Thursday, April 30, 2009

Graf Exhibit in Salinas, Joint Venture in Monterey, tomorrow

So there's a bunch of cool stuff going on tomorrow in MoCo, just to let you know.

First off, the folks at @risK Gallery in Chinatown, Salinas, are hosting the "Wild Style" exhibit, where they will break down graf art and show some of their latest creations. @risK is hosting the exhibit, which was designed by students in the Urban Art Youth Program, a function of the Franciscan Workers outreach group, and their after-school program is designed to help young people get in touch with the arts. Program starts at 4 p.m. @risk is located on 10 Soledad St. in Salinas.

Second, Joint Venture, the hip-hop crew you known and love reppin' for Pacific Grove, is performing at 9 p.m. at East Village Coffee Lounge in Monterey. $5 at the door. I'll probably drop in to check it out and perhaps get up and spit a verse. More info at their myspace,

Read more!

Black Lips + GZA = Slow descent into death (but that's a good thing)

Black Lips and GZA collabo alert! Looks like the blues-rock Georgia boys and Staten Island's finest are making some noise together in the studio, on this remix to the title track for the Black Lips new EP, "Drop I Hold."
This sounds like what would happen if the 'Lips covered an obscure RZA track, and a very good cover at that. Lead singer Cole Alexander drops a gem " Islam" and GZA is patched in for a closing spoken word verse. Getting his avant garde on. Click the link below to hear a stream:

Read more!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Theatre Review - "Lydia" at The Mark Taper Forum

Editor's Note: "The Beat" blogger Marc Cabrera recently completed the 2009 National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Arts Journalism Institute in Theatre and Musical Theatre. As part of his fellowship, he was assigned to review several plays. Below is his review of "Lydia" performed at The Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles

Octavio Solis's "Lydia" is a big, ugly bully of a play, ripping scabs off the wounds of both its characters and audience, and leaving everyone in the theater feeling battered and betrayed.

And it is a good play, but one that will leave you punch drunk and running toward the exit in the end.

Playing now at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, the play focuses on La Familia Flores de San Antonio, Texas, a working-class clan in the early 1970s struggling with the aftermath of a family tragedy.

Seenteen-year-old Cecilia, referred to throughout as Celi, is our narrator. Speaking with impeded speech, washed in angelic light, Celi first comes to us seeming in a dream, reciting a rigid spoken word of flying with glass wings.

Introducing tired mom Rosa (Catalina Maynard), bookish younger brother Misha (Carlo Alban), brooding older carnal Rene (Tony Sancho) and hardened papa Claudio (Daniel Zacapa), Celi ghostly wanders through the messy family home backdrop. In a beat, it's revealed that Celi is really a bed-ridden car wreck victim and the family has been forced to care for her.

As Celi, Onahoua Rodriguez is a gift, able to pull the audience in with floating prose before reverting to a brain damaged state.

The family copes with the world in a victimized glaze of indifference, until Lydia, a squeaky-voiced, English-impaired Mexican migrante. Instantly, she's able to communicate with the stammering Celi, and the two are connected through words and experiences.

Like a south of the border Lucille Ball, Stephanie Beatriz plays Lydia with enough whimsy to give you hope for the scarred Flores family.

The good will is part of Solis's trick of luring the audience into a complicated, far-reaching world of incestuous deciet and, ultimately, betrayal. The appearance of a long-lost primo, Alvaro (Max Arciniega) further murks up the situation, when the truth of what happened the night of Ceci's accident is slowly unveiled.

Solis's script goes there again and again, to haunting, tortured rests of reckoning. That he dresses it up with 70s pop culture references, from the Mod Squad and Santana's "Abraxas," Budweiser pop cans and S&H Green Stamps, only furthers the emotional heist he is playing out.

The Chicano-family study also is worth noting because it is used to lull the audience into a sense of impending redemption. Surely, such a close cultural examination would be used to celebrate universal differences, one might suspect. Solis grants no such wishes with this one.

And that is what makes this merely a good play, becasue although it's told through a specific cultural lens and shaded with glimmers of brilliant performances, particularly from Zacapa and Maynard, the story is too brutal to endure. The audience is subjected to painful scenes of infidelity and incest. These are the get out of the theatre as fast as you can moments.

"The way you want things and the way things go are different," Claudio laments right before committing the ultimate maritial sin that ends the first act. It certainly applies to "Lydia" a technically good play that screws with the audience too much to keep it from being great.

Read more!

Next Generation Jazz Orchestra announced

The 2008 Next Generation Jazz Orchestra, directed by Paul Contos, was announced today. They are:


Andrew Olson - alto, American Music Program / Tualatin High School, Tualatin, Oregon; Patrick Sargent - alto; American Music Program, Portland, Oregon, Paul-Eirik Melhus - tenor, Ironwood High School, Glendale, Ari.; Maximillian Zooi - tenor, Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, Los Angeles; Nicole Glover - baritone, American Music Program, Portland, Oregon.


Jon Hatamiya, Davis Senior High School, Davis; John Egizi **, Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, Los Angeles; Kyle Molitor, American Music Program / Tigard High School, Tigard, Oregon; Christopher Kennedy, Catalina Foothills High School, Tucson, Ari.; Emmanuel Rojas (bass) **, Warren High School, Downey.


Joshua Gawel, Daniel Boone Area High School, Birdsboro, Penn.; Nick Frenay ***, Manlius Pebble Hill School, DeWitt, NY; Cody Rowlands, Deer Valley High School, Glendale, Ari.; Ben Benack III, Upper St. Claire High School, Pittsburgh, Penn.; Zachary Gillespie, Ironwood High School, Glendale, Ari.


Gregory Chen - piano
Valley Christian High School, San Jose; Mike Gurrola - bass ** Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, Los Angeles; Adam Moezinia - guitar Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, Los Angeles; Jimmy Macbride – drums **, Hall High School, West Hartford, Conn.; Sam Miller - drums Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, Los Angeles; Ben Lusher - vocals, the Masters School, Dobbs Ferry, NY.

** 2-time member of NGJO
*** 3-time member of NGJO

The Next Generation Jazz Orchestra (formerly known as the MJF High School All-Star Big Band from 1971-2004) nurtures the future generation of jazz stars through a program that selects the best and brightest high school jazz musicians in the country. In 2009, the twenty-two member jazz orchestra features musicians selected from thirteen high schools from Western States and the East Coast, including Arizona, California, Connecticut, New York, Oregon, and Pennsylvania. Six states have contributed members this year in a cross-section of the best high school jazz programs in the country.

Under the direction renowned saxophonist and flautist Paul Contos, who serves as the director of the Orchestra, the ensemble is dedicated to the study and performance of the most challenging big band literature available.

The Next Generation Jazz Orchestra will embark on its annual summer tour on July 5, appearing in clubs, at music conventions, academic institutions in the Heartland of the United States, with gigs in Kansas City, Chicago, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and Washington D.C.; the tour is being dubbed the KC/DC Tour. With a final tour appearance on the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage, their tenure in the band will culminate at the 52nd Annual Monterey Jazz Festival Presented by Verizon on September 20th on the Arena/Jimmy Lyons Stage, where they will appear with trumpeter and 2009 MJF Artist-In-Residence, Wynton Marsalis.

In 2009, there are five returning members of the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra: trombonists John Egizi and Emmanuel Rojas; bassist Mike Gurrola, drummer Jimmy Macbride, and trumpeter Nick Frenay. Nick Frenay of the Manlius Pebble Hill School in Dewitt, New York, is the only three-time member of the NGJO this year, and has previously performed with the band at the Hilton in Paris, France; New York City’s Jazz at Lincoln Center, the North Sea Jazz Festival in Rotterdam, The Netherlands; as well as on the Arena/Jimmy Lyons stage of Monterey’s 50th, 51st, and 52nd Festivals.

The Monterey Jazz Festival is also proud to announce the winner of the Next Generation Festival's prestigious Big Band Composition Competition, Andy Clausen. Mr. Clausen a trombonist and junior at Roosevelt High School in Seattle, Washington, won the Competition with “Fly,” which will be performed by the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra on the Arena / Jimmy Lyons Stage on September 20th, 2009. He will receive the 2nd Annual Gerald Wilson Award and a cash prize.

Read more!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Theatre Review: "Louise & Keely Live at the Sahara" @ The Geffen Playhouse

Editor's Note: "The Beat" blogger Marc Cabrera recently completed the 2009 NEA Arts Journalism Institute in Theatre and Musical Theatre, hosted by the USC Annenberg School of Journalism. During the fellowship, Cabrera reviewed several plays as writing assignments. The following is his review of "Louis & Keely Live at the Sahara" performed at The Geffen Playhouse in Westwood.

The pulse of "Louis & Keely Live at the Sahara" dips and bops with an irresistibly non-stop rhythm, even though it begins and ends on life support.

"Louis & Keely..." now playing in the Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater at the geffen Playhouse in Westood, is both a raucous musical and rock-star biopic brought to the stage. Directed by Taylor Hackford ("Ray," "An Officer and a Gentleman") the long-time film director dives into his first stage show with a sharp, skilled vision.

With compelling subjects and the joyously gifted pairing of co-writers Jake Broder and Vanessa Claire Smith as Louis & Keely, the play shifts gears without ever missing a beat.

That because Smith and Broder are smart enough to know when to pause for a moment's reflection, then snap back into the music, which is always guided by Louis DePrima. The Sicilian jazz man who, among other distinctions wrote the Benny Goodman hit "Sing, Sing,Sing" is introduced in a present time period, on a hospital bed, unconscious. This, it seemed, was the only time he would sit still, as the midnight hour approaches and suddenly, our leader jolts back to life ready for a good time.

As Louis, Broder is a super bounce ball of abundant energy and style, always eager to put on a show for you. Backed by trumpeter/band leader Paul Litteral and his gang of jazz cats, Broder's Louis is at times beguiling, but always likable, with enough charm to please all the women in his life, from his wife to his goombah to his mom (oh those Sicilian boys).

With the band on the road playing dive after dive, Louis is pressed to find a new sound. Big Band Jazz ain't hip no more. Desperate for something that'll stick, Louis gets talked into letting a teenage girl on stage. Enter Keely Smith, all 16 years of church home values and endless talent.

Smith's Keely begins as the most innocent of teens thrust into a very adult, very male environment. Her demeanor is always classy, but true to her values. As she grows up before the audience's eyes, she never strays from that, until, ultimately, her hand is forced.

When she shines in a one-shot audition, Louis figures he's found it - a new sound, a new energy, and, unwittingly, a new girl to manage in his life.

From there, it's off to the desert and Las Vegas, where the act slowly finds an audience. Louis struggles to keep things together both on stage and on the home front, while Keely works to find herself. LIke any good rock biopic, their struggle's eventually intertwine, and true love is shaped from the heavens.

And then it's time to sing and dance and watch Keely grow into a force. Sharing a natural chemistry, Broder and Smith bring Louis & Keely to life in song after song. "Them There Eyes," "Hey Boy, Hey Girl" "I'm In The Mood for Love," all the hits keep coming, as the band swings, Louis bops, and Keely classes up the joint in perfect synch.

When the chairman of the board himself, Frank Sinatra, gives his blessing, you feel as if that will be the tipping point, but it turns in the wrong direction.

That's because like all good rock biopics, the stars have to shine too bright. When Keely's name is hoisted above Louis' on the marquee, that old Sicilian jealousy settles in. Not even the music can help bring our lovers back together.

By the time Keely's turned into a heartbroken starlet, and the audience has turned on Louis, we are left with only the saddest of love songs, ones that are sung from experience.

Which is what makes "Louis & Keely" so special: that it tells the story through song is not as remarkable as how the tone of the music is turned up as we get to know and fall in love with the main characters. Las Vegas's first couple were one-of-a-kind, and as we witness their joy and pain channeled through their music, we want their love to last.

Read more!

Theater Review: "Mauritius" @ The Pasadena Playhouse

Editor's Note: "The Beat" blogger Marc Cabrera recently completed the 2009 NEA Arts Journalism Institute in Theatre and Musical Theatre, hosted by the USC Annenberg School of Journalism. During the fellowship, Cabrera reviewed several plays as writing assignments. The following is his review of "Mauritius" performed at The Pasadena Playhouse.

Theresa Rebeck's "Mauritius" is a con within a con within a con, revolving around the geeked-out world of rare stamp collecting, the geeked-out thugs who secretly run the hobby's peculiar black market, and the women who love them.

At its core, however, is a story of redemption, on five fronts, led by Jackie, a young, seeming naive abuse survivor desperate for self-respect and a way to rid herself of a rotten family history.

Rebeck's script is given the royal treatment in the hands of director Jessica Kubzansky and her talented cast, led by Kristen Kollender as Jackie. The subtleties of the characters are what propel the story and bring it to life on stage. The Pasadena Playhouse production fleshes out several things that transcend the script's written word.

Beginning with the characters, in particular the intense back and forth between stamp shop owner Phillip (John Billingsley) and collector/gun runner Sterling (Ray Abruzzo, aka "LIttle Carmine" from "The Sopranos"). Their exchanges on stage capture the painful choreography of familiar, mismatched foes, of predator and prey.

When Sterling shows up at Phillip's shop to confront him about the mysterious sighting of the "crown jewel of philately," watching Sterling control the situation and Phillip turn to mush is something that can only be appreciated on stage. The way Abruzzo struts around stage like a jungle cat sizing up its next victim, ready to pounce, and the poor, helpless Phillip standing frozen in its sights is a great example of two experienced actors working every angle of the scene.

Later on, when Phil gets a small measure of revenge on Sterling, the way he tries to throw it in his face, only to have it thrown back with interest, is another instance of the performance transcending the page, something you could only see in the theater.

For that matter, Abruzzo's delivery and comfort zone playing Sterling also merits mention as an only in the theater moment. Playing Sterling as a principled business man who isn't afraid to reveal some vulnerability when it comes to his passion for stamps, Abruzzo gives the character more weight than the script outlines.

When talking about his passion for the hobby, he marvels at the perfection rather than the errors that collectors pine for. When he says a line like "It wasn't shit, but it wasn't good" to describe the Royal Philatelic Society museum collection, he's using every bit of the character's measure - respect, intimidation, attitude.

Kubzansky's direction deserves credit on a needs to be seen basis. The pacing the play, with its winding dialogue and character fleshing, was handled considerably well under Kubzansky's watch. The scenes unfold with ease, and the second act, which takes place entirely in the stamp shop, never drags. Kubzansky knows how to use all of her actors on stage at once, giving them enough space to even out the scene.

The impressive revolving set was also a very nice touch. Rotating between the stamp shop, a coffee shop and Jackie's home, the set design and backdrop put you right in each scene. There is now doubt of place or time, another credit both the the director and stage crew.

Finally, the accompanying sound backdrop gave the production the added flavor that the script might not catch. Using spare tones to trumpet some of the more intense scenes, the score brought out the different moods from scene to scene that you might not have caught in the script.

Read more!

I Survived the 2009 NEA Arts Journalism Institute in Theatre and Musical Theatre

I've been off my blogging game the past two weeks, but for good reason. I recently completed my first professional fellowship with the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Arts Journalism Institute in Theatre and Musical Theatre, hosted by USC's Annenberg School of Journalism.
I can't really put into words what the experience was like, and I don't have time to shoot a quick interpretive dance film. All I can say for now is that in 10 days, we packed in 9 shows, four writing assignments, one group digital media project, more than a dozen master classes and lectures, a reading of my first-ever one-act play, and the joy of meeting and sharing ideas with 22 of the brightest arts journalism minds in the country. Serious.
I'll be posting some theatre reviews and various recaps as the week drudges on, but for now, I'm content to get back into the newsroom swing and try to return to normal everyday life. It will be a tough call after the time I spent down in So-Cal, but I can safely say it's good to be home.

Read more!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Soldiers performing at the Rubber Chicken Poetry Slam is a great thing

Working as co-producer of the Rubber Chicken Poetry Slam, I've had the chance to work with and watch a bunch of talented poets, musicians, comedians, and other performance artists. The variety of styles has been matched by the different backgrounds of people who come to the slam — high school and college students, retirees, teachers, homeless, and soldiers.
The Defense Language Institute and Naval Postgraduate School has given us a lot of talent, in waves, since most are stationed for a period of time before being shipped off to their next stop.
Wednesday, one of our most recent talents, Britton Miller, performed his last show before being shipped off on assignment to Afghanistan.
Miller is a local guy, having grown up in the East Bay in Pleasant Hill, where he attended College Park High School with Herald copy editor Ryan Panlilio. Stout yet unassuming, Miller carries the debonair presence of a young college professor, but his everpresent backward cap gives him the youthful charm of a So-Cal frat boy.
For the past 10 months, he's dutifully attended the slam, guitar always at hand, eager to share a song.
That's the attitude a lot of the soldiers come in with, just happy to be in an environment where their talent is appreciated. Working with these guys who may have to answer a call of duty I'm not prepared to take has been a great learning experience.

Read more!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Tech N9NE, MURS coming to Salinas

Can't say I'm a big fan, but it's definitely worth noting that KC's own Tech N9NE is heading our way next month. He'll play May 10 at Fox Theater in Salinas, part of his Sickology 101 Tour.

Whether you like his stuff or not, you absolutely have to respect Tech N9NE's hustle. He's been doing it DIY style for a long time now, and is in that range of troubadour MC's like Andre Nickatina and Atmosphere, artists who have gained a strong following through relentless touring. His style is grimy and full of hardcore imagery, sometimes violent, sometimes derogatory, but unique and energized.

He was announced as one of the artists on the Rock The Bells tour, where he'll share a stage with the likes of Sage Francis and Eydea & Abilities. Somehow he fits right in with them.

Also coming along for the ride is none other than MURS, which is definitely a trip. I don't know how these guys came together on a tour, but it'll be cool to see MURS in town. Well have to hook something up for an interview. Stay tuned.

Read more!

Rock The Bells Lineup Announced

Nas and Jr. Gong will headline Rock The Bells this year, it was announced on Tuesday.

Also on the bill are The Roots, Common, Big Boi, KRS-ONE, Reflection Eternal (Talib Kweli & Hi-Tek), Slaughterhouse (Royce Da 5'9", Crooked I, Joell Ortiz and Joe Buddens) and a House of Pain reunion (!).

This year's bill is definitely solid, with the return of The Roots a nice touch. Also Slaughterhouse will be dope, and House of Pain is also a classy nod (I wonder if Everlast will do any of his solo, post-H.O.P. material).

As far as headliners go, Nas and Jr. Gong falls a bit short of the Tribe Called Quest reunion from a year ago, but given they''ll have a new album of material to perform together, plus the combination of their respective catalogs should make for a great set (although personally, I would have preferred The Roots as the top bill).

My only sorta gripe is that they couldn't get Atmosphere on there. I think Slug and Co. deserve a slot on that lineup, given their success over the past year. Oh well, there's always next year. Regardless, this show will rock. I can't hardly wait.

Read more!

Monday, April 06, 2009 is a pretty dope streaming radio station that I discovered over the weekend. They got some great Salinas-area bands in rotation. As soon as I started streaming it yesterday, Rum & Rebellion came on. Classic dope.

I should have more on the station this week. I've contacted the man in charge, Michael Rodriguez, and I hope to have some more news to come. In the meantime, check them out by clicking here.

Read more!

"The Beat @ Wave St." w/MC Lars

The latest episode of "The Beat @ Wave St." brings us the mad man himself, MC Lars. Fresh off the release of his latest CD, "This Gigantic Robob Kills," Lars is really putting it out there this go-round, with guest shots from the likes of Weird Al Yankovic (on accordion!) to members of The Aquabats. Check the video in the media player to the right, as well as Lars recent video for the single "Guitar Hero Hero."

Read more!

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Restoring the glory: Herald wins Good Ol' Days Hoops Tourney

The champs are here! Just got word that The Herald team took home the grand prize in the PG Good Ol' Days Media Hoops Challenge. It's been three years since we last took the title. The win was a clean sweep, including a wins over the MC Weakly, Spammin' 97.9, the Califorfeitin, and KSBW Fraction News 8.

Now, not only do we got the best news team in town, but we'll ball all over you too. What!?!

Read more!

Thursday, April 02, 2009

MC Lars speaks on Christopher Marlowe vs. Kanye West

Longtime friend of "The Beat" MC Lars gave a presentation on the history of hip-hop music and culture, as part of the 2009 Stevenson Symposium "The Power of Words" at Stevenson School. During the presentation, he broke down the stylistic similarities between Christopher Marlowe's classic "Come With Me and Be My Love," and Kanyeezy's "Stronger." Both adhere to the 4/4 rhyme pattern that constitute iambic tetrameter. Interesting stuff.

Read more!

Why do famous people get clothing lines?

Can't really pinpoint what brought up this topic — probably the rerun of "Chelsea Lately" where the one girl from "The Hills" was trying to plug Lauren's (or Audrina's?) clothing line. Chelsea informed her the line had been discontinued, which in Spanish translates to "canceled."

That got me to thinking — celebrities have been pasting their names on marginally trendy fabrics that wind up in the dollar racks at Marshall's for some time now. But why does this continue to happen? And why do people who don't really know how to dress themselves continue to get clothing lines?

Cases in point: Andre 3000 and Kanye West. Both those guys have unique styles that suit them, but if you're a parent, do you really want your kid dressing like them?

Do you really want your kid dressing like a circa 1905 white racist gentleman in knickers and a newboy hat like Mr. 3-Stacks?

Do you really want your kid sporting a Full Force-style afro-mullet and neon-colored sports blazers like 'Yeezy?

And if you are that "cool" parent who is willing to buy your kids these designer threads, are you willing to be the parent of that kid who continually gets his butt kicked at school for dressing weird?

Just a thought.

Read more!