It was a foggy night inside and out on Sunday, August 19th as the Santa Cruz Hemp Allstars made their second appearance, this time in front of a sold out crowd at Palookaville. This venue has become the premier live music site in Santa Cruz over the last few years and the evening showcased some of the best music coming out of this small wonderland. Once again the audience was treated to two sets of completely improvised funk and trance from the most talented local pick-up band around. The wondrous adventure included all the members of the first gig:

They were joined on this occasion by:

  • Scott (Trance Zen Dance) - didgeridoo
  • Chris - DJ
  • Michael Horne (Former Palookaville owner, now in charge of booking gigs) - various percussion toys, steel drum
  • Tom Stanbrough (STS9 family) - on-stage writer
  • Scott (STS9 family) - Rapping

Unlike their last evening of music together, this event found Palookaville packed and all abuzz. The word was out due to some extensive distribution of the previous outing's CDs, some great promotion by, and lots of talk online. This was the hottest ticket in town by far. The musicians were all very excited to play together once again in hopes of capturing that moment of synchronicity that all conscious musicians strive to achieve. And to the delight of all the crowd, those moments came more than a few times.

It was apparent from the first notes of set one that the Allstars were going to pick up right where they left off in May. The STS9 rhythm machine drove the beat, providing the springboard from which John Whooley took flight with his incredibly skillful saxophone playing. Jason Concepcion took a more thoughtful, supportive approach to his playing this time, mostly helping escalate the groove with his dead-on funk guitar rhythms, although he would sometimes be the one to define the slight melodic structures of the "songs." Aaron Magner was more prominent this time, taking solos and adding very impressive texture to every piece. The didgeridoo, percussion, occasional scratching, and other touches took the gig from one end of the musical spectrum to the other, from straight up jams to quiet, thoughtful moments to deep inner space explorations to conscious trip hop. There was even the slightest bit of Beethoven's 9th in set one, as well as a taste of arena rock, all in the same song.

It takes a certain type of musician to let go of his or her ego and let the music play the band. The Santa Cruz Hemp Allstars are all wonderfully comfortable in their stylistic sensibilities, and it was obvious that no one on stage felt pressure or desire to take control away from anyone else. This is what gives the Allstars such appeal to the music-loving fans of the Bay Area. That, and the fact that they play in some of the hottest touring bands anywhere in America. Jam rock was conceived by musicians who had more of a jazz mentality and part of that mentality is flexibility and communication. Everyone inside Palookaville was trying to add to the positive energy and encourage the musicians to feel free.

Palookaville audiences are known around the area to be early to bed crowds, and it's not often that the venue stays packed until the unfortunate 1AM curfew. No one wanted to leave this event early, there was just too much great music to be heard and dancing to be done! I would not be surprised if the Santa Cruz Hemp Allstars turns into a full-fledged side project. So, if you missed this one do not despair. Find the music, share the joy and keep your eye on JamBase!

Brian Feller
JamBase Santa Cruz Correspondant
Go See Live Music!

[Published on: 8/26/01]

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