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Can trannies rock? Our columnist investigates.


Local Yokels You hear it muttered at certain "local" places around town-bars, surf spots, occasionally even at your favorite taqueria. "Tranny (short for transplant)," they say, as in, "That f-ing tranny just dropped in on my wave" or "What are all these trannies doing at this party?" It's always a negative remark, and it's always aimed at those unfortunate souls unlucky enough to have been born and raised outside 'da SC. But when it comes to music, does the tranny stereotype still apply? Are all those wide-eyed, traffic-causing out-of-towners cool as long as they're in a band? I suspect the answer may be yes. And if so, the coolest damn trannies in Santa Cruz must be The Devil Makes Three.

If their Friday night gig at the Catalyst was any indication of their social standing, the folks from DM3 have got to be more popular than a high school prom queen. Maybe they got lucky. Or maybe Santa Cruzans are a little more accommodating than we think. Sure, you might see "trannies go home" scribbled on a wall downtown, or my personal favorite, the "A-salt a slug" sticker. But consider this: The Devil Makes Three not only sold out the Catalyst, they actually turned the place into a drunken hootenanny full of thrilled, and dare I say, proud local music fans.

Though they now call California home (two have left Santa Cruz for school in Davis), the alt-country outfit hails from back East. Two of the members, Pete Bernhard and Cooper McBean, grew up in rural Vermont, while bassist Lucia Turino is from New Hampshire. Geographically speaking, Vermont and New Hampshire are 3,000 miles from Santa Cruz, and culturally they're about as far away as Jupiter. But musically, the divide is not so great. It seems even the hard-nosed local population has found a true fondness for the The Devil Makes Three, and how could they not? The jug-band-meets-punk-rock sound is alluring and wild like an untamed bull: powerful, reckless and beautiful.

At the end of the show, as the crowd demanded more with a deafening stomp, it became clear that the two factions of Santa Cruz, indigenous and foreign, can co-exist. Because that night it wasn't about who you were or where you're from; these things were trivial. It was about the music. Tattoos and mullets, together at last.

Alien Goathead Nation Saturday night I found myself at the Catalyst once again, this time in the Atrium to catch a couple of lesser-known acts that surely deserve some attention. One was the Fainting Goats, an indie-rock quartet with miles of pop-sensibility and the kind of playful allure you'd find in a 24-hour donut shop.

After the Goats came a band with an entirely different tonal agenda, neopsychedelic rockers Alientar. Combining classic Pink Floyd space rock, Radiohead-style modernism and a little bit of abstract exploration, the Santa Cruz-based group traveled to the far reaches of the galaxy without ever leaving the stage. Cosmic flights were achieved using a variety of synthesized effects and Eastern scales, resulting in a swirling vortex of otherworldly sound. I guess it's really not surprising Santa Cruz is home to one of the trippiest bands on, or off, the planet.

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