Weekender: Sleepy John’s goodbye, Carlin remembered and a full June ahead
Be the first to know about the latest in entertainment, arts and culture news. Sign up to get story alerts from Wallace delivered straight to your phone. And check out previous Weekenders here.
Memorial Day is upon us, and let’s hope this solemn observance can forever stay above the increasingly bitter political polarization that seems to consume everything else in this troubled nation. Let’s remember all those Americans who sacrificed their life in service, such as Scotts Valley native Joey Spence, who enlisted in the Army the day after 9/11 and died in Iraq nine days before the end of his tour of duty, and Soquel High grad Morgen Jacobs, who was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq at the age of 20.
Give a toast to those in your life who’ve died in service to their country. This weekend, do what they would love to do if they could: hang with family, have some fun, maybe throw a barbecue and catch a ballgame, and, of course, check out some live entertainment.
Now, on with the show:
This Just In!
Last week, we announced that Bob Dylan had booked a show to perform in Santa Cruz, and this week it’s the Kingston Trio. Did we all just slip into 1962 all of a sudden? Not surprisingly, none of the original members of the Trio from 60 years ago is still performing. But they still play all the hits you’ll remember (if you were around to remember) Aug. 11 at the Rio. Other shows include former Primus frontman Les Claypool at the Rio on July 31, the emo throwbacks Taking Back Sunday at the Catalyst Aug. 7, and guitar wizard Tommy Emmanuel on Dec. 30 at the Rio.
Check out my 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.
Here they are, nine necessary know-abouts for the week ahead. Welcome to the B9:
- Mariachi minus men at the Mello? Women warriors in Watsonville? Behind all that alliteration is a potentially amazing showcase of Mexican-American pride.
- A brilliant young voice on the horizon in alternative country music? Meet Joshua Ray Walker.
- If it’s June, that means Pride is upon us. The celebration kicks off with a screening of a new film (shot and produced in Santa Cruz) at the Paradox (with dinner!).
- Kuumbwa’s 45th-anniversary bash finally arrives in its 47th year. Such is life post-COVID.
- Food writer Sandor Katz has one food obsession above all others: fermentation. He comes to town to spread the gospel.
- Interested in promising young women singer-songwriters? Two of them land at Kuumbwa next week.
- The fascinating tale of Hunter Thompson’s run for electoral office 50 years ago is told in a new show at the MAH. On Saturday, the curator visits for a public chat.
- The Tandy Beal stable of artists features some of the finest performers in the area, and now, they’re playing live, for free, and at a city park near you.
- Santa Cruz Shakespeare’s new season doesn’t begin until July. But how about a taste of what’s to come?
➤ WANT MORE B9 PICKS? Find recommendations from Team BOLO — Wallace, Max Chun and Will McCahill — here
Big deal on the horizon in local music circles. The beloved Santa Cruz music impresario Sleepy John Sandidge is retiring after producing shows in town for 40 years under his banner Snazzy Productions. John is going out with a bang with a two-day festival Aug. 20 and 21 at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds. It’s called “Locals Only,” which, we should note, is a reference to the performers, not the audience. The Snazzy fest will feature close to two dozen live acts drawn from the Santa Cruz folk/Americana axis of musicians including Keith Greeninger, Mira Goto, Carolyn Sills Combo, Patti Maxine, Michael Gaither and several others.
In the meantime, Snazzy still has a few big shows on its schedule this summer, including Dreamland with Kimberly Ford (June 11, Kuumbwa), Tommy (son of John) Prine (June 21, Michael’s on Main), John Jorgensen (Aug. 7, Kuumbwa), and Paul Thorn (Aug. 19, the Rio) …
In advance of the big mariachi show at the Mello this weekend (see the B9), the Watsonville Film Festival is holding “Oscar’s Night” on Friday, in which the Pajaro Valley’s youngest would-be filmmakers will show their new works and walk the red carpet, all part of the festival’s Youth Cinema Project. Get to the Mello at 4 p.m. Friday for elementary-school filmmakers, and 6 p.m. for the older kids …
The Pleasure Point Street Fair is back, baby! The mellow street party on Portola Drive got derailed by the pandemic, but it’s ready for its comeback. This year’s event lands on Saturday, June 25, as usual on Portola between 41st and 38th avenues. Tons of food, lots of beer, great live music, a skateboard contest run by the experts in the craft over at Santa Cruz Boardroom. And it’s all free. Pleasure is the point, after all …
Also, a reminder: On the very same day as the Pleasure Point Fair, the grandest showcase in the country of that fine automobile we call the “woody” returns to the Santa Cruz Wharf, with the annual “Woodies on the Wharf” car show June 25. This year’s “WOW” coincides with the big annual meeting of the National Woodie Club, also to be held in Santa Cruz. Traffic will probably be murder in town, but at least it’ll be fun traffic to watch. Be there for both the fair and the woodies, if you can get from one to the other. If only we had a train, or a trail (sorry, sore subject).
Golden State Diaries
Some readers asked that I amend my comments last week about the baths at Esalen in Big Sur. I reported that the famous hot-springs baths at Esalen had been closed since the beginning of the pandemic. That’s true only for the nightly public period from 1 to 3 a.m. But the baths are now open and available for registered guests at Esalen any time. I wanted to make that clear. We’ll keep an eye on it to see when and if Esalen decides to open the baths to non-guests again …
HBO’s wonderful documentary “George Carlin’s American Dream” debuted last weekend. And it reminded me of the time when I got to interview George Carlin in advance of his final appearance in Santa Cruz, in 2007 (he died less than a year later). To say I was nervous is an understatement. Carlin was (and remains) a heroic figure in my eyes. And I could barely believe a pipsqueak like me would be given a chance to chat with a man of his stature.
The one thing I wanted to know more than anything else about him was: How do you get away with saying the things you say? In the latter part of his career, Carlin had made a handsome living telling Americans some uncomfortable, often harsh truths that, from anyone else, would have made him a target from one side of the political spectrum or the other. But Carlin always came out smelling like a rose.
“I don’t know,” he told me back in ’07. “It’s always been curious to me that there’s so little backlash from some of these things. I know that with the general public — for people who really like my stuff, or with the people who can take me or leave me and don’t really care about the political side of things — I think I have a non-threatening quality that people notice. And they implicitly understand I’m not really a threat. I’m like your crazy cousin George. They’re not just rants. They are intelligently based. They’re usually based on intelligent ideas. I just don’t know the answer to that, but I think I have a vulnerability with my persona on stage that people sense I’m really just a regular person. It’s odd to me. But I’m happy for it. It keeps my life simple.”
Of course, that was at the very beginning of the social media age, before Twitter, Facebook, Reddit etc. had become the de facto political public square. You have to wonder if Carlin would escape the brutalities of gotcha culture these days. I did notice that when the leak hit the news that the Supreme Court was poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, Carlin’s abortion-rights monologue was trending on Twitter. Fourteen years gone, and he’s still relevant.
Earworm of the Week
It’s the unofficial kick off to summer this weekend, certainly my favorite time of year, and that always puts me in a wistful mood. Bedouine’s “One of These Days” captures that mood nicely. The Syrian-born singer-songwriter (playing Kuumbwa Jazz Center next week) sounds a bit like she could have been recording back in the mellow ’70s alongside Cat Stevens and Joni Mitchell. The playful vibe of the video, captured as she was traipsing around someone’s beautiful garden, has that anticipatory here-comes-summer feel.
There are five donut shops in Santa Cruz County that go by the name of Ferrell’s Donuts; three of those are even called “Original Ferrell’s” shops. None of the five, however, can lay claim to being the first Ferrell’s donut shop in town. Where was that first Ferrell’s donut shop, and what can you buy there today?
If you know this one, shoot me a text with your answer. Then, text me the word TRIVIA to see if you’re right. We’ll choose a random reader with the correct answer to receive a free T-shirt.
Last week’s Trivia answer: Which U.S. president died in the closest proximity to Santa Cruz? President Warren G. Harding died suddenly, while still in office, on Aug. 2, 1923, at the Palace Hotel in downtown San Francisco, the closest a presidential death has come to Santa Cruz. Ninety-nine years after Harding’s death, the Palace Hotel is still in business, recently reopened from a two-year closure amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Harding is believed to have died from a heart attack at the age of 57, in an eighth-floor suite overlooking Market Street.
That’s all I got, friends. Come at me with comments, ideas, complaints, or thundering insights. A reminder that we at Lookout are in the midst of our spring membership drive, and our whole purpose is to help create a better and stronger community through high-quality, local-first journalism. This week, we’re offering 20% off membership with the offer code spring.
Thanks to all Lookout members for your faith and support, and please, spread the word on what we’re doing.