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Garrett Wheeler finds happiness at the Loves in Heat Records Festival.

By Garrett Wheeler

Last week, Brian Kennedy informed Mu_Zophiles of the upcoming Loves In Heat Records Music Festival at the Vets Hall. I hope for your sake you took his words seriously. The night was a thrill. A triumph for local music. The event showcased 11 bands, nine of which are based in Santa Cruz, and it was clear that every act had brought a piece of its A-game.

As the evening kicked off with New Wave rockers Moon Cadillac, electricity permeated the hall. It was almost as if the amount of sheer talent that gathered under one roof had caused some kind of celestial force to form in the rafters above. Call me superstitious or caught in the moment—whatever it was, I was glad to be there. I know, I know—it's a tough job, but someone's got to do it.

Three bands in, it was the Vox Jaguars who took one of two stages. I'm no Sherlock Holmes, but my detective work leads me to believe that the band took its name from the amplifier/guitar combo chosen by front-boy Jordan Topf. The old-school sound emanating from the amps fit the band's rambunctious garage rock perfectly, as power chord riffs collided with eccentric vocals. Topf sang and strutted around the stage with a presence that was well beyond his years, though his youthful fervor was unmistakable.

Next up was Sleepy Sun, a Santa Cruz quintet oddly at ease with a vibrantly eclectic repertoire that touched on psychedelic outlandishness, heavy sonic texturing and folky blues-rock. Kind of like Black Sabbath meets Pink Floyd meets the Byrds meets—crap, this list could get really long. I'll simplify: Sleepy Sun defies easy categorization, successfully merging a subtle dose of pop sensibility with bizarre originality. Hands-down one of Santa Cruz's most promising up-and-coming bands, Sleepy Sun just might manage to break out of small-town obscurity—they've certainly got the talent, and more importantly, the imagination.

After Sleepy Sun, it seemed like no band could match that level of originality. And none did—that is, until Depth Charge Revolt plugged in. From the reverberating feedback humming from the stage, it was clear right away that this band intended to delve into some heavy material. Not only that, the stage was set up with not one but two drumkits. The reinforced percussion gave DCR (whose name, by the way, perfectly describes its sound) more punch than a bowl of spiked Kool-Aid. Blending abstract expression with edgy hardcore melodies, Depth Charge Revolt strayed into a dark, chaotic blur of noise-rock. Watching them play was like getting the wind knocked out of you in a game of mud football—more frightening than painful, and well worth the discomfort.

The last band I can fit into this column (my apologies, I will find the rest of you) is Sheena. Its set was unlike the others in that it was very short (only four songs) and featured a song written and sung by each of the three band members. Though their Myspace page places them in the rock/electronica/New Wave category, the songs they chose to perform were pretty stripped down, resembling simple guitar-based rock more than electro-dance stuff. Their talent, though, was readily apparent and well received by the crowd, which by now, you really do wish you were a part of.

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