A painting by Elliott Bliss
Wallace Baine

Weekender: Tay Lion roars again, playwrights honing their chops and Blissed-out art

Hi friends,

If you have memories of the great Bay Area icon Vida Blue, who died last week, you and I should really get coffee sometime. I’ll be the one wearing the garish green-and-yellow Vida Blue jersey. RIP to one of my childhood superheroes.

Now, on with the show.

This Just In!

He’s a national treasure in Canada, but still only a cult fave here in the U.S.: The great Bruce Cockburn will visit the Rio on Nov. 19. Former San Francisco Giants coach Tim Flannery has fashioned a fabulous second career as a singer-songwriter; he comes with his band to the Kuumbwa on Sept. 2. Also at the Kuumbwa will be the wonderful Ms. Tammi Brown singing Ella Fitzgerald, on June 24. Reggae greats Black Uhuru plays Moe’s on Sept. 6. Santa Cruz author Lara Love Hardin will speak about her new memoir at Bookshop Santa Cruz on Aug. 1. And the all-female Led Zeppelin tribute band Zepparella comes to Moe’s on Nov. 18

Housing Month Ad

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 a “May gray” B9:

  1. The great science journalist Elizabeth Kolbert and New York Times columnist (and UCSC alum) Ezra Klein come together on campus to discuss the future of the planet and humankind. You got something better going on than that?
  2. Sure, they’re bluegrass, technically, but the Brothers Comatose ooze a distinctively spirit that lets you know they grew up listening to Zeppelin and Stones.
  3. You don’t have to be a Primus fan to plug in to what Les Claypool is laying down these days, because Primus is only a small part of the man’s out-there creativity. In this case, Les is more.
  4. Poet, translator and local literary powerhouse Stephen Kessler is the Santa Cruz County Artist of the Year. At Kuumbwa, he’s going to share his best with the community, for free.
  5. Jewel Theatre closes its penultimate season (did I use that word right?) with a new production of a comedy about an ambitious young man and his meddling grandparents.
  6. Yes, it’s on Zoom. But it’s still sure to be a stimulating conversation about art and activism with giants in the field, including Shepard Fairey, Frank Abe and Andrew Aydin.
  7. Everyone Orchestra exists just at the edge of chaos. See this improvisational madness, that often includes live painters and performance artists, at Felton Music Hall.
  8. One of Northern California’s greatest literary innovators, Dave Eggers is back in bookstores with a new novel populated by non-human animals, with distinctly humane themes.
  9. Former Santa Cruz County firefighter Clare Frank tells amazing stories in her new harrowing and darkly humorous memoir about fighting fires.

With scripts in hand

The collective of local playwrights under the 36 North banner kicks off a series of staged readings of new plays Monday — a chance to interact with a live audience and get a sense of what works and what doesn’t. Read more here.

Shows coming to The Catalyst this week
(The Catalyst Club)

Rio Del Mural

Taylor Reinhold, leader of Made Fresh Crew and the director of the landmark “Sea Walls” mural project in Santa Cruz, has added another bold piece to his public catalog, this one along the Esplanade in Rio Del Mar, an area pounded by this winter’s storms. Read more here.

Putting the “fun” in “funeral”

Martin Kachuck in the Mountain Community Theater production of "The Viewing Room."
(Via Jake Thomas)

In “The Viewing Room,” a dead patriarch suddenly sits up at his own funeral and tries to make amends to family. “If we do this right,” says Peter Gelblum, who directs Mountain Community Theater’s latest production, “there will be some tears along with the laughter.” Read more here.

What’s on the wall

A painting by Elliott Bliss

Our new feature debuting this week is all about discovering the great visual art that is available in Santa Cruz County. Occasionally, we’ll peek into one of the many coffeehouses, restaurants, cafes, brewpubs and retail outlets across the county that give over a part of their wall space to local visual artists. And we’ll get to know some of those artists and their work.

First up is Elliott Bliss, the longtime Santa Cruz artist whose surreal, hallucinatory artwork can be experienced up close and personal at 11th Hour Coffee in downtown Santa Cruz, as well as Woodstock’s Pizza and CannaCruz dispensary. In describing his art, Bliss doesn’t shy away from the term “psychedelic,” and there’s very much an “Alice in Wonderland” feel to his images of trees, snails, sea creatures, and mushrooms … lots of mushrooms. In fact, among his signature themes are nude figures with the heads of mushrooms.

“I’ve always been a big fan of Salvador Dali,” said Bliss. “It looks kinda realistic at first, but the deeper you look at it, the more you see.”

A painting by Elliott Bliss

The colors, the trippy incongruities, the serenity of the natural images, it all makes me think of music. It’s really arresting stuff.

You can see (and buy) Elliott Bliss’s artwork up close at 11th Hour or the other local venues mentioned, or you can check it all out on Instagram at @elliott_bliss.

Earworm of the Week

Of all the musicians with some tie to Santa Cruz County, one of the most under-the-radar artists is the DJ and producer Miguel Migs, who grew up in Santa Cruz and might be remembered for his work as a guitarist in the local reggae band Zion Sounds. As a San Francisco-based DJ in the 2000s, Migs became one of the leading artists for Naked Music, a label that developed a signature style of super-chill electronica with a R&B heart. I first became aware of Migs about 20 years ago with the release of his gorgeous album “Colorful You,” and was really taken with his sophisticated but soulful songs that work both as an enjoyable vibe to clean house to, and as background for a relaxed afternoon party with friends. The “Naked Sound” isn’t as influential as it was in the 2000s, but Migs is still making irresistibly mellow electronic music, touring the world and collaborating with major artists from a wide variety of genres. To get a good first dose of the Miguel Migs vibe, check out the seductively groovy “Days of Color,” a perfect soundtrack for the bright buttery days of mid-May.

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.

Santa Cruz County Trivia

There are close to 300 cities, towns, counties or districts named Santa Cruz throughout the world. Which country contains the most places called Santa Cruz? (Hint: It’s not the United States).

Chasing Mavericks

Last week’s answer: So who is the Santa Cruz surfing-community legend with the “chill” nickname who was portrayed by Gerard Butler in the 2012 film “Chasing Mavericks”? Yep, it was veteran big-wave surfer Richard “Frosty” Hesson, the famously white-haired figure who is an icon in Pleasure Point. Back in the 1990s, Frosty found himself in a mentor/student relationship with the brilliant young surf prodigy Jay Moriarity. That relationship became the basis for “Chasing Mavericks,” which also works as a tribute to Moriarity, who died at 22 in a free-diving accident.


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.