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Netwerk Electric and Hopelifter get ready to dominate the local scene, and players at Streetlight go on the record

By David Espinoza

IF YOU'RE THE TYPE to sit around and wonder how local sax superhero John Whooley can be in two bands at the same time (Netwerk Electric and Estradasphere), then you should know that he's picked the latter as his permanent home. It wasn't a falling out or anything--in fact premier Santa Cruz jazz funksters Netwerk Electric are picking up steam, with a new album produced by Greyboy Allstars founder and most-funky saxman Karl Denson. The one-time "Um, can I, like, sit in and jam with you, bro?" funk collective with a rotating lineup is now a tight four-piece crew with founding member Mike Jaramillo on drums, Justin Fagnani-Bell on keys, David Menez on bass (yeah, he used to be the riddim geetaw) and of course master-of-jazz-shredding-and-other-out-of-this-world-sounds Jason Concepcion.

Though it's a long-shot conspiracy theory, methinks Karl Denson offered to produce Netwerk Electric's second album in consolation after he snagged percussionist Kevin Denoto for a 20-date tour last May, a trip that included a spot onstage at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. The Netwerk Electric crew also has a tentative opening slot with a certain six-string-bass-slinging nutcase (hint: "sailing the seas of cheese") who's coming to town soon. In the meantime, you can catch Netwerk Electric at Palookaville on Friday.

Relatively New Music

A team of local music specialists is still working hard to unravel the connection between newcomers Hopelifter and Santa Cruz's defunct Fury 66--all they can confirm for sure so far is that Hopelifter's new The Anthem EP kicks much butt with a sound akin to a surfer punk version of the Lonely Kings. The quintet slams through five solid tracks full of good, clean, anthemic salutes, with plenty of memorable Santa Cruz skate punk guitar chords and hard-core drumming. Opening tune "Saint Christopher" has much airplay potential, ending on a cool distorted bass line. Vocalist Andrew Champion seems to take a cue from Good Riddance frontman Russ Rankin as well as Face to Face. Pencil-in Hopelifter on your list of up and coming local punkeros, right next to Jetlag.

The pressure of going into Streetlight Records and enduring menacing stares from the staff was too much, so I finally broke down and bought the Out of the Shadows--Into the Streetlight comp. Produced by employee Philip Patrick, the 22-track compilation disc is a surprisingly eclectic mix of work from Streetlight employees. There's just about everything under the sun here, from the Brit-poppy instrumental opening track "Last Chance" by the Letdown to the turntablism of DJ CutSoQuick. As much as it would be polite and safe to say Santa Cruz Streetlight people rule (Sean Oliveira's track influenced by Super Roots-era Boredoms does offer some competition, as does Keith Krate's "Bunkbed"), San Jose people provide the most impressive material. Easily the most innovative Northern California band out right now, Ten in the Swear Jar takes the gold for the Cure-meets-Morphine track "Housequake II."

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From the July 19-26, 2000 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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