Listening to his upbeat, upstroke-heavy, acoustic tunes, you’re more likely to think about spending a relaxing day at the beach, soaking up sun, surf and good vibes than anything remotely negative. But according to Asher Stern—known to his fans simply as Asher—his current sound is a far cry from the stuff he was playing when he first picked up the guitar. The long-time Santa Cruz denizen says he was an angry adolescent—”mad at the world”—when he began writing music at the age of 16. It could have been his distaste for high school or the prospect of an adulthood dominated by a soul-sucking 9-to-5.
Whatever the case, he shook all that off after he dropped out of high school to pursue independent studies—trading in his grungy riffs for the airy, Jack Johnson-esque pop he plays today. These days, the 28-year-old musician sounds like he couldn’t be happier. He runs his own business distributing locally grown produce to a number of merchants in Big Sur, works for a skin care company and spends the rest of his time playing music. He performs solo at a lot of weddings and wineries, where he describes his role as “hired ambiance,” but his real passion is playing his own music—either with his band or on his own. Though he has a family to support, Asher says he isn’t trying to hit it big. He just wants to be able to fill local venues, like Moe’s Alley (where he’ll play on Friday) and Kuumbwa Jazz, and help the crowd “forget about their worries and have a good time.” “Uplifting myself and those who get to listen to my music is my goal,” he says.
INFO: 9 p.m. Friday, Aug. 23. Moe’s Alley, 1535 Commercial Way, Santa Cruz. $5/adv, $10/door. 479-1854.