A soothing, blue light washed over the Ugly Mug Coffeehouse in Soquel last Thursday, the air buzzing with an energy not entirely from the caffeine.
Roughly two dozen people sat captivated by the singer/songwriter duo performing in front. The woman sat cross-legged in a chair, layers of talisman necklaces sparkling against her crocheted vest and messy-chic hair. Her bandmate rocked a redwood-green cardigan and ripped jeans, reminiscent of a more put-together Kurt Cobain, as he strummed an acoustic guitar. The bohemian aesthetic blended perfectly into the vibe of Soquel’s favorite coffee shop.
“Last night I was supposed to tell the audience how my guitar got its name, but I forgot,” he says with a laugh. “But it was at a brewery, and everyone was wasted, so nobody noticed.”
It’s the type of duo you might expect to find in any independent coffee shop, except that not every coffee shop is visited by pop royalty like Paris “P.K.” Jackson—yes, that Jackson, daughter of the late Michael—and not many new bands are followed around by a film crew. Paris Jackson and Gabriel Glenn—Paris’ boyfriend and lead singer and guitar player for Hollywood’s self-proclaimed “mangiest band,” the Trash Dogs—play together as the Soundflowers. Their sound echoes Joni Mitchell and early Dylan while fitting in with the sound of newer folk artists like Two Gallants (minus the drums) and the Civil Wars. They actually played two shows in the Santa Cruz area on Thursday, with a set at the Blue Lagoon before the performance in Soquel. The question is: why here?
“You probably know almost as much information as me,” says Ugly Mug owner Steve Volk. The call proposing the show came randomly, and he admits his initial reaction was to worry if there would be an audience, since the Mug normally has music on Mondays, not Thursdays.
“But then I realized that’s probably not going to be an issue,” Volk says with a laugh. “When the universe gives you an opportunity like this, you should probably say ‘yes.’”
“[Santa Cruz] is such an ideal West Coast, California destination,” says Soundflowers manager Tom Hamilton. “And it coordinates so well with their music and their personalities.” He says both Santa Cruz-area locations were suggested to them “through friends.”
Recently formed, the Soundflowers performed their first official show earlier this year. Their Santa Cruz debut was the third night of their Full Moon Tour, which—as the name implies—began on the full moon and is the band’s first. While their social media teased a possible EP release earlier this summer, Hamilton says it’s still in the works and should be finished soon. In lieu of albums, they sold tie-dyed shirts, hand dipped by the band, with the Soundflowers logo printed on front.
It’s easy to chalk this up to nothing more than Hollywood elite trying to commandeer any minute crumb of the hippie movement that is left—part Woodstock, part Coachella, mostly Instagram. But that would be a cynical view, and a wrong one at that. Listening to their lyrics, it’s clear they are as genuine—sometimes dark and raw, other times innocent as a laugh—as the looks of love stolen between harmonies, or the way Jackson brushes back Glenn’s hair. And in true hippie fashion, they took no fee for the gigs, allowing the venues the option to make some money on a cover charge or not.
“It’s their lifestyle,” Hamilton says matter-of-factly.
As for their sets, being earlier in the evening and having to finish before the weekly scheduled Blue Lagoonies Free Thursday Night Comedy, the first was short and sweet. But with less of a time restriction at the Ugly Mug—and a smaller, more intimate space—the two seemed more at ease and opened up, interacting with the audience about the origins of certain songs, jokes and their best Morrissey impressions. Both also stuck around after the shows to meet fans eagerly waiting for selfies.
While most of the tunes were duets, they took turns on lead vocals, guitar and ukulele. At one point, Jackson covered Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song,” which Glenn later explained made him fall in love with her. He wasn’t her only admirer at the show.
“I love Paris,” says Eryka Ramos, who travelled straight from work in San Jose for the Ugly Mug concert, and was first to arrive. “It was amazing, up close and personal. It couldn’t have been any better, and was a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”
“You don’t hear about stuff like this happening,” agrees her husband, Robert.
Which raises another question: Will the Soundflowers return?
“Definitely,” Hamilton says. “We love it here! Know of any other coffee shops to play?”