But Just Don’t Stare | Folk Reunion @ T.O. Kavli Theatre

Folk Reunion (Thousand Oaks Kavli)Over the weekend, we had the opportunity to go the Kavli Theatre in Thousand Oaks (FB) to see what was being sold as a “Kingston Trio” concert, but was really what was called a “Folk Reunion. What this meant was that there were two groups: The first act was John Sebastian (FB) (of the Loving Spoonful, as well as his solo career); the second act was the current incarnation of what is called the “Kingston Trio” (FB) (but which contains none of the original Trio members). Owing to a migraine, I didn’t note any setlists.

John Sebastian opened the show with a one-hour reminiscence, starting with stories of Mississippi John Hurt. I was familiar with John Hurt from Tom Paxton’s shows; I had no idea that Sebastian was also influenced in his guitar stylings from him. Such an influential man. He basically told the story chronologically of how he entered into folk music, and how the Spoonful got started — again, demonstrating the importance of the Greenwich Village NY scene to the folk revival. Along the way, he did representative tunes and a number of his hits, most of which I was familiar with (I wasn’t familiar with his theme song for the Care Bears, and alas he didn’t do “That’s Cat“). But he did do other Spoonful hits, and I found his history lesson quite enjoyable.

After the intermission, the Trio came on. John Sebastian was the real guy — the original who had been there at the birth. The Trio, on the other hand, was just the latest incarnation. If you read the history of the Trio on Wikipedia,  you’ll know that — just like the Limeliters — they went through a number of incarnations over their history, to the point where the group performing has the sound and the shirts, but not the history. The original Trio was  Dave GuardBob Shane, and Nick Reynolds. Disagreements in the group led to Guard leaving and being replaced with John Stewart. That configuration lasted until a hiatus in 1967. A “New Kingston Trio” was later formed by Bob Shane with a number of different artists over the years. In 1976, they were able to drop the “New”, and the KT was Shane, Roger Gambill, and George Grove, and after Gambill died, there were a number of configurations.

The Trio that we saw was the latest version, and consisted of Josh Reynolds, who is the son of Nick Reynolds, a founding member of the band, his cousin Gerald “Mike” Marvin, and  Tim Gorelangton. This configuration, after some legal kerfuffles, started performing in October of this year.

Now to true Folkies like me, the Kingston Trio is … problematic. They are one of the few groups responsible for the growth of folk music in the late 1950s — it was their success that led to folks like Tom Paxton, Peter Paul and Mary, The Brothers Four, the Chad Mitchell Trio and many others. They had a sound and an energy that was infectious. However, they also were not folk purists. They changed lyrics, often for the worse (you should hear what they did to Oleanna). They butchered the story of Tom Dula into Tom Dooley. They claimed royalties on traditional songs. All of this is noted in the Wikipedia entry. But, as they say in Urinetown: the music — it’s so good. They have an energy and a fun that makes you forget all that pesky history and tradition.

The current Trio — Reynolds, Marvin, and Gorelangton — have the musical craft down. They know the old songs and the old routines and the pacing (although a few of the songs seem speeded up a little, in particular, “Scotch and Soda”). They know the hits the audience wants to hear. They still get things wrong — they introduced the Ballad of the Shape of Things as an old English Madrigal, when it is nothing of the sort: It was also written by Sheldon Harnick (for the Littlest Revue), just like the Merry Minuet (which they also did).  They are just fun to watch and have a lot of fun on stage.

But they are not the real Trio. They are an enjoyable facsimile, a generation once removed. When you put them with the real history that is Sebastian, there is no comparison. As Tom Paxton said about nostalgia: It’s OK to look back, as long as you don’t stare. With these two groups, you looked back, but you stared for different reasons.

***

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at 5 Star Theatricals (FB) [the company formerly known as Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB)], the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre(FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Saroya [the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)] (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals). I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows:

Next weekend brings a Day Out with Thomas at Orange Empire Railway Museum (FB), as well as The Kingston Trio (FB) at the Kavli Theatre in Thousand Oaks (FB). The third weekend will bring Edges at the CSUN Theatre Department (FB) on Friday, the Tumbleweed Festival (FB) on Saturday, and Spamilton at the Kirk Douglas Theatre (FB) on Sunday. Thanksgiving Weekend will bring Something Rotten at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). November concludes with the Anat Cohen Tentet at the Saroya (the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)) (FB) and  Levi (a new Sherman Brothers musical) at LA Community College Caminito Theatre (FB).

December starts with ACSAC 2017 in Orlando FL. As soon as we return, we’ve got Pacific Overtures at Chromolume Theatre (FB) and the Colburn Orchestra at the Saroya (the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)) (FB). The weekend encompassing Chanukah sees us back at the Saroya  (FB) for the Klezmatics (FB). We also hope to squeeze in a performance of A Christmas Story at the Canyon Theatre Guild (FB). Of course there will also be the obligatory Christmas Day movie.

Right now, early 2018 is pretty open, with only a few weekends taken by shows at the Pantages and Actors Co-Op. I did just pick up tickets for Candide at LA Opera (FB). But that will likely fill up as Chromolume announces their dates, and announcements are received on interesting shows. Currently, we’re booking all the way out in mid to late 2018!

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-LemonsMusicals in LA@ This StageFootlights, as well as productions I see on GoldstarLA Stage TixPlays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Note: Lastly, want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget.

 

 

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Passings…

userpic=tombstonesSome passings (or soon to be passings) from the last week that are worthy of note:

  • Pete Fountain. I’ve come to an appreciation of New Orleans Jazz late in life. My dad always loved it, and in a number of ways our tastes have aligned as I’ve gotten older (except for Jolson — I’m not as big of a Jolson fan as he was).  I’ve grown to love Firehouse Five + Two, the Dukes of Dixieland, numerous small Dixieland groups (anyone know a good podcast for these), and cover artists like Al Hirt. And, of course, Pete Fountain. Fountain was a legend, and worked with a number of the folks I just mentioned: Fountain started playing professionally on Bourbon Street in his teens. He once called the street of strip clubs, music joints and bars his “conservatory.” In his early years he toured nationally with the Dukes of Dixieland and the late trumpeter Al Hirt.
  • Glenn Yarbrough. Another love of mine is folk music, going to my first love, Peter, Paul, and Mary. That love lead to many groups, including the Kingston Trio, Tom Paxton, and of course, the Limeliters (which never disbanded, despite what the NYT says). The first, and probably most famous, tenor in the group was Yarbrough (although Red Grammer was a close second), and he helped create that famous Limeliter sound and repartee. Yet another loss to dementia and mental deterioration, similar to what is happening to another famous Glenn, Glen Campbell.
  • Kenny Baker. I’ll ignore the jokes about short subjects, and say this is the man that made R2D2 who it was (was R2D2 a he?). But he was more than just a droid, he was a noted vaudevillian, and a major character in Time Bandits.
  • Gladstones 4 Fish.  At one time, Robert J. Morris owned a bunch of wonderful restaurants: RJ’s for Ribs in Beverly Hills, Gladstones 4 Fish in Pacific Palisades, and his brother owned Adam’s Ribs in Encino (at least, so it appears). Morris sold them a long time ago, the the only remaining one, Gladstones (now owned by former LA Mayor Richard Riorden), has gone downhill (Morris still owns the Paradise Cove Beach Cafe). Reports have come out that the county would like to see Gladstones out (reported closing is October 2017). The County Supes would like to see the lease on the property extended to a full 40 years (currently it’s only allowed to run for 20 years), which they believe would lure in a new restaurant that would build from scratch on the site. The long-term lease would hopefully make such a build more stable and viable for whichever company steps up to the challenge.
  • Social Media Infrastructure. Times have changed. Over the last 10 years, we’ve seen social media — such as blogs and journals — moved from an open infrastructure with loads of supports (everyone and their brother having a blog on their own website), and loads of journaling sites (such as Livejournal and its clones) to a closed infrastructure of Tumblr, Facebook, and other short-attention-span media. Let us bow our heads in remembrance.

 

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Saturday Stew: A Little Bit of Everything

Observation StewNote: In case you missed my posts earlier this week, I had one with a collection of articles related to why I decided to support Hillary Clinton; a collection of articles related to food and diet; and a summary of the shows that I’m planning to see at the upcoming Hollywood Fringe Festival. But now it is Saturday, and I’m staring at the list of links I’ve accumulated over the week… and realizing there’s not a coherent theme buried in there.  You know what that means — it is time to make News Chum Stew!

 

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An Alphabet of Chum: From A to Almost Z

userpic=masters-voiceOur life is a litany of interesting news articles, of news chum, ripe for the discussion. Shall I enumerate? I shall.

 

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A New Years Stew: Buildings, Books, and Booms; Music, Medicine, and Mattel

Observation StewIt’s the first weekend of the new year, and as is traditional, it’s time to clear out the accumulated news chum from the week — the chum that couldn’t be used to create a coherent themed chum post of 3 or more articles. So let’s see what is in this week’s stew:

  • Saved! The first news chum item was to be about where I live now, but that became its own article. So let’s talk about where I used to live: North Hills.  At the corner of Devonshire and Sepulveda is a shopping center we used to frequent (especially when Hughes was still there). Today, the Hughes Ralphs has closed, and so has Mission Hills Bowl, and rumors are circulating about redevelopment of the center. This week, some good news came out of this: the bulk of the center appears to be saved, and the Mission Hills Bowl building will remain.  The Googie designed Bowling Alley by LA architect Martin Stern Jr. will be saved as part of a new commercial development that will include a mix of retail, restaurants, medical office, gym, warehouse, and bank uses spread over one and two story buildings.
  • Booking It. When Borders and Barnes and Noble took off, the prediction was that they would kill the small bookstore. They almost did, but the bookstores hung on. Now Borders is gone, and B&N is on the ropes, being killed by Amazon. What is still surviving? The small independent used bookstore. In fact, used bookstores are making a comeback. The reason isn’t surprising, when you think about it. It costs more to ship used books than to just sell them locally. Here’s the quote that BoingBoing used from the original article: “Used bookstores, with their quintessential quirkiness, eclectic inventory and cheap prices, find themselves in the catbird seat as the pendulum eases back toward print. In many cities, that’s a de facto position: They’re the only book outlets left… And it’s a business with good economics. Used bookstores can beat Amazon and other online booksellers on price, offering shoppers both a browsing experience and a money-saving one. Also, profit margins on used books are better than new ones — so good that many indies are adding used sections.”
  • Travelling? Good News and Bad News. Traveling in the new year? You need to watch out if you live in Alaska, California, Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, South Carolina, Washington, Puerto Rico, Guam, the US Virgin Islands, Minnesota or American Samoa. Your state is bumping into (or has gone past) the RealID deadline, and your state IDs may not be acceptable to TSA or the DOD. About the only good news here is that California got granted an exemption. I have no idea what this means: in particular, it could mean that everyone in the state needs to be issued a new ID. Ouch!
  • New Album from Paul Stookey. As you have likely figured out, I love folk music… and my first love was Peter, Paul, and Mary. Thank’s to Noel Paul’s Facebook account, I just learned that Noel Paul Stookey issued a new album in September 2015. I’ve already grabbed my copy, it is it like one of his recent concerts (i.e., very good).
  • Going Boom. Here’s a fun article: The history of the Toy Chemistry Set. What started out as a kit for the academic world became something to encourage men to become scientists (why would women care about chemistry), and then got neutered as society became worried about safety and homemade bombs.
  • More Problems from Inflammation. The inflamatory response is turning out to be the culprit is more and more problems. We’ve seen articles in the past linking it to arthritis and migraines. Here’s an article showing the link between depression and inflammation. Quite an interesting read, and it shows why we might not need to monkey with brain chemicals to address depression.
  • Deaths of Note. We’ve had a number of notable deaths at the end of the year, such as Wayne Rodgers and Natalie Cole. Here’s one you may have missed: Ruby Cavanaugh, namesake of Ruby’s Diners.
  • Sign of the Times? Mattel, owners of the American Girl line of dolls, has introduced a diabetic kit for their dolls, allowing girls with diabetes to have a doll that is just like them. While I applaud the production of the kit, what does it say about the prevalence of diabetes in our society that this needs to be a thing?

 

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Mama, mama, forget your pies

userpic=tombstonesIf you can’t figure out why this post is named what it is, you’ll have to read to the end. If you get the connection, I’ve just created an earworm. In any case, this post is a requiem for some things that are nearly or dearly departed:

Oh, right, the title of the post. Take a listen:

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The Ramblin’ Boy is Stopping Ramblin’

Back in January, one of my favorite folk icons announced that he was stopping touring. After years upon years of making tens and tens of dollars in folk clubs, Tom Paxton was giving up touring. As he wrote in his January newsletter:

It’s going to be an extraordinarily busy year for me because I’ve decided to quit touring after playing The Birchmere in Alexandria, VA in November. The wear and tear are getting to be serious and you all know how awful travel is becoming for us all. So after the Birch, just the odd date here and there, songwriting, but no more touring.

I think another factor in the end of touring was the passing of Tom’s wife, Midge, although he hasn’t said as much.  Instead, he attributes it to the wear and tear of the road, as described  in another interview that I found:

It just became obvious to me that it was time for me to stop touring. I’ve been doing it for 55 years and touring has become very hard for me. Airports are just awful places for me now, they’re exhausting. And I’m just tired of the physical strain of touring. So in November I’m going to say goodbye to it. I’m not going to retire. I’m still going to perform, but it’ll be one-off deals. No more touring.

Luckily, he still plans to write and record:

Oh yeah, I’m still writing. There will be another album down the road. I’m going to be spending more time in Nashville. I have friends down there that I write with and I want to go and write with them some more.

At the time I got Tom’s retirement message, Tom’s only California dates were some dates with Janis Ian in Berkeley in late April. He had last been in LA in 2013. Luckily, he added more dates over the summer: in particular, for the last two nights he made his regular and final pilgrimage to McCabes (FB) in Santa Monica. We were lucky enough to be able to get tickets to his last performance on his last night.

A few general observations on the show itself, before I get into the set list. Tom made no mention of the fact that he was stopping touring, or that this would be his last performance at McCabes (although the announcer did). Tom’s focus was on his new album, Redemption Road, from which many of the songs came (and for which we helped Kickstart). For someone who doesn’t like to stare back, there was a fair amount of reminiscences about the early days of 1963 and the days at the Gaslight.

The show itself was a mix of some oldies, and many songs from the new album. He was accompanied, as he is often accompanied, by Fred Sokolow and Fred’s son, Zac Sokolow. The show consisted of the following songs (* indicates new for this year; ♫ indicates songs from Redemption Road):

Act I Act II
How Beautiful Upon The Mountain
Your Shoes, My Shoes
Time To Spare*
Battle of the Sexes ♫
There Goes the Mountain
Whose Garden Was This?
If The Poor Don’t Matter ♫*
My Pony Knows The Way
And If It’s Not True
Central Square ♫
Bottle of Wine
Virginia Morning ♫
Come Away With Me *
Buffalo Dreams ♫
Did You Hear John Hurt?
The Mayor of MacDougal Street ♫*
Susie Most of All ♫*
Ireland ♫
My Lady’s A Wild, Flying Dove*
Last Thing on My Mind
Ramblin’ Boy
The Bravest
Comedians and Angels
Redemption Road ♫

I’ll be sad to see Tom go off the road, but I understand the grind well — and how, at his age, he deserves some time to work on songs and not be running from city to city to city (to city). The life of a folk musician is hard, and Tom’s Kickstarter demonstrated there is an audience for his music willing to fund production. I wish him well in this phase of his career, and home that a special event might bring him back to this coast occasionally.

OK, McCabes (FB): The challenge is up to you. You now need to book some new favorites, such as the Austin Lounge Lizards (FB) or Blair Crimmons and the Hookers (FB).

Ob. Disclaimer (for theatre — but I’m not a folk music critic either): I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I subscribe at three theatres:  REP East (FB), The Colony Theatre (FB), and Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows: Next weekend brings two shows: The Four Clowns Present Hamlet at The Shakespeare Center (FB) on Friday, and “The Diviners” at REP East (FB) on Saturday. The following weekend sees us going down to La Mirada to see “First Date” at The La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts (FB). October was being held for the NoHo Fringe Festival (FB), but they haven’t put up the Fringe shows yet, so I’ve started booking weekends. The first weekend of October brings “The Baker’s Wife” at Actors Co-op (FB) in Hollywood. The second weekend of October brings “The Best of Enemies” at The Colony Theatre (FB). The third weekend of October takes us to Thousand Oaks for “Damn Yankees” at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB). The fourth weekend of October brings “Uncle Vanya” at Antaeus Theatre Company (FB) in North Hollywood. Halloween weekend sees me at CSUN for Urinetown, and then both of us out in Simi Valley for “The Addams Family” at the Simi Cultural Arts Center (Simi Actors Rep Theatre (FB)). The following weekend sees us back in Simi for the Nottingham Festival (FB) on November 7. We then go out to Perris for “A Day Out with Thomas” at Orange Empire Railway Museum (FB) on November 11 (I can’t skip seeing my buddy Thomas and his friend Percy). The bookings for November conclude with Deathtrap at REP East (FB) on November 14; the rest of the month is currently open. December brings “Humble Boy” at The Colony Theatre (FB) the first weekend, followed by a mid-week stint as a producer, when we present The Nigerian Spam Scam Scam as the dinner entertainment at the Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC). December also has dates held for “The Bridges of Madison County” at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) and “If/Then” at the Pantages (FB). There are also a few other interesting productions I’m keeping my eyes open for. The first is the Fall show at The Blank Theatre (FB), “Something Truly Monstrous”, sounds wonderful — however, it runs through November 8, so squeezing it in would mean a double weekend. The show at the Kirk Douglas Theatre (FB) also sounds like an interesting exploration of clutter —  but “The Object Lesson” only runs through October 4, and I’m not sure we can squeeze it in. As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411.

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Saturday News Chum: Pools, Morticians, Vinyl, Plutonium, and Facebook

Observation StewIt’s an oddly stormy July day here in Southern California (a bit worrisome because I have outdoor theatre tickets tonight). Still, storms make it a perfect time for some stew. I’ve also got two other themed articles brewing on the back burners (one on food, and one on cybersecurity), but the haven’t quite set up right yet. So let’s dig into the stew:

  • Benefitting from the Drought. Having a pool is a headache. You’ve got to keep it full; you’ve got to keep it clean. Additionally, when there is a drought, you worry about the water lost to evaporation… and leaks. Further, if you have a leak, think of the water bill if you have to drain and refill it to repair. I’m telling you this because some niche businesses benefit from a drought: In particular, a pool repair man who is able to repair pools under water has more work than he can handle. He’s developed a pool repair compound (trade secret) that can be applied and cure under water, meaning that pools do not require draining for repair. I found this very interesting, as I suspect my pool to have another leak… and for that leak to be somewhere deep where I can’t find it. During the summer, it is hard to differentiate water lost to a leak from water lost to evaporation.
  • No One Ever Plans to Be A Mortician. This is one of my favorite phrases… and so here’s an article about morticians. Specifically, it is about two Los Angeles morticians who are trying to effect a radical shakeup of the undertaking business. What they want to do is return death to the home. In other words, people are removed from death and their loved ones. People used to die at home; now they die in hospitals. They are handled in isolation by undertakers, who pump them full of chemicals to make them look alive. These two young morticians work with families to facilitate what the two call a “more natural” death — no formaldehyde cocktail, no pods that fill hollow eyes, no mouth former, no satin-lined casket, no metal vault. The goal is to promote home funerals. If family members care to, they can undress, bathe, and cool the body with ice themselves or they can watch them do so. Interesting concept.
  • The Rebirth of Vinyl. If you purchase music these days, you’ve probably heard about the rebirth of vinyl records; quite suprising in this day of digital music and CDs. But not everyone thinks it will last. In particular, Noel Paul Stookey, of Peter Paul and Mary, thinks the current resurgence of vinyl is just a fad. Specifically, he thinks a trend to oversampling will eliminate the sound advantage, but the tactile and emotional advantage will remain. Then again, if you don’t have a place or way to listen to the music you own, what difference does it make.
  • Invisible Girlfriends. On the Internet, there’s a service for everything — even being an invisible girlfriend who is there only in text messages. This service is provided in a way similar to a Mechanical Turk: it is crowdsourced. What is it like to be an Invisible Girlfriend? Funny you should ask: Someone wrote an article about the experience. This seems the perfect subject for a Reply All episode.
  • Magnets and Plutonium. Pluto has been in the news, so why not Plutonium. Plutonium is an odd metal: based on where it is in the periodic table, one would expect it to be magnetic — yet it isn’t. Scientists have just started to figure out why. The reason is that plutonium can have four, five or six electrons in the outer shell in the ground state (they previously thought the number was fixed); further, not only does it fluctuate between the three different configurations, it is in all three at the same time. Because the number of electrons in plutonium’s outer shell keeps changing, the unpaired electrons in the outer shell can never line up in a magnetic field and so plutonium can’t become magnetic.
  • Taking Control of Your Digital Life. One of the things that was nice about Livejournal was the ability to see what was happening with your friends chronologically, back to the point where you had last done so. Facebook and their algorithms made that difficult: you were never sure if you were seeing everything from everyone — Facebook tried to bring up what it thought was most important. That all may be changing. Supposedly, Facebook is going to soon let you bypass their algorithm. After years of sorting news feeds primarily by algorithm, Facebook is letting users choose what they want to see first.An update to Facebook’s iOS app expands the existing “News Feed Preferences” section with a way to choose whose updates appear at the top of the timeline. A similar update is coming to Facebook’s Android app and desktop website in the coming weeks. Users can check out the new settings by pressing the “More” button in the Facebook app’s bottom-right corner, then tapping on “News Feed Preferences” and selecting “Prioritize who to see first.” This brings up a list of friends and Pages that users can mark as favorites. Unread updates from favorite contacts will always appear at the top of the News Feed, overriding Facebook’s predictive algorithms.

That’s it — your stew for the weekend. Let’s now hope that the storm (we’ve got thunder and rain as I type this) doesn’t cancel tonight’s theatre. Update: It did 🙁

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