So This Is Santa Cruz, Eh?
“Uh… This is Santa Cruz?”
My first thoughts rolling into the West Coast icon that has come to be a mecca for surf, skate and apparel culture across the world. We were loping through a series of quiet, residential avenues, and a certain ‘whining’ sound had started dominating over the humble sound of Clementine’s second gear. Definitely a cause for concern for us, who have circumnavigated most of North America in a 33 year old air-cooled Westfalia to get here – but we’ll get to that later.
A Mecca in the Skateboard World.
Santa Cruz has a very small-town appeal to it, with a modest downtown strip, an old boardwalk with pitched volleyball courts and an amusement park, and a wharf inhabited by massive sea-lions. The cacophony of crashing waves and distant sea birds reigns in the background, and the gentle hint of salt lingers in the air.
What you wouldn’t necessarily expect in Santa Cruz is the massive homeless population. Everywhere we looked, there were drifters, spangers, sign-fliers, and transients. There we campers, RVs, Toyota Dolphins and Westies everywhere on the streets, and there were guerilla-campers everywhere. There’s nearly 10,000 homeless in Santa Cruz, a town boasting a population of only 62,000. It’s a little bit overwhelming.
Creepy Caveman gets slapped after tryin’ to make a move on my girl.
We were just another couple drifters in town for a quick visit. We got to work, and decided to perform on the downtown strip, Pacific Avenue. We checked with the Info Booth down town to see what the rules were, and then we saw this…
So there’s a weird change in the busking laws going down here in Santa Cruz… But, particularly for our Canadian readers, did you recognize anyone in there? We had a strange feeling that we recognized the couple busking on the street.
Turns out they’re a Canadian duo, (Normally a Trio), called The Shrugs. After busking for a couple hours, we had heard from 3 separate sources that there was another Canadian couple doing the same thing we were.
“Are you the Canadians that came through last week!?”
“There’s a couple more of ya, don’t know where they are now though!”
They were in SLO and saw us busking on our last day there, and then we were off to Santa Cruz. It was a quick message on Facebook to get in contact with them, and they told us they were en route back to Santa Cruz… So, we got together at an open mic at The Reef.
The Reef & Pono Hawaiian Grill… Nom.
4 Canadians at an open mic in Santa Cruz, playing folk music. Sounds like a joke… But seriously, on a much larger scale, we were 4 Canadians out of country, touring ‘Mericuh, and trying to make our dreams happen with our music. It was empowering, to meet another couple with similar goals to us, and a strong musical sound. We were beginning to wonder if we were in the wrong market, street performing, but Caitlin and Brandon were in the same boat. Solid musicians, they were a couple with a good attitude, and a good pair of heads on their shoulders. It was nice to swap sets for each other, and have some Canadian Musicians to hang out with.
The Shrugs had been in Santa Cruz for awhile before us, and are out of Vancouver, BC. They’ve got a very cool Rock/Folk sound – Caitlin has voice with all the fervor and power of Sinead O’Connors, dazzlingly sprinkled with a tough Alternative Sound. Paired with Brandon’s stomp, backups, and furious guitar lines, they’re Alt-Folk Force 1. Very cool sound, and you can download a free copy of their album Aurora, here.
The bosses at the wharf… A ton of Sea Lions love it here.
It wasn’t long until we got comfy in this little coastal town. We’ve had to be creative with our living spaces, but we’ve had room to be creative… The going phrase we’ve picked up along the way is ‘Park It Like You Own It.’ We’ve had some of the most peaceful sleeps on the road here, and some of the most packed days… But there were worries developing too.
California has been in a drought for a long period of time. Prior to our arrival, the annual precipitation total was 1/8th of an inch. The rain began two days after arrival, and as I type this, (a week later), has not stopped. We have a lot of trouble busking in the rain – we have electronic components in our instruments and cannot risk frying them. The van gets wet, damp, and musty all over. The floorboards under the passenger seat seem to always be wet. Kasey had had about enough, and we were ready to leave.
It was Friday, the end of February, and we were going to leave on Monday to take the North Highway. That was, as long as that pesky whining sound wasn’t anything to be too concerned about. We had looked at forums online to figure out what the cause could be, and answers, as always, varied largely. Some thought it was normal, and nothing to be concerned about, while others deemed it to be the final, bitter end of our travels.
I guess we’ll find out…
Hey Bubs, what’s Santa Cruz got in store for us, bud?
Next Issue: The Breakdown in Santa Cruz…