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High-Powered Dance Music : The Santa Cruz band WindCave will open for Jefferson Starship at the Ventura Theatre.

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SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

WindCave, a colorful group from Santa Cruz, will head south to open for Jefferson Starship at the venerable Ventura Theatre on Friday night. Playing high-powered dance music, which incorporates about every genre except country, WindCave hopes to give the dancers those Deadhead whirlies.

WindCave, formerly of Santa Barbara, is six guys driving around in an old school bus. The boys in the band are Mark Adams (drums), Dave Keller (congas/percussion), Zach Thompson (bass), Jason Gonzales (guitar), Robin Macomber (keyboards) and Harlan Isaac (flute/vocals). Most noticeable is Isaac, of course, being that rarest of rock musicians, a flute player.

WindCave has put some serious miles on the bus since surviving the Santa Barbara bar scene, getting gigs all over the state, with trips to Arizona and Oregon coming up. They played a few times at the Metro Bay Club in Ventura, but this is their debut on the big stage. The flute player discussed his favorite band during a recent phone interview.

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With a name like WindCave, you guys sound like some groovy hippie band. Are you?

Right . . . the source of the name is a real place in Santa Barbara. It’s a sandstone cave with Native American rock art. We used to hike up there to play acoustic music even before we thought about being a band. When we became a band in 1992, and were looking for a name, nothing seemed quite as appropriate as WindCave.

What was it like to move from Santa Barbara to Santa Cruz?

It’s just world’s apart up here. The Santa Cruz music consciousness is more responsive, more open and more energetic. People seem to be less reserved, and there are a lot of venues to play. The more we toured up here, the more we wanted to relocate here. I spent five years in Isla Vista and Mission Canyon. When we started playing, Santa Barbara wasn’t really happening. It’s probably happening more now than it was then, but we never seemed to find a large enough audience, and we really weren’t into the bar scene.

No day jobs for any of you?

Nope, no day jobs. It’s the usual paradox. We can’t afford to tour and we can’t afford not to tour. So far, we’ve made enough money to upgrade our equipment, plus we bought a 20-foot school bus, “La Luna,” plus (we have) a permanent driver and mechanic, Robby McLain. Lately, on the road, we’ve been getting into acoustic music because it’s easy and there’s nothing to set up. We all write and everyone has contributed a seed for a song.

What is the specialization of labor in a six-piece band? Is there a bandleader or is it sort of democracy with a beat?

All of us are leaders. The controlling aspect and the leadership is spread out as much as possible. We all have real convictions about this band. We’re all working and supporting this thing. We all give that extra commitment.

Your bio lists a number of hemp festival gigs.

A lot of local bands up here are working hard for Cal Hemp Initiative in the Santa Cruz zone. The shows are always fun and there’s never any cops. The cops up here go to the farmers’ market to hassle the transients.

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What if someone told you WindCave sounds like Jethro Tull meets the Grateful Dead?

Well, I’d say that’s a limited description, but I can see the Jethro Tull connection because I play the flute. I did listen to Jethro Tull, and Ian Anderson was the first flute player I ever heard, but actually, I started out playing blues harmonica. When I hear a song, I listen for the sax or the guitar. Our music is 100% original--it’s high energy dance music. With six players, there’s a lot going on with lots of textured layers. There’s jazz fusion, rock, reggae, hip-hop and just a lot of groove music. It’s challenging music from the heart.

What do you want your audience to learn from your music?

The messages vary. The songs are about consciousness, life experiences and moving forward. We try to make the message accessible. We want people to get our message through body consciousness by dancing or by just standing and listening.

What’s next for WindCave?

Touring, recording, expanding our tours a little bit, maybe getting some better venues. We’d like to go out of the country; and did I tell you--we’re looking for backing. We’re just waiting for the right situation to come along.

Details

* WHAT: WindCave, Gila Monster, Jefferson Starship.

* WHERE: Ventura Theatre, 26 Chestnut St.

* WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday.

* COST: $16.50.

* ETC: 648-1888.

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