Elliot Wright, the mastermind behind local hip-hop outfit Eliquate, has discovered that a live performance becomes especially explosive when combined with the lyrical swagger of sharp rhymes. What started out as a two-man operation—himself and producer/guitarist Jamie Schnetzler—evolved into something greater after the pair ran into technical difficulties at a show. With a broken iPod and no song to play over, Wright, “basically turned to the guys, and said, ‘play a groove in [the key of] G.’” Schnetzler and two sit-in musicians ended up improvising the rest of the show, giving Wright the opportunity to freestyle all night. He had the time of his life, and has been liberated from the shackles of digital beats ever since—fans have been responding too, with crowds multiplying since the group became a five-man band. Wright attributes Eliquate’s success to the Santa Cruz music scene. “It’s a very encouraging place to be a musician because there’s a real sense of community and enthusiasm,” he says, adding that people here “don’t bullshit … if they don’t like something they’ll tell you.” To Wright and his bandmates—bassist Cosmo Stevens, drummer Dan Wells, and keyboardist Justin Mosley—that candor is refreshing and necessary. The group’s inspiration, which Wright traces from The Red Hot Chili Peppers, to comic books and science fiction, to P-Funk, to John Bonham of Led Zeppelin, can be heard on Eliquate’s upcoming album to be released this spring. Asked how their new songs will compare to those on the band’s first album, Arch Rhythm, Wright says, “They’re gonna be a lot different. We’ll finish songs, step back and say, ‘What the f**k was that?’ It’s a very exciting challenge, but it’s still gonna keep the same Eliquate sound.”
INFO: 9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 24. Blue Lagoon, 923 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. $5. 423-7117. “Arch Rhythm” is available on iTunes.