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[whitespace] Surftown Showdown

Jurassic 5 and Ozomatli filled the Catalyst and Palookaville

By David Espinoza

How poetic was it that two of Los Angeles' hottest exports, one boasting two former members of the other, both played sold-out shows within the same week here in Santa Cruz? Yup, contrary to what a few other local weeklies printed, MC Charli 2na and DJ Cut Chemist were nowhere to be found at Ozomatli's gig at the Catalyst Friday night. Why? Because they were busy rockin' their own show with their original crew, Jurassic 5, at Palookaville on Tuesday--2na and Chemist haven't performed with Ozomatli for well over a year now.

Not that that slowed down the 10-member Ozo from stirring up the body-movin' fires in every attendee's belly. In fact, both Jurassic 5 and Ozomatli have consistently given stellar performances every time they've visited Santa Cruz (roughly twice a year), and last week was no exception. For the latter crew though, there's been more at stake since Charli 2na and Cut Chemist settled with J5--especially given that Charli 2na's baritone uplifting rhyming is irreplaceable.

The great thing about Ozomatli, though, is that the band is full of notable personalities: bass-thumpin' Wil-Dog Abers (Spanish-speaking homie of Jewish decent), always in the center of the stage with a big smile; new MC Anthony "Kanetic Source" Stout; short guy Raul Pacheco on guitar; even shorter Jiro Yamaguchi on percussion; and the list goes on.

Playing to a euphoric (i.e., happily sloshed) and dashingly well-dressed twentysomething crowd, Ozomatli kicked the party off with a brass 'n' drum line from the back of the room, slowly snaking their way to the stage and leaving a trail of dancers behind. In a true sign that Ozo is confident in Santa Cruz's love (the band has sold out every gig it's played in town for the last two years), its first two songs were unknowns from its upcoming sophomore album on Interscope Records, due out in spring or summer.

Instead of opening with their standard "Como Ves," the band debuted a tune on which sax-vato Ulises Bella soloed on a Cuban lute. From there, the group played "Dos Cosas Siertas" (from The Price of Glory soundtrack), which featured trumpeteer Asdru Sierra's finest salsa scatting. Replacing alto sax man José Espinoza (no relation--as far as I know), was a new T-bone guy I didn't recognize, but who could rip when it came to battling Bella on sax and Sierra on trumpet. Ozomatli has often been compared to 1970s original Oaktown funksters Tower of Power due to its tight Chicano-flavored horn section. Judging by how well received the former band's new material is, it would be fitting to say that "there ain't nothing that's gonna stop Ozomatli, nohow."

So what about Jurassic 5? If there were a Top 10 list of Cali's best underground hip-hop crews, J5 would easily rank at the top. Like Ozomatli, the J5 crew is always treated with much love in our town and always returns the favor. Coming onstage after DJ Rhettmatic and the Visionaries (another SoCal crew worth checking out) had warmed it up, the six-member J5 worked the audience like the Temptations of hip-hop minus the monkey suits. Coming on in plain old T-shirts, MCs Charli 2na, Marc 7, Zaakir and Akil kept the funky soul intact while whipping through song after song nonstop before giving up the stage to DJs Cut Chemist and Nu-Mark. With playful sing-along and intelligent, positive rhymes, J5 remains the best answer to cash-money, bitches 'n' ho's mainstream rap.

Battle of the Bands Revisited

In case you haven't heard by now, commercial radio station KMBY-FM (104.3), purveyors of "new rock," and local magazine Vamp have been hosting a weekly battle of the bands contest Saturday nights at the Aptos Club. Beginning in late January, and set to finish in mid-April, each Saturday features at least two local rock bands that either advance to the finals (at an all-ages venue the promoters have yet to decide on, where they'll have a shot at a $10,000 grand prize) or suffer the humiliating agony of defeat for eternity. So far, the winners have included Robotgod, Deadweight and the Sneeky Creekans, with this past Saturday's show being a tie between Vincent's Ear and Sapos Muertos. This week's show will pit Ribsey's Nickel against Lipstick and another TBA act--my money's on Ribsey's. P.S.: Where the hell are the indie-bands?!!

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From the February 28-March 7, 2001 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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