Photograph by Pete Saporito
Los Miss Sunshines: If Los Dryheavers can tour the entire country in third gear, you can stay up late on a Friday night to see them.
They Jam Econo
Los Dryheavers become poster boys for the Central Coast punk scene
By Paul Davis
Like a sweatier and heavily tattooed version of the dysfunctional family in Little Miss Sunshine, Watsonville's Los Dryheavers--the hardest-touring punk band in Santa Cruz County--found themselves stuck on the other side of the country with a van stuck in third gear during their 2005 summer tour. Stranded in Abilene, Texas, their "transmission went out," explains bassist Cory Atkinson. "It would only go into third--all of the other gears were stripped. If we wanted to stop, we had to stop on a hill so we could roll and gather momentum. We had to find rest stops and Burger Kings or park on a hill so we could get a running start and pop the clutch--we did that all the way from Abilene back to Santa Cruz."
The band has had its share of travails on the road in the half-decade it's been playing. While many local bands rarely leave town, Los Dryheavers have been spreading their potent mixture of bilingual anthemic old-school punk and metal-inspired guitar leads worldwide, furiously touring the nation as well as Mexico and Europe, doing a stint on the Warped Tour, and steadily releasing albums on local label Lorelei (with a new album coming in the spring). Along the way, the Mexican-American five-piece has had its incidents with the local color, from a gas station owner in Texas armed with a stick and a Mag Light to the residents of Juarez, Mexico, who quickly identified the band as being from north of the border. Atkinson says touring Mexico has been "a little weird because even though every member of the band is Mexican-American, to people living in Mexico we're still pocho. There's always a group of people who are saying, 'These guys are from up north ...'"
But Atkinson is quick to note that the band has found a shared bond with punk rockers worldwide, and that any problems along the way have come from "the people you run into while traveling. I think it could be said that the punk rock movement is the same in the U.S. as it is in Europe as it is in Mexico. It's the same principles, the same thought. When we're in Europe, people will know that we don't like Bush--it's just assumed. I think they know that we're coming to play punk rock music at squats--they know what we're about."
Locally, the band unites the largely white Santa Cruz independent music crowd with the burgeoning Mexican-American punk scene coming out of Watsonville and Salinas. Though the Santa Cruz crowd was initially taken aback by the band's Hispanic following showing up at downtown punk shows, guitarist Felix Losano doesn't attribute people's initial reactions so much to prejudice as to the shock of something different. "It's funny to see people react to something new in someone's scene or whatever you wanna fucking call it," he says. "You get people coming in that don't look like you, don't act like you and just simply don't give a fuck, and it's like anything else. It's gonna make people step back and wonder what's going on here?" Lasano notes that the Hispanic punk audience is nothing new. "It's been around for a long time--not just in the area but all over Califas and the rest of the country," he says. "There are many other communities that have embraced rock & roll, like the Filipinos, Chinese and Japanese--all singing in their native language. We love to see a room full of mustaches and Mohawks!"
Atkinson especially loves seeing that diversity brought to the often white-washed local punk audience. "We played the Catalyst last week and there were 100 Mexicans out there from Watsonville, Salinas and all around--it adds character to the show." He's found that the Watsonville punk scene is so vibrant that he often convinces out-of-town punk bands to play there instead of downtown Santa Cruz, even though he books shows at the Blue Lagoon. "When I'm setting show trades up with bands, they'll ask for Santa Cruz and I'll say, 'No, I'll give you Watsonville,' and they'll say no. I have to really explain to them that it'll be better in Watsonville, and usually it is--bands leave thinking, 'That's trippy, here we are in a farming town and there's 300 kids out on a Thursday night.'"
Los Dryheavers play with the Chop Tops Friday, Dec. 22, at 9pm at the Blue Lagoon, 923 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $5 and are available the day of the show. (831.423.7117)
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