Arts and entertainment
Best place to see buttrock tribute bands
One of the saddest days in Sacramento rawk history was when Orangevale’s legendary club the Boardwalk removed its Hair Metal Wall(s) of Shame and started booking bands who don’t get most of their airplay on 96.9 the Eagle. So the mantle of true buttrock hegemony passed to the Roadhouse, a former c&w gin mill sandwiched between Del Paso Heights, Robla and the southeast corner of the former McClellan AFB, which switched its booking policy to high-decibel bands—including many who attempt to recreate the arena-rock experience of the ’70s and ’80s. Where else are you gonna see not only tributes to Van Halen and Mötley Crüe, but to Guns ’N Roses, or the Cult, not to mention such original buttrock greats as Montrose and Dokken? Dude. 1556 Bell Ave., (916) 929-3957, www.roadhouserocks.com.
Best independent talk radio show
Parallax Radio, KDVS 90.3
This is not a left-wing radio show. In fact, many of host Doug Everett’s ideas are completely ass-backwards. That’s the beauty of Parallax Radio, whose title refers to the virtue of seeing something from (at least) two different perspectives. An unpredictable, often funny, mix of science, satire, politics and current affairs, the show isn’t always politically correct, but it is always thoughtful. For a while Everett had a show on the low-power FM station, 91.5 KYDS, owned by a local high school. After a coup by school administrators there kicked independent producers like Everett of the air, he bounced around for a few months doing guest commentaries on Capital Public Radio (which he still does). Now Everett is back with a full-length program on KDVS, every Thursday at 5. A lot of work goes into every installment, making Parallax Radio a rare mix of bona-fide grassroots programming with enough professionalism and polish to make it listenable for the whole hour. KDVS 90.3 FM. Thursdays at 5 p.m.
Best tiny coffeehouse that books interesting musical acts
Luna’s is, by day, a nice little hole-in-the-wall on a busy stretch of 16th St. that serves breakfast and lunch items. On evenings that it’s open it turns into the kind of spot where, on a given night, you can see volume-turned-down rock and folk performers from the edges of their respective genres, outside jazz ensembles, touring music acts from Latin America and points elsewhere, reader’s theatre, live poetry and whatever else Art Luna figures might work in his intimate little space, one of the more charming cafés on the grid. 1414 16th St., (916) 441-3931, www.lunascafe.com.
Best place to buy interesting but affordable art
Don’t get us wrong—many of the fine-art galleries in Sacramento show, and offer for sale, paintings, sculptures and other works that are quite stunning. But, for those of us who aren’t independently wealthy, a new Gary Dinnen is probably out of our price range. Enter the Toyroom, launched by John Soldano and Craig Maclaine in a Curtis Park loft last December, with a mandate to sell nothing over $300. Toyroom has been showing such emerging local artists as Robert Gordon, Mike Rodriguez, Pete Bettencourt, Skinner, Aaron Clarke, Kepi, Bruce Gossett and others. Their works tend to be loud, brash, funky, vibrant and irreverent as hell. And the gallery’s openings, which run the weekends after the second Saturday art walk, are usually a bit of a throwdown. In the alley directly behind 2419 2nd Ave., (916) 457-8129, www.toyroomgallery.com.
Best place to pick up a piece of Southern primitive art
Gallery Horse Cow
Every art gallery has its specialty. Local artist and gallery operator Steve Vanoni has a certain passion for Southern primitive, “art brut” and other forms of visionary art—the kind of stuff created by self-taught artists who tend to march to their own internal drummers. Horse Cow’s got walls of the stuff, collected from all over, and it’s reasonably priced. Horse Cow does some other neat stuff, too—the gallery’s recent Art Car shows were a hoot, and it has exhibited some local artists whose works hew to the outsider canon (or lack of one). 1409 Del Paso Blvd., (916) 922-9142.
Best place to reconnect with your Southern roots
Grass Valley Bluegrass Festival
This is an annual event, so don’t mourn if you missed it. Next year, fill the R.V. with gas, pick a shady spot under the pines, and pick up a new straw hat—if they dunk it in water for you it’ll mold to your head and keep you cool. Then, sit back and listen—until it’s time to stand for the national anthem; there are bound to be half a dozen renditions. In between, a patchwork of some of the nation’s best bluegrass bands plays outside among the pines, while inside the exhibition halls, people compare handmade instruments and tune up for the famous jam sessions. Outside, children’s events and workshops offer an insider’s look at the art and craft of making Old Time music. This winning combination has drawn a small but loyal group of bluegrass and gospel lovers for the last 27 years. California Bluegrass Association, (209) 293-1559.
Best public art to remind you to get your lycopene
“Portrait of a Plump Tomato”
Perched atop a gray cement mount just outside the still shockingly day-glo green exterior of the Davis Food Co-op sits the region’s coolest work of public art disguised as an over-ripened fruit. Created in 2000 by local artist Gerald Heffernon with a grant from the Co-op and Davis Civics Arts Commission, “Portrait of a Plump Tomato” is a wonderfully soulful sculpture that artfully depicts a fully ripened orange-red tomato. This tomato is huge—picture the beanbag chair from your college days. Heffernon, a sculptor, painter and writer (he pens a bi-weekly column for the Davis Enterprise) captured the Zeitgeist of the region’s favorite agricultural crop to a tee. Worth a trip from Sacramento. Davis Food Co-op, 6th and G sts., Davis.
Best place to hear touring blues bands
It’s the kind of place where everyone knows your name. An American beer kind of place. A place where top-notch blues and folk acts play blistering sets before heading off to San Francisco or Los Angeles. Come in on a weeknight, sit down, have some chow and listen to a band that will blow your socks off. 515 Main St., Newcastle, (916) 663-9385.
Best way to be amused in your garden
The Flower Bug Garden
Take a moment in the early morning as the dewdrops warm to the rising sun to go out into your verdant yard and peek at the goings-on there. The roses will be trying to out-smell the sweet peas, and the foxgloves will vie for attention over the day lilies. The bees will be chasing off the lacewings, and the hummingbirds will be avoiding the scrub jays. And if you sit still, very still, and breathe very gently, you just might see him. Wearing nothing but wings and antennae, a minute flower-bug man can be seen flitting from forget-me-not to lupine, from orange blossom to alyssum, carrying a spear and defending your garden from a host of unseen invaders. (He takes his role seriously, so let him play.) Recently, photographs have been taken of this elusive winged creature that spouts Shakespeare and rides moths as if they were charging steed. If you don’t have the time to sit still and watch for a naked bug man, go to www.flowerbuggarden.com
to spy on him as he dances between the petals and the thorns.
Best place to hear a touring indie-rock band
As Anodyne Entertainment’s primary booking venue, the intimate stage of the Capitol Garage has hosted some incredible touring acts. These are the kinds of bands who might normally bypass Sacramento for some larger market, but the brilliance of Anodyne keeps bringing them back to town. Upcoming shows by Low and The Black Heart Procession will pack the place to capacity—watch the listings and buy tickets early. 1427 L St., (916) 444-3633.
Best dive bar with live music
Unlike too many other contemporary drinking establishments, this Oak Park club seems to do what old-school bars were set up to do: serve drinks to people who want to hunker down and, well, drink. Primo’s also books punk bands, which have to shoehorn their equipment into a tiny space between the wall, the patrons and the bar. That makes for a great way to enjoy non-frou-frou music. 3406 Broadway, (916) 455-8673.
Best Downtown blues club
The Torch, now in its third or fourth location, isn’t just a cool blues club; it’s actually one of the best places in town to see live music, a no-nonsense, squarish room with a bar on the left side and a stage straight ahead. Blues remains this club’s forte, though, and it books some of the area’s best. 904 15th St., (916) 443-2797.
Best not-quite-Downtown blues club
This club, situated in the former location of a strip club, may not offer a “box lunch.” But it does serve up live music. And, even though the booking policy seems to favor more rock these days (after all, there’s only so much blues to divide between the Blue Lamp, the Torch Club, Marilyn’s, Constable Jack’s, the Powerhouse Pub and others), the Blue Lamp still has its Wednesday night blues jam, along with a Tuesday night piano bar with the great Omar Sharriff. 1400 Alhambra Blvd., (916) 455-3400.
Best over-21 rock club
There are plenty of places to see live music around town, but Old I seems to be the best place to catch the best variety of local bands in action, not to mention a few choice touring acts. Yeah, the anteroom where the stage is located can get packed and claustrophobic, but, when that happens, you can retire to the main bar, which projects a nice saloony vibe, and look at the swordfish on the wall. 1901 10th St., (916) 443-9751.
Best record store to see a band play live
This little “indie” store (actually part of locally owned national chain Tower) is set up like a small venue, with a proscenium arch in the back. This nice detail makes Pug’z a dandy venue for in-store appearances by bands and other music acts that might want to give record buyers a little taste of their stuff. 3200 Folsom Blvd., (916) 737-7849.
Best place to catch live music and run into a King
No, we’re not talking Windsors; we’re talking NBA. During basketball season, you might be there to watch, say, Wonderbread 5 or Tainted Love, or one of the touring bands or local acts that play this swank Midtown room. Step outside, a limo pulls up, and a couple of really tall guys step out and make their way toward the upstairs MoMo Lounge. Then, before you can say, “Hey, that looks like Vlade …,” they’re gone. 2708 J St., (916) 441-4693.
Best local record label
There are a few local record labels owned by the bands whose records are released on them, but there’s nothing quite like Darla, a label and indie distributor based near Del Paso Country Club. Darla the label has exquisitely smart taste—as evidenced by such local bands as Holiday Flyer, California Oranges and Rocketship. But American Idol hopefuls be forewarned—Darla appears to have rather well-defined aesthetic parameters, which most likely exclude your home demos of Mariah Carey covers. www.darla.com.
Best semi-alfresco venue
OK, we’re going overboard on this blues-bar thing. But it isn’t the music (which is fine, don’t get us wrong) that’s the draw here; it’s the rambling, California funk collection of bars and patio, kind of like the Winchester Mystery House redone as 1970s swimming-pool modern. The Stoney Inn has been in the same location for quite a while, but since new owners took over late last fall, the place has been much more ambitious in its booking policy. 1320 Del Paso Blvd., (916) 927-6023.
Best local band
Don’t we usually reserve these judgments for the SAMMIES? Anyway, this being the “best of” issue, it would be too easy to give a nod to last year’s winner, Cake, or to the almighty Deftones. But we’re interested in up-and-coming acts, ones that haven’t been signed to major labels, ones we think the entire world should hear. And, from what we’ve heard coming out of Retrofit Recordings and seen in venues around town, this year that band is Forever Goldrush. Anchored by the rock-solid songwriting and smoky voice of Damon Wyckoff, the Goldrush has evolved beyond its roots-rock combo origins into something altogether more original and substantial. Will Forever Goldrush make an important contribution to the canon of American music? It’ll be a saga worth watching.
Best local CD
Jackpot, Shiny Things
Nothing like a breakthrough album to put things in perspective. Jackpot has been making fine music in these parts for a few years now, with three previous albums to its credit. But it all comes together on CD No. 4, Shiny Things (Surfdog Records). Although frontman and songwriter Rusty Miller has been writing really good songs all along, they haven’t been framed with the superior production values they deserved—until now. That and the spirit of open-minded experimentation you can hear on the CD make for the kind of record that stands out in a field populated by more than a few other quite good local discs.