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[whitespace] Alanis, Bite Me

Gospel-soul-rock diva Joan Osborne witnesses for a sold-out Catalyst crowd

By David Espinoza

BEFORE YOU READ this, there's something you should know about me: I can't stand Alanis Morissette, Jewel or Fiona Apple. But Joan Osborne--well, she had me on the first note she sang for her sold-out Catalyst show Sept. 16. Supported by a fine ensemble of musicians that matched her vocal prowess in every way, Osborne offered a spirited, 90-minute set that featured material from her latest album, Righteous Love, as well from as her debut album.

Beyond penning an overplayed target for a Weird Al Yankovic parody ("What if God smoked cannabis?/And couldn't find his way home?"), Osborne remains a highly respectable artist with a captivating voice. It's her strong set of Gospel-influenced vocal dynamics that makes her a soul-rock goddess, with just the right amount of edge. Osborne skillfully distinguishes herself as neither a whiny alt-folk rocker nor an aging generic blueswoman. Instead, she is an artist of substance.

This being Osborne's first big tour in a number of years, the opening songs, most of which her audience had never heard, seemed to be a test. Dressed in a short black skirt, with her hair in two braids, Osborne quickly shucked her inhibitions as fans cheered her on.

Back in Black

Oops, underground hip-hop faves Blackalicious did it again Sept. 17 at Palookaville--packing the house wall-to-wall just in time to meet the returning college crowd. The quintet are, simply put, masters of the art of crowd-pleasing. Like a show earlier this year, round two with Blackalicious brought out Quannum members Joyo Velarde and Versatile on backing vocals, MC Lateef--officially the "truth speaker" but really the juice conductor--and, of course, MC Gift of Gab and DJ Xcel. Even before Blackalicious strutted on stage at a little past eleven, the local hip-hop scene was, to use the old-school term, back in full effect. In this scene, the energy waxes and wanes but never ceases completely--intermissions between bands are just a chance for breakdancers to battle each other in the pit and a time for aspiring MCs to practice their rhymes.

Coming on stage like a B-boy version of superheroes the Fantastic Four (minus the blue spandex and with five members), Blackalicious exhibited beautiful chemistry between its members and the audience.

More Wasabi, Please

They say it's the cheese that brings folks to Cali. Well, it's gotta be the Wasabi that draws 'em to Santa Cruz. Not only do we have a fine list of sushi restaurants serving that light green, clay-stuff that knocks you on your ass, we also now have a band named after it, too. Drummer Mike Jaramillo of Netwerk Electric says the geetaw-bass-skins trio, which joins his band and Estradasphere Saturday at Palookaville, is originally from Humboldt County (which is proof that it's not another kind of green that brought the band to Santa Cruz). By the looks of things, Wasabi has settled nicely in with Santa Cruz's groove community and scores a seven on the Acid-Jazz Funkometer, with bonus points for extra-gooey bass lines.

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From the September 20-27, 2000 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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