Arts & Entertainment
Best entertainment for pedestrians
Midtown sidewalk graffiti
The Midtown sidewalks are alive with guerilla artwork. In the old days, an artist/vandal would happen upon a patch of freshly poured cement and would hastily scratch in a message with a twig. Popular examples of this include the Ween Boognish symbol in front of Lucky Café and the rather large “Thank You For Pot Smoking” outside First Choice Chinese Restaurant. Then came the stencilers. New designs still appear every few months—circus elephants, Jesuses or tiger-eyed faces surreptitiously spray-painted onto street corners through pre-designed templates. Lately, freestyle painting has become more popular. Witness the pink hearts pierced by arrows at random intervals throughout the grid. The chalk drawings of children, sorority pledges and advertisements only add to the colorful melee.
Best pocket-sized cultural exchange
They’re free. They’re covered in original artwork. They’re only half the size of a business card, but they contain some of the most important ideas of our time. Richard Hansen’s 24th Street Irregular Press has created more than 200 mini-chapbooks with verse by nationally famous artists, such as Patti Smith and Tom Waits, and local poets, such as Jose Montoya and Barbara Noble. The Poems-For-All chapbooks can be ordered online for the price of a self-addressed, stamped envelope or grabbed by the handful from Hansen’s Midtown bookshop, The Book Collector. Take them, read them and pass them on.
1008 24th Street, (916) 442-9295, www.sacfreepress.com/poems.
Best hammering of nails into nostrils
If you see a man in a referee’s shirt eating glass, pounding nails into his nose and juggling axes on a street corner, you’ve happened upon the Fiasco Sideshow. Though Fiasco routinely sustains burns and lacerations while performing his manic one-man routines, he never ceases trying to please his audience (or make people wince). Throughout the last year, the Fiasco Sideshow has thrilled and nauseated crowds at Second Saturday receptions, on the Naked Preacher Lady public-access cable show, during the annual Art Car Bizarre, on the Colonial Theatre stage, at the Trash Film Orgy and outside various live-music events. No other local artist gives as much blood, sweat and tears—literally—to entertain. So, when you spy that black-and-white striped shirt, we want you to clap loud, tip big and stay clear of the flying machetes.
Best band mascot
The Helper Monkey
The Helper Monkeys’ mascot has been appearing on posters taped to stoplights and telephone poles in Sacramento with increasing frequency. The cartoon-monkey-face-smoking-a-cigarette icon has become synonymous with the Sacramento punk quartet’s irreverent musicianship. Sometimes, the monkey’s face accompanies an advertisement for a Helper Monkeys show. More often than not, however, the monkey appears without any text at all. He’s just hanging out, reminding passersby of the punk band’s presence and spreading goodwill with his goofy visage. He’s just a cartoon monkey—helping.
Best actor/most valuable player (theater division)
Gary Alan Wright
Often seen at the Foothill Theatre Company, he’s excellent with comedy: contemporary, classic American or Shakespearean. He’s smart with serious drama, historical and otherwise. He plays Russians, Frenchmen and other foreigners, and he always makes his mark—even when his accent drifts. And he writes good scripts. In fact, he’s reportedly working on a novel. But you’ll probably need to go to Nevada County to check out his work.
Best instant-replay trophy of dubious merit
Local theater companies
This downscale honor is presented to almost all local theater companies that sought safety in uncertain times by offering tried-and-true hits from the recent past. Among the citations: the Sacramento Theatre Company did Cinderella and Jodie’s Body (each for the third time); the B Street Theatre brought back Last Train to Nibroc (for the third time) and Jack Gallagher’s Just The Guy (for the third time, and it’s soon to migrate to Garbeau’s Dinner Theatre); Foothill Theatre Company revived Always, Patsy Cline; the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival did A Midsummer Night’s Dream (for the third time in eight years); the Delta King Theatre brought back I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change; River Stage dusted off its adaptation of A Christmas Carol; and the Music Circus dedicated the new Wells Fargo Pavilion with Cats (for the fourth time in the tent—the sixth time if you want to count two touring engagements at the Community Center Theatre) and exhumed Brigadoon (for the seventh time). And the Studio Theatre is still presenting Six Women With Brain Death (now in its mind-numbing seventh year). We could go on. And we should add that many of these revivals drew healthy audiences, including some first-time ticket buyers. But folks, it’s time to do some crop rotation (or plant some new ones), before you wear out what was once fertile soil.
Best struggling local playwright
Tie: Richard Broadhurst and Anthony D’Juan
Both are talented writers who are living in Sacramento and suffering from the proverbial curse of being “local playwrights.” Richard Broadhurst’s play Benched (which was the subject of an SN&R cover story in December 2001) enjoyed a successful run at the Sacramento Theatre Company, and his one-act Inside got a short run at the Guild Theater in August. But he seems to have an easier time getting his work staged in cities like Minneapolis and Philadelphia. Anthony D’Juan contributed major elements to last January’s memorable Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Project, Keeping The Dream Alive (by California Musical Theatre), and some of his other plays have been produced locally at the Actor’s Theatre. But both of these guys should get more recognition on their home turf. A juicy rumor has it that they might collaborate on a script.
Best new theatrical venture
The Children’s Theatre of California
It opened under the wing of the B Street Theatre. The spring production, Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse, a fine, glossy first installment, drew a surprisingly high percentage of adult viewers (often attending with a youngster). The nascent Children’s Theatre missed a significant opportunity when it didn’t mount a summer production; many families are home during summer months and looking for things to do. When you’re a kid, there’s always room to grow next year.
2727 B Street, (916) 443-5300.
Best long-running theatrical project
Celebration Arts Theatre
Celebration Arts Theatre’s annual staging of a play by the masterful South African writer Athol Fugard is an outstanding effort, now in its eighth year and still growing in stature. Second place goes to Foothill Theatre Company for its annual production of an original play set in the West, which offered Bad Axe this year. The vivid drama by P.J. Barry is set against the background of the Blackhawk war.
Best steamy photo tease, with apologies to Calvin Klein
The Sacramento Theatre Company’s new brochure
Look in here, and you’ll find a glossy photo promoting the upcoming January production of Two for the Seesaw. The play, written by William Gibson in the late 1950s, is about a lawyer from Nebraska and a dancer from New York who have an affair. Pictured are blissful Bryan Wiseman and April Hass, embracing arm-in-arm in bed and appearing to be undressed, with the aid of a discreetly arranged sheet. It’s a romantic, artfully sexy photo, and it’s definitely eye-catching. But if you read the fine print, you’ll find the truth-in-advertising statement that the “production does not contain nudity"—which isn’t quite what the photo implies. This might qualify for a bait-and-switch citation. A special award should go to Hass for going beyond the call of her job description to draw us in.
Best new stage venue (small)
The Guild Theater in Oak Park
The first dramatic production—Richard Broadhurst’s Inside—was a winner. But the Guild’s management has much to learn about how to promote a show successfully in order to draw a broad audience. But let more shows go on.
2828 35th Street, (916) 736-1185
Best place to shake your arse
Lipstick started out as a club where Sacramento’s few local Anglophiles could go to dance to the likes of the Smiths, Pulp, the Kinks and other great British bands. In the three-and-a-half years since its conception, Lipstick has evolved, drawing hipsters from all over the Sacramento Valley on Tuesday nights. Deejays Shaun Slaughter and Roger Carpio still spin Brit-pop favorites, but they’ve added into the mix a collection of electro-rock, synth-pop, post-punk and Motown. The dancing doesn’t usually start until 11 p.m., so show up at 10:30, grab a Pabst and wait for the party to start.
Inside Old Ironsides at 1901 10th Street, (916) 443-9751.
Best high-energy comic performance
Matt K. Miller
He burned more calories than an aerobics instructor with his highly entertaining nonstop delivery in Fully Committed at the Sacramento Theatre Company last January. Second place goes to Matt K. Miller again, for his delirious duel with another actor in Seven Ages of Man at the Sacramento Theatre Company during the spring.
Best at hitting all the right notes
The Anna in Garbeau’s Dinner Theatre’s The King and I reminds us that voice and presence make musicals magical. She sparkled and sang, waltzed and warbled, and all together made the “I” in the King and I a standout.
Best new stage venue (large)
Music Circus’ Wells Fargo Pavilion
It’s not a “Palace of the Arts” like the Mondavi Center. It’s more like Raley Field with a roof. But its seats are more comfortable than the seats at either of those other aforementioned venues! And it’s air-conditioned.
1419 H Street, (916) 557-1999.
Best dead screen walking
Sacramento One-Six Drive-In
In August of 2002, Century Theatres announced it was closing the Sacramento One-Six Drive-In and building a multiplex on the site. It wasn’t that the drive-in was losing money. It was just that, well, there was more money to be made by tearing it down. Drive-in fans grieved and shook their fists at the cinema deities in the sky and prepared to say goodbye to a favorite venue. But oddly enough, the One-Six has stayed open. It’s been more than a year since the initial announcement, and the drive-in is still firing on all six screens. Maybe the development deal has hit some snags, or maybe the deities decided to spare the beloved parking lot. Whatever the reason, those of us who love to watch movies by the dashboard lights are grateful for the extra time.
Highway 50 at Bradshaw, (916) 363-6572.
Best lovers of the English language
Tie: Thistle Dew Dessert THeatre and Delta King Theatre
Two smaller productions stand out for reminding us that theater always starts with the wonder of the written word. Both relied on the actors’ masterful delivery of lines and the audience’s imagination, backed up by the authors’ lush language. Thistle Dew Dessert Theatre’s production of Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood let the audience bask in the beauty of the Welshman’s writing. And another word winner was the Delta King Theatre’s The Woman in Black, a gothic ghost story told on a bare stage that became theater of the mind, with language and illusions doing more scaring than a plethora of special effects.
Best way to get more films for your buck
The Crest Theatre’s discount movie cards
There’s no question that chain movie theaters have gone off the deep end with pricing. Movies are nearing $10 per person. Even the smallest-sized popcorn-and-drink combo costs nearly as much as a ticket. And it’s nearly impossible to find a matinee these days, never mind that today’s matinees cost what a full-price ticket cost 15 years ago. Where’s a frugal moviegoer to turn? To the Crest, of course! Sacramento’s last independent theater not only has daily prices lower than the chains’ prices but also offers a discount card to patrons. One $25 discount card buys admission to five movies and either a small popcorn or a small drink with each use. Add that to the fact that the Crest consistently delivers award-winning independent films and organic popcorn, and there’s no reason to be overcharged by the multiplexes ever again.
1013 K Street, (916) 44-CREST, www.thecrest.com.
Best sound technician
As head of sound at Old Ironsides since 1995, Evan Drath has developed a fairly simple approach to sound: “Audiences are keyed off of vocals, but they also like their bodies moved by the music.” This philosophy, and the fact that he’s known for obtaining a lot of clarity, have brought nationally touring acts to the club. Bands even seek him out for freelance sound work. (At his rehearsal space, The Dojo, Drath also does consultations to help bands improve their performances.) Aside from also doing sound for bands at Harlow’s, The Boardwalk, Capitol Garage, The Press Club, The Distillery, et al., Drath has worked the boards in most of the mid-sized California venues and has gone on some interesting road trips. During the 2002 Winter Olympics, Drath did sound for Jackpot in the Olympic Village. He also did Jackpot’s show on the steps of the Smithsonian American Art Museum when the band opened for Cake in front of 27,000 people.
The Dojo, (916) 456-0688; Old Ironsides, (916) 443-9751.
Best reason to raise your glass
A good cause? We’ll drink to that! Each fall, about 20 Northern California breweries gather at Cesar Chavez Plaza as part of the Harvest Brewfest to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Sample the ales, lagers, stouts and browns from the likes of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Lost Coast Brewery, Widmer Brothers and the Sacramento Brewing Co. The buzz has it Pyramid will join this year’s lineup. Soak up the suds, live music and good vibes with your fellow do-gooders at the fourth annual Harvest Brewfest on Saturday, October 18, from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the gate. Be sure to pace yourself, lest your community service come with a hangover.
Ninth and J streets, (916) 921-9518.
Best-kept entertainment secret in town
Towe Auto Museum’s film and organ recitals
Hosted by film collector Nick Langdon (with the occasional assist from Laurel & Hardy buff Rebecca Kane), the museum’s irregular schedule of screenings and organ concerts are an old-flick lover’s dream, showcasing the bygone heyday of Eddie Cantor, Shirley Temple, Mae West, Will Rogers and others.
2220 Front Street, (916) 442-6802, www.toweautomuseum.org.
Best movie-theater marquee
In 1928, after extensive remodeling, the Hippodrome opened on K Street as a movie theater that also offered vaudeville entertainment. In 1946, its marquee collapsed, closing the venue for almost three years. Fox West Coast Theatres stripped, remodeled and resurrected the building as an art-deco showcase in 1949. The grand opening featured a screening of That Midnight Kiss, starring Kathryn Grayson and Mario Lanza, and the resplendent neon marquee that is now a “must stop and gape” landmark on any evening stroll along our downtown promenade.
1013 K Street, (916) 44-CREST, www.thecrest.com.
Best urinal sketch
“Team Urinals” staged by I Can’t Believe It’s Not Comedy
Call them bladder-challenged. Or maybe size really does count—but just more to men than to women. In either case, the males (who, by the way, are not all played by men) in this comedy troupe’s public-restroom sketch have difficulty relieving themselves when joined at a row of porcelain receptacles by strangers. As the crowd at the onstage toilets grows, the laughs also geometrically progress until both actors and audience are busting their guts for very different reasons.
Most distinctive public landmark
The blue light near the Esquire Grill
Standing beside the building, all you see is a vertical row of nondescript lights. But from a distance, they blend together into a dazzling ice-blue arrow pointed at the heart of Sacramento, visible for miles around—even, some say, from space.
1213 K Street.
Best way to find your inner 13-year-old
The nerd-rock phenomenon is one of the strangest facets of the music scene. It’s not the fashion (horn-rimmed glasses, hip products, children’s T-shirts or Chuck Taylor sneakers) but rather the point of view. Often, nerd rockers seem to take an “I’m a fragile child” approach to songwriting—as if the 20- or 30-year-old singer is really just a 13-year-old inside. Somewhere on the Weezer side of the nerd-rock fence resides Skip Allums, who performs locally under the name Estereo. Estereo’s music is witty, sensitive, caring and sexy—essentially making him the poster boy for local nerds. Think Elvis Costello without the anger. It can be insipid at times, but somehow, that’s part of the charm.
With lyrics that are an even mixture of Bob Dylan and Dr. Seuss, and music that sounds like the Pixies as a klezmer band, Las Pesadillas prove again and again that they are the most interesting band to come out of Sacramento in a good long while. Noah Nelson’s drawling vocals and Iron Maiden-meets-Hank Williams guitar work, coupled with Damian Sol’s violin textures, give the music its interesting timbre. But it is the rhythm work of Jason Cox on drums and Jon Mack on bass that manages to put the whole thing over the top. Check out their latest CD, House of a Thousand Grassfires, which features a bonus track that will flat out kill anyone who grew up playing Nintendo. Brilliant!
Best Cousin It impression, rock ‘n’ roll division
Darin Wood, Soul Motor
Hard rock and metal bands long have been known for their hair—so much so that we have developed the term “hair band” to describe them. These days, there’s not too much hair to be found (although it should be noted that hair is definitely staging a comeback). But fans of hair need look no further than Soul Motor. One might be tempted to focus on Soul Motor’s more famous member, Tesla’s Brian Wheat, but perhaps more important for hair fans is the presence of lead singer Darin Wood, who has so much hair that he literally resembles Cousin It while on stage, a trembling cascade of brown swinging from scalp to beltline. And, the man can sing! Barnum & Bailey would have hired him instantly.
Best live band
Sometimes, one wonders where the English language gets its descriptors. Take the idea of a “live music show.” The problem here is “show,” a term that so often seems wasted on lackluster bands performing yet another gig at yet another venue. But all it takes is a band like local hard alternative act Phrenik to remind an audience what a “show” is all about. The band comes on stage with a ferociousness and confidence that one seldom sees in a local live act, and immediately engages the audience. It’s usually a big show in a little venue, and that’s exactly what live music should be.
Best local band name
The stage moniker of electronic musician Evan Schneider is just the kind tongue-in-cheek band name that jaded music reporters drool over. But lest one think the name is simply clever for the sake of being clever, readers should be aware that Fruitbat is all about autobiography. Autobiographical point No. 1: Like many musicians, Schneider is an essentially nocturnal being—staying up at night and (one hopes) sleeping during the day. Autobiographical point No. 2: Schneider is a vegetarian. A little math and a dictionary, and voilà: Fruitbat. The rest, as they say, is electronic-music history.
Best live-music fanatic
Troy “Guvnor” Wood
You may not know Troy Wood (also known simply as “Guvnor”), but if you are a live-music aficionado, you’ve probably seen him around. Wood is perhaps the most voracious live-music fan in town, and his Web site chronicles some of his adventures. He’s pretty much everything a band could want in a fan: freakishly intelligent, obsessively devoted and brutally honest. If only live bands could clone him (or he could clone himself so he could see more than one show per night). Catch him in the audience at the next Low Flying Owls or Proles show—two of his local favorites.
Best place to see the art-making process
Art Foundry Gallery
The Art Foundry has an interesting art gallery featuring some of the best local and regional talent. People also do bronze casting right there, with demonstrations every once in a while. On top of this, a few artists have studios in the building and open them up for the looky-loos once a month. How much closer to the action do you want to be?
1021 R Street, (916) 444-2787.
Best poster artist, old-school
Paul Imagine’s Insurgent Arts promises “punk rock art by a punk for all you rotten punks.” Imagine first drew a black-and-white flier for a friend’s punk show in 1998. Since then, he’s expanded his artistic empire to include buttons, stickers, shirts and glorious multi-colored silkscreen posters. Imagine’s drawings of intricate monsters and greasy machines sprawl over every bit of space on his chosen surfaces. The bright colors and writhing letters of his hand-drawn art recall the psychedelic posters of the 1960s, while retaining a distinctly modern dystopian theme. Currently the poster artist for the always-bustling Anodyne Entertainment, Imagine’s masterpieces continue to appear in shop windows all over town.
Best poster artist, new-school
Scott Hansen, the artist behind the electronic music of Tycho and the posters of the Command Collective, creates show advertisements suitable for framing (if it were possible to pull them off the lampposts without ripping them). Styled with computer programs like Photoshop and Illustrator, his images feature stark backgrounds, clean lines, clear text and subtle color schemes using colors like beige, brown, lime and aqua. The figures in his images are often left as silhouettes or, as in his portraits, are partially obscured by the borders of the page. Hansen’s posters stand out among the flotsam of work-at-home solicitations and Xeroxed band fliers on our city streets like mother-of-pearl on a beach.
Best opportunity to wear your fairy wings
A Onelinedrawing show at True Love Coffeehouse
True Love Coffeehouse is the hip joint for the under-21 crowd. Couple that with the up-with-people banter of teen heartthrob Jonah Matranga (performing under the name Onelinedrawing), and you have the makings of a 17-year-old meltdown. Onelinedrawing shows define a specific indie-rock subculture, and True Love somehow manages to focus that aspect into a diamond. A quick glance around will reveal wire-framed fairy wings, plastic tiaras, Boy (or Girl) Scout T-shirts, lots of Chuck Taylors (of course) and a goodly amount of clean teen fun. Think of it as a sit-down rave with mochaccinos instead of ecstasy. And take note: No irony allowed.
2406 J Street, (916) 492-9002, www.truelovesacto.com.
Best reason to throw an art party
Second Saturday art walks
It’s been going on for quite a while now, and even though there were some politics at first, and some galleries resisted, the Second Saturday art walks are a good boost to the gallery scene. On the second Saturday of each month, many local galleries host artist receptions simultaneously. What results is a great opportunity to get out and walk to art galleries and see multiple openings. And what makes it nice is that you don’t even need to know who’s showing where or even where the galleries are specifically located to enjoy an evening of art.
Check SN&R during Second Saturday weeks for a map.
Best local artist
Attempting to label one artist the best is truly a ridiculous exercise. Art, by nature, brings out each creator’s individual character, and to place one above another is as pointless as comparing Mexican food with Thai. Wayne Thiebaud’s achievements, however, are quite noteworthy. A determined Thiebaud set out in the late 1950s to make it in the art world. And it worked. After having a successful solo exhibit in New York in the early 1960s, the artist’s career took off on a huge scale. But, regardless of his stardom, he still keeps his roots in Sacramento.