City Life

Attention Tomboys: Popular music video series makes a big return

Another local standby is shaking off the pandemic mothballs as Midtown vintage store Tomboy is once again the scene for live performances headed for YouTube. Wallace Baine has the details on that, plus an Indexical-Kuumbwa cross-pollination and more.

“Americana” is a widely accepted term to describe a particular genre of rootsy country/folk music. It’s also a pretty good description of the vibe at Tomboy, the Soquel Avenue vintage clothing shop right next to the Rio Theatre.


Which is why “The Tomboy Sessions” make so much sense.

The Tomboy Sessions is the name given to a series of music videos featuring musicians performing a song live, right there amid the boots and ponchos in the retail space at Tomboy. The latest in the series is new this week, and features singer-songwriter Carsie Blanton and her band performing a dreamy country tune called “Be Good.”

The series is not a new thing. In fact, it’s been going on since 2016, and has produced a dozen in-store videos since then. But, like so many other great endeavors, it was derailed by the pandemic. The Blanton video marks a kind of resurrection of the Tomboy Sessions with a crucial new musical partner, Santa Cruz’s hip music venue Moe’s Alley.

“We’re back,” said Andy Zenczak of Santa Cruz’s Gadgetbox production company, which has done the sound engineering for the series. “And it feels like it has great momentum going too. So that’s a good thing.”

The idea behind the reboot of the series is to present a new video regularly, a kind “Tomboy Tuesdays” on the first Tuesday of each month.

“(Before) it was kind of sporadic,” said Tomboy’s store owner and host of the series Summer Duppen. “It was a couple of times a year, whenever we could fit it in. Having (Moe’s) on board, the team is kind of rejuvenated and reinspired to make it more of a regular thing and keep it fresh with new content all the time.”

Also on board as sponsors of the series are Sylvan Music, Santa Cruz Guitar Company and KindPeoples cannabis dispensary. TourMore and Seafoam Films team up with Gadgetbox and Tomboy as the videos’ producers.

The dozen pre-pandemic videos shot for the series are available for viewing at Tomboy’s YouTube page. The channel current carries a dozen videos from such artists as the blues duo Little Hurricane, country singer Jesse Daniel, and Santa Cruz band the Carolyn Sills Combo. And it’s on that platform where the new videos will land every month as well. Among the Tomboy videos scheduled to drop in coming months will be Bay Area singer-songwriter Nicki Bluhm, the Portland band Jenny Don’t & the Spurs, and Santa Cruz native (now living and working in Austin, Texas) Taylor Rae.

Though she makes her living selling clothing, Tomboy’s Summer Duppen says she’s always been a big music fan. “I have Willie Nelson shrines in my store,” she said, “and I was really raised on Emmylou (Harris), Joni Mitchell and Willie. I love singer/songwriter stuff. I love loud rock ’n’ roll. I love all of it.”

Brian Ziel, co-owner of Moe’s Alley, said he’s thrilled his club is part of the series. “We can just look over our calendar and see generally what kind of artists fit the vibe of the store,” he said. “And we’re going to eventually embed the videos on our website and share them on social media. Yeah, we’re proud to be part of it.”

Indexical's artistic director Andrew Smith (left, with Sarah Cruse) at Indexical's performance space.
(Via Crystal Birns)

Indexical’s bold move

From Lou Harrison to Philip Collins’s New Music Works to the Cabrillo Music Festival, Santa Cruz’s history as a nourishing place for avant-garde and experimental music is well-known.

The latest chapter in that particular story is Indexical, an organization and performance space devoted to exploring and nurturing musicians and composers who operate beyond the fringes of mainstream music.

Indexical has now made a big leap forward in connecting musicians and audiences by establishing a partnership with the Kuumbwa Jazz Center. Indexical’s executive director, Andrew Smith, said that he and Kuumbwa’s Tim Jackson came to an agreement to cross-pollinate their audiences with Indexical artists at Kuumbwa about once a quarter (four times a year). “Hopefully, we can curate something that is more on the fringes of what Kuumbwa would normally present in their jazz programming,” said Smith.

Smith said when he sees shows at Kuumbwa, he’ll regularly see “at least a dozen” people he also sees at Indexical shows. As for the Kuumbwa audience likely not familiar with Indexical, Smith said he hopes “that we’ll be able to explore a little bit more of the outer reaches of the jazz world.”

That exploration begins with the first Indexical/Kuumbwa co-presentation, saxophonist Nicole McCabe and bassist Logan Kane, who will perform at Kuumbwa on Feb. 17 and the next night at Indexical’s performance space at the Tannery Arts Center.

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Valentine’s in April

In other news from Kuumbwa, the annual tradition of Tuck & Patti performing on Valentine’s Day is coming to an end, after more than 20 consecutive years. Kuumbwa announced that this year’s Tuck & Patti Valentine’s Day show would be rescheduled for April 11. In 2021, the luminous duo of Tuck Andress and Patti Cathcart performed live, but not in person, playing a virtual show from their Bay Area home on Valentine’s Day. This time, however, said the duo in a statement, “We hope you’ll join us to celebrate Valentine’s Day in April.”

Big year for SC playwrights

In local theater, we’re used to seeing local actors working with local directors in local venues. But they’re usually working from a script written by a decidedly non-local writer. This year, two Santa Cruz playwrights are getting a big boost when Santa Cruz theaters present Santa Cruz plays.

The first such instance comes March 30, when Jewel Theatre debuts the comedy “Remains to Be Seen” by Santa Cruz-based playwright Kate Hawley, who, you might remember, was responsible for the holiday-season “pantos” once staged by Shakespeare Santa Cruz some years ago. “Remains to Be Seen” has quite an on-stage pedigree as well, with former SSC artistic director Paul Whitworth and current Santa Cruz Shakespeare artistic director Mike Ryan signed on to the cast. That production runs through April 24 at the Jewel.

Then, a couple of months later, Santa Cruz Shakespeare will bring to the stage a play titled “The Formula,” written by Santa Cruz’s Kathryn Chetkovich. “The Formula” is inspired by Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and by the science of biochemical attraction. The play opens in mid July and runs through August at The Grove at DeLaveaga.

Both plays are also world premieres. Stay tuned for more about Hawley and Chetkovich as we draw closer to opening night.