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February 15-21, 2006

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Ike Reilly

Ike Reilly Factor: We told you last week, but some of you just didn't listen...

Mūz: Santa Cruz Music Notes

Manly, Yes, But We Like It Too

By Bill Forman


Triumph of the Obscure: One of the stranger facts of life is that much of the best art has always existed out on the margins of our culture. So this past weekend, with the only big name show in town long sold out, Mūz caught some revelatory performances from artists who are pretty much the opposite of household names. Take, for instance, Pearls & Brass—all hair, thunder and interlocking riffs—who forged their finely honed metallic blues in the intimacy of the Attic. Or Texas troubadour Darden Smith, who told a Don Quixote's audience how he wrote 'Levee Song' with the Troggs' 'Wild Thing' writer Chip Taylor at Belmont Park Race Track (Taylor offered suggestions in between placing bets; you just don't get stuff like that from liner notes). Or how about The Devil Makes Three's Peter Bernhard debuting a new song called "Paul Davis Is Leaving Town Again" at the latter's Poet & Patriot farewell show (this last bit according to trusted source; hey, even Mūz has to take a night off)?

Yet, in spite of all that, the weekend's surprise triumph turned out to be The Ike Reilly Assassination. Previewed by Leyna Krow in these pages as a group that can "tap into that tiny despondent heroin addict that dwells in your otherwise upbeat and drug-free soul," Reilly's latest album, 'Junkie Faithful,' does just that. But it was no preparation for how monstrously good this band was at Don Quixote's, as the rail-thin Chicago cult artist breathed new life into barroom rock with strangely uplifting, down-and-out crowd-pleasers like 'It's Alright to Die' and the set-closing sing-along 'Commie's Got a Nova.' Total price for all four shows? About half the price of one Bonnie Raitt ticket.

Bly Spirit: If you've lived in Santa Cruz for any time at all, you've probably run into one of those guys who were inspired by Robert Bly and the men's movement to trade in their whining persona for a more manly countenance. Maybe, like me, you've had one in your neighborhood. You can generally tell because he's the guy who vents his frustrations by going out in the yard and baying at the moon.

So yes, Bly is to a degree responsible for that guy. But he's made up for it by doing much good over the course of 79 years. It was Bly who started translating Rumi back when the rest of us still thought it was short for roommate. And, of course, he's created his own poetic legacy that is at once earthy and evocative. As befits a poet who, like Joseph Campbell, is obsessed with the storytelling tradition, Bly has a richly sonorous voice that elevates his spoken word into the realm of music.

I first heard Bly read, circuitously enough, during interludes on recordings by Scottish singer Jackie Leven (also well worth your time, if you haven't had the pleasure), and would not recommend passing up a rare opportunity to see him read with musical accompaniment at the Attic this week. The howling guy, we trust, will keep it together until after the performance.


Robert Bly Poetry Reading, Thursday, Feb. 16, 7:30pm doors; the Attic, 931 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz; $10; www.baymoon.com/~poetrysantacruz/events/06events/060216.html


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