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Topf Guy: Vox Jaguars singer and guitarist Jordy Topf at last week's CD release party


After last Friday's show by Man/Miracle and the Vox Jaguars--who also released their self-titled EP that night--Curtis Cartier wonders: could Santa Cruz rock any harder?

By Curtis Cartier

The kids who showed up to the Vox Jaguars' CD release party Friday night at the Crepe Place had definitely been eating their Wheaties. No other vitamin-enriched crunchy flake could have sustained them through three hours of pogo-dancing, crowd-surfing and extremity-flailing with quite the same vigor. But since any show with the words Man/Miracle on the flier tends to incite epileptic fan freakouts on a massive scale, perhaps there was another reason beside a healthy breakfast that the house was brought down that night. Whatever got into them, Mūz can only hope they've got more of it.

Kicking off the night, Salinas' the Mystery Lights loosened up the crowd with its brand of surf-splashed indie rock. Descending into occasional fits of progressive jam sessions and spaced-out solos, this quirky quartet proved it's got several tricks up its sleeve and should hurry out of the hood soon for another SC show.

It was, however, the Santa Cruz-cut, Oakland-polished powerhouse of Man/Miracle that really defined the night. From the first folksy anthem to the last chanting barnburner, the set was a textbook example of band-goes-crazy-so-fans-do-too. Looking from the sound booth into the frothing crowd, it was at times frightening to see a vocalist or guitar player disappear into the heaving fray, only to be spat back out onto some opposite corner of the stage a few seconds later without missing a beat.

Topping off the night in the headlining spot, the Vox Jaguars capitalized on the crazed state in which the previous band had left the crowd and continued to rattle their cages with a short-but-sweet set of classic Jag jams. Actually stopping the show at one point to ask that people stop crowd surfing, the crew already had a tiger by the tail when it stepped onstage. And after the last encore and the final "Thanks, everybody. Goodnight!" it was clear that $7 is a small price to pay for three hefty helpings of Central Coast indie rock.

Mūz got a hold of the brand-new self-titled EP that was the cause of Friday night's celebration. Personally delivered by Jordy Topf, the Jaguars' guitar and vocal wonderboy, the four-song disc opens with the group's iconic garage jam, "Swagger," with its rabble-rousing chants of "Wah" and hair-raising rock screams. If you haven't heard the tune, keep your radio on because that's its next stop. Continuing into the fuzzy synth thrasher "Wild Orphan," the disc then exposes the crew's second single-worthy tune with "Song for the Girl," with its cynical lyrics and classic rock melodies. Wrapping up the album with "Homesick," a new (to me at least) track, which, with its poppy guitar chops and engrossing chorus, was the most pleasant surprise on the CD. All in all this short album, an equal-opportunity spattering of the Jaguars' signature styles, is a must-have for all Vox Jaguars fans and for anyone plugged into the local rock scene.

Santa Cruz psych-rock pioneers Sleepy Sun perform at their just-announced Feb. 21 concert in Big Sur at the legendary Fernwood Resort. Along with Citadelle and a squad of local DJs, the show should further cement Santa Cruz County's reputation as a chief exporter of quality rock & roll.

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