.Kaleidoscopic Music

Five bands, one night of music

California has a long tradition of music festivals. From Monterey Pop to Coachella, music fans have had many opportunities to enjoy the best that popular music has to offer, all in a festival setting. While its scale is more modest than its bigger and better-known brothers, the inaugural Kaleidoscope Music Festival aims to shine a light on Santa Cruz and its homegrown music scene. The festival happens Saturday, March 30 at the Santa Cruz County Veterans Memorial Building.

The festival is the brainchild of local musician and entrepreneur Jimmy Palafox, Head of Mountain Music Productions, Palafox says that the inspiration for the Festival grew out of enthusiasm surrounding the impending release of a new album from his band, The New Horizons. That album, Kaleidoscope “took about five years to complete, so I figured that I’d do a big celebration,” he says. “And I’d go about celebrating by choosing some of the best bands in the area.” The event’s lineup will include five groups: Flat Sun Society, Floratura, Santa Cruda, Santa Cruz Latin Collective and The New Horizons.

Working with a team of organizers including Julie Horner and Michelle Murphy, Palafox began only eight months ago on the largest festival project with which he’s been involved. The venue has a special meaning for him, as the Santa Cruz County Veterans Memorial Building was the site of the very first New Horizons gig.

“And that show was the very first event I ever put together, shortly after I finished high school,” he says.

Palafox says that planning and organization have all proceeded smoothly and without incident. “Getting everyone to come together in one place at one time was a little difficult,” he admits, “but everything has fallen into place.”

Membership in the five bands includes some overlap: Palafox, for example, is a member of both The New Horizons and Santa Cruz Latin Collective. “Here in Santa Cruz,” he explains, “it’s a small community of musicians. We all know each other, and our bands end up sharing [musicians].” The evening will feature six hours of music from the five bands, all of which are based in Santa Cruz. Palafox says that he and his co-organizers “hope the community will come out and listen to the different styles of music that Santa Cruz has to offer.”

secure document shredding

Floratura

Tatiana Peña and Adrian “Treetop” Marquez teamed up as a musical duo in the late 2010s. “We started our musical journey together through protest,” says Peña. The duo settled in Santa Cruz in 2019, “With a bunch of songs to share, an album to record and a band to look for,” she says. By the end of that summer, Floratura had come together.

NO LIMITS Members of Floratura can play all the instruments. Photo: Daniel Gorostieta

Floratura is Marquez on guitar, Peña on mandolin, keyboardist Jack Reed, Noah Mogor on bass, and drummer Jacob Gilmore. The lineup shifted over time, but not in the conventional manner. “Our keyboardist started off as our drummer,” he says. “Our current drummer was our original bass player.” Floratura’s band members “played musical chairs” at practices; “everyone can play everything,” says Peña.

Floratura released an EP in 2023. The four-song Bucket of Seeds displays a good-timing, funky, late-period Grateful Dead vibe, yet the songs are tightly constructed. “Our drummer is really into statistics,” Marquez giggles. “He says that our music is one-third lyrical, one-third very composed music, and one-third improvised.” That equation adds up to a sonically pleasing whole.

Live on stage, the mix is a bit different. “On our recordings, all of the solos were improvised,” Peña says. “And in our shows, we take those improvisations way farther. A four-minute studio track might turn into a 13-minute song.” A restless sense of exploration is baked into Floratura’s recipe. “Some songs are really expansive; others we keep tight to the arrangement,” Marquez says.

The group is nearly done recording a full-length followup to Bucket of Seeds. Where the songs on the EP were all composed by Marquez, the 13-song Oasis Glow has the whole group composing.

 “Bucket of Seeds has a daytime, major tonality,” she explains. “The LP will have a beautiful, nighttime essence.”

Festival attendees are likely to get a taste of the music from Oasis Glow. “We’ve been playing some of those songs for some time,” says Marquez. “Live performance seems to be the most nourishing thing for the group, and the live arrangements fit that vibe into a record format.”

In the group’s earliest days, the musicians bonded over their interpretations of Grateful Dead classics. But these days, Floratura is careful not to let the band’s unique character get swept away by hewing too closely to that sound. “Some of our members are a little more fond of the Dead’s tone,” Marquez says, choosing his words carefully. “And some of them aren’t so attracted to it.”

His description of the sound: “Original music, sprinkled with a culture-adjacent, jam-bandy thing.”

floraturamusic.com

Flat Sun Society

Calling both Santa Cruz and Big Sur home, Flat Sun Society makes psychedelic music inspired by the jam band scene, but incorporates other musical elements. “Something that we’re always working on is finding that balance of improvisation and structure,” says guitarist Jake Padorr. “The magic is in the balance.”

BURNING SUNSHINE Flat Sun Society hails from Big Sur and Santa Cruz and jams psychedelia. Photo :Maddie Spears

The group was born out of the pandemic era; early gigs took place at the Henry Miller Library on an open stage. Padorr suggests that the group’s sound is in part a reflection of those roots. “People want to reflect, tune in a little deeper,” he suggests.

Fellow guitarist Hugh Allan says that when the group plays live, that balance is informed by the audience. “Some shows, we’ll jam a lot,” he explains. “Sometimes that can be successful, but there could be a bit of a disconnect.” When the band senses the latter is about to happen, the players lean more into song-based structures.

But not too far. “If we all just play songs,” Allan says, “we’ll feel like we didn’t explore as much as we wanted to.” In the end, what happens is a function of how the band feels, how the audience reacts, and how the band reacts to those reactions.

Padorr and Allan admit a shared fondness for everything from ambient to krautrock to Eastern music and space rock. “We have definitely delved into textural, droning sounds in our improv,” says Allan. “But we never play the blues!”

Yet for a band rooted in psychedelia, Flat Sun Society isn’t built on a foundation of electronics. Allan and Padorr are joined by Emilio Rios on bass, and a trio of percussionists: drummers Jack Reed and Jacob Gilmore plus hand percussionist Tubbyz (David Clark-Riddell). Gilmore does double duty, playing in Floratura as well. “Half of our bandmates were – or are – in that band,” Padorr says with a laugh.

Padorr says that the group typically plays renegade gigs and community artistic events. “Those are the environments in which we best express ourselves,” he says. Such all-night or all-day gatherings in nature seem to bring out the best in Flat Sun Society. “There are no rules as to how long you can play,  or even how entertaining you have to be to the audience,” he says. “The band grew out of the consistency of this crew of six of us jamming together.”

The multimedia nature of community events lines up neatly with the music that Flat Sun Society makes. “It’s really personal music, and we like playing on our home turf,” Allan says. “Because there’s an artistic community here that surrounds the music.” He describes the meeting of art and music as “a mutual transaction where we’re playing for our friends, and they’re there to see us and have their art displayed.” He says that the band takes inspiration from that art, and he hopes that the reverse is true as well.

Flat Sun Society has coined a term all its own. “We call it ‘thresh,’”says Padorr with a mischievous smile. “The heavy jamming should be ‘thrash,’ but for some reason it feels more like the harvesting of an experience. So we call it ‘thresh.’” flatsunsociety.bandcamp.com

Santa Cruda

Most bands found themselves taking a hiatus when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. With venues closing, opportunities for bands to play in front of audiences vanished virtually overnight. But some musicians found creative yet responsible ways to bring music to the people. Guitarist Bruno Proal recalls that he and fellow guitarist Shawn Yanez “started jamming outdoors at the corner of Rockview Street, right in front of the ocean.” The duo would return every Thursday, playing to the socially-distanced audience.

SANTA CRUDA

But while popularity is usually a good thing, in this case it had a negative effect, at least in the short term. “The police came and shut us down,” Proal recalls. “They had to, because of the number of people that were showing up.”

That could have been the end of things, but Proal and Yanez knew they had a good thing going. “So when things opened up,” Proal says, “I started booking us as a duo.” Soon they added a third musician, Nick Disalvo. “And then the band formed,” Proal says. “Now we’re a five-piece, full band.”

They playfully named the band Santa Cruda, which very loosely translates as “holy hangover.” Proal describes his band’s sound as a feel-good mix of “Cali reggae, mashups, hip-hop and even some rock.” He says that the group’s set is divided between original songs and covers. “But the covers we play, we make them our own.” And the band adapts to its surroundings: a brewery gig might feature a duo or trio format. “The trio sounds amazing because of our vocal harmonies,” Proal says. “And the full band plays bigger shows at places like Moe’s Alley.”

Santa Cruda’s highest profile shows to date have been a set at the 2023 Ink at the Bay Tattoo Festival with Eli-Mac and a sold-out show at The Catalyst. In between gigs, the group is hard at work creating new songs. “We’re in the collective process of writing new material,” Proal says. He emphasizes the band’s original music’s message of unity. “Music brings people together,” he says. “We put aside our differences, and hopefully the music brings understanding and love to people.”

Studio work is in Santa Cruda’s future; they look forward to making their first album. “But we’re a gigging band,” Proal says. “Our intention is to work and actually make a living performing. And it’s happening. We love what we do, and the response and support from the Santa Cruz community has been filling our hearts.” facebook.com/santacruda831/

Santa Cruz Latin Collective

While the Santa Cruz Latin Collective came together in 2017, its roots extend back to the early 1970s. The Bay Area has a proud history of Latin and Afro-Cuban music, and that music initially broke through in a big way thanks to a scene featuring four local bands: Sapo, Malo, Azteca and Santana. Sapo and Malo scored local, regional and sometimes national hits with their music, but by the late ‘70s their popularity had crested. Oscar Estrella had been a founding member of Sapo, and after that group broke up, he wrote “Nobody’s Perfect,” a song included on the debut album from ex-Malo guitarist (and brother of Carlos) Jorge Santana.

SCLC

In the years and decades that followed, Estrella kept in contact and sometimes made music with other former members of those groundbreaking Latin rock bands. And in 2017 he met a youthful fellow musician and serious fan of that ‘70s scene, Jimmy Palafox. “When I got out of high school,” recalls percussionist Palafox, “I wanted to put a Latin music project together.” His goal was to create a group that would pick up musically from where Santana had left off after their first three groundbreaking albums. He and Estrella began working together, initially as a studio project. “And then 2020 hit,” Palafox recalls. “We never got around to performing those songs live.”

But the duo continued to write songs. “That’s all we had to do during that time,” Palafox says with a laugh. “We wrote 12 or 13 songs.” Once the worst of the pandemic passed, they began assembling a group, adding bassist Noah Mogor (who’s also in Floratura), Flat Sun Society percussionist Tubbyz, former Malo drummer David George, vocalist Luis Felipe Argueta from Orquesta Latin Heat and other members of the Latin music community. “The band ended up being half young musicians and half music veterans from back in the day,” Palafox says. A schedule of live performances began in 2021. “We’ve already played about 60 shows,” Palafox says.

In addition to playing concert dates, the group has begun work on an album. “We’ve also started making a documentary film,” says Palafox. “We’re going to feature members of Santana, Malo, Sapo and Azteca talking about their histories and how all that is merging with Santa Cruz Latin Collective.”

Palafox says that he and his band mates aren’t in it for the money. “The documentary is going to go on YouTube for everyone to see for free,” he says. “Same thing for the album, which will probably come out next year.” He emphasizes that Santa Cruz Latin Collective’s goal is all about “reinventing the music in our own way, and keeping Latin rock music alive.” He says that with its emphasis on percussion, the group blends the blues with Afro-Cuban traditions. “It’s music to get people up and dancing,” Palafox enthuses. “This thing with veterans and younger people getting together to make music, it’s not a regular occurrence. It’s special.” facebook.com/SCLatinCollective

The New Horizons

2017 was a busy year for Jimmy Palafox. Not only did he graduate from high school; he launched two new bands: Santa Cruz Latin Collective and The New Horizons. “I had been writing original material,” he recalls, “and it was a kind of psychedelic rock. So I put a band together to perform all the songs I had written.”

NEW HORIZONS

Palafox grew up knowing Mexico City-born drummer Adolfo “Fito” de la Parra. A member of the classic lineup of blues rock legends Canned Heat, de la Parra was with that band when they played at Woodstock. An active musician since 1958, de la Parra remains active today, leading a current lineup of Canned Heat. And Palafox considers the drummer a friend and mentor. “He and I go back to when I was just 11 years old,” Palafox says. “Canned Heat had such an influence on me; their whole thing was to play the boogie and honor blues music. And that has had a lot to do with the development of The New Horizons.”

But while The New Horizons draw inspiration and influence from music of yesteryear, Palafox says that the group is very much focused on the here-and-now. “We didn’t want to be a cover band,” he explains. “We want to make original music that sounds like something from the past.”

The band’s music casts a wide stylistic net, and the fluid, ever-changing lineup of the group reflects that open-ended character. “We’ve always had people coming in and out of the band,” Palafox says. “When I started the project, my idea was to have music of many colors; that’s why our album is called Kaleidoscope.”

While The New Horizons concentrate on Palafox’s original compositions, the group’s choice of select covers – and the manner in which they treat those songs – provides clues as to its collective mindset. “One day we were performing at a gig in Santa Cruz, and we ran out of songs,” Palafox recalls. “Our bass player said, ‘Do you guys know Bob Dylan’s “Slow Train”?’”

The other band members replied with a shrug and collective “Yeah, sort of.” So they spontaneously launched into an off-the-cuff reading of the Christian-era Dylan tune from 1979. In the hands of The New Horizons, the song took on a reggae character. “We didn’t know what we were doing,” Palafox laughs, “but I had a tape recorder running.” After the gig, Palafox played back that recording; he and his band mates found that they liked it. “We should add that to our album,” one of them said.

And so they did. But for the studio recording – made just three days after that gig and featured on Kaleidoscope – the band made a point of actually learning the song. “We were literally learning it in the car on the way to the studio,” Palafox admits.

The band’s debut album was released in January, and Palafox says that he and his band mates are pleased with the results of their recording sessions. “The music has a Fito style of drumming: very heavy, kind of jungle-sounding,” he says. “And then a little touch of psychedelia, like Canned Heat was doing back then.” facebook.com/Thenewhorizonsband831

Music of Many Colors

The five bands on the bill for the inaugural Kaleidoscope Music Festival explore different corners of the musical landscape, but all share a love of and dedication to the spirit of making music together. “There’s a lot of great music here in Santa Cruz, music that a lot of people don’t know about,” says festival organizer and musician Jimmy Palafox. “And this festival is a great opportunity to come out and appreciate it.”

Kaleidoscope Music Festival

The New Horizons, Flat Sun Society, Floratura,
Santa Cruda and Santa Cruz Latin Collective

Saturday, March 30, 4-10pm, Veterans Memorial Building (848 Front St., Santa Cruz).Tickets $25 at Eventbrite

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

spot_img
Good Times E-edition Good Times E-edition
music in the park san jose