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The search for Locals Who Rock continues on Highway 9


Redwoods That Rock

Evergreen Jam "I guess the '60s never died," my best friend commented as we sipped beers at Felton's gem of a music venue, Don Quixote's Music Hall. The object of his remark was the band onstage, Santa Cruz jam outfit Wubakia. Long hair, tie-dyes, flowing skirts—the shaggy quartet looked like extras in a Woodstock documentary, with a rocking psychedelic sound to match. Since my buddy had just gotten back from a summer-long internship in New York City, his observation seemed to merit a response. Mine was: "Welcome back."

I love Santa Cruz. Nowhere else on earth do hippies, punk rockers, emo-kids and hip-hop homies converge on such a small town with such big-city force. Thursday night at Don Quixote's was a tribute to the free-spirited era of the 1960s, and the vibe was love, love, love.

Opening for Wubakia was fellow jam-band Grandview. Fusing elements of funk, jazz and rock & roll, the UCSC alums produced a sound that was as appealing as psychotropic drugs were to Timothy Leary. Guitarist Ryan Avellone took the spotlight with his show-stopping guitar solos, leading the improvised jams on a hollow-body electric guitar like a young Trey Anastasio. Yeah, that's right—I'm comparing them to Phish. Jam-band lovers, take note: Grandview is on a par with the pros.

Henfling's Punkfest Saturday night I found myself back on Highway 9, winding through the redwoods in search of more locals that rock. This time, my destination was Henfling's Tavern, the venerable Ben Lomond biker bar, which on this night was hosting an all-local punk rock show.

First up was Salinas power trio Hate For State. The guys ripped through an hour-long set of thrasher punk madness highlighted by heavily distorted guitar riffs and vocals that sounded something like Green Day's Billy Joe. The music was loud, the crowd drunk—it was looking to be an interesting night.

Following Hate for State was Santa Cruz Mountain crew Honest Mistake. Mistake or not, these guys were definitely the crowd favorite, dishing out a hefty portion of rock & roll that ranged from heavy metal to reggae. Throaty vocals recalled Metallica's James Hetfield, though the band's overall sound was wholly original. With lyrics like "In the mountains/ where the locals got no teeth," it was clear that Honest Mistake's brand of mountain metal was a burly tribute to life in the sticks, which apparently, is a damn good one.

The closers for the evening were punk rockers 3 Up Front, a local quartet reveling in charged-up power chords and explosive vocals by frontman Adam Pierce. Solid musicianship across the board and intertwining vocal harmonies added up to a stellar performance that kept the tattooed masses banging heads all the way to last call.

By 2am, as I staggered for the exit, ears ringing, head spinning, I was ready to go home, back to Santa Cruz and that little hamlet of scenesters and surfers, where being weird is nothing more than a keepsake on a little yellow bumper sticker.

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