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Photograph by Brian Harker
The Lineup: Left to right are Jose Picazo, Mack Hesson and Derek Mather, the members of Almost Chaos.

Chaos Theory

Almost Chaos is one of three Santa Cruz teen bands leading the regional School Jam USA contest.

By Brian Harker

WHILE THE members of Almost Chaos appear a little nervous between songs, the three young teens can't help but smile when they start playing. And given their status as finalists in a national competition that will send them to Germany if they win, there's a lot to grin about.

The band, fronted by the talented 13-year-old singer Jose Picazo, plays an impressive mixed set of originals and covers. Mack Hesson, age 12, is all smiles as he keeps the rhythm for the band. He also shares backup vocal duties with guitarist Derek Mather. The confident 14-year-old plays technically complex and flawless, albeit a little lackluster, solos with a nonchalance that displays his eight years of experience.

Noticing a group of giggling tween girls gathered around to watch Almost Chaos play at Streetlight Records in Santa Cruz, I asked them after the show if they started the band in order to impress the girls in their grades. After a resounding no, Derek insists that was "not the intention of it," but his band mates admit that it has helped with the ladies.

They started the band a year and a half ago after participating in Be in Your Own Band, a Parks and Rec program. In the short time they've been together, Almost Chaos has played many fundraisers as well as some of Santa Cruz's favorite venues. "We've played at the Crow's Nest, we've played the Catalyst," Jose says.

The boys are optimistic about the future. Mack explains that Santa Cruz can look forward to "more originals," while Derek boasts, "I have a lot of music and [Jose] has a lot of lyrics." The teenage years that lie ahead will likely provide the angst and swagger lacking in their otherwise flawless set.

As for now, the band is currently on a path to join nine other bands from across the nation to compete in the School Jam USA contest, where they'll earn funding for new equipment for the band and their school as well.

Santa Cruz is well represented in the contest. Almost Chaos is currently second in the West Region standings, while another Santa Cruz band, Jackie Rocks, is in a close third. A third local crew, Rapid Fire, is seventh out of 10 West Coast bands. The top two bands will go to Anaheim, where the winner will be sent to Germany to play in Frankfurt.

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