An image by artist Melissa West
Wallace Baine

Weekender: Film fest, Open Studios, First Friday and bidding Mary McCaslin goodbye

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Weekender with Wallace Baine

Hi friends,

First Friday and Open Studios are coming at us. It’s a great time to discover Santa Cruz’s artistic enclaves, if you can find them behind all the yard signs.

Now, on with the show:

This Just In!

No, it’s definitely not starting to “feel a lot like Christmas,” but there are holiday-themed shows beginning to show up on the upcoming schedule. On consecutive nights in December, we’ll have the choice of two European-themed Christmas entertainment options: “A Very Scottish Christmas,” brought to us by The Fire, the Santa Cruz-based Scottish trio (Dec. 10, Kuumbwa) and storyteller Tomaseen Foley and his band, featuring Santa Cruz’s Bill Coulter in “A Celtic Christmas” (Dec. 11, the Rio). My guess is if you dig one, you’ll dig the other. Why not make it a mini-festival?

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. Wondering what’s on the mind of fashion maven and artist Rose Sellery these days? It’s all there in her latest show.
  2. Wait, there’s fun and learning? And the Banana Slug String Band? What else could you want in a family-oriented festival?
  3. I love the dreamy, longing pop of Bonny Light Horseman, the supergroup led by the luminous Anais Mitchell. And now, they’re coming to town.
  4. Bay Area rapper Tom Shimura brings a power and immediacy to his gripping songs, often about living as an Asian American, under the moniker Lyrics Born.
  5. Sin Sisters is already some pretty sizzling and outrageous live entertainment. Can you imagine what these performers do for Halloween?
  6. Can you fill in the blank of this oft-repeated Santa Cruz phrase: “My (grand)mom loves Crosby, Stills & ____!” ?
  7. So if you’re really into wine, it stands to reason that you have a copy of “The Wine Bible.” No? Well, you can remedy that.
  8. Guitarheads with a taste for the complex and the distinctive are going to love hearing Kurt Rosenwinkel.
  9. The Santa Cruz Museum of Natural Museum is too often overlooked on First Friday. This month, don’t make that mistake. It’s promising “Mysteries and Monsters.”

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

Goodbye to ‘The Rose’

On the same day, Tuesday, that country music icon Loretta Lynn died, we learned that Santa Cruz lost its own musical star with the passing of the folk singer/songwriter/guitarist Mary McCaslin at the age of 75. Longtime local folk fans certainly remember Mary and her late husband, Jim Ringer, as one of the most high-profile acts of “California Western” sound back in the 1970s, with such immortal hits as “The Bramble and the Rose.” But after Ringer’s death, Mary continued to record and perform, making her home in Santa Cruz for several decades.

Eventually, Mary and her second husband, Greg Arrufat, settled in the Southern California town of Hemet, refugees from Santa Cruz’s escalating housing prices, where Mary struggled with a degenerative neurological condition known as progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), which robbed her of the ability to sing or play.

Mary and I were friends going back to the 1980s, when we both lived briefly in the Humboldt County town of Arcata. I had known her recordings, especially 1979’s lovely “Sunny California,” and I was floored one day to discover her working in a record store on the Arcata Plaza. We became friends through public radio in Humboldt and then we both happened to resurface in Santa Cruz at about the same time.

In Santa Cruz, Mary often found herself at the center of the folk/country music scene, performing shows and leading workshops in songwriting and in playing open tunings on the guitar, a technique that became a passion for her. She was a consistent collaborator with many local musicians, and her distinctive singing voice was part of Santa Cruz’s musical DNA for many years. Twenty years ago, Mary reached a kind of apex of her popularity locally with a recording/video project called “Girls From Santa Cruz,” in which she teamed with fellow performers and friends Ginny Mitchell and Lacy J. Dalton.

Now Ginny Mitchell is helping make real Mary’s final wish — to return “home,” to Santa Cruz. At the end of her life, Mary expressed her desire to be buried in Santa Cruz and a GoFundMe page has been set up to make that happen. A gravesite has been selected at Oakwood Memorial Park, between Dominican Hospital and Chaminade Resort. It’s heartbreaking that Mary wasn’t allowed to live out her final years in the town she loved so dearly. But we can make it possible for her to be allowed to rest here.

Three-Dot Gazette

The Santa Cruz Film Festival is upon us, hosting a big slate of new films at various venues around Santa Cruz, among them the Colligan Theater, the Santa Cruz Veterans Hall, the Scotts Valley Performing Arts Center and outdoors at the Tannery. In fact, this year’s SCFF marks a kind of coming-out party for the Scotts Valley Performing Arts Center, in the space right next to the Scotts Valley Public Library. The SVPAC, which has been eight years in the planning and construction phases, finally had its ribbon-cutting just last week. It plans to host a wide number of events from music, theater, speakers, classes and, at least this weekend, film festivals. The festival will feature its opening night screening and party at the new venue. The film is called “Sam Now,” and it’s the story of two brothers who go in search of the answer to a years-old family mystery. Opening night is Thursday, then beginning Friday, the festival jumps into an ambitious schedule of indie documentaries and narrative films, most of which are free. Included is the great film on India Joze mastermind Jozseph Schultz title “Foodie for the People,” a bunch of short films by or about locals, and lots more. For a full schedule, check this out …

Open Studios continues with its South County weekend Saturday and Sunday, featuring artists from Live Oak to Watsonville. Here’s a great opportunity to reach out to a friend you haven’t visited with in a while to carpool (gas these days, am I right?) to some of the studios. Open Studios is always an eye-opening and fun event and the variety of artists is nothing less than spectacular. The tour wraps up next weekend with a special encore event featuring selected artists from all across the county. In case you missed it, here are my 22 don’t-miss picks of the year …

Arts Council Open Studios display ad

“Playing with fire” is such a useful idiom in our vocabulary that it takes us a minute to intellectually readjust when someone wants to talk about that phrase literally. But that’s what is taking place this weekend at UC Santa Cruz’s Digital Arts Research Center. DARC, as it’s called on campus, is hosting a symposium called “Playing With Fire,” featuring performers, firefighters, storytellers and others exploring the subject of using fire in art, activism and other activities. The symposium is free, but registration is required. It’s a big three-day undertaking, featuring a couple of dozen presenters and performers, and it’s all going to be shot for an upcoming feature film on the subject by UCSC artists Beth Stephens and Annie Sprinkle. I’m intrigued, aren’t you? …

Friends and family of Stuart Camenson will gather Oct. 16 at Cabrillo College to remember and celebrate the 32-year-old Cabrillo student and artist who was among those killed in the midair collision of small aircraft in Watsonville in August. Stuart was deep into the fine-arts scene at Cabrillo, studying music, chorus, screen printing and metallurgy. He was also in the cast of “Candide” this past summer at Cabrillo Stage. The Oct. 16 event will be a performance on Sunday afternoon at Samper Recital Hall to honor and appreciate Stuart’s art …

Earworm of the Week

Certainly, other than maybe New York, no other major U.S. city has been serenaded with as much dewy-eyed romance as San Francisco. But, for some reason, San Francisco songs usually begin and end with the one about Tony Bennett’s cardiac forgetfulness. In my book, one of the most seductive songs to ever be laid at the feet of the Golden Gate comes from the lovely jazz singer Nancy Wilson. Yes, Fancy Miss Nancy, as she was sometimes known, did also record the song that Bennett made famous. Less well-known, however, is the woozy, slinky “I’m Always Drunk in San Francisco” (also recorded by Carmen McRae). Of course, the song’s punchline is “And I don’t drink at all,” suggesting that there’s just something about the air, the feel, the vibe of San Francisco that “acts like alcohol.” October might be the finest time of the year to visit our lovely neighbor to the north, so the next time you go to San Francisco, include this gem in your playlist. Then try to tell me that Nancy Wilson didn’t nail it.


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.

A plaque in memory of William T. Franks rests on the ground

This modest memorial tree above, planted in memory of Mr. William T. Franks (who would be celebrating a birthday this week), stands at one of the most prominent spots in all of Santa Cruz. Do you know where it is?

An image of crowns inlaid on wood

Last week’s answer: The royal theme in last week’s clue, above, might have been a hint. Yes, it’s a common symbol of the U.K., the famous British phone booth, often called a “red kiosk.”

an old red British phone booth outside Britannia Arms in Capitola Village

Locally, the most famous red kiosk sits prettily right outside Britannia Arms in Capitola Village, mere steps away from the beach. All things English might be on our minds these days because of the recent death of Queen Elizabeth II, and the great British pub in Capitola is not shy about paying tribute to the Queen.

a cutout image of the late Queen Elizabeth II in a restaurant window

Visitors to Capitola might find it a bit incongruous to find such an icon of gloomy old England sitting next to the quintessential California beach scene, but to locals, it’s just part of the familiar scenery.

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.