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[whitespace] Blessed Be

After a few changes in the lineup, Wishcraft is casting good spells

By David Espinoza

IT MIGHT seem out of place for a post-Deadhead sunshine 'n' flowers band like Wishcraft to play a dank, smoggy pub like the Aptos Club, but in this town, versatility is your best virtue if you're trying to get a gig. Without any opening acts, the quintet served up two sets Friday (Jan. 12) of what can loosely be called Americana pop that brought the dancing-inclined up to the front and kept Aptos Club regulars in the back. Mr. singer/songwriter harmonica-rockstar man Brian Travis (he wore black leather pants, OK?) and singer Cynthia Moon make a darling pair, with friendly guy 'n' gal vocal harmonies that could make any KPIG fan squeal for more. Ms. Moon at her best moments reminds me of a young Natalie Merchant and she's got the stage presence to back it up. Of course, some of Wishcraft's tunes sound a bit like Bon Jovi's Dead or Alive days, which can be a good or bad thing--depending on how you feel about Bon Jovi.

Santa Cruz bands always seem to get the short end of the stick when it comes to band names and Wishcraft is no exception. Originally called Third Wish, the band had to change its name after it discovered another band had already trademarked it. Since its inception roughly three years ago, Wishcraft (a much better name anyway) has gone through a few lineup alterations and has solidified with Patti Sirens on bass, Jesse Ray on skins and wah wah pedal-happy Chris Gordon on mandolin. Brian Travis says the band is due for a follow-up to its 1998 six-song debut CD, but the problem is cash flow for recording time. Maybe they can put out a tip jar at their next gig.

Fire It Up

Although the six-pack stomach and Keanu Reeves haircut aren't working out as planned, one New Year's Resolution I've been able to fulfill so far is making the trek up into the San Lorenzo Hills and visiting Henfling's Firehouse Tavern. Gotta love any yuppie-free bar that upholds non-smoking laws, and despite the gratuitous folk music, the macho factor remains high thanks to the Harley Davidsons parked outside. Saturday night's opening solo artist Tina (from Tina and the B-sides) induced more yawns than one can remember--the singer/songwriter k.d. lang and Janis Joplin vocals have just been revisited too many times. There should be a moratorium on chicks from Minneapolis singing like they're from the Deep South. Praise the lard for Shelley Doty and crew for taking the stage at half past 10.

A patchouli-boogie favorite from her Jambay days, Doty absolutely shreds live. With features ever so slightly like Lisa Bonet's, and fingers like lightning that can make guitar strings smoke, Doty wasted no time turning up the juice--thrashing her long skinny dreads about to slammin' funkified rock tunes you haven't heard since the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Blood Sugar Sex Magik album. Even with an array of blazing guitar riffs reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix, Doty is able to keep the soul factor fully intact thanks to her equally impressive voice. Backed up by an airtight two-piece rhythm section that punched out slap-pop bass licks and thumpin' drum beats, Doty often reserved her guitar-goddess powers for the chorus and bridge, not playing at all for the verses. In a nutshell, Shelley Doty understands something about funk that most bands don't get--it's not about where you put the beats, it's where you don't.

Walker Updates

It's not even a month since 2001 began and already Rick Walker is at it again, setting records for the avant and the garde in Santa Cruz. This time, Walker is producing a show at the Rio Theater with internationally acclaimed bass looping artist Steve Lawson, Tuesday (Jan. 23). Not only is this show free of charge, it apparently will be the first-ever all-bass solo looping concert in the world.

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From the January 17-24, 2001 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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