Erik Gandolfi (left) and Drew Crocker
Erik Gandolfi (left) and Drew Crocker bet on themselves with a move from Santa Cruz to Hollywood.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)
Wallace Baine

Weekender: Titans at Kuumbwa, locals’ L.A. project and Cabrillo Stage’s new leader

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Weekender with Wallace Baine

Hi friends,

December has descended, and all civilized human beings have at least one holiday-themed performance to be a part of, even if it’s a TV rerun of “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” But for those with a bit more ambition than that, we’ve brought together all the great events in the area to celebrate the season.

Now, on with the show.

This Just In!

The Kuumbwa Jazz Center has announced its slate of shows for the first quarter of 2023 and among the highlights are the return of the legendary pianist Kenny Barron, Tuck & Patti coming back for their annual Valentine’s Day show, and a couple of dates that, though presented by the Kuumbwa, will take place at the Rio: the astonishing South African group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and the percussion giant Zakir Hussain. Also, Dale Watson returns to Moe’s, the Crepe Place has big plans for New Year’s Eve, and the Banff Centre Mountain Film Festival is booked for the Rio in February.

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. Downtown Santa Cruz is the place to be Saturday — for the always fun holiday parade, then the pop-up makers market, all right there on Pacific Avenue.
  2. Find a moment this weekend to celebrate Christmas through music with the amazing Cabrillo Symphonic Chorus. It’ll really set the tone for the rest of the month.
  3. Nobody pleases a crowd quite like the brash and soulful California Honeydrops.
  4. Boats! Lights! The harbor! Did anyone bring some hot cocoa?
  5. If you had functioning ears in the late ’90s, you likely remember the indie outfit Built to Spill, and its guitar hero, Doug Martsch. Apparently, Spill is also built to last. They play the Rio.
  6. Life, death and 1950s-era boy bands: It’s all there in the poignant musical “Forever Plaid.”
  7. See, Jerry Garcia lost his middle finger in an axe accident when he was a kid, somewhere in the Santa Cruz Mountains. That’s why the band headlining Felton Music Hall this weekend is called Jerry’s Middle Finger. Now you know.
  8. He’s not just a Sam Chase. He’s “The Sam Chase.” And he’s got a great song about John Prine. The John Prine.
  9. There’s nothing quite like the kaleidoscopic but groove-oriented sound of Santa Cruz’s AZA.

Three-dot gazette

“Titans of Tech,” the annual celebration by Santa Cruz Works of the local tech industry, usually highlights the risk-takers and entrepreneurs in local tech. But this year, at next week’s event at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center, “Titans” is focusing on the human capital that makes the Santa Cruz tech industry go. On Wednesday, the show’s host, Matthew Swinnerton, will throw the spotlight on a number of tech’s essential players, namely Allison Steitz of Paystand, Stacy Nagel at Google, Joshua Resnick of Parallel Flight Technologies, Nada Miljkovic of GetVirtual, Chris Bley of Monterey DART, Cindi Busenhart of MERGE4, Bates Marshall of Ambient Photonics, Aviv Elor of Immergo Labs, Leila Takayama at Robust.AI, and Will Wiseman and Alba Forns at Climatize. Congratulations to all …

I hope you might remember the tale of Santa Cruz actors and writers Drew Crocker and Erik Gandolfi. As we let you know more than a year ago, after a few years of making funny absurdist short comedies, Crocker and Gandolfi made the big jump and moved to Los Angeles to chase a bigger stage for their work. Now the two are aiming to create a new series called “LA Project” and they’re looking for a little help. They’ve launched an Indiegogo fundraising effort to raise $3,000 to develop six episodes of the comedy series about an everyday guy who has to grapple with big and sudden YouTube fame. They are also offering some pretty interesting enticements to contribute. For $200, you can get a producer’s credit. And for $500, they’ll name a character in the script after you, just in case you’re looking for just that uniquely offbeat holiday gift …

Cabrillo Stage, the respected theater organization that has given Santa Cruz County great summer musicals for decades, has a new leader. Her name is Andrea L. Hart, a theater professional who’s been a writer, performer, teacher, playwright, filmmaker and director around the Bay Area for years. She comes to Santa Cruz from Austin, where she went after her master of fine arts in directing at the University of Texas. She succeeds Jon Nordgren, who served as Cabrillo Stage’s artistic director for 15 years. Nordgren resigned in August after a rocky stretch for the company coming out of the COVID pandemic. His reign culminated in a summer season of disappointing box-office numbers in 2022, cut short by a COVID outbreak in the cast of “Candide.” Hart obviously has a lot of work to do to get summer musicals back on the mind of local audiences, but she’s got a lot in her corner as well: a beautiful venue in the Crocker Theater, several talented and deeply experienced collaborators at Cabrillo, and a whole lot of public goodwill from years of fabulous productions from Nordgren and his predecessor, Lile Cruse. At some point, we’ll definitely explore what’s on the mind of Andrea Hart as she contemplates the 2023 season. In the meantime, let’s welcome her to the Santa Cruz artistic community …

Abbott Square in downtown Santa Cruz will be jumping on Sunday afternoon. On that day, the local music school Be Natural Music will close its season with a boffo live show featuring seven bands of talented young musicians from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. The show is free, but the Santa Cruz-based music school will be on hand looking to raise money for its scholarship program, which allows kids to learn music regardless of their ability to pay. Come on out Sunday and experience the future …

Earworm of the Week

It is highly unfashionable these days to admit loving the music of Van Morrison. The famously grumpy 77-year-old Irish superstar has always been saddled with a reputation as an embittered jerk. But in recent years, that reputation has gotten even worse, now taking on the stink of anti-vax conspiracy theories. Van the Man might very well be an unpleasant misanthrope, with ugly opinions, full of malice and spite. And for some people, that’s clearly a dealbreaker. I can certainly understand anyone’s screw-that-guy attitude. For me, though, I’m still absolutely staggered by the humanity and wisdom of much of his music. Morrison has released more than 40 albums, and in that expanse of music are countless songs of longing and humility in direct contradiction to the man’s real-world reputation. There are probably at least a couple of dozen Morrison songs that I hold dear as hymns of reverence and enlightenment. But let’s zero in on one: “These Are the Days” from 1989’s “Avalon Sunset” album. There’s a less-than-subtle religiosity to this song with his evocation of the “one great magician.” Still, I can think of few songs that express so powerfully — both through the song’s lyrics and through Morrison’s worshipful performance — that precious and eternal moment when the ordinary becomes transcendent. This is the kind of song people play at funerals and memorials. I’ve never failed to be deeply moved whenever I hear it. It makes the air sweeter and the vistas a bit more lovely, and it always turns my thoughts, with a full heart, to my loved ones. How can a man so noxious create music so extraordinary? I think I’ll just let that mystery be.


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 sign reading "lost soles"

Here’s a sign providing a service. Have you seen the above?

Last week’s answer: Last week, we pondered the question of whether there is more than one cement ship in Rio Del Mar.

An inscription on a building

Turns out, no. The “SS Rio Del Mar” is not technically a ship — call it a house cosplaying as a ship. It’s the first house among the beachfront cottages/vacation rentals along Beach Drive at Rio Del Mar Beach. The house, known as the “Aptos Boat House,” has taken on several maritime disguises over the years. There’s even a “captain’s bridge” on a small deck on the second floor. Zillow estimates it’s worth more than $2.5 million, despite being less than 1,000 square feet, because that’s the kind of the world we live in these days.

The boat-shaped home on Beach Drive in Rio Del Mar

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.