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All Drool Before the Hydra

Those Deadheads who entered the Catalyst looking for a mellow groove to twirl to may have misjudged the scene last Thursday. Former Grateful Dead drummer MICKEY HART's band HYDRA skips the lyrics, delicacy and dynamics that characterized the Dead's live repertoire.

The majority of the band is composed of the L.A. groove rock outfit, PARTICLE, and Mickey might have permanently hamstrung himself by playing with this group. They rule at the one-chord jam, but aren't nearly as interesting as the players that took a turn on PLANET DRUM or even ROLLING THUNDER, Hart's 1972 effort. While his other projects featured amazing musicians like ZAKIR HUSSAIN and BABATUNDE OLATUNJI, Particle is inexperienced and relatively one-dimensional.

Hydra is supposed to be a trance band, but typically trance is induced through straddling two rhythmic structures while chanting something rhythmic, like, uh, HARE KRISHNA. Pounding out all four beats while filling in every available space with excess riffing doesn't induce trance so much as inspire drooling. In roughly the words of the prophet NIGEL TUFNEL, they play at 11.

Hart's kit was gigantic enough to confound any notion of how he got into the Catalyst. It was a percussion rig that even a VAN HALEN-obsessed high school student couldn't accurately draw. But despite all those toys, the majority of Hart's material was mostly the same old rimshot and a flam to the downbeat.

That being said, I realize most people at the show were loving it. A guy with a Particle hat a few rows behind me was so stoked to be there he kept jumping up and down. There was some frenetic dancing toward the front of the crowd, and though it was less than packed, most people looked like they were having fun. Hopefully no one noticed me make an early exit and kept on grooving till long after I had fallen asleep.

Miller's Genuine Draft

NATASHA MILLER's show at the KUUMBWA last Thursday was not only an opportunity to hear some underappreciated and unknown music, but also a chance to see some local musicians at their finest. While Natasha makes her home up in Alameda, both her bassist, DAN ROBBINS, and her pianist, ADAM SHULMAN, have a long history of playing in Santa Cruz.

Robbins is still capable of turning the introduction to a slow soul song into a BACH invention for solo bass. He is a total monster. Shulman, now free of his weekly gig at the Roasting Company, has moved to San Francisco, where, according to evidence, he practices almost constantly. His playing with Miller's band was dramatic and intense, and it was interesting to hear quotes from überpianist and MILES DAVIS sideman BILL EVANS within one of BOBBY SHARP's forgotten soul classics. These tunes deserve to be heard and it's a damn tragedy that they've been gathering dust for the last 30 years. Many of them are not only awesome within their own genre, but also ripe for sampling. All you have to do is ask Sharp, now that he owns the rights to his songs again.


In other Hellenistic news, the story of OEDIPUS REX has inspired some interesting art over the years; here's a quick plot distillation: Oedipus Rex, oh, Oedipus Rex. I never met a fella who was more complex. He offed his pa, then married his ma ... that's a $30 fine in Arkansas. Local composer HARLAN OTTER has written a challenging, percussion-heavy score for a modern performance sponsored by CABRILLO COLLEGE and conducted by REBECCA STUHLBARG. The event opens on April 15 and runs on weekends through April 30.

NEGATIVEHEAD is not NEGATIVELAND. While Negativeland excels at cutting up famous elements of pop culture for fun and vexing intellectual property lawyers, Negativehead is a local band with the most aggressive splash page in the history of the World Wide Web. This group is "sick of cookie-cutter bands and stale lifeless music," and plays metal. With Pabst only costing $1 at the BLUE LAGOON for this show on April 15, it might be possible to get drunk enough to make you think that they're playing "Thriller."

Peter Koht

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From the April 13-20, 2005 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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