouse song. It's been a million years, but even now, whenever I see a lighthouse, I think about that day in sixth grade.

I'd like to be a lighthouse

All scrubbed and painted white
I'd like to be a lighthouse
And stay awake all night

To keep my eye on everything
That sails my patch of sea
Oh, I'd like to be a lighthouse
With the ships all watching me
(author unknown)

First, we stopped at California's newest lighthouse, right here in Santa Cruz. We have a cool hyperbolic million photos of this lighthouse, but not many from this perspective taken from across the mouth of the harbor with the new Canon PowerShot SD 1400 IS.

This photo of the familiar Santa Cruz Lighthouse was taken with the new Canon PowerShot SD 1400 IS, and features the old building in a rarely-photographed perspective.
We then headed north, and inserted the new Laurie Anderson CD. The fog wisped and flowed like smoke as we traveled north. Fields alive with colour surrounded us. Before long, we had arrived at Pigeon Point Lighthouse, a most impressive, and picturesque structure located near the quaint little town of Pescadero, where we had lunch. The Pigeon Point photo was taken with the older camera, the Canon PowerShot A710 IS.

We almost missed this cute little lighthouse at Point Montara. We actually did pass it and had to turn around. I'm glad that we did because it was well worth seeing, and we had the entire place basically to ourselves. I took the photo with the old Canon PowerShot A710 IS.

I spotted this pseudo lighthouse in San Francisco. It looks pretty good considering I got the shot through the dirty windshield while sitting at a red traffic light, and with plenty of overhead power lines in the way.

On HOMELAND's first track, Transitory Life, Ms. Anderson masterfully and tenderly blends the netherworldly sound of Tuvan throat singers with her own unique style to create a surrealistic soundscape that seemed perfectly suited for our beautiful drive along California's spectacular coastline. "It takes a long time for a mouse to realize it's in a trap," says Ms. Anderson. It seems strange to be able to relate to that enlightened mouse. Such awareness seems to make the colours, hues and highlights of the nature all around me even more vibrant, impressive and appreciated. A wonderful distraction from the maze. A beautiful theme for a HOMELAND drive.

I've always thought of Laurie Anderson as being covertly humorous, even subtly hilarious at times. She never fails to make me smile in an "I get it" kind of way. Sometimes, Ms. Anderson's poignancy reminds me of those amusing apocalyptic musings of Isaiah, (another funny guy), whose literary message is layered with meaning. Ms. Anderson is no shallow gal. Her clever choice of words always seem to resonate on many levels, too. Her
words are carefully crafted, with content, timing and inflection... and no one can tell a story like Laurie Anderson.

Track five - Only and Expert, is a snappy and catchy little ditty about how Americans have become addicted to experts and how the experts use their authoritative expertise to fleece the actively complying public. In the second to last verse, Ms. Anderson seems to take a shaky expert-trusting stance when she says, "But when an expert says it's a problem, and makes a movie about the problem, and gets the Nobel Prize about the problem, then all the other experts have to agree, it is most... likely... a problem." (No doubt a reference to Al Gore and the so called, global warming problem.) Unfortunately the experts who make the official global warming claims have been exposed for committing fraud for discouraging and disallowing any scientific data that hasn't complied with their "sky is falling" agenda. They've threatened and even destroyed the careers of experts who present alternatives. I'm no expert, but I'm amazed that people are still trusting global warming models based on incomplete and hand-picked data... but it seems there's nothing I can do from inside this maze anyway, especially when everyone believes that 2+2=5. Amazing! Masterful marketing though.

Many years ago, Ms. Anderson created a character through whom she could view the world differently. A clone of herself... a stature-challenged, chain-smoking male clone. Lou Reed, (Ms. Anderson's hubby of nearly two decades), recently gave the clone a name, Fenway Bergamot. Today, Fenway has grown older and wiser and shares some of his perspectives on HOMELAND. One of Bergamot's observations concerns his admiration of the stars in the sky. He said that what he loves most about the stars, is that we can't hurt them. Their distance ensures that we'll never damage them.
His attitude is a bit reminescent of the wide-eyed naive nature of Don Van Vliet, a boy who never had to grow up. I'm curious about Bergamot's query about his mother and father, "Are those people over there really my parents?" he asks. An interesting question for a clone to ask.

HOMELAND is Ms. Anderson's first studio recording to be released in a decade. It was a blast to listen to over and over again as we toured this region of California. HOMELAND sounds like a Laurie Anderson album. There are no big surprises, or new revelations here. It's kind of like "fun meets melancholy" and have a great time hanging out together for an afternoon at Rocket Park. At the end of the day, they part, knowing that they may never enjoy another such occasion. I give HOMELAND ***** five stars, and will probably listen to it a hundred more times before 2012.

I hope there will be many more Laurie Anderson performances and new music. She's done so much already, we may never see all of it. Bravo

We stopped at Ano Nuevo State Park to hang out with the Elephant Seals who live there. The cute little guys are good eatin' too.
This one looked just like Scratch!
A Bumble Bee carrying a huge bulky payload of collected pollen bounces from flower to flower in search of more pollen at Pigeon Point. I shot this photo with my Canon PowerShot A710 IS.

Pillar Point Radar Station near Half Moon bay was difficult to photograph because I was in motion and had to hold the Canon SD1400 IS out the window.
The fog was nearly as thick as the traffic when we arrived at the Golden Gate Bridge. I took this photo through the dirty front windshield with the Canon SD1400 IS. We spent the afternoon at China Camp State Park, where there was no traffic. We had a wonderful time driving around the peninsula. Passing the Stanford Satellite Dish means that we'll be home within the hour. Also, as we passed the Lark Avenue Exit on Highway 17, we heard Laurie Anderson's Story of the Lark again (for the seventh time).

Twas a fun trip. The new camera fared rather well. The old camera has a view finder, is easy to hold, manage and operate with one hand, and takes rechargeable AA batteries. The batteries make the old Canon a bit heavier and larger than the new SD1400 IS. The rechargeable battery on the new
SD1400 IS makes the new camera much lighter and smaller, but limits the time it can spend in operation. We'll have to get a spare battery to have on hand. I purchased two nickel cadmium AA batteries with a charger for the old Canon for $12, but will likely pay more for an extra rechargeable for the new camera. The mount on the new camera is more centrally positioned which means that it will work better on my bicycle attachment. . . but just pry it from Heidi Mighty Mo's hands. : )

Sunday, December 20, 2009

An Unfamiliar Tune on Mayberry's Dark Side

For my generation, the theme song to the Andy Griffith Show is an established and well known melody. Even my own kids know it and whistle the familiar tune at the mention of Mayberry, or any of the town-folk there. Mighty Mo and I recently began whistling the tune simultaneously when we happened upon an unopened DVD set of the Andy Griffith Show at the flea market. MM paid a couple of bucks for two DVD's, and placed them in her multi-compartmentalized handmade bag, the theme song still playing loudly in our heads as we continued to stroll about the open-air market in pursuit of other great finds.

Sometime after dark, we prepared to watch our new DVD's. The cellophane peeled from the box rather easily, and the end of the box gave little resistance as I peeled back the paper-board flap to reveal one shiny disc inside. The familiar tune was playing clearly in my head, and I was no doubt whistling parts of it too, as I removed the disc from the box, inspecting it's condition before placing it in the tray of my over-rated and super-sensitive first-generation Sony DVD player. My 19 year-old son subconsciously whistled the theme tune as he breezed through the room, the way teenagers do... food in hand, and constantly on-line and in-touch with the brave new cyber world where something is always happening and someone is always doing something that they want the world to know about. I wish he'd take time to view the show with us, but I suspect that I'll catch him watching it by himself one of these days. Both kids dug Gomer Pyle USMC, and will likely get a hoot out of these Andy Griffith Shows too. They already know the theme song. Right? 

We took our seats on the functional leather couch that we bought from the Lava Rock coffee shop when it went out of business a few years back, and prepared ourselves to see Opie and his Pa walking down the dirt road toward their favorite fishin' hole, as the familiar theme song played. But to our surprise, horror, dismay, (choose your adjective), when I pushed play to watch the first episode, there was
a completely different tune being performed by what sounded to be the same whistlers, even though everything else was the same. Opie even picked up the rock and tossed it into the water like he always does, but the music was different. Mighty Mo and I looked at each other with bewilderment, wondering what in the hell we were hearing.

It was like a dream, and I began to entertain the idea that perhaps I was dreaming when the episode turned out to be one I had never seen. I didn't think it was possible to have missed an episode, because in my day, it was almost as if the show was required viewing, and I performed my duty by watching every episode multiple times... or so I thought.

The episode was kind of creepy too. It was about a naughty spoiled rich kid who in the end, received a good paddlin' out in the old wood shed behind the sheriff's office. Everyone seemed to take delight in that, (except for the spoiled kid of course). In fact, a subtle and uncomfortable theme of abuse runs throughout this entire episode. I was appalled at how badly Andy dealt with Opie... I won't reveal that, though.

We were a bit reluctant to watch another episode, but were too curious about the theme music so we decided to sit through another. Once again, an episode neither of us had seen... and the same unfamiliar tune to boot. In fact, every episode had the same unfamiliar tune, even though some of the shows were familiar. Strange! 

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Historic Beach Street Cafe - Santa Cruz, Ca

New Moon by Maxwell Parrish

Last Thursday I stopped by Beach Street Cafe in Santa Cruz to enjoy the best Eggs Benedict this side of anywhere. I prefer to switch out the ham for turkey and get fruit instead of the stewed potatoes that come with the meal that also includes a glass of Odwalla orange juice, champagne, or mimosa. A pretty good deal for ten bucks.

As I passed through the entrance of the old two-story building, I immediately heard an old familiar Talking Heads song playing on the stereo speakers. The Heads were followed by Adrian Belew then Laurie Anderson, and before long, I had heard a dozen or so of my favorite artists including Mountain Animal Hospital, the Vox Jaguars, King Crimson, Harry Nilsson, California Guitar Trio and Captain Beefheart, to name a few, (I wish I had written them all down). I asked my server if we were listening to a satellite radio station and he informed me that it was the Beach Street mix that gets played on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

They probably wondered if I would ever leave because I remained perched in front of the large glass window of the restaurant that looks out at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk for over an hour. Perfect for people watching... one of my favorite pastimes. As I sat watching the world going by the window, a bicyclist lost control and wrecked as she crossed the railroad tracks in front of the Casino. Her bike and body slammed hard against the unforgiving surface of iron rails and cold pavement. My server, as if anticipating the event, grabbed a bag of ice and ran out to see if the unfortunate biker was injured or needed assistance. Apparently, this isn't the first time this has happened. Shocked, stunned, and a little wounded but not broken, the biker peddled away. She'll be more cautious next time she rides this route.

In addition to great food and music, Beach Street Cafe is known for having one of the largest collections of Maxwell Parrish prints in the world. The fantastic and imaginative prints occupy almost every square inch of the powder-blue walls inside the restaurant that has stood less than a hundred yards from the ocean for over a century, making it the oldest building in the area.

Located across the street from the world famous Santa Cruz Boardwalk, Beach Street Cafe is a special place to enjoy the cool breeze and view the Beach while listening to great music and dining on excellent cuisine. I prefer going there in the off-season months when there are fewer tourists, and the service is more personalized.

Beach Street Cafe has a long history, and while I was there, the owner Willie Case, stopped by so I took the opportunity to ask him a couple of questions about his unique restaurant. He told me that it had been built in the late 1800's, and that by 1902, it was called the St. Francis Grill. Originally, the restaurant enjoyed a longer frontage on Beach Street, and had been known for having the longest bar in California. In 1984, the restaurant was purchased by Willie and his wife Dolly Case, whose already extensive collection of original Maxwell Parrish prints found a new home in the Cafe. The rest is history... the finest food, art, music, climate
, and service. I can't imagine Santa Cruz without Beach Street Cafe. Bon appetit!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Shaving Britany Spears

The only cool thing that Britney Spears has ever done was the time she shaved her head.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Art Rock is Alive and Well in Santa Cruz Dreamstate EP by A Quantum Visionary *****

I knew that the first CD release from A Quantum Visionary would be good.

is the title of the new CD by five of Santa Cruz's finest musicians who refer to themselves as A Quantum Visionary, and their new CD is even better than I expected it would be.

I knew that the CD would be good because over the past couple of years, this bunch has been demonstrating their unique and intense sound at various bay-area venues, surprising and shocking audiences everywhere they've played. Their catchy and intelligent songs are an eclectic blend of genres, that I can only describe as epic. Most of their works are upwards of seven minutes long, but there is never any meaningless meandering or boring jamming in their lengthy constructs. Rather, every note of their intriguing music is calculated and precisely delivered without a flaw, keeping the listener alert and engaged. Although the new CD is technically an EP, it is nearly a half-hour long and features a broad cross section of music that is consistently interesting, and occasionally challenging.

I'm fortunate to be among the first to receive a copy of the new
DREAMSTATE EP and this will certainly be the first review of AQV's snazzy new CD release which is already a classic in my own music library.

The Review

As I embark on my musical adventure, I discover that t
he first half-minute of the first song, Insensatus Insania, makes me feel like I'm listening to early King Crimson. The song progresses through a multitude of movements and verses as powerful and involved as a Homeric epic. After nearly six minutes, the heavy-hitting first piece quickly transforms into the second track, Dragnet Enigma, a piece that begins as an almost Enoesque, ambient tune that begins to feel more like the Residents are nearby as it progresses. The hesitantly-calming track terminates as the third track, Battleship of Madmen, abruptly begins. The rowdy and unruly song reels me to and fro upon the rough seas of one of AQV's longest songs that includes a fifty-second drum interlude where three of the band members participate. PTA, the fourth track, is the shortest tune, clocking in at 1:22, and seems at first to be a bit of a tribute to Keith Emerson and further demonstrates this band's versatility and broad musical scope. The last song is listed as being 11:45 long but that is a bit of a misnomer because it is actually two songs... and a bit of dead air. Dreamstate Luz Mala, a poppy song that, at one point, makes me feel like I'm listening to Asia, is actually 4:54 long and is followed by 1:16 of dead air which quietly fades into The Hypocrite, a 5:40 version of a song that has become familiar on You Tube, where an instrumental version is used in a video by Rhetro Zenberg, called, Ching - Drive to De Laveaga.

The design of this artsy disc also deserves mention. All of the impressive album art was created by AQV member,
Stefen Lazer Smith, the artist who created the now famous Vox Jaguars Cowboy. The photo, sketches and drawings on this disc are reason enough to own the CD which itself is a work of art.

In addition to the art on the CD, Stefen Lazer Smith also wrote lyrics, provided keyboards, percussion, and vocals to the DREAMSTATE EP.

Mason Rosenberg, the renowned bassist of the Vox Jaguars fame, who released a CD on Anodyne Records earlier this year, lends his mastery to this CD by contributing vocals and percussion as well as bass and production skills. He also plays guitar on the secret track, The Hypocrite.

Shane Terry plays ripping and intricate guitar without breaking a sweat. He lends his shredding skills to this CD in addition to providing backup vocals. Shane also plays bass on the secret track, The Hypocrite and helped produce the CD.

Trevor Brenchley also plays guitar, and as a lefty, provides a symmetric visual and musical balance to this unique band who's
two guitarists shred harmonically and melodically as one. Trevor also provides backup vocals and production assistance to the DREAMSTATE EP.

The newest member of the band, Greg Wesenfeld, who plays hard-hitting drums and masterful percussion has proven to be an asset to this already powerful band.

Something else that impressed me about the DREAMSTATE EP, is the fact that all of the songs were written, engineered, recorded and produced by A Quantum Visionary.


AQV is currently the most interesting musical ensemble in the greater San Francisco Bay area. I see limitless potential with this crew of talented friends who see it as their duty to make music interesting and even a bit challenging. And, you can tell that they're having a good time too.

Good going guys, and congratulations on a splendid first CD.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Where Spock Has Gone Before ***

My friend, Kevin, gleefully demonstrates his original series Star Trek phaser. Nice shootin' Tex.
I started watching Star Trek back in the late 60's, when the show was still new. The unique program took viewers like me to places that no man had gone before, and introduced a generation to science fiction.

I was still pretty small, but can remember how mesmerizing the introduction music* was to me. Almost spooky. The same piece of music was replayed at the end of each episode as superimposed credits rolled over intriguing snapshots from other Star Trek episodes.

Star Trek was canceled in 1969, and quickly made its way to syndication, where it became popular among a crowd of loners who began calling themselves Trekkers.**

Even though I have seen every episode of the original series numerous times, I certainly would not classify myself as either Trekkie or Trekker. I definitely don't envision Star Trek as the blueprint for our future. Maybe that's what I liked about the latest Star Trek movie. Not that I loved it, but at least this movie wasn't terrible like all of its predecessors have been.

The first Star Trek movie was a huge disappointment, and every subsequent movie followed suit. Each trying to outdo the last, Star Trek movies boasted terrible acting with long drawn-out, close-up scenes of the USS Enterprise. It's only a model. The stories were bad, too. In one, the Enterprise travels through time to rescue a whale. With a bit of remodeling, the large endangered mammal is placed inside the spaceship and whisked through time.***

Now, there's a new Star Trek movie, and this one isn't terrible. In fact, it's pretty good. This newest Star Trek takes place in the early life of James T. Kirk, and chronicles his ascendancy to captain of the Enterprise. It wouldn't be fair to call this latest Star Trek a prequel because the familiar mythos is completely undone when a rogue Romulan vessel travels back in time and changes galactic history. Young versions of Kirk and Spock behave as enemies as they vie for control of the Enterprise, and who would have suspected that Uhura and Spock would have a special relationship?

Since Star Trek movies are all so bad, I usually wait to rent them on video. This time I gambled, and went to the theater. I reasoned that since all of the Star Trek movies have been terrible, there was a good chance this one might not be. And I'm happy to report that it is pretty good. It isn't perfect. As you might expect, there are lots of corny familiar lines. Scotty gives it all he's got while Spock is out of his Vulcan mind, but
maybe the cliches are more appropriate in this movie than previous Star Trek theatrical attempts.

* I later learned that the haunting voice was created by an electronic instrument called a theremin.

** Trekkers are sometimes mistakenly called Trekkies by outsiders.

*** Put Jonah in that whale and you've got yourself a story.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

What's the Harm in McDharmas?

Dharma's is a popular vegetarian restaurant here in Santa Cruz. It was originally called, McDharma's, but the McDonalds Corporation forced them to change the name.

Dharma's features lots of yummy delights to choose from, but my favorite item on the menu is the breakfast burrito which consists of a flour tortilla, heaps of refrito frijoles negros, green onion, potatoes and tofu. It comes with
cheese, sour cream, salsa and a large salad too. Dairy is optional and can be swapped for guacamole. I like to get lots of diced onions from the condiment counter and sprinkle them all over my giant burrito. I also get lots of the Extra Extra Hot Sauce, too. Mmm. Plus all the filtered water I can drink for free. I know where I'm going for breakfast today.Not too long ago, I was standing in line at Dharma's, and it appeared that the person in front of me probably hadn't been out much in the past couple of decades. The sixty to seventy year old gentleman seemed to be out of his element, and looked baffled by the vegetarian menu. The man and the two women he was with began discussing drink options, and one of women asked him if he would like to have filtered water. His response blew my mind. "What's filtered water?" he asked suspiciously.
Inside Dharma's where there are lots of plastic animals to play with.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

To Be Frank - Zappa Plays Zappa in Surf City

I was so excited when I heard that the Zappa Plays Zappa show was coming to Santa Cruz, and to my favorite theater to boot... a hop, skip and a jump away at the Rio.

I've been listening to Zappa since sixth grade, and have become a bit of a connoisseur of his compositions... most* of which are quite brilliant. As a premordial Zappa fan, who could be more excited to experience an evening of live Zappa music performed by the late Mr. Zappa's own son, Dweezil, and a host of Frank Zappa alumni?

Imagine my horror when I consulted the Rio website and read the following:

V.I.P. $96.00 Reserved $ 55.50 additional fees may and most likely will apply.


OK, lets look at this rationally, in 1977, I saw Frank Zappa, THE Frank Zappa, NOT his son... THE Frank Zappa - for six dollars and fifty cents ($6.50). When you include those additional fees, this show ends up costing more than fifteen times more than the cost of seeing the bona-fide Frank Zappa. The reserved seating price isn't that much better, costing nine times what I paid in '77. What is wrong with this picture? Is Dweezil Zappa worth a hundred bucks? I think not. There are very few entertainers I would pay over fifty bucks to see. Actually none. I'm sure Dweezil is a nice enough fellow... He can't be too bad if Mr. Nice-Guy, Donny Osmond, hangs out with him. But, I have principles, and refuse to pay such a high cost to see the son of someone. I recently saw the Residents for twenty-five bucks, ($25)... THE Residents, NOT the son of a Resident, and it cost 75% less than this Zappa Play$ Zappa $how co$t$.

Across the street from the Rio Theater, is the Crepe Place, where on March 11th the Vox Jaguars will rock the house for only eight bucks ($8.00), and I know it will be as good if not better than the pricey show on the other side of Soquel Avenue tonight.

Viva le Crepe Place!

* Too often Mr. Zappa crossed over the line into tasteless potty humor, which is OK when you're in 6th grade, but... come on Frank, grow up already. Or as some would say, "Shut up and play your guitar".

** What The Frank?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Vox Jaguars CD Release: A Review

After months of anticipation, the new Vox Jaguars' self-titled CD has been released on Anodyne Records. In mid-January, I received a special edition*(1) advanced copy of the Vox Jaguars to review, and now that I've heard it more than a dozen times, I feel that I'm prepared to comment on one of this year's best records.

I've been paying attention
to the Vox Jaguars since I happened upon one of their live shows at Cafe Pergolesi in Santa Cruz, California about three years ago. What surprised me most about the show was that the audience, (and there seemed to be about a hundred of them crammed into the small room), knew the songs and sang along as if they were part of the band. I thought of the Cavern in Liverpool and the energy and comradary that must have existed there among early Beatle fans. It isn't every day that I see an audience so enthralled with a band, and that night, the patrons at Pergles were at one with the Vox Jaguars.

It wasn't long til the Vox Jaguars recorded a demo*(2) CD at the home studio of a friend. The exceptionally well recorded demo featured four completed tracks exhibiting plenty of musical variety and skill. The demo received quite a bit of notoriety and it seemed only natural when the Vox Jaguars' popular song, Swagger,*(3) was featured on the major prime time FOX Television program, Canturbury's Law. Producers of the show had stumbled upon the song on the Vox Jaguars' My Space page, and negotiated its use on the show.

Now, The Vox Jaguars have released their first CD, and it is sure to be popular among the indie generation in general, and spread in popularity to a broader audience in the years to come.

Beyond their darling and daring youthfulness, what makes The Vox Jaguars interesting, is the precision and power with which they play their upbeat clever and catchy songs. Smarter than punk, but not too technical for the uninitiated ear, this band has successfully drawn upon a long eclectic history of music to come up with a sound uniquely their own.

Something that can't go unnoticed at a live Vox Jaguars performance, is the display of teamwork between their powerful percussionist and bassist who keep the band timely and intriguing. Trevor Hope is truly an incredible drummer who's intricate percussion is perfectly augmented by master bassist, Mason Rosenberg. The two sound as though they've been playing together forever. This foundational
backbone establishes a powerful template for high school student Jordan Topf to present his songs about teen struggle, and modern dilemma. I find it surprising that this CD exhibits a subtle LA nuance. I keep expecting Jim Morrison to belt out something ridiculous... that notion amuses me.

The current line up of the Vox Jaguars includes
newest member, Noah Bond on lead guitar*(4) and voices, Jordan Topf on guitar*(5) and voices, Trevor Hope on drums, and Mason Rosenberg on bass.*(6) The lineup on the new CD features former band member Sam Copperman on keyboards. Sam recently left the band to attend to his higher education. The Vox Jaguars have not replaced him with another keyboardist, and don't plan to any time soon. Rather, they picked up high school senior Noah Bond to play guitar, and he is working out wonderfully. Noah plays like a pro and provides the ensemble with a rich round sound. A favorable addition to an already great band. There is still room for keyboards in my opinion.

I like the new self-titled release by the Vox Jaguars very much, and will surely play it on my hi-fi many more times. I think four clever boys could have come up with a more suitable title for this release however. If I had been given the opportunity to name the new Vox Jaguars CD, I would have turned their name into an anagram, such as, Jug Has a Vortex, or called it something controversial and relevant like, Obama's War Now, but I'm just an old punk who still likes to ruffle feathers. It's like eating peanuts...

The Vox Jaguars, on Anodyne Records.

*(1) My special edition copy of
The Vox Jaguars arrived in a standard hard plastic case, however a more environmentally-friendly paper-box version is currently available on line and in fine stores everywhere.

What makes this special packaging unique, is the inclusion of a segment of broken guitar string from one of the instruments played by the Vox Jaguars.

The guitar string is clearly visible through the usually empty plastic window on the left-edge of the CD case. I love it when this space is used for something other than nothing at all.

*(2) The Vox Jaguars Demo CD titled, Good as Gone, rivals the new release, and in some ways is preferable to it. The songs on Good as Gone are recorded so well that they could have been included on the new release as bonus tracks. I hope Good as Gone will one day be
made available again. My copy is worn out.

*(3) A new version of Swagger is the only song from the demo that has made it's way onto the new CD. Not even Metropolis, the most beloved of all the Vox Jaguars songs, appears on this new release. I should also note that the Canterbury's Law season one
DVD, (featuring Swagger), will be released on February 24th, 2009. If we're lucky, they'll also release a Canterbury's Law soundtrack and include the original version of Swagger.

*(4) Noah plays a Gibson Les Paul and Fender Stratocaster

*(5) Not surprisingly, Jordan plays a Fender Jaguar

*(6) Mason usually plays an Ibanez Roadstar but lately has been seen with a Specter*(7) at some of their shows. Most of the tracks on the new CD
sound as if a different bass was being played.

*(7) I've noticed that Mason usually plays his Specter in his other soon to be famous band, A Quantum Visionary, who take musical intricacy and variety to new heights.


Saturday, February 7, 2009

Festival For Freedom: The Rhetro Review

Last night I attended the Festival For Freedom at the University of San Francisco. It was a charity event sponsored by the Erasmus Community at the University who raised many hundreds of dollars to fight modern slavery.

The festival featured nine different SF Bay-Area acts who played to a large hall full of college kids who all seemed to have a good time. The show was supposed to begin at 5:30, but the first band, Man
/Miracle, took a long time to set up, and then overplayed their allotted twenty minute segment which threw the event further off schedule. It was fun to watch Man/Miracle play their brand of poppy indie rock even though they overplayed their welcome. I especially enjoyed their cool vocal effects.
Man/Miracle, the first of nine bay-area bands to play at the Festival for Freedom at the Univesity of San Francisco Friday night

A Quantum Visionary, the second band, gets the award for most efficient ensemble. These guys from Santa Cruz had all their equipment set up in less than five minutes, and played for precisely twenty minutes. This band's efficiency and precision is reflected in their highly technical music which is difficult to describe because one song may include metal, funk and progressive elements. A far cry from a garage band. I was shooting some really good video of AQV when, 51 seconds into the first song, someone turned off the lights, making it impossible to continue filming.

A Quantum Visionary efficiently setting up their equipment

Following A Quantum Visionary, another Santa Cruz band, Depth Charge Revolt, played an impressive set of hard-hitting technical-punk. DCR featured two drummers who played tight and powerful rhythms. Their bassist boomed big and the guitar shredded magnificently while their vocalist hollered and howled as he paced back and forth between contortions. Next time they're playing in Santa Cruz, I'll be there.
Depth Charge Revolt doing what they do best

Another band worth mentioning was U of SF's own, Ghost Town Refugees, who had the most interesting visuals of all the bands. On their home turf, GTR stood silhouetted against the visual images being projected on the wall behind them. They get extra credit for their inclusion of an atomic detonation.

Ghost Town Refugees making the most of their home court advantage

Next, the Vox Jaguars took the stage to play a rousing set of songs. No wonder these Santa Cruz boys have been signed by Anodyne Records. They played like pros, and really got the crowd on their feet and moving. Their first CD will be released on Tuesday, February 10th, but they had a few copies on hand to sell at the festival.

A Quantum Visionary's master bassist, Mason Rosenberg, also lends his skills to The Vox Jaguars

The Vox Jaguars

The Vox Jaguars' Jordan Topf showing off the new Vox Jaguars CD to Depth Charge Revolt's Hector Lee Heaviside
The self-titled CD was available for the first time at the Festival For Freedom in San Francisco

Monday, January 26, 2009

Post-Punk X - Pickin' on the Knitters

The Knitters at Moe's Alley Last Night

Something that is difficult for me to get my brain around is the fact that I started listening to X before Ronald Reagan was President of the United States. Five presidents later, I still listen to X, but even more surprising is the fact that the raucous and rowdy rockabilly punk band from LA is still going strong... in one form or another. These days, they're touring as a bona fide cowpoke band.

When pUnK Wasn't Cool

The first time I heard X was in the Spring of 1980. Jon and I were hanging out at our friend David's house in Tooele, Utah listening to music and talking about bands when David asked, "Have you ever heard X?" I replied, "I know Generation X, is that what you mean?" He pulled out his newly acquired record and began to educate us about the band and their legendary producer, Ray Manzarek, from the Doors, who, he informed us, also plays keyboards on the record. He removed the black vinyl disc from it's sleeve, placed the record on the turntable, and after a quick dusting, placed the stylus on the first track of side one... Los Angeles. It was obvious from that moment that X had a truly unique sound, and that they were worth paying attention to. I did. To me, X was evidence that punk could be poignant artsy and smart... eXactly what the stagnant music industry needed.

Sometime in the early eighties, I had the opportunity to see X live for the first of what would become many times. The show was in Salt Lake City at the old dilapidated fairgrounds coliseum... an appropriate place for the big rockabilly sound of X. 004, a local ska band, opened the show that night. 004* was followed by Angst, a semi-punk bay area band. Both gave exceptional performances, but when X took the stage, it became obvious who everyone was there to see. X sounded great, and seemed to give it all they had. The crowd's enthusiastic appreciation was reciprocated by the band who seemed joyously surprised by their favorable reception behind the Zion Curtain.

When Mighty Mo and I first met, one of the things we had in common was
X, and we still go to see them perform whenever the opportunity presents itself. Strangely, from San Francisco to Madison, the most fun X shows have always been in SLC.***

Knit Pickin' and Grinnin' Twenty-Nine Years Later

I was thrilled when I learned that
X had a country music alter ego band called The Knitters. First, I can't resist silent letters, (especially K), and secondly, I thought the idea was brilliant - Cowpoke music played by punk rockers. It's stuff like that that keeps life worth living. Speaking of living, one thing that I love about living in Santa Cruz, is the fact that I've had so many opportunities to see my favorite musicians perform in quaint venues, like Moe's Alley. Last night, Mighty Mo and I took the bus across town to see the Knitters play at Moe's. We had found out about it only a day before the show, and were happy that it hadn't sold out.** Whew!

Moe's Alley was filled to capacity. Apparently, word had gotten out about the Knitters, and the fact that the band features three X Patriots. The eclectic stylings of wardrobe exhibited by attendees was entertaining and amusing to observe. I assumed there would be lots of rockabilly folks, but saw only a few watered-down versions thereof. No jet-black haired gals sporting Betty Page bangs. Dang!

As we sat at a table in the back, listening to the opening act, X's vocalist, Exene strolled right behind Mighty Mo on her way to use the restroom while the crowd was distracted. I told Mighty Mo who had just walked behind her, and she proclaimed, "I love her." When Exene came out from the restroom, she passed by us again. As she did, I got her attention and told her, "We love you, Exene." She blushed, and sheepishly said, "Thanks" and disappeared into the crowd, hoping not to be recognized by anyone else.

When the Knitters took the stage, Moe's Alley came alive. We muscled our way to within fifteen feet of the stage before being thwarted by a wall of compressed thirty-five to fifty-five year old bodies that prevented us from getting any closer. It had been cold earlier, but now, within that mass of
huddled humanity, I was warm and cozy.

The Knitters played for two hours, to an appreciative and enthusiastic crowd. The songs were truly country floavoured, but there was no mistaking the tell-tale harmonies of John X Doe and Exene that are so prominent in X.

Dave Alvin, the smokin' guitarist of Blasters fame really impressed me with his marvelous playing. His skillful manipulation of his fancy Fender Stratocaster gave the band a rockin' down-home sound. I think he gets better with age.

The low ceilings at Moe's are conducive to a powerful punch from the bass, and Jonny Ray Bartel made use of the special space. His stand-up bass sounded clear and powerful. An integral part of rockabilly, it was a pleasure to observe Mr. Bartel's technique.

The five Knitters played a handful of Merle Haggard covers and even treated us to a country version of The New World, a classic X song. The crowd swayed and sang along with most of the Knitters tunes, too. A truly warm and memorable show.

I called Moe's ahead of time to find out what the camera policy would be, and was happy to find out that I didn't have to sneak it in. Even though Moe's was crowded, and we didn't have the best position in the house, we managed to take a few photos and video before the batteries died.

The Knitters front-man, John X Doe, was personable and engaging

X band members, Exene and D.J. Bonebrake at Moe's

John X Doe and Exene

John X Doe's Highy 17 Warning

* 004 featured fellow Tooelian, Phil Miller, on saxophone

Maybe it did sell out. That would explain why the joint was so crowded. I don't think I've seen so many people stuffed into our popular roadhouse before. It's probably happened, but not while I've been there.

*** I think it may have been the Dee Burgers.