Wallace Baine

Weekender: Mary McCaslin celebration, El Sistema’s big honor and can’t get enough Khruangbin

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Weekender with Wallace Baine

Hi friends,

It was a great experience last weekend at the Rio with Frans Lanting and Chris Eckstrom turning their Nat Geo-style eye to the wonders of the Monterey Bay. In this thankful season, save some of that thanksgiving for the good fortune of living in the 831.

Now, on with the show.

This Just In!

One of the greats is coming to Santa Cruz when the uniquely talented Bonnie Raitt visits the Civic Auditorium on March 21. Also newly booked is popular novelist (and longtime Monterey County resident) Jane Smiley, who visits Bookshop Santa Cruz on Jan. 18. Underappreciated singer-songwriter Robyn Hitchcock will be at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center on March 22, the great duo Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore are rebooked at Felton Music Hall on Feb. 25, and one of the most bizarre standup comedy acts you’ll ever experience — his name is Neil Hamburger — comes to the Catalyst on Jan. 26.

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. Beginning on Thanksgiving Day, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk will be welcoming visitors to a “Winter Wonderland.”
  2. Sax man Joe Lovano and trumpeter Dave Douglas bring their joyous “Sound Print” project to the Kuumbwa.
  3. Mountain Community Theater comes down to Santa Cruz with the opening of its new production, “Now And Then.”
  4. The idiosyncratic genius of Bill Callahan, who also records under the band name Smog, will be on display at Moe’s Alley.
  5. A sure-to-be eye-opening performance is set for Cabrillo’s Crocker Theater called “Deep Roots Dance Fest,” an exploration of dance from the African diaspora.
  6. Happy Birthday, Ludwig! We’re all a little late for the big 250th, but the Baroque Festival will be celebrating.
  7. All the cool kids are going to be hanging with Smoke Chaser at the Crepe Place. Will you be there?
  8. Comedian, filmmaker, musician, freethinker, Santa Cruz’s most interesting person — Noel Murphy is all of that.
  9. The Oakland-based DJ known as The Polish Ambassador mixes funky beats with activism. He’s visiting Felton.

Three-dot gazette

Friends and fans of the late Santa Cruz singer-songwriter Mary McCaslin will gather together Sunday at 3:30 p.m. for a celebration of her life. Mary died Oct. 2 of a degenerative neurological disease at the age of 75. And though she and her husband, Greg Arrufat, had been living in Southern California for more than a decade, it was her last wish that she be buried in Santa Cruz, where she lived for decades. Many of us knew Mary as a lovely local performer, but she was a central figure in Western-oriented folk music of the 1970s, so much so that her death warranted a long New York Times obituary. Mary will be interred at Oakwood Memorial Park in Santa Cruz. It’s a great weekend to open the windows and play a bit of Mary McCaslin …

Coincidentally, country star Lacy J. Dalton will be in the area this weekend, playing two shows — Thursday at Moe’s Alley, and Saturday down in Carmel Valley. Lacy J., a longtime Santa Cruzan, was also a significant collaborator with Mary McCaslin. The two women and a third, singer-songwriter Ginny Mitchell, made up the “Girls From Santa Cruz,” which was a PBS special from almost 20 years ago. Lacy J. and the band Edge of The West will perform in Santa Cruz and Carmel Valley, both to benefit KSQD in Santa Cruz, which is raising money to expand its signal to cover the entire Monterey Bay …

Congratulations to the local music organization El Sistema Santa Cruz, which was recently named one of 10 finalists from across the country for the prestigious Accelerator Awards: The Lewis Prize for Music. El Sistema brings free musical instruction to schools across Santa Cruz County under the direction of Isabelle Tuncer. The Accelerator Awards provide long-term and single-year support for organizations that inspire young people through music. Also nominated is the East Bay cultural center and folklorico band Los Cenzontles, who have performed quite a bit in Santa Cruz County. The winners of the awards will be announced Jan. 10. …

Award-winning Santa Cruz poet Charles Atkinson will be the center of attention on Saturday afternoon at Cabrillo College. That’s the launch party for his latest collection, “Poems, New and Selected,” just published by Hummingbird Press. The new book is a comprehensive career retrospective for Atkinson, opening with a couple of dozen new poems before jumping back into different periods in Atkinson’s writing life dating from the early 1990s into the 2010s. Saturday’s free event takes place at 2 p.m. at the Horticulture Building on the Cabrillo campus. If you can’t make it, check out Atkinson live on the air at KSQD with Julia Chiapella as part of “The Hive” radio show on Dec. 11 at 8 p.m. …

Dirty Girl Produce display ad

Attention all aspiring poets: Catamaran Literary Reader is now taking submissions for its 2023 Poetry Prize for West Coast Poets. Catamaran is looking for previously unpublished manuscripts of poetry from writers living in California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and/or Hawaii. The judge for the prize is the Pulitzer finalist Dorianne Laux, and the deadline is April 20, 2023. For more submission details, go here.

Earworm of the Week

My favorite musical act these days is called Khruangbin — and, no, I can’t pronounce it very well, either, but it’s something like CRUNG-bin. They are a trio originally from Texas who have vaulted into international stardom, thanks to their beguiling live shows and their impossibly cool stage presence (two of the three perform in identical black wigs while the bald drummer does his own thing, call it the modified ZZ Top). Above all, this is a groove band that creates a hypnotic sonic vibe that will take you into outer space. Khruangbin mostly goes without a singer, but even when there are vocals, they’re a dreamy, lost-in-the-mix enhancement to the texture of the song. The band has been recording for less than a decade now, and these days they’re doing a lot of collaborating, including with Paul McCartney, of all people. I just can’t get enough of Khruangbin. The band’s airy, relaxing grooves bring me to places in my mind while I’m thinking or writing or just relaxing. The track “Friday Morning” is a great intro to a sound that will get into your bones, if you let 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.

An image of a surfer and wave carved into stone

Hundreds of folks walk past the surfer dude above every day. Do you know where he is? Hint: It’s probably not up in the mountains somewhere.

A close-up of a clock

Last week’s answer: Yes, that’s a clock above, but it’s a famous one.

Shopper's Corner market

Yep, it’s the gorgeous old clock outside the Shopper’s Corner market, a beloved touchstone of Midtown Santa Cruz. The clock can be seen, of course, heading down Soquel Avenue toward downtown, at S. Branciforte Avenue. It’s best viewed on foot, munching something delicious you just bought at The Buttery, crossing the street to buy a bottle of wine at Shopper’s. But you knew that already.

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.