September 6th I had the great pleasure to attend the War and Peace Tour at the Catalyst here in Santa Cruz, Ca. The tour had all-star underground headliners Immortal Technique and Brother Ali speaking their mind about the injustice and corruption brought forth by the military industrial complex, the prison industrial complex, and the corporate takeover of the media and U.S. government. They brought attention to the hypocrisies in our government’s current reasoning for war with the Syrian government, asked the audience to stop being programmed by the television, and as always, spoke of revolution. These messages were delivered all the while they entertained the pumped up crowd with refined beats, raps, and the essence of true Hip Hop culture. The soft-spoken delivery of Brother Ali made for the perfect balance to the always angry Immortal Technique. After the show they remained loyal to their crowd and stuck around to meet all in attendance and signed whatever anyone had to bring. The tour continues on across the nation until October 4th and I highly recommend you catch one of the dates because it is a show not worth missing.
Kaumakaiwa Kanaka’ole is the eldest son of Kekuhi Kanahele and descends from a distinguished hula family. “Ka Uluwehi O Ke Kai” (a Wiki Wiki Wednesday favored song) was composed by his great grandmother, Edith Kanahele Kanaka’ole; his family’s music traditions go back seven generations. Kaumakaiwa brings his experience as ‘olapa (dancer), choreographer and composer to the stage in Felton along with his delightful storytelling. Multi-instrumentalist and Honolulu record producer Shawn Pimental will accompany him for an evening of Hawaiian mele, melodies and powerful singing inspired by the islands Wednesday, May 22nd at Don Quixote’s in downtown Felton.
Everybody’s celebrating Record Store Day, a chance to partake in the time-honored tradition of pawing through bins with fellow music lovers and finding a treasure or three to add to your collection. It started years ago as a campaign to raise awareness about the plight of independent record shops, however Record Store Day is now an international holiday for music fans. Many labels and artists come out with one-of-a-kind items just for the event. In Santa Cruz, you can visit Streetlight Records to experience live music and special items. To find out more about the festivities in your area, go to RECORD STORE DAY.
Celebrating 50 years as a band, The Rolling Stones played an incredible night at London’s O2. Bringing out favorites from five decades, they proved to be still able to rock it. Here’s a sample: an extended version of “Midnight Rambler” featuring former 70’s Stones lead guitarist Mick Taylor.
For the second time in my life, I have attended a GWAR show. This most recent time was also @ the Catalyst and on the eve of the election. Naturally, both candidates for president appeared as puppets in the show and both were promptly decapitated, whereupon their neck holes sprayed fake blood into the audience while the band played a savage tune. My favorite was the 13 ft. high “cyber Jesus” puppet. Awesome! Yes, this stuff is not Shakespeare, but it most certainly is theatre. True, you are not required to get covered in fake blood, but you must be there in person. You cannot tweet GWAR, you slave!
“Sure, sure…fersherrsure,” the boys of North Pacific String Band mumbled enthusiastically when asked to play some more tunes on my show, Pickin on the Porch with Auntie Em, a few weeks back.
The five-piece string band consists of Steven Stubblefield on mandolin and vocals, Jeff Wilson on banjo, Alex Bice on upright bass and vocals, Evan Penza on guitar and vocals, and Jan Purat on fiddle and vocals. All these boys live locally within Santa Cruz County and have played many houseshows, on-campus shows at the UC, and gigs at local music venues. This summer, they packed up and headed out to tour throughout Northern California and Oregon. When they came back to release their debut album “Steak & Eggs” on August 22, I asked them to come hang out on KZSC’s own bluegrass show.
In the times between being gratefully serenaded by the band in the studio, I asked a few questions about the recording & production process and the tour.
All thirteen original tracks were recorded live with two microphones in the Corralitos Grange Hall. This specific place was acceptable to bassist Alex after clapping his hands a bit and recognizing its “sweet wood tones.” And the central coast of California in general provides as North Pacific’s key source of inspiration–what they like to call “central coast ramblin'” with all its trees and ocean and big blue skies.
When I asked about their favorite show played while on tour, I remembered that the best gigs aren’t always planned. They all agreed on a scenic overlook at a truck stop near Manzanita, Oregon. The crowd’s energy was on cue; everyone was feeling NPSB’s impromptu busking. After seeing these boys play more than a few times, I can attest that a spontaneous, outdoor setting that revolves around nature’s beauty is precisely where they flourish most.
Of course, North Pacific String Band did not forget to mention the lasting relationships made and incredible musicianship witnessed at the Northwest String Summit festival put on by Yonder Mountain String Band in Oregon. One can only imagine the plethora of amazing stringy sounds heard that weekend in August. And get this–NPSB played music on top of the Further tour bus. Cool?! I’d say these boys have their priorities set straight.
Back in the air-room at KZSC, North Pacific played a few songs they worked on while on the road called “Goin’ to the West” and “Big South Skies.” Then they got down to their song “Murphy” (track 2 on “Steak & Eggs”) with more elongated notes and gritty, bluesy chops. They slowed it down to the point where it sounded like their instruments were talking to each other (which I’ve noticed these boys do a lot–they work together beautifully). They built up the tension little by little then picked it up again with some groovin’ guitar slaps, sweet harmonic fiddle/banjo duo, delicate mando chopping, and finished it off with Alex’s heavy bass punctuation.
Stevee, Jeff, Alex, Jan, and Evan have been playing together for a while, have had time to experience lasting memories, and are individually pretty damn funny characters themselves. North Pacific String Band incorporates a “prograssive” sound to their bluegrass–and sometimes jazzy–roots, making sure to give each member solo time to shine, while keeping a youthful humor that the audience utilizes in its own stomp and clap. Their sound is coherent, tight, and undeniably heartfelt; you can really hear the feeling in the melodies and accompanying harmonies.
Check out North Pacific String Band for more information, merch, and show dates at northpacificcompany.org!