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August 10, 2006

Lindsey Kate Hawkins, keyboard player/vocalist for The Sacred Dice, was embarrassed to admit that she was calling from a Wal-Mart in Puente Hills. She had an excuse: The Honda Civic plastered with U2 stickers that's her main transport had overheated and she needed coolant. "I think it's only the second time I've been in Wal-Mart. It's a bizarre place to be," she said as the store's loudspeaker system announced some hourly special.

Lindsey explained that she and her bandmates covered the Civic with U2 stickers to win tickets to their concert. "And we won. All six of us got to go." It was a gamble that paid off. For Lindsey, life is a serious of such gambles, rolls of the sacred dice. The band's name was not chosen casually.

"I like dice; I like what they stand for," she told me. "Every step of the way in life you have to make choices, what to major in in college, what to do with your life — just what to do next. It sounds corny but you have to choose what your heartstrings tell you. You have to take a gamble, not just play it safe."

Some of the choices she made are not what you might expect from a girl who spent most of her teenage years striving to be one of the "cool kids" in suburban Los Gatos. "I was almost destroyed in high school by coolness. Coolness is so destructive. When you're cool you can't show joy or excitement."

The roll of the dice that took her out of her suburban rut was a trip to Vegas with one Anthony Cristofani. Anthony was a guy with a degree in philosophy who had a record, and not a record album. It seems that, while attending UC Santa Cruz, he got himself arrested for armed robbery. He had accompanied his then-girlfriend, a freshman art student named Emma Freeman (who happened to be a National Merit Scholar) when she waived a semiautomatic Beretta around in a Costco and walked out with a boombox, a Walkman and a telephone. "They were such terrible robbers," said Lindsey. "Anthony was wearing his dance pants; they were doing pirouettes down the aisle of the store."

Anthony ended up doing three years in prison for the crime, spending his time writing a novel, learning French and studying poetry. Not long after he got out, he returned to Los Gatos and started playing music with his brother Louis, one of Lindsey's classmates. When Anthony met Lindsey, the two of them decided to go see Phish play in Vegas. It proved a transforming experience for Lindsey.

"I had a revelation that I wasn't living the way I wanted to," she said. "I decided I wanted to be an artist in some shape or form. Back in school it was a scandal. I refused to play the popular cool game. I became friends with Anthony and his brother, they told me about this band and I joined. It was perfect. Carter (the band's bassist) was in my class, he joined and we all moved to Los Angeles to get things going."

The Sacred Dice play what Lindsey describes as alt. pop, and with their hook-laden tunes and lyrics shot through with philosophic and political imagery it's an apt description, sort of along the lines of The Flaming Lips, or as Lindsey points out, U2 (but much less famous).

"I'd say Bono is my favorite person, not just musically, but because of his thought that rock and roll can change the world for the better," she said. "Youth listen more to pop stars than they do to politicians, so people in the pop world should have something to say. We have a lot to say. A lot of our songs are about the cruel draconian prison system. We talk about the Bush Administration, about AIDS in Africa, things that need to be talked about."

Reconsidering, she thinks pop might not be the perfect word for their music. "We play pop songs in the sense that it's simple chord progressions — but we like to jam out, throw in spoken word and elements of jazz."

The next roll? For one thing she's moving from L.A. to Berkeley so she can finish her degree in comparative lit. Anthony's moving there too, but she says they are no longer a couple. "Basically we love our music and believe in it; we want to share it with as many people as possible. It's not about making money, it's about reaching people. However we can do that without compromise, we'll keep doing it."

The Sacred Dice do what they do at the Pearl Lounge this Saturday, Aug. 12. I'm guessing they'll enjoy Humboldt-style coolness.

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Remember the other day when I was talking about the various spawn of San Diego funksters the Greyboy Allstars ? Sidecar projects, they called them among them, Karl Denson's Tiny Universe. John Staten is the KDTU drummer, so I guess that makes On The One (who play Friday at Humboldt Brews) a spin-off from the sidecar. OTO is the four-piece fronted by Staten and saxophonist Jesse Molloy, formerly of the Jamaican National Orchestra and the Pink Floyd Experience. The two spent a couple of years touring with Carlos Washington and the Giant People Ensemble playing jazzy funk jams, which is what you should expect from OTO. I'm listening to one of their live tracks right now, "F Funk," and it's f-ing funky as hell.

Meanwhile up at Six Rivers Thursday, The New Lemurians offer what they describe as "a new gumbo of ancient vibes with a presence like no other giving the present word, sound and powerful messages through groovy, new layers of soulful, funky, hip-hop dub," which is to say more jam funk with a touch of reggae.

Also on Thursday, and also funky and jammy, Volts Per Octave bring their Moogs and other synths to The Boiler Room, which has a new sign so we will no longer refer to it as Brogi's.

Had a chat backstage at Reggae with Pete C., drummer for Sub Sab (who, BTW, rocked the joint). Pete's always busy, but this Friday he's real busy. First he's at the Metro for Arts Arcata with an acoustic version of Trash and Roll playing "lots of new songs" from the upcoming disc, Tripped Gypsy, along with a retrospective set, then it's a Metro set with Yer Dog before he heads over to Humboldt Brews where Nucleus is releasing a new album, The Vibe Vol. 2.

Around the corner at the Jambalaya Friday, one of my favorite songwriters and a really nice person, Lila Nelson (who did a fine job subbing for Mike D on KHUM). I'm bummed that I missed her version of "Dirty Magazines" at Folklife with The Rubberneckers backing her. Maybe she could bring them to the Jam if they're done with their tour.

Saturday evening at Sacred Grounds, the wacky Professional Superheroes join forces with Cataldo, which is a guy named Eric who is touring with Olympian alt. folkies The Sundance Kids, who claim they are "too raucous for caffe vita." (I suppose that only makes sense if you too are an Olympian.) Will the Pro-Supes play Cataldo covers? We'll see.

Same night at the Alibi (but later) catch The Scrawnies, punkers from San Fran with a woman out front, sharing the bill with Oregonian psychobilly band Sawyer Family and Humboldt's top zombie surf punk band, The Invasions.

Looking for all-ages loudness? The Placebo fills E-2 with noise Tuesday, Aug. 15: as-yet-unnamed locals opening for Ashtray, a straight up punk outfit from Santa Rosa and the unpleasantly named Shank You in the Neck, a recently reformed, blisteringly fast thrash band from Oakley in "the slums of the Delta." They explain on their MySpace page that, "after a few years of many line-up changes, drug addiction, heavy blatant alcohol abuse, fist fights and miles apart, Shank You In The Neck died. Welcome to the resurrection. We are now stronger than ever in the ever omnipresence of evil and destruction. Come see us live; because of many legal problems and lawsuits our much anticipated demo is being reviewed by the government as a possible weapon of mass destruction."

So that's where the WOMD were. I'd been wondering. Now that we know, can we stop all this fussing and fighting?

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