It may still be spring, but last Sunday epitomized an ideal summer day in the Bay Area as UC Berkeley hosted its annual Cal Day.
One of the day's highlights was a performance by Steve Taylor-Ramirez on the steps of the International House (its Spring Fest is part of Cal Day). The singer-songwriterhas been gathering accolades for his socially conscious repertoire delivered in Spanish and English. The loud fraternity party right across the street posed some tough competition, but his set was as refreshing as a cold glass of water in the 90-degree weather that graced the Bay.
The Columbia University-educated journalist-turned musician has garnered praise from music critic Joel Selvin. He was an East Bay Express Critic's Pick, the paper citing his "weathered vocals" and "fancy finger picking" on acoustic and electric guitar. Locals might remember his Cowpokes for Peace band from the "How Berkeley Can You Be?" parade.
Taylor-Ramirez and his bandmates kept things simple with one guitar, bass, and a four-piece drum set. They blended heavy bass riffs with light drumming and Ramirez' adept guitar work. Throughout his set, he mixed it up by continuously transitioning from English to Spanish songs.
According to his website, he has absorbed a wide span of influences, including country icons Hank Williams and the Carter Family; blues pioneers John Lee Hooker, Lightin Hopkins and Jimmy Reed;Bob Dylan and classic Mexican ranchera songwriters and singers.
The diversity showed. He played Spanish language songs he learned from his mother (“Little Heaven” was particularly touching). His original “Explosion Bus" discussed his love for a robot.
The only off note was that the set was lamentably short.
More information about Steve Taylor Ramirez, including upcoming dates and samples of his music, can be found on his website.