By Julie Horner
Dashing out of a drenching downpour into the warmth of the Felton Community Hall on a late November morning, I was eager to mingle with local crafters and listen to area musicians who had come together to support the Santa Cruz Mountains Holiday Makers Market. One of the scheduled bands was Olde Blue, a name that has been the local buzz all summer.
Morgan Monticue was the first to arrive, lookin’ sharp all creases and cuffs with slicked-back hair and standup bass, eager and unfazed by the wet weather. The other band members, Marcus Thayer (drums) and Yeshe Jackson (vocals, guitar), set up their rigs in a flash of tattoos and ties, and right on time with a tip of a hat commenced to righteously rock the scene.
Olde Blue started out as a cool duo with a Chicago blues attitude: Marcus’ fat snare and hi-hat adding kickin’ groove to Yeshe’s growling original vocals and guitar-driven electric blues licks, evoking an indigenous urban West Side sound, Muddy Waters meets Howlin’ Wolf. Both guys had years of experience playing with other projects, so when they decided to launch Olde Blue, it was a natural fit. Marcus already had the chops, Yeshe could count off a shuffle beat and Marcus “would just go,” the two of them reading each other’s body language intuitively.
They already had a spate of high-energy gigs, slick YouTube videos, and a CD under their belts when their future third band member threw his hat in the ring. While playing the Boulder Creek Harvest Festival, Yeshe said that Morgan was standing front and center, “You could see it, his fingers twitching.” After they’d finished their set, Morgan invited the guys to open up for his band at Joe’s Bar. Yeshe swears Morgan had it all planned out as part of an evil scheme. Halfway through their first set Morgan asked to sit in with his standup bass, and sure enough it was like a hand in a glove; the trio had the place jumpin’ to a rolling boil.
Looking natty in white button-ups and black ties, they’re packing venues from Santa Cruz and Pacifica to Napa and beyond, performing up-tempo classic blues songs from the legends of the genre, as well as original material inspired by them. While oozing with vintage charm, the music is not “go-to-sleep blues,” as Yeshe puts it. He seems still surprised by the realization that Olde Blue is not just “back-of-the-café background music” but that the band can entertain a “big ol’ club packed full of people” gettin’ down to highly infectious dancin’ blues, a little pop, and good old American roots music.
The guys are having heavy fun figuring out their musical options, working hard writing new songs and wandering off into all kinds of solos on stage with the leeway that having three accomplished musicians affords. Olde Blue’s music and manner harken to a bygone era, when gents held the door for ladies, and people lived by finer standards. Yeshe said he’s learned that live music is a visual experience – anyone can listen to an iPod – but people who come to a show want to connect with the music differently and Olde Blue aims to look and sound the part. Yeshe told me that at a recent performance, the maid behind the bar said, “You’re the band, huh? I can tell because of your hats.”
On the Web: http://www.reverbnation.com/oldeblue
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/oldeblueband
(c) 2014 Julia Horner
Julie Horner is an Irish-American folk musician and writer living in the Santa Cruz Mountains, California.