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[whitespace] Back From Aphar

The Pharcyde carves out a bit of hip-hop heaven at local show

By David Espinoza

DON'T CALL IT a comeback: the Pharcyde has been here for years. True, the group has slimmed down to just two members, but that didn't stop it from throwing down one raging hip-hop party at Palookaville on Sunday (Jan. 7). The show was sold out (with another one added for Monday at the last minute), and the fans squeezed up close to the front of the stage. It was the best way to kick off the New Year with MC Imani's faded, nasally vocals soulfully busting out material off the Pharcyde's landmark Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde and latest, Plain Rap.

The Pharcyde has always strutted the fine line between underground stoicism and mainstream flamboyance, striking the perfect balance of saucy lyricism and delicious beats. Too bad they could only play for barely an hour due to curfews and too many opening acts.

Net News

The Cannabis Action Network Benefit show at the Santa Cruz Vets Hall turned out to be a bust, so sorry to anyone who got hot 'n' bothered over it. On the plus side, the same night the show was supposed to happen (Jan. 13), local phunk, jazz 'n' jammin' meisters Netwerk: Electric are returning from their December hibernation to hit P-ville along with Will Bernard of T.J. Kirk (Charlie Hunter) fame. This month, the quartet is finishing up recording its sophomore effort at Berkeley's Expression Studio--Carl Denson has been sitting in with them.

Adding to the list of high-profile musicians who've taken a liking to our Netwerk boys, Merl Saunders has been crashing their shows at John Lee Hooker's Boom Boom Room up in San Francisco. On that note, homies Justin Fagnani, Mike Jaramillo, Dave Menez and Jason Concepcion deserve full props for staying on top of Santa Cruz's thriving fusion groove scene for so long. It's been--what?--almost three years, and they still lay a whuppin' on everyone else in town.

Liquid Assets

It only took me a year to finally pick up Liquid Foundation's full-length debut, Off the Deep End, and, boy, I wish I had done it sooner. If Dave Matthews played in a surf band this is what it would sound like. Like its name implies, frontdude Mike Cardwell gushes liquidy psychedelic guitars that are always friendly and refreshing. Songs "October" and "Naive Melody" prove the trio can write nimble rock tunes with rhythms in the vein of Blues Traveler. The best moments on the 13-track album, though, are the funk-inspired opening bass licks of "Glued," which are a sweet nod to the days of Stevie Wonders' Innervisions. Oh yeah, the Liquid guys are playing up in the hills at Henfling's tonight (Jan. 10).

The Grey Connection

You best beware there's a new proto-punk project brewing over the hill, composed of ex-members of Skankin' Pickle, Slow Gherkin and Blindspot, called Grey Method. The band--Zack Kent (ex-Gherk, right?), Jay Cosper, Archilles Poloynis and Chuck Phelps (ex-Pickle, now Tomato Head Records CEO)--has quickly pulled together a fierce nine-song album to be released in February.

No joke. Aside from the generic hormonal "I hate you/I never want to see your face again," lyrics (staple of Lookout, Tomato Head and any other Bay Area pop-punk record label), these four ex-ska musicians have hit gold with chugging bass lines, Fugazi-styled guitar riffs and elastic drum beats. The brightest tracks are the instrumental ones, like the melodic and heavy "Squealer," which lays the smack down with harmonizing guitar lines you haven't heard since the '80s.

While we're on the subject of the Gherk, James, AJ and crew will play their first local gig of the new year next Friday (Jan. 19) at the new and improved Rio Theatre. Joining them will be dub-reggae-punk upstarts the Expendables and Comets on Fire. How the Rio's going to fit the usually upbeat crowds that accompany these bands into theater seating will be a wonder.

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From the January 10-17, 2001 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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