When Strauss met MC Hammer

Jessica Brown of Dusty Brown performs at the group’s EP release at TownHouse Lounge earlier this month.

Jessica Brown of Dusty Brown performs at the group’s EP release at TownHouse Lounge earlier this month.


Love in Elk Grove:
Iris Zimbelman’s dream was to recreate the majestic waltz performance she witnessed in Vienna, Austria’s Stadtpark. With the Strauss Festival of Elk Grove, now in its 23rd year, she has definitely been successful.

“We thought it was elegant, peaceful and positive,” said Zimbelman, who founded the Strauss festival in 1987, and was serenaded Saturday night, alongside husband, Arnie, with “Edelweiss” by Cameron Doyel, in recognition of their 60th wedding anniversary.

The annual festival, honoring the work of Johann Strauss Jr. (“The Waltz King”), took place on Strauss Island in Elk Grove Regional Park this past weekend.

The stage, adorned with red and white roses, had a cutout statue of Strauss in the backdrop. On a risen stage in the back, the 32-piece orchestra was led by Maestro Jay DeWald. And in the foreground were the dancers—men in tuxedoes and women in Victorian-style gowns. The dancers entered the stage on a lit bridge. And beyond the stage was the tranquil night sky, garnished with beautiful, lush trees. The stage was surrounded by a crystal-blue lake and grassy hill, with impressed attendees sitting on blankets and chairs.

“It’s such a romantic setting,” Zimbelman said.

Not only does the festival attract couples, it creates couples. Popi Rizzi-Dunn married Stan Dunn on Strauss Island, soon after the couple was paired off as dance partners. “Not only do we teach you how to dance, but secretly, we’re matchmakers,” joked Rizzi-Dunn. “We are original Strauss sweethearts.”

The night started off with doves being released out of a flower cart. The orchestra then combined its talents with dancers in waltzes, polkas and quadrilles.

“You find people in love with the music,” said Dunn. “When you listen to the music and see the dancing in front of it, it’s incredible.”

The evening concluded with the crowd-pleasing “On the Beautiful Blue Danube,” which began with a blue mist engulfing the stage. “It’s everybody’s favorite,” said Dunn. “The story behind it is if you look at the river and it’s blue, you’re in love. But if it’s brown, then you have some work to do.”

Perhaps with the pristine blue water and the excitement in the air, the night was the beginning for some new romances. (Kevin Young)

’90s hip-hop time machine:
Capitol Garage went Donnie Darko last Wednesday night: Inside was a musical portal that flung a hundred or so clubgoers back some 20 years to a time and place where Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ’Em was the country’s top-selling album and your parents probably did it to Phil Collins (perhaps they still do?).

Anyway, the evening was titled Joints & Jams, the brainchild of DJ Rated R of Live Manikins. The concept was simple: Play ’90s joints, listen to local emcees jam over the tracks.

DJ Nocturnal and DJ Mr. Vibe started off behind turntables before handing the reins over to Rated R, who bumped DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince’s “Summertime” as local emcee TAIS freestyled original verse, then had the audience join in on the chorus.

Next was a Friday reference, as Random Abiladeze spit verse over Whodini’s “Friends”—wait, I think that song was from the sequel to Friday? Anyway, if any song embodies the ’90s generic yet earnest songwriting, it’s this Whodini track, what with its chintzy drum machine, piercing synths and silly chorus, à la “Friends, how many of us have them? / Friends, ones we can depend on.” It’s almost hard to believe Warren G and Nate Dogg felt so inspired to hijack the jokey rap anthem’s beat.

The rest of Live Manikins and Def Rockit also joined in on the time warp, and at the end of the night, one couldn’t help but wonder if popular music fades as time passes by. I mean, I’d much rather hit up a hot-tub time machine to the ’90s than the past decade, Bush or no Bush. (Nick Miller)