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Santa Cruz rockers aim for a presence in cyberspace--but don't look for IPOs anytime soon

By David Espinoza

I SUPPOSE IT WAS inevitable. Critics write about band hairstyles, attitudes--and sometimes even their music. Now the time has come to write about their websites, native Santa Cruz bands in particular. It all started innocently enough for me, with a search for some extra info on a Santa Rosa group that had plugged a site after a gig. It soon turned into a hunt for the innovative and the accessible--and for the intended target of the occasional broken link.

Though it's common knowledge to most tech heads, to the rest of us troglodytes, the first thing to remember when looking up a local artist is not to simply type in www-what or whom you're looking for-.com. Well, actually it works for the more prominent and popular folks, like Sista Monica (www.sistamonica.com), Slow Gherkin (www.slowgherkin.com) and Estradasphere (www.estradasphere.com). But typing in the name of this town's best but obscure trio of emo boys as www.greatdivide.com will send a browser straight to a brewing company in Denver, Colo. Or watch what happens when trying to pull up www.what-nots.com and downloading the home site of an Internet Service Provider instead.

Obviously, getting some exposure in cyberspace doesn't require staking out an entire domain, and plenty of SC bands are benefiting from being linked to other sites. "A free website for the music people of Santa Cruz," www.santacruzmusic.com provides a pretty comprehensive list of local groups from Charanga Nueve to Oliver Brown, complete with bios, pictures and genres, as well as a way to purchase CDs. And what would a web hunt be without citing one of SC's favorite productions companies Snazzy Productions, at www.SnazzyAmericanaMusic.com?

One band that clearly has done well on the web has been the What-Nots. Two years ago bassist Brendon Thompson's father decided he wanted to learn how to make websites and used his son's band as an experiment. Today, the band has three sites (only one of which I was able to find at www.flyingharold.com/what/frames.htm), which has allowed them to sell CDs abroad as well as receive fan mail from as far away as Belgium.

"The coolest thing from the fan perspective is you can figure out who you like before you buy it," Thompson says. Interestingly enough, the What-Nots haven't really put a lot of work into getting the word out about their sites. "We don't even pursue it much," Brandon says. "We probably should be getting on the MP3 site--I hear it gets more hits than porn these days."

As much as it would be polite to point out the websites that made this net surfing journey worthwhile, there were plenty of duds that deserve more attention. Netwerk Electric has to get a medal for the most basic site (www.netwerkelectric.com), with only a single page that still has a jack-o'-lantern from their Halloween show at Palookaville. Another band website that could use a makeover is that of the Lonely Kings (www.lonelykings.cjb.net). The unimaginative black background and rectangular buttons on the main page don't do them justice. On the other hand, if you're trying to garner a larger fan base outside of Santa Cruz, obviously, it's better to have a website than not to have one. As it stands, low-fi rockers the Lowdown and Subtle Oak Complexity don't seem to exist in cyberspace at all even though they're definite players on local stages.

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From the December 29, 1999-January 5, 2000 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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