Cristian Măcelaru (back to camera) conducts during a rehearsal for the 2022 Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)
Wallace Baine

Weekender: Cabrillo Fest’s new season, First Friday in high gear and Vets Hall rocking again

Hi friends,

Don’t know about you, but I’m detecting a shift this week to a more busy cultural scene in town. Yes, we’re still busting out the sweaters and wool hats, but some kind of summer-like vibe is in the air. Am I trippin’?

Now, on with the show.

This Just In!

British-born reggae singer Pato Banton — who used to play Santa Cruz all the time — returns to the Catalyst for a new show Aug. 6. The great Cuban guitarist Eliades Ochoa will perform at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center on Aug. 16. Novelist Lisa See (“Shanghai Girls”) comes to Bookshop Santa Cruz on June 27. Also, the annual women-writers event “In Celebration of the Muse” returns May 5 as a virtual event.

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

B9: What’s what in the week ahead

Here they are, nine necessary know-abouts for the week ahead. It’s the chilly-April B9:

  1. Lower Pacific Avenue is gonna be a bit noisy on Friday afternoon. Follow your ears to a free show at Streetlight Records.
  2. Has it really been 25 years since Groundation has been playing roots reggae all across Northern California?
  3. Did you know that hilarious weirdo Creed on “The Office” also played in the 1960s band The Grass Roots? Hear him tell the story in Felton.
  4. Peer back into Santa Cruz’s counterculture history with folks who were there at the “Hip Santa Cruz” book launch party.
  5. The fabulous San Lorenzo Valley-born singer-songwriter Taylor Rae plays a homecoming gig at Moe’s Alley. She’s special.
  6. Learn a bit about the magic of “blood harmony” with the twin brothers who make up the Brother Brothers.
  7. One more weekend for Mountain Community Theatre’s much-talked-about production of “The Humans” in Ben Lomond.
  8. Ambitious and intriguing opening to the contemporary-classical music festival April in Santa Cruz, up on campus.
  9. You want to see a Circus on Ice (or at least a convincing ice-like synthetic substance)? It’s happening at the Civic.

Cabrillo Festival’s new season

Cristian Măcelaru, music director and conductor for the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

The 2023 season of the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music will run July 30-Aug. 12 at the Santa Cruz Civic, and will include a visit from The Kronos Quartet and a festival-commissioned piece paying tribute to longtime executive director Ellen Primack, who’s stepping down after 33 years. Read more here.

The Catalyst Club
(The Catalyst Club)

First Friday fun

First Friday festivities are blooming all over Santa Cruz County, with the April event including glass-blowing in Davenport, functional art from more than 60 locals at the mall and sculpture at downtown newcomer Minnow Arts. Read more here.

Vets Hall ramps up

The Veterans Memorial Building on Front Street in downtown Santa Cruz.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

It’s shaping up to be a busy spring and summer at the downtown Santa Cruz Veterans Memorial Building, with Stinkfoot Orchestra bringing its Zappa vibes for a First Friday concert and a series of psychedelic shows in the offing. Read more here.

Weigh on San Lorenzo Park

Santa Cruz’s Parks and Recreation department is looking for input as it mulls a redesign for downtown’s San Lorenzo Park, on the Ocean Street side of the river. This promises to be a long process, and this is likely to be the first of several opportunities for the public to influence what the park will become.

As long-timers can tell you, San Lorenzo Park was once a popular draw for festivals, performances and other big events, but it hasn’t really been a usable venue in several years since it became the site for the Benchlands homeless encampment. But the city is working to envision a post-Benchlands use. Now, you can take the city’s survey to give planners a sense of what the community wants.

Earworm of the Week

This week in EWW, let’s leave the tawdry world of the earthbound and soar into inner space a bit. We’ll be doing so with the help of two talents from opposite sides of the young-old continuum: the young Texas-born instrumentalist and producer Charlee Nguyen, and the late philosopher king of the 1960s counterculture, Alan Watts. Nguyen makes pillowy, sedate instrumental music that sounds like drifting among the galaxies in the cosmos. Anyone who prefers energy and aggressiveness in their pop music might find Nguyen insipid, but I find his music mesmerizing. In a track called “Thinking About You,” Nguyen combines his chill vibe with the words of Watts, the British-born philosopher whose public lectures continue to tickle the imagination of those on a quest to find the truth beyond Western duality, and explore the Tao. It’s a short piece, just 2½ minutes long, but Nguyen’s music creates a kind of alchemy with the gnomic pronouncements of Watts, who died 50 years ago in Marin County. The end result is kinda magical. Frankly, I could listen to 2½ hours of this stuff. If this drives you into the arms of Alan Watts and the archive of his public speaking, well, you’re welcome. Meet you out in the cosmos, fellow psychonauts.

All the Earworms in one place

For those who’ve been following my Earworm of the Week, I’ve assembled a playlist that contains them all.

Thank You, Mr. Johnson

For all you writers, readers, and other lovers of language, we offer up a forgotten or archaic word from Samuel Johnson’s 1755 Dictionary in hopes that it might find a new life in today’s popular vocabulary. The definitions are Mr. Johnson’s; the usage examples are mine. This week’s word:

Stultiloquence (noun) Foolish talk.

What do Twitter and Congress have in common? They are both stultiloquence machines.

Santa Cruz County Trivia

A once-popular Santa Cruz-based blues and gospel singer — with an instantly recognizable familial name — resurfaced in 2022 as a clue in the New York Times crossword puzzle. Who is this locally famous performer? Text me the answer.

Last week: What was the Crepe Place’s original name? The legendary midtown Santa Cruz restaurant first opened back in 1973 — the summer of Watergate — in downtown Santa Cruz. Inspired by a trip to Paris by the sister of its original owner, Gary Keeley, the tiny crepe restaurant was originally called The Seine on the Other Side. Carrying on that Parisian theme, it had French names for all its menu items, as well.

Locals liked the place, but could never remember that fancy name, so word on the street made it into “the crepe place.” Soon enough that became, officially, The Crepe Place.

The restaurant has reached its 50th anniversary, thanks to the resilience of its original owners. It has been in its present location since 1990, after not one, but two natural disasters had destroyed its previous locations — the first a hillside collapse on North Pacific Avenue, and not long after that, the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.


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.