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Curtis Cartier attends his first Sourgrass concert and comes away a convert.

By Curtis Cartier

There are those shows where a lead singer's demands that "everybody clap!" are met with annoyed silence, or a rapper's call to "put ya hands in the air!" elicits a few raised middle fingers at best. Shows where, try as the performers might, the crowd is there to be entertained, not entertaining. Saturday night at the Crepe Place was not one of those shows. Between the knee-slapping folk of Brother's Comatose and the sex-drenched funk of Sourgrass, every person in the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd was turned into a hand-clapping, glass-clinking, screaming human metronome. And after spending a lifetime at both kinds of concerts, I've firmly decided I'd much rather be at the latter.

By appearances, the five-piece San Francisco folk consortium Brother's Comatose look like they were raised by the same bears who brought up local favorites Mountain Animal Hospital or Harry & the Hit Men. The curly mustaches and hippie beards are almost interchangeable with a host of folk and indie rock acts that inhabit the surrounding forests. But until this weekend the group was a veritable unknown in Santa Cruz. That's all changed, however, since the group brought down the house with an encore-inspiring set of hard-hitting folk standards. Led by a nimble-fingered fiddle player and a swinging standup bass player, the group's show culminated with instructions to "pick up whatever glass you have in front of you and hit it to the rhythm."

Since just about everyone at the shindig had some kind of potent beverage in their clutches, the ensuing cacophony of fork-on-glass violence that accompanied the song "Trippin' On Down" lent a drunken barroom sound to the number, while somewhere Crepe Place owner Adam Bergeron shuddered at the thought of purchasing new glassware. And if the crowd was happy to hear the lively crew bang out music, the band was equally happy to drain the shots and beers bought at random by gracious crowd members, exclaiming at one point, "This place is awesome! How have we never played here before?"

Before the show had started I had heard that frontman Jay Palmer had "incredible stage presence." Nothing could have prepared me for the hip-swinging sex cyclone that eventually took the stage, however. Writhing and moaning, Palmer stole the show with his vibrato-rich croons and shameless pandering to the crowd. Even though the rest of the four-piece offered inspiring funk and rock anthems, all eyes were on Palmer as he floated around the small stage, likely practicing for a bigger one someday.

Used to selling out the twice-as-big Moe's Alley, Sourgrass commands a dedicated following in its hometown. The band is finishing up its new five-track E.P., Mint Condition, and hopes to set out on tour shortly after. Mu_Z caught up with Palmer outside the venue while a steady stream of well-wishers filed by to pay their respects.

"We really have the best fans," said a grinning Palmer. "We're a Santa Cruz band through and through and we're just proud to be part of the local scene."

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