By Julie Horner
Looking out from the “fishbowl” at the Boulder Creek Brewery Outpost, heads close together in comfortable familiarity in the late afternoon light, Dave Gillett and I sipped our “usual” and went to town reminiscing about spirited times in old haunts around the San Lorenzo Valley. Known affectionately as “Damdave,” he is front-man singer-songwriter and guitar player for the Boulder Creek-based Americana group, Damdave and the Left-Hand Band.
Asked how he got the name “Damdave,” he explained how he had arrived in Brookdale – some 20 or more years ago – and started a folk jam at the Brookdale Lodge. He was just up from Santa Monica. “I was working for a health club in LA – had short hair and looked straight – one of my supervisors said, ‘You know, Dave, you seem like someone who might enjoy the Santa Cruz area.’” So he moved up and found a 1906 cabin in the mountains within walking distance of the Lodge.
One night he put his kids in bed and went over to check it out. “I didn’t drink at the time,” but he wound up earning his PhD hanging out in the bar. He remembers one of the bartenders, “Jenny Gilbert – Penthouse pretty – the owner’s daughter.” At one point someone asked his name. When he said, “David,” someone else at the bar shouted, “Not another damn Dave!”
Tuesday nights at the Brookdale Lodge were the slowest. “You had a couple of guys from the bar and we formed Damdave’s Odd-Ass Instrument Jam on Tuesday nights from ‘98-ish to 2008 or so,” Dave said. The Tuesday night jam was the forerunner of the Brookdale Bluegrass Festival. Eric Burman came to Dave’s jams and they decided after a time, “’Hey this would be a great place for a festival’…and it took off.” March 2000 was first year of the festival, he recalls, and featured a precursor to a band called the Waybacks, Faux Renwah, and the late yodeling lady, Lolita. “She was a great yodeler – played at the Lodge in its heyday – give her a couple of drinks and “Oh, goddam!”
Now Dave’s a Boulder Creek townie. “It’s a nice little town. I’ve written five songs about this town, I Love These Mountains, Bear Creek Road…there are more.” He’s also written three Brookdale songs, among them, Brookdale’s Burning and Highway 9, a takeoff on the old song Highway 55 co-written with Eric Burman. “She always walks alone, neither flesh and neither bone, ooooo!! There’s some really good lyrics. Eric always made it a 20-minute long instrumental thing with audience participation.”
For a while he was Damdave and the Hot Damn Band. The name change reflects the distinction that Dave plays left-handed. Along with Graham MacFarlane (standup bass), “Mando” Mike Reynolds (vocals, mandolin), and occasionally “Joebro” Adams (any of whom may or may not also play left-handed), the guys will entertain you with “a mix of dysfunctional bluegrass, country, blues, soul, and a healthy dose of Damdave originals.”
“I’m not bluegrass, I don’t want a bluegrass band,” he says. His sound is Americana tending toward the bluesy. “I’ve always been a blues kind of guy.” He was raised in Ann Arbor, between Detroit and Chicago. “My voice is kind of gravelly, I grew up with Bob Seger. I like Gregg Allman…I like all kinds of music. I was thinking about this not too long ago. When I listen to people singing, when I listen to blues or Motown, the way they sing a song, the emphasis is on the words and music together. I want to develop my voice and my songs to be able to express the parts of the music I want to express…with an honesty in my voice.”
Damdave and the Left-Hand Band play every Tuesday at the Boulder Creek Brewery Outpost and every few weeks at Casa Nostra in Ben Lomond. Watch for a GoFundMe campaign for Dave’s upcoming CD. Online: damdave.brookdalebluegrass.com | www.facebook.com/damdave.gillett
Copyright 2017 Julie Horner
By Julie Horner
Westering sunlight filters through diaphanous drapery, warming the newly re-finished floorboards to a honeyed hue. The expanse is immediately welcoming and calm, the subtle, provocative scents of a well-loved old building mingling with hints of lavender and spice. Meditative ethnic devotional music instantly melts the day’s cares.
Positive energy seems to have settled upon the south end of downtown Boulder Creek, now with the grand opening, September 10, of Flow Boulder Creek Yoga and Wellness Collective in the sunny yellow building between the former Boulder Creek Brewery building and Ace Hardware.
April Winona Levine and Adam Tracy Mendoza opened the space as a wellness collaborative offering yoga, meditation, and massage. Adam says. “We provide a place for artists, teachers, and practitioners to gather.”
Yoga is the first component. They’ve started by offering 3 to 4 classes a day, Monday through Sunday, with local teachers and new teachers from Santa Cruz teaching all levels. Adam says the backstory is really kind of remarkable. “April finished her yoga training – an amazing journey – now what do you do?”
You open your own yoga studio.
“Our grand opening day was nothing short of magical,” April says. She calls yoga a labor of love, and her journey through yoga inspires Adam. “We have a lot of great plans. We want to bring in other components, a juice bar, a vegan snack shop and other ideas to support wellbeing.” Cacao, superfoods, easy recipes you can make from home. “I would love to have some community synergy with New Leaf. We’d like to have a café here.”
The main area is a yoga floor that accommodates up to 20 people for classes. They are interviewing massage therapists now.
Adam says, “Practitioners can come and have the space. Our success will depend on our partners. Without getting too globally out there, we need to start healing, start small. It starts at the community level and branches out. We’re charged by that. Whether it’s one person or a group of people, singers, musicians, having a sense of space is so important…that’s the tool we’re offering.”
“We want to grow to be a viable resource for wellness in SLV.” They see youth mentoring, peer counseling, healing and learning going hand in hand. They plan to have after school activities for the little kids and welcome SLVHS and UCSC students. “Growing spiritually, it’s a learned activity, it’s not a get well quick thing, it’s tools to help people on the path.”
They also offer an open mic series on Fridays in addition to Saturday night acoustic music in the garden. Saturday nights are already booked through early October with local acoustic artists.
Flow Boulder Creek is open every day of the week for a variety of classes including many styles of yoga and meditation. Reiki sessions are available Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays.
Adam says, “We offer a variety of classes to suit all your wellness interests. It’s an open door and an open invitation. We offer rejuvenation, healing, and most yoga offerings will be for all levels, focusing on centering and grounding.”
“And it’s a cool hang, too. Being amongst people who are just alive. This is a great place for Flow. This is our tribe. We’re going to have an amazing time.”
Flow Boulder Creek
13026 Highway 9
On the Web: flowbouldercreek.com
On Facebook: www.facebook.com/flowbouldercreek/
Copyright 2016 Julie Horner
By Julie Horner
Pablo Eagle used to ride his motorcycle through the Santa Cruz Mountains regularly. For some reason one day he took his pickup. It was a beautiful day for riding, warm and dry, with no wind at all. A motorcyclist with a woman on the back passed him. “God, I wish I was on my bike,” he thought, just man and bike riding free. “Suddenly a branch as big as a small tree landed right in front of me.” It was almost like he’d had a spiritual vision. “I look up… It made me think about the drought…I’d seen it coming.” Another motorist stopped to help but wound up mostly watching. “All the adrenaline was in my body, and I just picked the damn thing up – I was holding it like ‘this’ in my arms – and I threw the log. Had I ridden my bike…it spooked me. Now I don’t ride so much.”
As singer/songwriter for Boulder Creek based band, Medicine Road, he believes in healing through music. Joined by Dave Kerrey (vocals, drums), Jonathan “Skippy” Sherred (background vocals, bass), and Tom McQuillen (background vocals, lead guitar), Medicine Road “spreads the love of life and healing into the wind so that brother wind will carry the healing tune all over the world.”
Primarily a guitar player and lyricist, Pablo Eagle pays homage to his Yaqui/Mayan roots by adding flute to the Medicine Road sound. “When I picked up the flute, I was amazed I could play it…it was a natural thing.” They decided that the flute was going to rule. He remembers one show, “I was playing notes I didn’t know my flute could play. I was playing through my nose, through my throat, I was flying around…it was an out of body experience. People were coming out of the crannies…I don’t even know where these sounds were coming from. We blew that place away.”
Medicine Road just played the annual Santa Cruz Mountain Art & Wine Festival where he said, “Kids were dancin’, people were listening, and the earth felt happy!”
The music is groovy psychedelic rock jam laced with a haunting Native American sound reminiscent of the music of R. Carlos Nakai. Medicine Road plays mostly original material that is centered on musical healing and positive energy. “We feel our music is good medicine for the heart, soul, and body. Praise for the beauty of nature.” Their song, Earth in the Key of A, is like envisioning a rainforest and bringing everyone into it.
“Our goal is to heal with the music. Through the music and through the lyrics. We put out ideas of the pain of the problem – ‘this’ needs to be fixed.” It becomes a recycling of negative energy, he points out, turning it around into positive and “healing as you go.” “That’s what I do with the music. If we can’t heal ourselves, who can we heal?”
Pablo Eagle has been making music in Boulder Creek forever. He lived in a rented room at the Rainbow’s End back when and remembers asking his landlord, “Are you sure you don’t mind if I play music? She said, ‘I love rock and roll and my husband’s deaf.’” He describes how he wrote, Boulder Creek Mama, a song that has become a Medicine Road anthem: “I wrote it 25 years ago at the Junction before it was a park. There was this beautiful young lady in a bikini…she was about to jump off a rock…I was inspired.” The girl who was Boulder Creek Mama worked at Johnnie’s. He asked her if she wanted to come see his band. She said no. He said, I wrote a song about you. She said she was flattered but that was alright. He said, do you have a boyfriend? She said, yeah, kinda. He never saw her again but the song lives on. “We always end our shows with it because it drives everyone crazy, gets people dancing.”
His grandfather used to sun dance and sing to the sun. Now Pablo Eagle and Medicine Road are part of Native American Heritage festivities at Foothill College. “I will always stand up for Native people. We just got Obama to call off the Keystone project. Now there’s the Dakota pipeline.” He feels he has an obligation to Native peoples…to stand up against those who are “always messing with indigenous people.” He has strong opinions about cutting down our redwoods trees too. “Everything is a catch-22. If it’s alive, it has a positive and a negative aspect…and there’s the grey area where we’re trying to bring people to the positive side.” He wants to give people a positive example through his music.
“In Native American heritage, you have two types of people: Those who follow the red road, and those who follow the black road of negative extremes. Red road people have positive energy, they’re not putting people down, they’re building things. We want to help he people in the grey area. Medicine Road is the healing road.”
“I’ve been Medicine Road for a long time. I want to do it ‘til I die. We’re still a young band…we’ve reared our head around…we’re ready to take off. Our smoke signals are out there.”
On the Web: https://www.reverbnation.com/medicineroad
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/medicine.road.band/
Copyright 2016 Julie Horner for the San Lorenzo Valley Post.
By Julie Horner
One of summer’s guilty pleasures: Winding home on Bear Creek Road on an exceptionally warm, sunny late afternoon under the redwoods, with windows rolled down and music cranking. Spirits soaring, I was testing the rubber on the familiar home stretch with the soft July wind in my hair, grinning ear-to-ear and somehow managing to resist fist-pumping out the skylight. Eyes on the road, hands upon the wheel.
The disc in the player was Drifting Compass’s 2015 self-produced EP, Grains of Sand, all-original rock music that reminded me of younger days with uniquely familiar hooks and infectious lyrics about dreams, realities, new beginnings, and the urgent vibrance of living life.
I had just gotten the CD after bumping into singer-songwriter, Dave “Nomad” Miller, at a recent meeting of community members to ramp up fundraising efforts for Yvonne and Kelly McGuire, who lost all in the Felton Trout Farm fire in early June. “We were supposed to do a show at Felton Trout Farm in July and were purposely building anticipation to get the most folks out to the show,” Dave told me. “I consider Kelly and Yvonne to be like family. Ever since they’ve owned the place they’ve been open to suggestions to get good music, inviting people in for pow wows. After the fire it was like, “If there’s anything you could do to help.”
Dave spent years on the road performing as a solo artist and adopted the name, “Nomad,” as a result. “I purposely packed up my van with everything I felt I needed and started heading west. I lived on the road for seven years, playing acoustically at coffee shops…it’s kind of how the name ‘Drifting Compass’ came about.” The open road became muse for his songwriting. “Some of the wisest people I met while on the road.” In Spokane he met a street prophet who told him, “There’s no such thing as wasted time, there’s only wasted lessons.”
He wound up in Santa Cruz by mistake. “I thought a friend lived there but he actually lived in Fremont.” Sometimes a wrong turn can lead to the best discoveries and now he’s set down roots in Santa Cruz. “I’ve been here more than 20 years and love it.”
“I put the band together in late 2006 but didn’t start gigging regularly until mid-2007.” They’ve had some member changes here and there: “It’s hard to find people sometimes. My lead guitar player has been with me for five years. It’s the best I’ve felt about the lineup – I’m really happy right now.”
Drifting Compass is Nomad (guitar, lead vocals); Colin Bockman (lead guitar, vocals); Dana Young (bass guitar, vocals); and Jeff Smits (drums, vocals). Sometimes people sit in on keyboards or harmonica; they even had an opera singer once. While the band is based on originals, Dave says when they throw covers in “people light up.” But they do cover material in their own way, putting a “Drifting Compass twist” to it. “We have a grungy Americana style, we turn whatever we play into that genre. My vocals, Colin’s distorted guitar leads, we’ll turn them around for playing out.”
A name ubiquitous in San Lorenzo Valley, Drifting Compass plays regularly throughout the Monterey and San Francisco Bay Areas. “Our biggest goal right now is to see as many people as possible at our live shows.” They just did a show in Monterey on July 9. “The place was so packed at times that it was hard to navigate through the bodies without spilling drinks. We had a great time!”
They’ll be at the Santa Cruz Mountain Art, Music and Wine Festival in Boulder Creek over Labor Day weekend and at Henflings in Ben Lomond in October. Other performances coming up this fall include venues in Hollister, Berkeley, San Francisco, and at the Mystic Theater Mendocino with Reckless Kelly. And of course there’s the local Drool Pigs Festival, the annual craft beer and local music extravaganza Erik Rozite (Acoustic Shadows) hosts in Boulder Creek, this year on October 17. “We were one of the founding bands – Erik always invites us back. Erik and I were actually doing acoustic shows together before we started up our respective bands.”
Drifting Compass’s next CD, tentatively called “Grit,” is in the works and is being recorded at Gadget Box in Westside Santa Cruz. “Andy and Patrick are amazing…they’re well worth it.”
Captivating with acoustic-driven rhythms and original songs, Drifting Compass creates music in the Alternative-Rock vein with a little dirt, a little sugar, and a whole lot of fist-pumping vibe. “The biggest thrill of it all is the energy that the crowd feeds to you, you feed to them – everybody has a great time.”
On the Web: www.driftingcompass.com
On Facebook: www.facebook.com/driftingcompass
Julie Horner is an Irish style folk musician and writer living in the Santa Cruz Mountains. www.santacruzmountainslocal.com | email@example.com