The doomed Circle Church on the Westside of Santa Cruz has turned into a canvas for mural artists.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)
Wallace Baine

Weekender: ‘Cultural statement’ at Circle Church, Cabrillo Stage calls and Washed Out indeed

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Weekender with Wallace Baine

Hi friends,

To quote the fine British singer-songwriter Beth Orton, I wish I never saw the sunshine, then maybe I wouldn’t mind the rain. I looked forward to telling my grandchildren what sunshine was like. At least, I have some photos. Stay safe and, just as crucially, stay sane. Let’s have faith that even Mother Nature sometimes gets exhausted.

Now, on with the show.

This Just In!

Comedian Lewis Black has canceled his upcoming appearance, originally scheduled for the Rio on Jan. 21. The beloved Beatles cover group the White Album Ensemble will play an acoustic show Feb. 10 at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center. The Swedish folk group Väsen, who’ve played in Santa Cruz a few times over the years, returns to the Kuumbwa on March 21. That same day — oh, how we all long to see the spring equinox — Santa Cruz poet Chris Mattingly teams up with writer Ross Gay to chat about their upcoming new book, “Inciting Joy,” at Bookshop Santa Cruz. And the rousing Scottish band Old Blind Dogs return to town with a date May 4 at the Kuumbwa.

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


We are in the midst of nine separate big winter storms since New Year’s Eve. Not exactly what we meant by B9. Here they are, nine necessary know-abouts for the week ahead. It’s the real B9:

  1. The Monterey Jazz Festival? In January? Yep, a little taste of it anyway, arriving at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center.
  2. Author/doctor Michael Amster has some ideas about making your life better and more enjoyable. We’re all ears.
  3. If you like your country music with a bit of salt and gristle, then you gotta check out the unrepentant honky-tonker Dale Watson.
  4. Yep, that name sure sounds familiar: Sam Grisman is the son of the legendary mandolinist David Grisman, and the younger Grisman brings his acoustic project to Moe’s.
  5. Well, at least they’re named right for these days we’re enduring now: The Dead Winter Carpenters, the rootsy bluegrass band out of Tahoe, plays Felton Music Hall.
  6. Celebrated Monterey County author Jane Smiley takes a trip up Highway 1 to visit her fans and readers at Bookshop Santa Cruz.
  7. Ska/punk veteran Jeff Rosenstock was a busy guy throughout the 2000s in various bands. Now he’s flying solo, and playing the Rio.
  8. The Circle Church on Santa Cruz’s Westside is the site for an unusual gathering of the artistic tribes on Saturday evening.
  9. Maybe not what Uncle Walt had in mind, but the Sin Sisters Burlesque is doing their Disney show anyway.

What’s happening at the Circle Church?

The doomed Circle Church on the Westside of Santa Cruz has turned into a canvas for mural artists.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

It’s an unusual event at an unusual venue Saturday on the Westside of Santa Cruz. The event is called “Northern Lights” and it’s the work of a collective of artists known as Liminal Space. Call it a kind of mini-festival with everything from ambient music to body painting to escape rooms. And it’s all going down at the famous but doomed Circle Church at the center of the Circles neighborhood.

“We wanted to make a kind of cultural statement,” said Weston Mossman, one of the event’s organizers. “It’s to bring people together over collaboration and just connecting with each other.”

The landmark church property will be transformed into a gathering place, said Mossman, that will carry a kind of anything-goes spirit when it comes to the creative arts: “One of our members is going to be doing a four-hour workshop teaching people how to do concept art, and there’s going to be a few of those workshops.”

Those workshops go along with music and dance performances, live muraling, an “stations where we all do a kind of collaborative art together,” said Mossman. The event is scheduled to take place from 5 to 11 p.m. on Saturday. Tickets are $20.

The event is also being billed as a “sendoff” for the church, which is expected to be demolished later this year, with the property eventually converted to housing.

For a year, Liminal Space — a loose affiliation of more than 60 local artists — has been hosting similar but much smaller events at 11th Hour Coffee in downtown Santa Cruz. For the past couple of weeks, the group has been at work painting murals at the Circle Church, including a project in which the public was invited to participate.

That brought about some unauthorized painting and graffiti tagging, which has caused a stir in the neighborhood. At the end of December, the church became covered with urban street art, which some saw more as defacing property. Mossman said some of the neighbors thought that the church had been abandoned and that taggers had been hitting it. He and his team have painted over much of the unauthorized artwork, but some neighbors are dubious about Liminal Space and what’s going to happen at the church on Saturday.

The Circle Church at the center of the Circles neighborhood on Santa Cruz's Westside
The Circle Church at the center of the Circles neighborhood on Santa Cruz’s Westside in 2021
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

“It was pretty shocking to the neighborhood,” one neighbor told me. “It’s their property and they can do what they want with it, but I think they’re in over their heads over there.”

Whether or not it’s the flowering of new artistic tradition in Santa Cruz, it certainly seems to be the first of its kind at that venue, and very likely the last.

So you wanna be a star?

Cabrillo Stage has a new artistic director and it’s heading into planning for its new season. First step: auditioning.

The theater company, under the direction of the recently hired Andrea L. Hart, will be holding auditions on Feb. 25 and 26 at the Crocker Theater for its summer season. And what will those productions be? We don’t know. The announcement for the summer season comes down Feb. 1. Stay tuned here for that.

Cabrillo Stage will be releasing more details on what will be required for auditions and we’ll share that info when we have it. In the meantime, circle the dates.

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Earworm of the Week

There is no more appropriately named musical performer for the period we’re all enduring right now than Washed Out, the moniker employed by Atlanta-based chill-wave composer Ernest Greene. Right about now, we’re all looking for some kind of escape from the January From Hell. And, ironically Washed Out can deliver for the washed out. The sound here is lush and dreamy, very much synthesizer-based, and — for my money, anyway — some of the most expansive and ecstatic music out there. Washed Out first popped up in public consciousness for his gorgeous theme song to the TV show “Portlandia.” There’s tons more where that came from, and I bow to no one in my love for this stuff. It never fails to elevate me from whatever sour mood has captured me. Sometimes, it makes me feel like I’m flying. I hope it does the same for you. It’s hard to choose one favorite, but I can’t seem to escape the centrifugal force of “Eyes Be Closed.”


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 advertisement for apples

Yes, there’s something vaguely agricultural about this one. Have you seen it close up?

Last week’s answer: Lots of detail in this tiled mural, and there’s a good chance you haven’t seen it yet.

ceramic tiles inlaid on a wall

That’s because it’s a relatively new addition to the campus of Cabrillo College. It’s the amazing ceramic-tile “Engineering Tree '' mural by the science/engineering building.

a tile mural of a tree

Dedicated just a few months ago, it’s the result of a collaboration with more than 50 Cabrillo art and engineering students. If you’re on campus, go find Building 800 and check it out.

Tammi Brown / New music works ad

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.