Artist Oliver Tree holding a goat in front of a tree filled with goats
Santa Cruz’s own Oliver Tree with some friends.
Wallace Baine

Weekender: Oliver Tree’s homecoming, a barrel of laughs and Open Studios

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Weekender with Wallace Baine

Hi friends,

As the late Nanci Griffith used to sing, “I’m going to open up the windows and let in October ….” One of the finest times of the year is just about to begin, and with it, a whole lot of opportunities for enlightenment and entertainment.

Now, on with the show:

This Just In!

Santa Cruz-based wildlife photographer Frans Lanting and writer Chris Ekstrom will visit the Rio Theatre on Nov. 12 for a new show of photographs about the staggering amount of life and its myriad connections in the Monterey Bay. The show is called “Bay of Life: From Wind to Whales.” Also, look for the World Arts Festival happening at the Tannery World Dance & Cultural Center on Oct. 15. And an interesting event at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center on Oct. 18, featuring attorney and activist Tahir Amin discussing how intellectual property law limits distribution of affordable medicines.

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.

The logo for Baine's Nine


Here they are, nine necessary know-abouts for the week ahead. Welcome to the B9:

  1. Don’t know about you, but I could sure use some laughter these days. And now, just in time comes the big, brash, gut-busting Santa Cruz Comedy Festival.
  2. Last chance to catch the late-summer “8 Tens @ 8" reboot, with three performances this weekend. Then it’s on to January when the new season debuts.
  3. The BBQueer Festival lands in different venues across Santa Cruz, culminating in the big “BurlyQ” show at Motion Pacific.
  4. Experience the diversity of experience and expression in Santa Cruz’s literary community at the Writers of Color poetry/music celebration at the MAH.
  5. Do yourself a favor: experience the upbeat, nourishing reggae music of Matisyahu, coming to the Catalyst on Sunday.
  6. There is only one Oliver Tree. He has no predecessors and he has no imitators.
  7. If Ukraine is still on your mind, here’s an opportunity to really soak in what’s at stake with the performance of an amazing folk trio from Kyiv, DakhaBrakha.
  8. If you like your country music with a strong dose of old-school honky-tonk, you probably already know all about Dale Watson. You might also know he’s coming to Moe’s.
  9. And, of course, you’re all set for Open Studios, right?

WANT MORE B9 PICKS? Find recommendations from Team BOLO — Wallace, Max Chun and Will McCahill — here

Three-Dot Gazette

Big show on Saturday at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium will feature singer-songwriter Oliver Tree, he of the uniquely bizarre soup-bowl haircut and arch but catchy songs who has become one of pop music’s most endearingly wacky cultish acts. Saturday’s show might be Tree’s last in Santa Cruz — he’s already “retired” from making music once and he’s making like he’s going to do so again. Locals might want to check this one out, but this guy could be Santa Cruz’s weirdest cultural export. Yep, it’s true, Oliver Tree was once Oliver Nickell, Harbor High grad and musical wunderkind who got the ear of a U.K. record label at the age of 18 a decade ago, and has been creating some truly one-of-a-kind music and visuals ever since. Not yet 30, it’s hard to predict where this insistently idiosyncratic artist might do next, but whatever it is, he’ll bring his Santa Cruz DNA with him …

On Tuesday, we celebrated the third of our monthly Lookout Trivia Nights at Abbott Square on a lovely fall evening. The crowd of four dozen was engaged and, as the host, I really enjoyed the back-and-forth as we ran through some fun trivia questions in an informal atmosphere. (We all learned, for example, that the fear of long words is called hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia.) Obviously, trivia nights are nothing new, and you can find them in many venues, but I still think there’s plenty yet to be mined in this format for a really enjoyable time for audiences. Please come out and see next month for our final show of 2022, on Oct. 25 at Abbott Square. Given there’s a certain long-standing cultural observance involving lots of oranges and blacks just a week later, we’ll probably have a distinct theme to the show. Come in costume, or not. But come out regardless. Let’s have fun

Santa Cruz County has a proud tradition in poetry going back half a century or more, and the county can look back in recent years with astonishment at the quality of those who have been named official Santa Cruz County poet laureate, including such luminaries as Gary Young and Ellen Bass. With sitting poet laureate David Sullivan’s two-year term coming to an end, the honorary position will soon be open again. Applications are now being considered for the 2023-24 laureate. Eligibility is simple: You must be over 18, live in Santa Cruz County, and have achieved some kind of recognition in the poetry world. On that last one, this area has shown an impressive degree of always meeting the challenge of finding fine candidates. Applications are being accepted until Oct. 31 …

Earworm of the Week

Nostalgia and predictability are strangling popular music these days, with oldies recorded decades ago now making big comebacks on the pop charts, and risk-averse companies investing much more in back catalogs of famous boomer-era stars than in newer and younger artists. Studies show that most people stop listening to new music around the age of 33, but I’m one of those who believes that making an effort to find new music is good for the younger musicians, it’s good for music moving forward artistically, and it’s good for the listener, too. With the streaming platforms, if you’re disciplined about it, it’s easier than ever. And the field is vast. Here’s a good example of a terrific band out of the U.K. right in their prime that’s easy to fall in love with. It’s Wolf Alice, led by the haunting and soulful voice of singer Ellie Rowsell, with “How Can I Make it OK,” from their 2021 album “Blue Weekend.” Even more recently, they’ve released a “lullaby” version of the song. Let Wolf Alice lead you down a rabbit hole to find your future favorite bands. You owe to music, and you owe it to yourself.


Where in Santa Cruz County Am I?

So how well do you notice the little things when you’re out and about across Santa Cruz County? We’ll post images from places that are accessible to the public somewhere in Santa Cruz County. You tell us where it is, as specifically as you can … or, better yet, send us your own photo of the same thing.

An image of crowns inlaid on wood

Yep, looks like a crown up there. There’s your first clue. It’s a good bet you’ve walked past it dozens of times.

A close-up of multicolored mosaic tile

Last week’s answer: The citrus fruit rendered in mosaic tile above can be found on the San Lorenzo Riverwalk. In fact, you’ll see it at the point where the riverwalk meets Soquel Avenue in Santa Cruz.

Mosaic tile on the Soquel Avenue bridge over the San Lorenzo River

This marker at the Soquel Avenue bridge is the beginning (or the end, depending on which you’re walking) of a significant stretch of the riverwalk which will soon be undergoing a dramatic change, as we explained in our story last week of new developments and big changes coming to downtown Santa Cruz. In a few years, the long-neglected riverwalk could be a central focal point for meeting and hanging out, with two major housing complexes and a big hotel planned for the area. Let’s hope this lovely mosaic will survive it all intact.

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.