It’s the night before Mother’s Day, and audience members of the near capacity crowd at The Crepe Place jockey for a place to see Santa Cruz’s long running Dusted Angel begin their first show with new guitarist Ed Gregor. Condensation frosts the windows of the intimate venue as singer Clifford Dinsmore notes that “sometimes all of us are more tortured than we want to be.”
With that pronouncement, the music begins slowly with shimmering cymbals and guitars slowly building like a wave. In the crowd, cell phones go up and start filming as the jagged metal riffs of “The Thorn” overtake the room.
By the band’s second song, “Plastic People,” the bald and baseball capped heads of the crowd move rhythmically up and down like pistons. Next up, “Sensory Obliteration” is a thick heavy metal assault with a slowed down midsection that roars back to life again with Steve Ilse’s drums erupting like fireworks.
After a handful of songs in the crowded room, what is most obvious about the band—besides its impressive playing—is its connection to the audience. Though Dusted Angel has only played sporadically since forming around 2008, there’s definitely an appetite for their music in Santa Cruz.
A few weeks after The Crepe Place show, Dinsmore—who was the vocalist in legendary Santa Cruz hardcore band Bl’ast—explains how Gregor joining the band has reinvigorated Dusted Angel. “It really brought us back to that super two guitar crush, which is such an important factor in our band,” he says. “It’s just the best yet.”
A longtime friend of the band, Gregor has played in the Santa Cruz ‘90s act Hedgehog and in the popular Sunnyvale punk group No Use for a Name. “No one makes more sense,” Dinsmore says of his new bandmate. “Not to mention the fact that he is one of the best guitar players we have ever seen. He just knows what Dusted Angel is.”
The sound of the band encompasses punk rock, doom metal, and stoner rock. While the music is heavy and the band members play with the energy and intensity of hardcore, it is still approachable. “It’s almost classic rock on steroids,” Dinsmore says.
For a band that has been playing off and on for 15 years, Dusted Angel have only released a single album, 2010’s Earth Sick Mind. Dinsmore is hoping that changes soon, especially with the addition of Gregor. “Now we have our mind really set on recording,” he says.
Dinsmore believes that the band’s scarcity of recorded material and infrequent shows has meant that every performance they do is an event. “We have nothing that you can buy,” he says. “It’s rare that we have anything for sale. We don’t play a lot. You can’t really go listen to the music or buy a record. It almost works for us in a way because it maintains that mysterious element of like holy shit if Dusted Angel comes around you better see it because who knows when it will happen again?”
Dinsmore is not only excited by the new energy in Dusted Angel, but he is also stoked on the current state of the Santa Cruz music scene, which is saying something since he has been performing locally since 1983. A big reason for his enthusiasm is that Chuck Platt of Santa Cruz punk band Good Riddance now owns the Crepe Place, while longtime rocker Brian Ziel (Enemy of My Enemy, Suckerpunch) runs Moe’s Alley. In addition, part of the team behind The Catalyst bought the Felton Music Hall.
All of the new developments in the local music scene cause Dinsmore to make a big announcement. “[The Santa Cruz music scene is] the best it’s ever been in history,” he says, “in my opinion.”
Dusted Angel, The Freeks, and Blackwulf perform Sunday, June 25, 4pm. $15/advance, $20/day of the show. Moe’s Alley, 1535 Commercial Way, Santa Cruz. https://moesalley.com