From the Crepe Place’s Tuesday funk night to national touring, guitarist Danny Mayer has made his name
Tuesday funk night at the Crepe Place is one of those underground Santa Cruz secrets that is awesomely off the grid. UCSC students and locals mash it up on the small dance floor, grooving to the funk of bands like 7 Come 11. Sweaty and tightly packed, this tribal ritual has been happening for almost a decade.
It was a Tuesday in 2006 that a young guitarist named Danny Mayer led his On the Spot Trio for the first time, destroying jazz/funk leads up and down his guitar frets with a kinetic energy that cast sparks off his Gibson 339. That was the beginning of Tuesday funk night at the Crepe Place, and of Mayer’s musical odyssey.
“When Danny started playing the Crepe Place, he would tell me that he would go home and play six or eight hours a day,” says Crepe Place co-owner Adam Bergeron. “He talked often about how the Crepe Place was his crucible—and gaining confidence about letting it all hang out on guitar.”
Things moved fast for Mayer. Alan Evans, one of the brothers who makes up East Coast funk band Soulive, did studio work on the OTS Trio’s debut album and became entranced with Mayer’s playing. Evans then asked Mayer to join his solo project, the Alan Evans Trio, and Mayer left Santa Cruz with keyboardist Kris Yunker to tour in wider circles. Mayer says that while it was an amazing experience to be in Alan Evans’ band, it wasn’t meant to be.
“Our van kept breaking down. We went through five transmissions in eight months,” says Mayer. “It began to feel like the universe was working against us.” Bands subsist on gigs and money, and with an increasing economic hardship, the Alan Evans Trio folded amicably.
Mayer is now back as the bandleader of the OTS Trio, and the rotating crew recently got to open up for the Tedeschi/Trucks Band. For six nights, Mayer set up his amp next to Duane Allman’s ’59 Les Paul and Marshall half-stack that Derek Trucks was using at the shows.
“Derek is like the lineage holder of the Allman Brothers,” says Mayer. “We would be playing, and half of them would be dancing their asses off. It was intimidating and awesome. There is nothing like taking a guitar solo and seeing Derek Trucks smiling at you.”
From the road, Mayer, now playing a white Fender Stratocaster, is soaking it all in.
“We’re playing a one-off tonight at Garcia’s at The Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, New York,” says Mayer. “It was the home of so many good Grateful Dead shows. The owner Pete Shapiro is like the new Bill Graham. He owns all the Brooklyn Bowls and is booking the Dead reunion tour.”
Summertime means festivals, and OTS Trio will be playing at fests like the Catskill Chill Music Festival outside of New York City. “There are so many hard-hitting, heavy-touring bands in the Northeast and there is a great camaraderie,” says Mayer. “It’s like a chitlin’ circuit, where everyone is playing the same clubs and everyone knows everybody. It’s a tight community with a lot of support where everyone wants to be helpful and not hurtful.”
Mayer is excited to be coming back to Santa Cruz. “I’m a much better guitar player than when I left Santa Cruz,” says Mayer. “And we are excited to be opening for the New Mastersounds, a four-piece jazz fusion and funk band from Leeds, England.”
Will there also be a surprise Crepe Place appearance? “You’ll have to show up to see,” Mayer hints.
The On The Spot Trio plays with the New Mastersounds at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, June 10, in the Catalyst Atrium in Santa Cruz. Tickets $18/advance, $22/door.