Chuck Prophet and The Mission Express as seen through beer goggles in Santa Cruz, CA
Mrs. Sepulveda and I set off this past weekend to kick off our 25th Anniversary Celebration. We had a hankering for some Rock & Roll. Not the stuff for the tourists, the stuff for the purists. That good good stuff. We hit the mother lode on a rainy Friday night up in Santa Cruz, CA at a little bar/restaurant called The Crepe Place.
The first indicator was bumping into Chuck Prophet on the sidewalk out in front. “We brought the big book with us this weekend Reno!” he said holding up a stuffed three ring binder. “I’m going out to the van to brood.”
We hacked our way trough the drunken mob and found a couple stools with a decent view of most of the tiny stage , settled in with a couple rounds of drinks while a local acoustic guy warmed up the rain soaked crowd.
Then Mr. Prophet and his band came in and just lit the place up.
It was our first time seeing the band with their new drummer Paul Brown and it seems he has settled right in. CP & Co. burned through that big song book for almost two hours. Songs from 1990’s Bother Aldo all the way through 2009’s Let Freedom Ring! and, as always nothing but the coolest cover songs plus as an added bonus a song from “the brains behind pa” aka Stephanie Finch. I tried to record a setlist on my blackberry but I just end up having too good a time at these Crepe Place gigs. Invariably I end up out on the floor, whooping it up like a gray haired, overweight frat boy.
After the show, we spoke with Chuck and Stephanie and Mrs Sepulveda insisted we catch their Santa Barbara set the following evening so we spent most of the next day retracing the historic path of Benjamin Braddock south on 101 though a pouring rain.
Peggy Brown, purveyor of temptation
I must confess here that Santa Barbara has always intimidated me a bit. So clean, so picturesque…yet. Maybe it was all those Ross McDonald novels I’ve read, or perhaps that film Cutter’s Way. I don’t know, but there’s something wicked going on in that town and Peggy Brown seems to have it dialed in pretty good.
Ms Brown hosts Sings Like Hell, a series of incredible shows at the sumptuous Lobero Theater. As a practicing Baptist I am hesitant to admit that I love this woman’s style and the people she books for these shows. Not a bad seat in the entire theater, clean clear sound and a backstage pass with every ticket! Mr. Prophet made the comment that if every town in America had such a program, world hunger and the Middle East dilemma would be resolved. Yes, the woman is a pagan enchantress.
Saturday’s lineup was a real treat for us as Stephanie Finch and her band The Company Men where opening the show. It was our first chance to see Stephanie center stage as she ran ran through most of her album Cry Tomorrow.
Tonight, The Company Men were Chuck Prophet on electric guitar, Rusty Miller on bass and Paul Brown on drums and they all contributed to some lush vocal harmonies.
Next up, another fine set by Mr. Prophet. Having seen many of their shows it’s always intersting to see how things change night to night, in a different room with a different audience.
One thing that never changes is the rock solid bass playing of Kevin T. White and the guitar interplay between Chuck and James DePrato. In particular the song “Would You Love Me” with Chuck playing a twangy bass note pedal and James’ singing slide guitar climbing higher and higher…it gives me guitar geek goose bumps every time I hear it live. Another guitar highlight is the way they morph “The Good Time Crowd” into a veritable history of the electric guitar.
And being as how this is No Depression, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Chuck and Stephanie sharing a mike on Waylon Jenning’s bittersweet “We Had It All.” That’s what I was trying to get at with the fresh, local and sustainable reference. Like a good cook, these people can take some simple but high quality ingredients and pull off a real masterpiece time after time.