Hi friends,

Some time in the next week or so, the ongoing Hollywood writers strike will become the longest such strike in the industry’s history. Will the suits ever learn that everything begins with good writing? Take care of your scribes already.

Now, on with the show.

This Just In!

Living legend alert! The great Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, at 92 years of age, is again touring and again coming to Santa Cruz, Dec. 7 at Moe’s Alley. Interesting event presented by Bookshop Santa Cruz: Computer engineer and activist Joy Buolamwini will speak on her new book, “Unmasking AI,” and the civil liberties threats posed by artificial intelligence on Nov. 13 at the Cowell Ranch Hay Barn on campus at UC Santa Cruz. The fine singer-songwriter known as The White Buffalo drops into Felton Music Hall on Nov. 3. The talented jazz vocalist Cecile McLorin Salvant will perform two shows at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center on Jan. 22. And this year’s Morton Marcus Poetry Reading will feature poet and activist Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni on Nov. 2 at UCSC.

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 here-comes-pumpkin-spice-everything B9:

  1. The Santa Cruz Symphony opens its new season with a time-traveling concert to take you to medieval Europe and ancient Rome, though not necessarily in that order.
  2. Don’t be the one left out of the did-you-see-the-thing-at-the-MAH? conversation on Monday.
  3. Ten of Santa Cruz’s finest visual artists, all together in one mighty group show at The Radius.
  4. Wait, Dinosaur Jr.? On the beach? Free? Can that be right?
  5. In a better world, Patty Griffin and Todd Snider are playing baseball stadiums, but in this fallen world, we’re happy to have them here in stadiumless Santa Cruz.
  6. Dave Wakeling’s on a one-man mission to keep 1980s-style two-tone ska alive, and my checkered dancing shoes thank him for it.
  7. Even if you don’t buy his rather outlandish claims, the Swedish singer-songwriter known as The Tallest Man on Earth will charm you with his guitar.
  8. No, Jimi Hendrix isn’t coming back from the Great Beyond. But if you squint your eyes, just so … well, you can pretend.
  9. You want to talk about smooth British soul music, you gotta meet former Van Morrison sideman James Hunter.
Santa Cruz Symphony announces 2023-24 season with musical prodigy Shun Kodaira Lopez

Ellroy was here

Author James Ellroy and the cover of his new novel,
Credit: Via Bookshop Santa Cruz

I went to see the famed novelist James Ellroy earlier this week as he visited Bookshop Santa Cruz to sell a few copies of his new novel, “The Enchanters.” Ellroy, the dark prince of Los Angeles-based true-crime fiction, proved to be something other than your ordinary author schlepping books.

He came out, breathing fire, strongly implying that he was not going to suffer fools lightly. After reading a passage from “The Enchanters” — a compelling blow-by-blow account of the summer of 1962 in the life of the doomed Marilyn Monroe — Ellroy opened the Q&A period by declaring he would answer no questions about politics, about his personal life, or about any deals he’s made with Hollywood (despite that, later he pronounced the movie version of his book “L.A. Confidential” lackluster and trashed star Russell Crowe). I was, however, intrigued by his idea of “reckless verisimilitude,” his philosophy of fearlessly playing with history to create compelling stories.

To move product, Ellroy said that if each person present (not as many as I had anticipated) bought 2,000 copies of his new book, they could have sex with any person they desired at any time, and receive a special dispensation to get into heaven anyway, despite all that debauchery. I didn’t notice anyone jumping at the offer. Perhaps the crowd was holding out for life everlasting, which Ellroy apparently was powerless to provide. Maybe next time.

The MAH’s moment

“Frequency” runs in and around the MAH through Sunday. Credit: Via Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History

Opportunities for entertainment and enlightenment abound at the Museum of Art & History in downtown Santa Cruz this week with the biennial “Frequency” digital-arts festival. You might remember “Frequency” from 2021, when it occupied Abbott Square the MAH with dazzling and cutting-edge installations showcasing the latest collaborations between art and tech.

Beginning Thursday, “Frequency” returns with several examples of digital light art (nice for when you’re noticing the days getting a tad shorter), kinetic sculptures, interactive installations and much more, most of it free to the curious. The event goes from 5 to 10 p.m. for four nights, offering up encounters with everything from an interactive memorial of Santa Cruz’s old Chinatown to a “silent disco” (picture a dance party where everybody is rocking headphones).

Get out to the MAH and see what it’s all about.

Goodbye summer party

Midtown Fridays, a summer-staple block party on Soquel Avenue in Santa Cruz, has its 2023 finale on Sept. 29.
Midtown Fridays, a summer-staple block party on Soquel Avenue in Santa Cruz, has its 2023 finale on Sept. 29. Credit: Via Event Santa Cruz

The Sept. 29 edition of Midtown Fridays will be double the size of the usual block party along Soquel Avenue, with Santa Cruz legend James Durbin headlining and 30 vendors lined up. All that comes as organizer Matthew Swinnerton celebrates 10 years in business for his one-man company, Event Santa Cruz. “We have a lot of manufactured experiences to connect people,” Swinnerton says of the current scene and how Event Santa Cruz aims to be different. “And I always wanted to make sure ours were genuine.” Read more here.

Big weekend at the fair

one of the popular All Alaskan Racing Pigs in action at the Santa Cruz County Fair

The 2023 Santa Cruz County Fair is a wrap, and the fair announced that attendance was up 3% from 2022. In the context of the fair’s wild offseason, in which they had four separate directors at different points, that’s quite an achievement. Let’s hope current director Zeke Fraser, who jumped aboard the already moving train in June, can finally sleep in a bit this week.

Catalyst Ad Weekender 9/21

Trivia Night set for return

Wallace Baine hosting Lookout's trivia night in Abbott Square.
Wallace Baine hosting Lookout’s trivia night in Abbott Square. Credit: Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz

Hear ye, hear ye. All citizens of the world are hereby invited to participate in our fourth and final Lookout Trivia Night at Abbott Square in downtown Santa Cruz. The event has steadily grown into one of the most lively and illuminating nights on the local social calendar — at least that’s the case with your modest host.

Join us Tuesday, Sept. 26, at 6:30 p.m. for a vigorous workout of the old trivia centers of the brain.

Here’s a taste of the kind of stuff we like to do, from last month’s trivia night:

Which percentage is a higher number?

A. The percentage of all the bones in your body that are in your feet.
B. The percentage of the main cast of “Friends” who are named Matthew.
C. The percentage of Americans who cannot name one of the five freedoms protected in the First Amendment.
D. The percentage of speaking roles in the movie that are for women or female characters.

Answer: Sadly, it’s C, which comes in at 40%. A is 25, B 33 and D is 31.

See you Tuesday.

Earworm of the Week

Autumn officially arrives on Saturday and, maybe it’s because I was a summer baby, but I’ve always experienced the last days of summer with a big dollop of melancholy. I’m counteracting those blues this week with one final blast of summery delight, an irresistibly hooky feel-good song called “We’ll Be Alright” by The Hip Abduction. Besides evoking the sweet laid-back vibe of summer, this might be the most California-esque song ever recorded by a group not in fact from California (The Hip Abduction, or THA to fans, is based in Tampa/St. Pete area of Florida). Not only does “We’ll Be Alright” fairly ooze with good-vibrations West Coast chill, it’s expressly about traveling to California, or at least a care-free cross-country road trip that ends in a place that sounds suspiciously like Santa Cruz. Any way you want to interpret it, this grin-inducing tune goes well with the summer’s last margarita and the last sunset before the nights grow longer than the days. Adios, summer. Please come again soon.

A screengrab from the video for the Hip Abduction's song

Santa Cruz County Trivia

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk sponsored a food festival throughout the 1980s and early ’90s devoted to one specific delicacy. What food item was the namesake star of that festival?

Last week: Before last year’s historic elections changing the nature of the job of the mayor of Santa Cruz, the mayoral role changed every year and was given, on a rotating basis, to a different member of the city council. Who was the only mayor under that system to serve two consecutive one-year terms? It was the late Mardi Wormhoudt, who was mayor when the Loma Prieta earthquake struck in October 1989. Under the circumstances, the city opted for continuity as it struggled to rebuild from the quake, and Wormhoudt kept the job for another year. She went on to serve as the Third District County Supervisor.


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...