.Love Your Local Band: The Messiahs

In the 1970s, Snail was the biggest rock band out of Santa Cruz. Heavy blues psych-rockers in the vein of Cream, the four-piece played American Bandstand, toured amphitheaters with Styx and nearly became a household name. But their career was cut short when guitarist Ken Kraft suffered a brain hemorrhage, rendering him unable to ride the wave of momentum they were building.

He’s fine now. In fact, he and singer/guitarist Bob O’Neill have continued to put on the occasional Snail reunions. They have also, for the past 15 years, played together in their other group, the Messiahs. Instead of heavy rock, the two play acoustic guitars and are accompanied by Craig Owens on the bass. No drums. There are a few originals, but they are mostly covers of songs that they “Snail-ize.”

“It’s another way to express, and another way to bring in new ideas,” Kraft says.

Snail hasn’t put on a reunion in a decade, so that has only made the guys want to put more time and energy into the Messiahs. One of the problems they had with Snail was that their rhythm section wasn’t available. They never wanted to throw a Snail show together haphazardly.

“The amount of time it would take for rehearsal time to be up to that standard and that quality would be like, ‘Okay do you want to woodshed for six months, literally?’ We don’t jam for our fans. We’re not going to give you a half-ass show. It’s got to be up to standard,” Kraft says.

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Snail will play again this April, and perhaps more frequently. However, the Messiahs will continue to be an active force for Kraft and O’Neill, their acoustic outlet. They see these two projects as two sides of the same coin of their creative collaboration together.

“The Snail thing only happens occasionally, but we want to still keep playing together and experimenting. And that’s what the Messiahs is,” Kraft says.

INFO: 5pm, Friday, Feb. 28. Michaels on Main, 2591 Main St., Soquel. Free. 479-9777. 


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