Sunday, May 27, 2018     Volume: 19, Issue: 12

Santa Maria Sun / Music

The following article was posted on November 15th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 36 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 14, Issue 36

Beatboxing cellist Cello Joe performs


Joey Chang, AKA CelloJoe, has toured from Canada to Mexico, all on his bicycle.

Listen to CelloJoe's song "For the Birds."

The cello has long served traditional Western music as a solid foundation in the bass register. It’s often neglected as just the low end, but composers like Johann Sebastian Bach proved that the instrument could stand alone with his cello suites, and Beethoven would famously give the celli—that’s plural for cello—the theme first when he wanted a masculine sound in his symphonies.

One well-studied and -traveled Bay Area cellist has never been afraid to stand on his own as an instrumentalist. Joey Chang has played all kinds of venues, big and small, from coffee shop open mics to the Lucidity Festival at the Live Oak Campground, bringing with him only himself, his cello, an electronic looper, and his own unique style.

He started performing on the street in Palo Alto on University Avenue. It was there that he received his stage name CelloJoe from a fellow busker. It’s also where he became interested in beatboxing, the art of making a drumbeat with your mouth, and started combining it with his cello music.

“Beatboxing is something you can do that is musical that you can take with you everywhere because it’s inside you,” Chang said. “And then I thought, ‘Oh man, if I could beatbox and play cello, I would be one of a kind.’”

Chang’s studio work is certainly unique, blending classical influences with funk, electronica, and hip-hop. But when the artist is live, he can’t rely on the studio, so he uses an electronic looper. The device allows Chang to record several bars live, and then the machine repeats those bars over and over, allowing him to expand on the sound.

“My usual method is to lay down a plucked cello bass line and then I beatbox at the same time,” he said. “Then I overdub extra beatboxing, vocals, or cello over that.”

Armed with cello, looper, and his voice, Chang has performed up and down the coast. He’s done several bike tours with other bands, where the musicians make their way to each gig only by bicycle.

“Right now I’m on the ‘car-sharing whirlwind tour’ because I don’t have the time to cycle down,” he said. “The next big bike tour I have planned is from Vancouver in Canada all the way to Tijuana, Mexico.”

Much of Chang’s music is what he describes as “socially conscious.” He was originally inspired to write about certain topics from his experiences coming up in Palo Alto.

“I was influenced by the dichotomy of all the people who were homeless,” he said, “and then the people walking by with expensive suits or driving nice cars.”

Cello time
CelloJoe performs live “Classical Hip Hop” music on Nov. 16 at 6 p.m. at Full of Life Flatbread, 225 Bell St., Los Alamos; and Nov. 17 at 4 p.m. at Casa Dumetz Wines, 448 Bell St., Los Alamos. More info: 344-4400, 344-1900, or

His bicycle tours reflect his feelings toward the environment as well. Many musicians wouldn’t dream of tiring themselves out before a gig by getting there entirely on their own energy via bicycle.

“For all the bike tours I have done there has been a pedal-powered sound system,” he said, “so all the concertgoers can participate by powering the sound system. We don’t need PG&E to have a good time.”

Chang will be performing at two venues in Los Alamos, and he’s no stranger to one of them. Full of Life Flatbread has played host to the beatboxing cellist before, and he appreciates the restaurant’s local sourcing outlook.

“They have really good food and a casual atmosphere,” he said. “I like their ethics; I feel like they are really pushing local and sustainable. I think it’s good to be educating about local food.”

From organic gardening to transportation issues, Chang keeps his art looking toward the future. He hopes to see a more sustainable tomorrow by acting to make it happen now.

“Sometimes it kind of gets in my way a little bit, that I have these values,” he said. “Which is fine. I am capable of doing all kinds of things.”


CelloJoe’s song “For the Birds”



Back from France

Amy Obenski performs her original folk-jazz music including new songs written during her recent trip to France on Nov. 16 at 7 p.m. at the D’Vine Wine Bar, 107 West Ocean Ave., Lompoc. Free. More info: 735-8771 or

Ladies love this guy

The Chumash Casino Resort presents hip-hop icon LL Cool J performing live on Nov. 16 at 8 p.m. at the Chumash Casino Resort, 3400 East Highway 246, Santa Ynez. Cost is $75 to $125. More info: 1-800-CHUMASH or

Stormy weather

The Radisson Hotel in Santa Maria presents live music by Storm on Nov. 15 and 16 from 7 to 10 p.m. each night at the Radisson Hotel, 3455 Skyway Drive, Santa Maria. More info: 928-8000.

Guad’s favorite spot

Creative Juices features regular live music on the weekends, including Steve Key live on Nov. 15 and Night Shift II on Nov. 16 with both shows from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the Creative Juices Lounge, 874 Guadalupe St., Guadalupe. More info: 219-0518 or

Take the route

Root 246 presents live music Fridays and Saturdays from 8 to 11 p.m. at Root 246, 420 Alisal Road, Solvang. More info: 264-4726 or

Keeping the mic open

Lucia’s Wine Co. offers an open mic featuring wine, poetry, and live music on Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m. at the tasting room, 126 East Clark Ave., Orcutt. More info: 332-3080.

Hellbent on Maverick

The Maverick Saloon offers live entertainment, including Brant Vogel and Hellbent performing Nov. 15 at 7:45 p.m. followed by Late Night with DJ Totem. “Concert on the Deck” featuring Brant and Buddies is Nov. 16 at 3 p.m. Brant Vogel and Hellbent perform on Nov. 16 at 7:45 p.m., followed by “Late Night with DJ Totem” at 11:30 p.m. at the saloon, 3687 Sagunto St., Santa Ynez. More info: 686-4785 or


Contact Arts Editor Joe Payne at

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