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Coming Full Solcircle

One of the most visionary bands in the history of the Santa Cruz music scene regroups at the Kuumbwa

By Adam Cotton

Santa Cruz is the proud home of many things: surfers, vampires, hippies, yuppies, artists and health nuts run rampant (and sometimes naked) down our streets and beaches. It is a place of extremes, which was what led Gary Regina of Solcircle to stay here when he arrived on the eve of a giant storm which left the town tattered and partly submerged in 1982.

Together with buddies Gary Kehoe, Michael Horne, Daniel Lewis and Bob van Elgg he formed the group Special Fun, who would be an early influence and catalyst for a prenatal genre that was later to be known as the jam band. After a 15-year hiatus during which members pursued other projects and lived in faraway places, the band got back together with a pocketful of new sounds and a hankering to deliver them to the masses as Solcircle.

Solciricle is about "creating atmospheres, environments and soundtracks; music-for-your-life kind of stuff," explains Regina, a man who has been known to defy physical laws by playing multiple saxophones at once.

With a somewhat complex setup, Regina has found a way to be both sax player and synth player without involving any keyboards. He is hooked into a handful of samplers and looping machines which allow him to create tapestries of layers and sounds that serve as a canvas for the rest of the band to bounce around on. You have to keep an eye on him to figure out where all those other parts--and the chanting monks--are coming from.

"Its really about the layers," asserts Regina, "having a lot of different layers in sound, almost like a painting where you have a lot of different colors and a lot of different bases and you build up paint and make it three-dimensional."

Instead of focusing on traditional song structures, this layeristic mentality allows the musicians to focus on the cosmic art of abstract painting through sound. Their canvas is the tabula rasa of the ever-changing eternal moment in the linear world of temporal experience. It's like this psychedelic rocket ship driving down Pacific Avenue, with Kehoe on drums the pilot and the others jumping around, meditating, messing with other dimensions and hanging off the sides of the craft like monkeys on mushrooms, while throwing confetti composed of timeless proverbs encrypted as universal vibrations that will tickle the soft fuzzies of your tender inner armpits.

Destiny Rides Again

The madness originally began when three young musicians serendipitously met at a workshop in Boulder with the band Oregon in 1980, each having traveled from opposing directions: Regina from Boston, Kehoe from Minnesota, and Horne from Santa Cruz. In their free time during the workshop, they formed a group and played on the streets. They had so much fun doing it that they all met back again the next year, did it again, and at that point they decided to move en masse to Santa Cruz. The rest is mystery.

As a band, Lewis and Kehoe on drums and bass ground the group with that ever-pumping cosmic bottom end. Percussionist Horne adds a refreshing tropical stroke to the sound, often jumping in on steel drums. Von Elgg psyche-funkdifies the mix with Garcia/Scofield-esque guitar riffage while Regina fills in the gaps and raises it to new levels with his saxes and wind syths.

Not having a vocalist has its challenges, but if a band can pull it off, it can often be the ideal music to serve as a backdrop for whatever you are doing.

"I like instrumental music 'cause I can do stuff like drive, work and do stuff around the house," says Regina. "I can do it, but I'm not locked into what someone's saying."


Solcircle will celebrate the release of their new live album with a show at 7pm on Thursday, April 1, at the Kuumbwa. Tickets are $6 advance, $8 at the door and $16.50 for jazz and dinner; dinner starts at 6pm.

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From the March 31-April 7, 2004 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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