One Halloween, when I was maybe 9 or 10, my mom found a beat-up old hat, put me in one of my dad’s ragged weekend shirts, rubbed charcoal on my face, and sent me out trick-or-treating as a “bum.” And, no, I’m not over it. I mean, what kind of message does that send? It’s taken about 50 years to untangle that question. I’m not there yet, but I’m getting closer. See you downtown on Tuesday. Happy Halloween!
Now, on with the show.
This Just In!
One of the jazz world’s finest vocalists, Dianne Reeves, drops into the Kuumbwa Jazz Center on Feb. 27. Nutritionist and physician Michael Greger comes to the Rio on Feb. 3 in an alluring talk about his new book, “How Not to Age.” The hard-rockin’ duo The Kills comes to the Catalyst that same day, Feb. 3. The great L.A. fusion band Ozomatli plays the Catalyst on Dec. 16. The retro jazz trio Tres Souls plays the Kuumbwa on Leap Day, Feb. 29. And UC Santa Cruz professor emerita Leta Miller comes to Bookshop Santa Cruz on Feb. 6 to discuss her new book on Black musicians fighting for labor rights.
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.
B9: What’s what in the week ahead
Here they are, nine necessary know-abouts for the week ahead. It’s the trick-or-treat B9:
- The instantly recognizable sound of Pat Metheny just might levitate the Rio Theatre.
- Lots of fun Friday when “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” author Jeff Kinney hosts a game-show-style event called “No Brainer.”
- Oakland’s Beats Antique is not just another band. With their Middle Eastern flavors and the mesmerizing dancing of Zoe Jakes, these folks will take you places.
- Tobias Funke’s deranged twin brother, guy by the name of David Cross, is in town — he’s some kind of comedian or something.
- Cookbook author Nik Sharma celebrates the joys of the veggie diet in his new book “Veg-Table” (see what he did there?).
- Is there a better moment to dive into the wonders of chili than late October when the weather turns? The Boardwalk thinks you’re ready to try some.
- I know what you’re thinking: Are those guys in Devo still wearing flower pots on their heads? And wouldn’t that be a bit uncomfortable after 50 years?
- Actors’ Theatre brings a real sense of the otherworldly to its production of “The Thin Place.” Do you dare check it out on Halloween night?
- Melvin Seals and his Hammond B-3 organ were longtime collaborators with Jerry Garcia, and though Jerry’s gone, Melvin is still carrying on the conversation.
Count Kraft-ula, I presume
Some of us, well, our commitment to Halloween is … shall we say, something less than 100%. You cannot say the same for the performers in the local group Bonny June & Bonfire. On Saturday, the trio — Bonny June, Ken Kraft and Craig Owens — is doing its annual Halloween show at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center. And there’s simply no room for a thrown-together, last-minute costume with these guys. They’re going the extra mile for Halloween.
Saturday’s show marks the sixth annual Halloween performance for the trio (not counting the 2020), and each year the three of them all go a bit deeper down the rabbit hole. For one thing, they’re all putting their day-to-day personalities on ice, at least for a night. In their place are their spooky alter egos, Countess June, Count Kraftula and Batman Owens.
“It’s really a good old-fashioned vaudeville show,” said songwriter and singer Bonny June. “We do a lot of musical numbers, including some Halloween cover songs like ‘Werewolves of London,’ and that sort of thing. But we also do a lot of our original monster music. And in between songs, we have these little scripted things we do. Honestly, it’s mostly comedy, a perfect blend between spooky and silly.”
As she mentioned, that commitment to Halloween goes even deeper than campy stage personas. The group recorded an album of original material on Halloween-y style themes called “Monsters & Mystics,” which includes a gorgeously haunting ballad based on Edgar Allan Poe’s “Annabel Lee.” Unlike “Annabel Lee,” most of the songs on the album are comic in nature. The 2023 show will, in fact, include a few new songs that aren’t on the “Monsters & Mystics” album.
All those original songs means that the group is focused on Halloween themes long before (and after) October. “She’s one of the most prolific songwriters I’ve ever had the pleasure of being involved with,” said guitarist Kraft of his bandmate. “She’s just a wonderful lyricist and a great weaver of details.”
Bonny June said that she grew up watching the TV staples “Creature Features” and “Monster Rally,” enjoying scary and campy old horror movies with her dad. That sparked a lifelong interest in monsters and ghosts. Several years ago, when, as a lark, she and Kraft began talking to each other in vampire accents, an idea was born. “It just sorta organically evolved from there,” she said of the concept for the Halloween show. “It’s wildly creative, people love Halloween, and it’s just a whole lot of fun.”
Bonny June & Bonfire play their annual show Saturday at Kuumbwa. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. Get your tickets here.
Halloween, natural history style
Most of the time, the folks at the Santa Cruz Natural History Museum want to take the mystery out of science. But this week, the museum is leaning heavily on mystique with its annual “Museum of the Macabre” event.
The event takes place Saturday, from 6 to 9 p.m. at the museum (go to Seabright Beach, look for the big whale out front). The theme for the event (21 and over only) and the museum’s latest exhibit has lots of U’s: “Underground: Unearthing Unseen Worlds” — and a ticket includes exhibits on all kinds of creepy and disquieting parts of the natural world. There’s a costume contest, lots of fun food and drink, and an outdoor screening of the freaky film “Tremors.” From there, it’s a short walk to the beach for a ghost story or two.
Welcome, Los Muertos
Let’s give due respect to the colorful and heartfelt Mexican tradition of Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead), and not think of it as just “Mexican Halloween.” It’s a wonderful family event — and we mean “family” in the ancestral sense. Both Watsonville and Santa Cruz are planning big Dia de Los Muertos events this weekend. Learn more about Watsonville’s, with the city gradually building a regional reputation as a wonderfully authentic experience.
You can enjoy both Day of the Dead and Halloween, just keep them both in perspective.
Earworm of the Week
Sometimes you just want to hear a new take on a familiar or beloved song, and sometimes you just want to hear vocal harmonies so sublime you feel them in your body. For the moments when those two musical moods overlap, I doubt you can find anything more satisfying than “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” by Trousdale. The song you know already, that gorgeously dreamy and innocent morsel from the Beach Boys’ landmark album “Pet Sounds.” Trousdale is a L.A.-based trio of women — Quinn D’Andrea, Georgia Greene and Lauren Jones — named for one of the main pedestrian thoroughfares on the campus of the University of Southern California, where the three met as first-year music students. “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” was the trio’s first released recording back in 2020. The vocal harmonies are simply otherworldly and they give an old chestnut a vital new emotional energy. Yes, the Beach Boys’ original is wonderful, but its dewy-eyed viewpoint seems almost antique these days. Trousdale’s version brings one of the most convincing odes to romantic longing into today’s world. It’s a jewel. Once you hear it, it’ll stay with you for days.
Santa Cruz County Trivia
A lifelong Santa Cruzan named Lorenzo “Larry” Ponza Jr. invented something in the 1950s that is still widely used today in the world of sports. What was his invention?
Last week: What was the film set in and mostly shot in Santa Cruz that starred Ben Affleck just two years before his breakout as co-writer and co-star of “Good Will Hunting”? The film was called “Glory Daze,” and it starred a 22-year-old Affleck as one of a group of UC Santa Cruz students and housemates facing life after graduation. Released in 1995, “Glory Daze” also starred Sam Rockwell, Alyssa Milano and French Stewart, who was a well-known figure at the time thanks to his starring role in “3rd Rock from the Sun.” It also featured minor roles from Matthew McConaughey, Matt Damon and Brendan Fraser. The movie was written and directed by UCSC alum Rich Wilkes.
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.