Santa Cruz Band and Music T-Shirts, Part 1

This is where I get to do music reviews based on t-shirts I’ve found from local bands. Not that I know a damned thing about music.

China Cats

Interesting t-shirt, made for a concert up in Felton. I’d never heard of the China Cats, and from the tee I didn’t figure them for a Grateful Dead tribute band. In retrospect there’s a clue there — the lightning bolt –, but I’m no Deadhead. I missed it.

The China Cats are locally-based and long-term popular. Their mission statement: interpret the Dead’s music for the here and now, beyond just paying tribute to the past. I’ve YouTubed them a bit, and this non-Deadhead finds them pretty listenable.

The band took its name from the Grateful Dead’s most intensely psychedelic piece, “China Cat Sunflower.” Here’s a link to one of their shows.

Tess Dunn

It’s a t-shirt that makes you take notice. Tess Dunn had good luck at being noticed, at least locally.

Dunn’s been a performing singer/songwriter from the age of 13. She started with happy, cheerful power pop, and got a lot of attention because:

  • She was a 13-year-old singer-songwriter.
  • She was pretty good. Her music didn’t speak to me, but I’m three or four generations up the line.
  • She has cystic fibrosis, a genetically-inherited lung disease that tends to kill you early and cause problems way before then.
  • Her dad is a long-time local writer/journalist/editor/author/film-maker with connections everywhere.

That last bullet point is cynical, and you may think dark thoughts at me for it. But not many 13-year-olds with bands get a long feature in the middle of the Good Times.

Dunn embraced the cystic fibrosis issue hence a t-shirt depicting a set of lungs filled with skulls. Young, talented, upbeat, and doomed: she had the whole package. And then… she disappeared.

But not really. Now in her 20s — bi-polar, more bouts of illness under her belt, more jaded, but maybe not quite as doomed — she repackaged herself for the stage as T3tra. No more power pop: electronica now, with darker lyrics to match her mindset.

Hey, people change. So, change the music, change the brand, perform in a mask, and consign the past to the past. Not a bad idea.

I listened to a few tracks of the new stuff. I like it, being somewhat life-battered myself. Dunn’s in Marin now. Here’s a video.

The Coffee Zombie Collective

The Coffee Zombie Collective is a Santa Cruz-area acoustic band that does playful takes on oldies . Coffee houses, street fairs: you’ll run into them. This tee design is the cover of their album “If I Die in Aptos…” Finish that sentence with the phrase, “…I’ll rise up as a zombie in Santa Cruz on the bluff just below East Cliff, overloooking the railroad bridge and the Log Ride.”

Watch them play a sorta bluegrass version of “I Will Survive” in a tent eight years ago:

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