On the square

In the spirit of “Let’s put on a show,” Preston Allen’s Tell-A-Vision variety gig entertains all ages on the second and fourth Friday of every month at the Red Square. At last Friday’s show, Listless, a short film by Bryan Darling and his Torn Sprocket Films crew, led off. Impressions of Listless: shots influenced by Federico Fellini, more Fellini, McKinley Park, Midtown, a bunch of people I’ve seen around town, and—perhaps coolest of all—the industrial interior of that building in Winn Park. Despite a few technical problems, the film was done well in a spare, arty manner, and the continually polite audience sat patiently through it.

Many in the audience seemed to be friends of the host. Allen didn’t have too much to say as the emcee, but he was endearing enough to hold attention in the informal surroundings. People came and went, some arriving just for the cafe’s frozen yogurt. (Admission is free to the tiny space, located at 1121 Alhambra Boulevard, but donations are accepted.)

The Pilgrim followed the film earnestly, if a little clumsily. One guy with an acoustic guitar, the Pilgrim played songs that sounded like Bright Eyes and other contemporary acts that trade in sincerity. At one point, he mentioned he’d been performing his next song for five years, but there was little polish to the piece. With somewhat awkward stage presence, he ended each song with a strum and a sheepish look. Playing the (borrowed) guitar while singing appeared to be a great distraction as well. The songs weren’t bad, and neither was the Pilgrim’s singing voice, but perhaps in the future he should form a band and stick to rhythm playing.

Dean Haakenson’s performance on the same guitar proved that the Pilgrim’s technical difficulties couldn’t be pinned on the instrument. Haakenson played with funny, catchy lyrics; a deft handling of the guitar; and a little more confidence in front of the people. His songs sounded rehearsed and even arranged. With a performance that combined social commentary with sit-down comedy about Everclear (the alcohol), as well as getting the audience to beatbox with him, Haakenson was very entertaining. His buddy Greg Kucera played next, with a short, pleasant song that a few there seemed to know.

Allen’s brother (and SN&R contributing writer) Justin Allen read amusing bits from his zine Sex Robots about parallel universes, including the grocery-store universe.

Fortunately last was the musical ensemble 2 or 3 Guys. OK, marching-band music isn’t that bad. The UC Davis Cal Aggie Marching Band-uh! is kinda cool, but these inevitable marching-band castoffs? Not so much. Picture technical problems, poor sound, poor execution and introducing the band members on the first song. Now add jamming solos.

Well, all in all, the night was nearly free and mostly fun. Hey, you can leave when you want to, right?