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High Five: Carne Cruda celebrates having passed its USDA inspection.

Cruda's Crüe

At the risk of sounding like UPTON SINCLAIR, the meatpacking industry is still a mess. Controlled by mobsters or international business cartels, the industry is still a scar on the face of American business. After reading a book like FAST FOOD NATION, most people either go veggie or start requesting everything cooked until it resembles an inanimate carbon rod.

Oakland's CARNE CRUDA is the exception to this rule. Everything about the band's philosophy is raw. DYLAN, the carnivorous raw food enthusiast who gave the group its name, has left the band, but his spirit of intestinally powerful percussion lives on in this insanely talented salsa band.

Joined onstage by TIMB HARRIS from ESTRADASPHERE, California Shamisen master KEVIN KMETZ and DAVID 'PACHA' ALVAREZ, Cruda was more or less a big band experience this time around. The band crowded the stage at Moe's from one side to the other with only minimal room for formation dancing.

At center stage, CHARLIE GURKE called most of the musical shots, giving hand signals in the tradition of an old-time band leader. When not playing some of the meanest licks this side of GERRY MULLIGAN on the baritone sax, he also played melodica and the occasional piano bit.

CAMILO LANDAU was impressive as always, deftly leading the band through segues on the guitar and the tres. His soloing style has matured and developed through the hundreds of gigs he has played with QUETZAL, but his "go for the jugular" approach is still intact.

New bassist AYLA DAVILA is a welcome addition to the group. Standing behind Camilo, she was never on the wrong side of clave and her grumbling tone was the perfect complement to the horn madness and frantically thrown out montunos.

It's so rare to see such a talented group of people play with such obvious joy. Putting the fun back into a show has always been Cruda's specialty and it was in full effect for this offering at Moe's. The empty dance floor was quickly populated about four seconds after the first cry of BAILA CRUDA rang out. They know how to build a setlist, but don't follow their cooking advice at a barbecue. It could make your morning much more vivid than you planned for.

Carriage Returns

ELSA Productions continues its Electron Salon on Friday, June 3, by presenting the, uh, return of RUN RETURN at the NEXT DOOR. Their hybrid of electronic music, TORTISE-inspired drumming and vintage synth gear-tweaking had all the kids bobbing their heads back around the turn of the big M. Now signed to experimental label N5MD, the group continues to explore that instrumental world that isn't quite live, but definitely isn't laptop music. It will be good to have RAJ, KEVIN and TOMMY back in the Cruz for another night of entertainment.

PHIL CURTIS will open up with electronic improvisation and Science Fiction novelist RUDY RUCKER will read a portion of his work in progress to get the party started.

Peter Koht

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From the June 1-8, 2005 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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