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Garrett Wheeler takes some time to live in the moment with Our Satori.

By Garrett Wheeler

Independence Day is all about traditions. Fireworks, barbecues and a day in the park have become the rituals we Americans practice each year to celebrate the hard-earned sovereignty our countrymen won over two centuries ago. But I, for one, am not satisfied by these meager customs. In fact, I've added a new one to my Fourth of July repertoire: an afternoon concert. I know, what a shock--the music writer advocates listening to live music. Roll your eyes if you must, but take heed of my advice and you'll be one step closer to making those Founding Fathers proud. After all, enjoying the freedoms endowed by the constitution surely includes kicking back to the sweet sounds of rock & roll, right? Not surprisingly, this epiphany came to me last Friday as I sipped iced coffee at the Windmill Cafe and listened to the mellow groove of local trio Our Satori. "Our whole message is live in the moment and be present," says bassist Aaron Glass, giving me a brief synopsis of Our Satori's mission statement. Hordes of beach-cruisers pedaled the streets, beaches were crowded with families and friends and I relaxed in the shade, letting Our Satori's music saturate my senses with therapeutic glee. No doubt about it, I was living in the moment, all right.

At around 3pm Our Satori kicked off their set with a jazzy, pop-rock tune that was definitively West Coast: smooth vocal lines, a lively bass part, and of course, that cool, no-worries attitude we Californians so sacredly possess. Immediately, it was clear that singer/guitarist Asher Stern is the centerpiece of Our Satori, leading the band with a casual demeanor and a confident, relaxed vocal style. The next tune was upbeat and catchy, like something off Jack Johnson's Brushfire Fairytales, though without the hush whisper that has become Johnson's trademark. Two little guys with the combined age of about 8 seemed to feel the music as much as anyone, dancing and showing the rest of us how to move to the beat. For the rest of us, a little foot stomping and plenty of smiles were sufficient forms of expression.

After three more songs, it was apparent that Satori is no Jack Johnson rip-off, as they transformed from laid-back pop to straight-ahead jazz-rock with a dynamic level Jack Johnson has yet to accomplish. I watched as a steady stream of bicycles slowed at the sound of the music, peering into the patio and stopping to listen. Gradually, more curious onlookers drifted into the parking lot, just as Our Satori slipped into its cover of Bob Marley's "Wait in Vain."

There is a noticeable connection between the members of Our Satori, both on a musical and personal level. Stern, Glass and drummer Mike Pinette seem to communicate to each other through their instruments, as if they're carrying on a conversation using melodies as vehicles for expression. Of course, their rapport as a band also unites them with their audience. Much of Our Satori's lyric content speaks directly to listeners, asking them to awaken to the here and the now. And on that fine summer day, I did feel here and now. "We just want to spread the word," says Glass. "It's a constant evolution."

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