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Local rappers hit the Vets Hall basement for a Free Radio benefit

By David Espinoza

THE COFFERS OF Free Radio Santa Cruz got a big boost Dec. 2 as scores of teens and college-age folks crammed into the Santa Cruz Vets Hall basement for an underground hip-hop show benefiting the pirate radio station. Featuring mostly local DJs and MCs, as well as an assortment of contests, including battle rhyming and break dancing, the six-hour event brought out some of the best and worst talent in SC's burgeoning hip-hop scene.

The better moments often came from individual MCs not featured in the lineup, like Humble Ruffian Struggleknot (a.k.a. Marcel), who showed some of the tightest skills early on during an open-mic part of the show. When it came down to battling, though, the well-intended rule of using as little profanity as possible didn't always fit the agendas of other MCs, many of whom played up to the hip-hop stereotype of holding a mic in one hand and a beer in the other.

Take SC's Thunderhut, a group of roughly four local yokels, who, after many painfully bad performers, finally got the crowd going late in the game. What started off as a steady-flowing batch of B-boy stylings led by Grunge--SC's closest thing to an Ol' Dirty Bastard--eventually spiraled into sloppy alki-influenced posturing.

36 Chambers of Punk

Speaking of the underground circuit, Dec. 9's local band showcase at the Catalyst hosted what one might call the two split personalities of modern punk rock: the serious kind and the not-so-serious kind. On the former side was San Jose's Boy Kicks Girl, a trio of guys that for some reason is garnering a following despite their misogynist image, and SC's Loadstar, a trio of guys that plays metal-meets-melodic punk--catchy stuff suitable for snowboarding videos. On the latter side were two of SC's most animated bands, Slow Gherkin offshoot the Huxtables and the Exploding Crustaceans.

Dressed up as mimes or perhaps glam goths, the five-member Crustaceans fed the audience a whopping mouthful of KISS- and Alice Cooper-inspired horror rock--white graveyard crosses, skulls on spikes and a medieval cage for the chimp gimp who kept getting loose. Such spectacles of perversity always seem to ruffle the feathers of Tipper Gore types, and no sooner had the Crustaceans finished their first song than a crazed librarian stormed the stage demanding that the show end. But she proved no match for the invincible Crustacean machine, and lead singer (and Metro Santa Cruz columnist) Matt Koumaras made this abundantly clear as he laughed heartily, "Foolish peon, you cannot stop us."

Ugly Folks

What Is Art? regular Chris Wedertz plays the Ugly Mug at 8pm Thursday (Dec. 16) with Matthew Embry. Not in the ubiquitous Americana vein, Wedertz's music is a more simple slice of folk, with an emphasis on storytelling that brings the listener into the world of her melancholy characters.

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From the December 15-22, 1999 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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