Hi friends,

Anyone else notice how we seem to have broken the habit of “decade think”? Back in my youth, people spoke of decades as distinct eras — the Sixties, ’80s hair, etc. — because it was linguistically easy to do so. The first two decades of this century made it a bit more awkward (no one liked calling the 2000s “The Naughties”), but now that we’re back in an easier decade to brand, has anyone heard our current moment referred to as “The Twenties”? Seems that term is still reserved for bathtub gin, flappers and Fitzgerald.

Now, on with the show.

This Just In!

Call it “X marks the spot” in December. That’s when the now-legendary Los Angeles punk band X comes rumbling through town, at the Rio Theatre on Dec. 15. (I wonder if that band has a copyright claim against Elon Musk?) Also Felton Music Hall has its party set for New Year’s Eve with great local acts the Coffis Brothers and A.J. Lee & Blue Summit. The fine Santa Cruz singer Lori Rivera headlines a tribute concert to the great Joni Mitchell at the Kuumbwa on Dec. 10, and also at the Kuumbwa, on Oct. 27, will be a Neil Young tribute.

Be sure to check out Lookout’s carefully curated and constantly updated planning guide, Down the Line, for the staggering riches and amazing choices awaiting Santa Cruz audiences. It’s our look ahead at the best shows, concerts and events through the rest of the year at clubs, stages and venues all over the county.

The logo for Baine's Nine

B9: What’s what in the week ahead

Here they are, nine necessary know-abouts for the week ahead. It’s the “Friday the 13th” B9:

  1. Open Studios rolls on, this time opening up the private studios of artists from all over the city of Santa Cruz, Scotts Valley and the San Lorenzo Valley.
  2. He’s a country music phenom. You gotta see Joshua Ray Walker to believe him. And here’s your chance.
  3. Most communities don’t have a Sandy Lydon, the kind of “stand-up historian” who adds such delicious context to where we live. And Santa Cruz has got that original.
  4. As if anyone needs an excuse to go to West Cliff on a beautiful Saturday.
  5. Mexican culture and Filipino culture find common ground at the musical, art-friendly and food-tastic Mexi-Pino Festival.
  6. It’s time to celebrate monsters in all their manifestations at the big weekend Festival of Monsters, at the MAH and on the UCSC campus.
  7. All-Music Guide calls her a “Mexican-American Laurie Anderson” or “if Frida Kahlo were a musician.” Either way, you’ve never experienced anyone quite like Lila Downs.
  8. From this point forward, no one can ever accuse the Santa Cruz Wharf of ignoring Halloween.
  9. We can’t experience the legendary (and sadly, the late) John Prine anymore. But if anyone can conjure his spirit, you can bet it’s his son Tommy Prine.
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Halloween thrills, audio theater, Tom Stoppard: Santa Cruz County theater stages a fall comeback

Tara McMillin (left) and Jennifer Galvin star in Actors' Theatre's new production of the chilling 'The Thin Place.'
Tara McMillin (left) and Jennifer Galvin star in Actors’ Theatre’s new production of the chilling “The Thin Place,” opening Friday and closing on Halloween night. Credit: Handout

Santa Cruz County theater companies are making a strong comeback this fall with a lineup that ranges from “The Thin Place,” a chilling play about life after death at the Actors’ Theatre, to Tom Stoppard’s “Rough Crossing,” which opens Jewel Theatre Co.’s farewell season.

Read my full story on what’s coming up on local stages here.

10 must-see stops on the 37th annual Santa Cruz County Open Studios Art Tour

Goodbye to Kelly’s Books

Owner Kelly Pleskunas says her Watsonville bookstore, Kelly's Books, will close Nov. 4
Owner Kelly Pleskunas says her Watsonville bookstore, Kelly’s Books, will close Nov. 4 Credit: Via Facebook

Kelly’s Books, Watsonville’s only bookstore, is closing its doors for good. The shop’s namesake owner, Kelly Pleskunas, announced on social media recently that her little bookstore in Watsonville Square Shopping Center would be closing for good on Nov. 4, citing the fact that keeping it open is no longer a viable option.

This is, of course, awful news for readers and book lovers in South County, but it’s hardly surprising in a world where books, once rare and coveted, are so cheap and plentiful, and most neighborhoods these days have “little free libraries” where you can take or leave as many books as you want, like pennies at the cash register.

Bookstores are more than just commercial establishments, of course. They are touchstones, focal points for a town’s literary community, places to remind you that the magic of reading still holds sway in a post-literate world. Losing such a store takes a bite out of that sense of security.

If you’re in the area in October, go by and see Kelly, and be sure to buy something. You won’t have that chance much longer.

Catalyst weekender ad

Earworm of the Week

Bay Area rapper Tom Shimura, who performs as Lyrics Born, is already well-known enough in Santa Cruz to justify semiregular visits to the stage at Moe’s Alley. But, honestly, he should be better known in the national sphere. The Tokyo-born Shimura is no newbie; he first unleashed his distinct style 20 years ago with his signature single “Callin’ Out.” And since then, he’s been just bubbling under the surface of stardom. For a great first taste of Lyrics Born, I would recommend turning to his latest album, 2022’s “Vision Board” and its first single, the heady and criminally catchy “Diamond Door,” a duet of sorts with R&B/pop diva Princess Shaw. Yes, “Diamond Door” has more sexual innuendo than a Snickers bar has peanuts. But Shimura’s sense of psychedelic fun and dizzy sensuality make this song a real banger. Some of the imagery — plum-colored doves and purple bumblebees — makes me think he might have been listening a lot to the old 1970s hit “Strawberry Letter 23” for inspiration. I would probably put an R rating on “Diamond Door,” because it’s plenty frisky. But that doesn’t mean it can’t conjure a sense of real joy — I mean, how many love songs do you know that evoke “saffron and lavender” and “cardamom and olive oil”? A bit smutty? Sure. But aren’t the most convincing love songs really, in the end, about lust?

A screengrab from the video for Lyrics Born's song

Santa Cruz County Trivia

Place names don’t necessarily live forever. If you’re lucky, you might hear old-timers refer to the area where Freedom Boulevard meets Highway 1 to the east of Aptos by a certain name that sounds like an old-school cocktail. Do you know that now-extinct place name?

Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder.
Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder. Credit: Via Instagram

Last week: That super famous 1990s-era rock band that wrote and recorded a song called “Santa Cruz” is, in fact, Pearl Jam. It’s a convincing love song to Santa Cruz written, according to the San Jose Mercury News, the very day that PJ’s frontman, Eddie Vedder, performed live at the Santa Cruz Civic back in 2008. The song acknowledges Pearl Jam’s Seattle base with this line: “Up in the Northwest, we’ve got it good/A little soggy, but we’ve got it good/Can’t help thinking that I wish I would/Move my ass down to Santa Cruz.” C’mon down, Eddie. We all think you would fit in very well.


That’s all I got, friends. Come at me with comments, ideas, complaints, or thundering insights. Thanks to all Lookout members for your faith and support, and please, spread the word on what we’re doing.

Wallace reports and writes not only across his familiar areas of deep interest — including arts, entertainment and culture — but also is chronicling for Lookout the challenges the people of Santa Cruz...