Best of Sacramento 2016: Arts & Entertainment writers’ picks

The Panama Art Factory—you might not find an Andy Warhol scene here, but you’ll still find plenty of awesome.

The Panama Art Factory—you might not find an Andy Warhol scene here, but you’ll still find plenty of awesome.


Best unexpected creative hub

Panama Art Factory

In the last year or so, the industrial strip edging the backside of Hollywood Park has turned into something of a secret hip (but decidedly not placemaker hip) destination, thanks to the likes of Phono Select Records, Fountainhead Brewing Co. and Track 7 Brewing Co. Recently, Panama Art Factory joined those ranks. The space, which dates back to the early 1900s, has long been home to a pottery shop and kiln, and these days it builds on that history with private studio spaces, classes and exhibitions. It also hosts events, including dance and live music. The scene is miles away—both literally and figuratively—from Andy Warhol’s famed New York City Factory scene, but the vibe is just as radical. 4421 24th Street, R.L.

Best place to borrow an accordion

Library of MusicLandria

Sacramento Public Library’s Library of Things has some instruments you can check out, sure. But do they have accordions, crash cymbals, effects pedals, drum machines, recording gear and obscure percussion? I didn’t think so. That’s what makes the Library of MusicLandria so special. They have anything music-related you can imagine—and it’s free, just like a library. The library is run out of couple Buddy Hale and Rachel Freund’s home. It’s easy to check out instruments. Just provide your name and proof of address. Currently, they have over 200 instruments and gear from which to choose, and it keeps growing. Just don’t break anything and don’t forget to return whatever you check out. A.C.

Best banjo maker

Reimel Banjos

Paul Reimel didn’t expect to sell any of the banjos he brought to a bluegrass festival in Grass Valley back in June. But he sold every one. “I sold the one I was playing, too. A lady fell in love with it,” he said. But that’s all right—he’ll just make himself another one. Reimel Banjos began in 2010, when a friend requested the cabinetmaker turned guitar-maker make him a banjo. Reimel enjoyed the process so much, he kept at it and put them up for sale at The Nicholson Music Co. (636 E. Bidwell Street in Folsom), where he works as a luthier, “and they just trickled out,” he said. Now, Reimel’s just finished his 41st open-back Americana work of art with no plans of stopping any time soon. S.

Best place to laugh and stress out

High Anxiety Variety Show!

On the surface, the High Anxiety Variety Show is a combination of musical performances, comedians and interviews. That alone is unique enough to warrant the $5 admission price to this monthly show at Naked Lounge. But really, the High Anxiety Variety Show is much more. It’s a crazy, weird evening of entertainment. Hosts Cory Barringer and Cameron Curtis Betts bring a weirdly hilarious (and highly anxious) energy to the evening. Oh, and the questions they ask their guests? It goes way behind “What are your biggest influences?” It’s more like, “Tell us about your last nervous breakdown.” Dates vary monthly; 8 p.m. at Naked Lounge, 1111 H Street; A.C.

Best freewheeling radio comeback


Those of us old enough to remember K-ZAP back in the day still obsess over the station’s freewheeling take on radio, which was, basically, “anything goes.” Thankfully, its reboot revives that spirit, digging in deep on album cuts and playing artists not heard on other local stations. K-ZAP, which originally was broadcast from the 98.5 frequency until it went off the air in 1992, relaunched last summer at 93.5 FM. In addition to the expected classic-rock tropes (Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, et al.) the station’s volunteer deejays also put newer acts in the mix. Recent listens turned up the likes of Sturgill Simpson, Courtney Barnett and Ryan Adams, for starters. The current low-powered frequency is a little staticky at times, but luckily listeners can also tune in via a smartphone app or online. R.L.

Fulfill your accordion dreams here at Musiclandria.


Best new mystery art collective

M5 Arts

At this point, Art Hotel feels like forever ago. The interactive, temporary arts space in the old Jade Apartments drew thousands—so many that volunteers were forced to turn groups away at the door. It was the work of M5 Arts, a collective of mostly anonymous people who are busy working on their next big, daring project. They prefer to stay mysterious so attention can be focused on the art, but a couple of public representatives have emerged: Seumas Coutts and Shaun Burner. If you want to find out who else is in the club, bug them. J.B.

Best place for art, social justice and self-discovery

The Creation District

“Radical Self Love.” “My Story Is Not an Apology.” Sounds like an unorthodox course catalog, right? That’s just the idea with The Creation District, a community-focused art school that aims to celebrate coloring outside the dotted lines. The 44th Street space is open to kids, young adults and just about anyone interested in self-transformation through art workshops. Some possibilities: Conquer fear through improv theater, become acquainted with your inner child by drawing the sky or sculpt your way out of a creative funk. The program was formed by Walking the Village, the same nonprofit that runs Tubman House, a homeless shelter for young parents in Sacramento. Volunteer work and activism run in tandem with the school’s mission. Students, for example, can join a task force with city council members to help fix problems in their communities. 4265 44th Street, M.Z.

Stressed? Who&#8217;s stressed? Not Cory Barringer (left) and Cameron Curtis Betts of the <i>High Anxiety Variety Show</i>.


Best place to reliably melt your face off

Starlite Lounge

If you haven’t noticed Sacramento’s thriving underground metal scene, you have no excuse anymore—not with so much tasteful dissonance spilling nightly out of Starlite Lounge. July’s Fuck Monday Fest proves the point: a nine-band marathon with hometown doom brewers like Battle Hag and Worship of Keres invoking dangerous decibels on a Sunday, appropriately. Beyond showcasing neighborhood acts, Starlite is also a prime pit stop for national and international tours, featuring old-time underdogs like Grim Reaper and far-flung bands like World End Man from Japan. If you find yourself there, buy Chris Lemos a beer. He books most shows at Starlite, and he’s built a vibrant incubator for the kind of music that splinters and bleeds. 1517 21st Street, (916) 704-0711, M.Z.

Best clique bait

Coin-Op Game Room

The X-Men are occupied by a veritable Breakfast Club. The flat-billed bro wields metal-mutant Colossus like a brute-force bulldozer. The scrawny geek hunches over Wolverine, popping claws into Hellfire Club henchmen. The cool indie chick has disco-era Dazzler firing off energy bolts. And the straight-laced prom king punches optic blasts through Cyclops’ ruby visor. Welcome to Coin-Op, where every possible clique, fashion fad or themed party intermingles and gets along in a safe zone of ’90s arcade nostalgia. It’s a demographic utopia where nerd gets along with jock, and it’s as counterintuitive as watching a lion and gazelle play backgammon. Now, if only they can get Storm’s joystick working. 908 K Street, (916) 661-6983, RFH

If you&#8217;re at Starlite Lounge, odds are good that you&#8217;re there to get your face melted off.


Best DIY comedy on the go

Secret Comedy Show

Two-drink minimums, the cornball cartoonish décor—even the carpeted floors of most comedy clubs feel obnoxiously antiquated. It’s controlled and safe and therefore predictable. Likewise, Netflix comedy specials are not the solution. What if comedy was free, spontaneous and you could leave whenever? This is the idea behind Moving Van Comedy, a monthly roving DIY comedy night performed wherever they can park a Budget rental truck. The group tweets out the location from its @movingvanshow account, pulls up, powers up the generator, lays out a rug and stool, and checks the mic. It’s renegade comedy until the cops show up asking about permits. Follow @movingvanshow on Twitter. B.G.

Find nerdom utopia at Coin-Op Game Room.


Best under-the-radar music venue

The Red Museum

The Red Museum doesn’t have a website, and it’s not on Yelp. The venue’s most official presence is an unofficial Facebook page. Despite its minimal promotion, the warehouse space itself is well put together. Framed black-and-white illustrations disrupt the stark walls, and tall wooden rafters reverberate the sounds of local and traveling musicians. You’ll hear punk, hip-hop and indie groups, and watch curated movie nights with such cuddly themes as “Hail Satan.” An open back door often welcomes a cooling breeze not found in other, sweatier venues. Audiences sip on cheap cans of Tecate while sitting in repurposed church pews, worshiping at the altar of damned good music. 212 15th Street. R.H.

Best podcast network

Dirty Garage Studios

OK, so everyone and their grandma has a podcast. How do you decide what’s worth your time? There are some great local, indie podcasts, and there are some real stinkers. Why not start with Sacramento’s best local-podcast network? Yeah, that’s right, podcasts have networks, and we have one right here in town. Dirty Garage Studios was started by Junior Bruce (formerly of The Junior & Leo Show) in January of 2015. The various shows specialize in pop culture and entertainment. Some shows on the network worth checking out include: 42 Strains (pot), Coffee Date Podcast: A Gilmore Girls Rewatch (Gilmore Girls, duh!), Rankin & Bruce (movies), and Crunch Time (news, comedy). A.C.

Best comedy bromance

Keith Lowell Jensen and Johnny Taylor Jr.

The professional friendship—and maybe real friendship—between Keith Lowell Jensen and Johnny Taylor Jr. is both heartwarming and hilarious. That’s because they’re comedians—two of Sacramento’s strongest—who are both on Stand Up! Records alongside major national acts David Cross, Hannibal Buress and Lewis Black. They’re also both joys to follow on Twitter. Seriously. Very funny stuff. When Jensen starts reflecting on everything depressing happening in the country, Taylor chimes in: “Sorry if I seem cynical lately it’s just that the world is a huge fucking dumpster fire is all.” And Jensen is there for him with the retweet. Follow Keith Lowell Jensen at @keithlowell and Johnny Taylor at @hipsterocracy. J.B.

Do you even comedy, bro? Keith Lowell Jensen (left) and Johnny Taylor Jr. do.


Best little-big screen

Public House Theater

The Public House Theater is a quaint little establishment nestled in Tahoe Park. It’s a busy joint that combines its love for throwback movies like Napoleon Dynamite and Jumanji with its love for ice-cold pints of microbrews and munchies like pizza, nachos, tacos and panini. The theater seats up to 100 guests, and there’s also an outdoor patio with several chairs, tables and shade umbrellas where patrons gather to drink in the neighborhood scenery while sipping a pint. The friendly staff also hosts events throughout the week that include adult coloring, bingo evenings, trivia nights and karaoke jams. 5440 14th Avenue, (916) 662-7262, S.R.