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[whitespace] Still Hip

Tower of Power, king of '70s funk, is at peace with the world

By David Espinoza

FOR SOME REASON or other, I was under the impression that '70s soul-funk king Tower of Power would begin its show Thursday, Oct. 11, at the Cocoanut Grove (moved from the defunct Palookaville) like most headliners, around 10pm. Big mistake. Perhaps it had something to do with the generational demographics of the show, Tower of Power after all being a true old-school band in every sense of the phrase. Either way, the 10-member Tower of Power kicked off its set around 9pm; I arrived at 10. By that time, thanks to plentiful amounts of alcohol, and nostalgia for the good ol' days, the audience had long given up any reservations about dancing and was getting down to one of the best funk horn sections of all time. The remaining 45 minutes of the set were not entirely stale considering the band has had more lineup changes than Michael Jackson's had plastic surgery.

New lead singer Larry Braggs (on board since 2000) lacks the gritty soul his predecessors Rufus Miller, Rick Stevens or Hubert Tubbs had, but is an energetic and committed performer nonetheless. TOP leader Emilio Castillo has always approached funk songwriting with a dramatic, almost macho tone ("Sparkling in the Sand," "You're Still a Young Man"), with glorious horn arrangements to boot. Back in the day, while Parliament was busy taking trips to the moon, Tower of Power was spilling its guts out about love, and life in the inner city. The last three songs of the night, "What Is Hip?" "You're Still a Young Man" and "Knock Yourself Out" showed a Tower of Power more at peace with the world--either due to success or time.

Meditation Music

They say never to judge a book by its cover, but what about judging a band by its name? Local musicians Daniel Vee Lewis and Pipa Pinon's project Dreambeach has a new album out, and the name says it all. A little bit of New Age (effects-soaked guitars and bass), trip-hop (ambient synthetic drum beats) and psychedelic stuff, the 10-track Making Friends With Gravity is full of mellow soundscapes--ideal for light meditation and cloud bursting. At its best, Dreambeach resembles a touchy-feely spiritual version of Portishead; relaxing and yet slightly disturbing. At worst? Well, let's just say I've seen soft porn flicks with better soundtracks. Decide for yourself this Saturday at the Kuumbwa as Dreambeach unveils its holistic self.

Speaking of soundtracks, there's a new local band out called Surf Cinema which plays, yes, you guessed it--surf soundtrack music. One step beyond usual suspects like the Mermen, or Los Straitjackets, Surf Cinema is more multimedia oriented with beach party, car crash, Western, claymation and other random clips projected onstage during its live shows. Visuals are always a good idea with instrumental bands, though we'll see if Surf Cinema can ever live up to Estradasphere's live extravaganza. The former plays the Aptos Club on Nov. 10 and the latter hits the Vets Hall this Friday, Oct. 19.

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From the October 17-24, 2001 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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