.Full Circle

arts-lead-1541-loopfestRick Walker’s music festival celebrates 15 years of throwing Santa Cruz for a loop

Rick Walker’s favorite part of the year begins with caravans and ends in tears. A drove of world-class loop musicians will drive to his house on Tuesday, Oct. 20, and Walker will make sure he has enough guests to organize “a flotilla of cars” to pick up the remaining performers—all of whom will play his 15th annual Loopfest—from San Francisco Airport. By the following Tuesday, when the festival is broken down and everyone has left, Walker and his wife Chris Wedertz will likely put their arms around each other and cry.

“It’s been such a great, big tumultuous family, and then all of a sudden, everyone’s gone,” he says of the process.

These “loopers” record musical tracks one at a time onstage, often switching instruments along the way, and then play over the recorded loops of instrumentation as each song builds on itself into a bigger and bigger composition. Y2k15 Loopfest kicks off at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 14 at Mobo Sushi and continues the following week, Wednesday, Oct. 21 around San Jose and Santa Cruz with a headline concert at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 25 at the Tannery. Walker’s looping festival is a classic example of something that often gets more attention outside of Santa Cruz than within it, with events happening in 11 countries this year.

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Walker brings in old friends from around the world, and at least one “newbie.” One of this year’s first-timers is Henry Plotnick, a 13-year-old keyboard player who is emerging within the looper community.

“He’s really rad. He’s all over NPR. He’s getting tons of attention because he’s so freakishly creative at such a young age—and productive too,” Walker says. “He’ll be our first newbie who’s already famous. He’s more famous than I am.”

Walker is wearing a black T-shirt from the third looping festival 12 years ago and sitting at Hoffman’s Bistro, about 10 yards from where he and his jazz band soothes and serenades audiences every Friday night. His hair is spiked, a touch of pink in his gelled, grey tips. Walker is drinking what the wait staff here calls a “Ricky Temple”—an Arnold Palmer heavy on the lemonade.

He started out as rock drummer in his youth, but after finding Afrobeat in the late 1970s, Walker became engrossed in world percussion for the next 20 years. He ultimately discovered looping in the mid ’90s, which he says taught him more about keeping time than drum machines, sequencers, click tracks, or any band from any musical genre.

This year’s festival has four headliners, including pianist Fabio Anile, who’s performed at Loopfest once before. “It’s very pastoral, but also modern and edgy at the same time. Every time I see him, he does something new,” Walker says.

Other acts include Singapore singer/songwriter Randolf Arriola and Dark Room, a British duo of guitarist/pedal master Michael Bearpark and analog-to-digital keyboard guru Andrew Ostler.  

Walker’s eyes light up when he talks about Cabezas de Cera, an ear-opening collaboration between brothers Mauricio and Francisco Sotelo, the latter a percussionist and metal instrument builder. “It’s wild. It’s art. You look at the things the guy has created, and they’re art objects,” Walker says. “And he’s just a great performer.”

Most of these brilliant musical tourists will stay within a half block of Walker’s Seabright home. Walker and his brother Bill share a duplex development, where they will house 12 loopers—14 including the hosts themselves. “All the floor space except for the bathroom and the kitchen is going to have air mattresses,” Walker says.

For tonight’s Mobo show, Walker will also share the stage with brother Bill and Gary Regina, all three of them now looping veterans. It’s the 20th anniversary of their first looping performance ever, at that very same sushi restaurant.

“That’s just going to be pure fun,” he says, “and it’s free.”

For more information on Y2k15 Loopfest, visit y2kloopfest.com.


ROUND SOUND Cabezas de Cera, one of Rick Walker’s favorites at this year’s Loopfest, plays tight, intricate loops on instruments they built themselves.

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