Boulder Creek’s Barry Tanner – The Gift of Go-To

By Julie Horner

It’s all happened here, at the corner of Forest Street and Pine just behind the Odd Fellows Hall in downtown Boulder Creek, in the building that formerly housed the town’s post office and is now often referred to simply as “Barry Tanner’s studio.” Whether for fundraisers, remembrances, band practice, or recording, the studio is as no-nonsense on the outside as its owner. Inside is where the magic happens and the place has become a community hub through the generosity of a man who has energy to burn and an innate talent to make things happen. “I grew up in Davis. My mom was campaign manager for the first socialist mayor in the United States. I was born to organize people.”

Once on the coast, he jumped deep into the Santa Cruz music and theater scene. He lived off-grid in Last Chance for a while and then bought a place in Boulder Creek in 2003 when, he says, “places were boarded up…it was dead.” He had choices…and a little inheritance…so he spent some time traveling, most notably to New Orleans and France, where he spent years playing music in a 7-piece jazz/blues band. “I never saved any money doing it but got paid well and treated well.” He bought a tiny apartment overlooking the Mediterranean and was inspired by vibrant festivals, painters, jugglers, and dancers. He brought that joie de vivre back to Boulder Creek: “I either had to move or create some kind of scene here.”

In 2004 he was instrumental in organizing live dinner music on Friday and Saturday nights at Blue Sun (now Los Amigos), “and from there to Joe’s,” he says. Then he landed the old post office. It was a “serendipitous horsehead in the bed” moment: He could either “keep running around Europe eating French food” or make an offer.

“This building has led to Joe’s Bar and Boulder Creek Music Works. From the minute I took possession of the building people started showing up…Tim Welch (Funkranomicon) was waiting outside with his drums in his pickup truck.” Barry’s studio filled a need, and word-of-mouth the news got out. “There’s so many phenomenal musicians up here; the studio provides a pivot point, a hub, to rehearse and record, all those kinds of things.”

“It’s what I love doing…I’d be doing it anywhere…that’s my curse.” But he’s doing it here.

He and Todd Reed started regular music at Joe’s in 2008. “There’s a long list of musicians who played benefits there, but we were the first to start regular music on Thursdays for the Camp Krem kids. All money from the tip jar went to Doctors Without Borders – this was right after Haiti.” Every Thursday is the pro-jam now, where top talent comes together to form ad hoc bands for a night. Dozens of local bands got their start playing together at Joe’s, he says. Barry himself plays bass in Badenov (“as in Boris and Natasha”), an example of what he calls “putting a band together at short notice.”

“I book and do sound for over 200 bands a year at Joe’s, plug-and-play.” And this doesn’t count local festivals. He gets calls from three or four bands a week from around the world, he says. And he’s just completed a series of seven First Friday concerts at the Odd Fellows Hall; he often finds himself running back and forth across the street between Joe’s and the I.O.O.F.

Countless bands have recorded albums and shot video in Barry’s studio, and he just got his 16-channel system up and running. “Everyone and their brother has a home setup. I have the perfect room for recording a large group.” Funkranomicon, Take One, Live Concert Series with Carolyn Sills, Vito and Friends, Research and Development, all have recorded at Barry’s. Agents for some of them, like High on Fire and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, “sneak their people here to get them out of the cities to help them get focused.” The recording space is more like being in a living room than being in a high-pressure studio. “I measure my success by how busy the studio is, how much is getting done.”

Barry’s studio also boasts fully operational live-broadcast radio capability. The equipment was initially set up for KBCZ 90.1 Boulder Creek Community Radio before the station moved to the Visitor Center. “I started with the radio before there was even a station. It was just a dream.” Barry lay the groundwork to broadcast from his place, produced the morning show from there, and trained volunteers. “I love teaching. I was having a ball teaching people how to be on the radio.”

“Go-to people pop up, they’re going to make it happen. There are people in this community who have that gift.” But, he says, everybody should step in and lend a hand. “You gotta get your shovel out to keep the go-to people from burning out.”

Three years ago, Barry was told he would only be alive for another year. Now he doesn’t waste his time. “I’m going to go to festivals…I’ve got to get my tickets to Kate Wolfe…I’ve got an air mattress that fits perfectly in the back of my van, my folding chairs…”

Contact Barry: BCMusicWorks@gmail.com

Copyright 2017 Julie Horner. Originally published in the Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin May 2017 issue. www.santacruzmountainbulletin.net

Felton Public Library – A Design from the Heart

Architect Teall Messer invests his heart in a project long on the drawing board

By Julie Horner

Willows, oaks, and a few cottonwoods jostle and whisper along the banks of Bull Creek as it flows – controlled now by a culvert to mitigate flooding – under city streets to the San Lorenzo River in downtown Felton. On its way, the creek slices through a narrow slip of native land next to the Felton Post Office – soon to be home for the new Felton Public Library and Outdoor Discovery Park.

Soquel-based architect, Teall Messer, is the artist behind the building design, which reflects community vision while holding to exacting legal and environmental parameters. His work is highly sought after in Santa Cruz County – he has six to eight active design projects going at a time – but he says his heart is invested in the library. Long a member of Friends of the Santa Cruz Public Library, he has been called upon over the years to design other library projects, including converting an old restaurant in Live Oak into an interim library, and upgrading the historic Garfield Library in Santa Cruz. The Felton Library project is a longtime dream. “This has been on my drafting board for 10 years.”

“Pat and Mike Verutti wanted to donate the Felton parcel adjacent to the post office 16 years ago, but the library system didn’t want to take ownership of the land until they had the money to build,” Messer said. Measure S, which passed last June, gave them the funding. “Bruce McPherson made sure the funding was on top of the list.” And Felton Library Friends have been advocating all along. “They helped support the project and pushed to get the initial plans drawn. If it wasn’t for them it wouldn’t have happened.”

In 16 years, the trees have gotten bigger, which forced the building plan into riparian habitat. Messer also had to plan around the 100-year floodplain that just misses the building site. A town plan drawn up in the 1980s helped guide the exterior design. “I had to try to come up with a building that will fit into Felton. It had to have a rural feeling, almost a barn-like,” he said. “At 9600 square feet, it’s not giant but I think it will be big enough…we took all the space we could.”

Working closely with the Regional Water Quality Control Board, the Army Corps of Engineers, and California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the project required obtaining permits from each agency. “We’re still in the process of submitting them.” The projected deadline to get site and landscape plans into the county is February-May, 2018. “It will take a year to build it,” so he anticipates opening in spring, 2019.

The San Lorenzo Valley Water District Felton Treatment Facility is adjacent to the library property. “SLVWD has very generously allowed access from Kirby Street, which will enable us to do the proposed Nature Explorer children’s outdoor area.” Felton Library Friends are working on obtaining a grant to help develop this outdoor space. Part of the easement agreement includes restoring native plants to the area. “When you take away riparian habitat, you must replace it at a two-to-one ratio,” Messer said.

Along with the interior spaces still in the planning stages and open to community input, there will be a glass covered walkway in the front and a courtyard in back which might include beverage service, a coffee cart, for instance. A trail will go through the property, directly accessible from Gushee Street. “Santa Cruz Parks will be involved with maintaining some of these public outdoor areas.” Asked whether the building will use solar, he says possibly, if there is funding. With the structure’s long southern face, he estimates up to 33 kilowatts of power could be generated from solar panels. Even without solar, “It will be very energy efficient with clerestory windows that will allow a good amount of ambient light, so they probably won’t be using electricity for lights all that much.”

An effort long dreamed about, Teall Messer’s community driven design beautifully transcends the potential drawbacks of a difficult site to create a thriving hub for all ages to enjoy.

Architect Teall Messer: http://teallmesserarchitect.com/

Felton Library Friends: www.feltonlibraryfriends.org

Copyright 2017 Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin. Originally published in the Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin May 2017 issue. www.santacruzmountainbulletin.net

Tending Toward the Bluesy – Damdave and the Left-Hand Band

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.

damdave_and_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 Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin. Originally published in the January/February issue of the Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin: www.santacruzmountainbulletin.net/

On Facebook: www.facebook.com/SantaCruzMountainBulletin/

Conscious American Roots – Steven Graves Band

An interview by Julie Horner with Steven Graves originally published in the Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin: http://mountainbulletin.com/

Local musician, Steven Graves, and I caught up with each other to chat about his band’s recent appearance at the Trout Farm Inn and to share thoughts about his music, spirituality, and life!

Julie:  How was your show at the Trout Farm Inn on Dec. 6th?

Steven:  Great. I love the Trout Farm, it is such a special place to play!  Great vibe, warm audience, and a classic historic ambiance make for a very relaxing and intimate place to play.  The owners, Kelly and Yvonne, are really super nice people and I love supporting them. The band sounded great and everyone had a blast!

Julie:  You seem to have a good connection with the San Lorenzo Valley?

Steven: Yes. Besides the Trout Farm, our band has also played Don Quixote’s many times and we love it there as well. I love walking through Henry Cowell and hanging out with the old growth trees and the river. I also got very familiar with the valley through my 25+ years as a land use contultant before I retired to become a full time musician.

Julie:  How has that been for you transitioning from a long time business owner and consultant to a professional musician?

Steven: Well, you know I had this dream of being a professional musician and dedicating myself to my passion for most of my life. In 2011 I finally decided to make the leap of faith and close my office doors and jump into it!!  Kind of a “now or never moment.”  It has been amazing. Certainly not without its challenges but to be able to write, perform and produce my own music and tour the entire West Coast with my awesome band has just been incredible.

Julie: And I understand your band has been touring extensively this year as well?

Steven: This year we toured Oregon and Arizona twice and played venues throughout Northern California. Going on the road with my band has been awesome! We have seen some amazingly beautiful parts of the country, and everywhere we go we find the audiences who often haven’t heard us really becoming engaged in the music. That is the real magic, to feel and watch that happen reinforces our belief in the power of this music!  I’ve also been working with Dennis McNally, the Grateful Dead’s publicist. He helped us get our last CD to #5 on the jambands.com music chart! We’ve also gotten some great writeups in Relix Magazine, the Grateful Web and several other publications!

Julie:  I sense that you are the kind of person who truly “walks the talk” and believes in putting your heart and passion into everything you do. What motivates you?

Steven: Thank you. Yes, I think it’s all about authenticity when you get down to it.  I think that we are all authentic beings at our core but often life in all its complexities and drama wears that part of us down and popular culture doesn’t support that kind of thing.  I feel so grateful that I can use the medium of music to share with the world sound, vibration and lyrical insights that hopefully makes for a better life experience.  I know that it helps me. I like the idea of “music as medicine” and keeping it fun, too!

Julie:  I noticed after listening to your latest CD, Mission Bell, which I understand is your 6th CD. While your music is old school in its approach, blending a bit of Country and Folk Rock with a smattering of an almost Grateful Dead feel, your lyrics seem to have a spiritual orientation.

Steven: Yes, that’s right. Again, it comes back to that authenticity idea. While there are only so many notes, in a way no music is completely original.  I get comparisons to Neil Young, Dylan, the Dead, the Eagles and others, but rarely does anyone think that we are copying any one style. I like to allow the music to channel through me, and I try to stay out of the way, so to speak.

The world has plenty of songs about negative things or themes that are repeated over and over. For me, I feel like my role as an artist and a conscious human being is to try share something that I have learned through my life’s experience. It’s a rough time on planet Earth!  How do we get up every morning in this chaotic world and create a loving and peaceful journey? How do we navigate this world in a way that we treat everyone we meet with love and respect? Really, there is an endless source of lyrical and musical inspiration when you dive into these meaning-of-life issues. I think that people really are craving and needing authenticity!

Julie:  So what’s on the horizon for you and your music?

Steven: I’m working on a new record, which is really exciting, and I’m loving where the music is going! We’ll be expanding our touring in 2016 to include several more West Coast states, some great festivals, and we’ll be doing some local shows too!

On the Web:  www.stevengravesmusic.com

On Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/stevengravesmusic

Julie Horner is an Irish style musician and writer based in the Santa Cruz Mountains, CA. leap2three@gmail.com