Come to the Cabaret this Weekend!

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I’m at it again, in this weekend’s Green Valley Theatre Company “VerteFée Cabaret,” themed “Tango Fantastique.” This Friday and Saturday  May 30th and 31st at 8:00 p.m. at the Grange Performing Arts Center, Stockton Blvd. at V Street.  Featuring a Cast of Thousands.  (OK, maybe a cast of 25-30.)  I’ll be featured in two classic solo numbers (plus working in the pit band.)  The Company is again doing its version of a Weimar cabaret (and again featuring the very talented Lindsay Grimes, who was “Sally Bowles” in the Company’s production of “Cabaret” a few years ago, among other great performers.)

“Fée Verte” is French for “green fairy,” the nickname for absinthe.  Don’t know, however, if the refreshment stand will have any available.  (There will be wine and beer, however.)

Invite friends and make a fun night of it.  Tickets at www.greenvalleytheatre.com.

p.s.:  As with the April cabaret, not a show for kids.  (Those under 10 won’t understand the gags.  Those 11 and over will – which will disturb you as a parent.)

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Great Music in the SF Bay Area This Weekend!

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Enjoy Hawaiian pop swing hits of the 1920-1940 era, featuring the steel guitar of Sean Allen and Erich Sylvester on vocals and ukulele, with the talented Steven Strauss on bass.  This is the real deal for you “Hapa Haole” fans, tonight, Friday May 23rd in San Francisco’s Japantown at Pa’ina, 7 to 10pm. 1865 Post Street, near Fillmore St.  Pa’ina is in the same building with the cinemas, and has parking under the building. http://painasf.com/event/hot-steel-cool-ukulele-may-23-2014/

AND, this Sunday, May 25th at the wonderful Forbidden Island Tiki Lounge in Alameda,  2:15 to 5:30.  http://www.forbiddenislandalameda.com/  Not only the real deal with Hawaiian pop, but real fruity rum drinks at one of the c0untry’s few absolutely genuine Tiki bars!  Have a bunch of Scorpions, Zombies and Mai-Tais (but arrange for a cab or AC Transit bus to drive you home!)

Erich sends a warm “Aloha” to fans of the Ukulele Rob website.  Don’t miss these fun shows.

The Roadie

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While the photo isn’t from this time around, it might has well have been.  Baltimore-based Victoria Vox (www.victoriavox.com) with Berkeley-based Peter Hurney (ukulele craftsman extraordinaire – check him out at www.pohakuukulele.com).  As you probably know, Victoria’s a wonderfully talented songwriter, vocalist, ukulele player and performer.  I first met her in 2009 at what was then the “Tahoe Area Uke Festival,” in Minden NV (it’s now the super Reno Uke Fest, held each spring at the Nugget Casino & Hotel in Sparks NV), and have previously had the privilege of being a driver/host/roadie/tour manager for her when she’s been out West.

This time around I met Victoria at San Francisco International Airport, as she flew in from Los Angeles for shows in San Francisco, Turlock and Roseville, CA.  This is the life of the touring ukulele performer:  One large suitcase full of “merch,” i.e., CDs, decals, and Victoria’s signature Voxer-briefs and panties.  (Check ’em out on her website.)  Another with clothes and everything else she needs for living on the road.  Then three ukuleles (two in a custom double-case), a pedalboard bag, plus microphone, preamp-DI, cables and other gear, and a personal bag large enough for a laptop, books, and lots of other stuff.  We’re not talking carry-on style here.  (It could be worse.  E.g., she could have been a drummer or Hammond B-3 organ player.)

Being a roadie is a fun change from my usual role as the performer or workshop teacher.  It was great to spend a few days focus entirely on someone else instead of worrying about my own gig.  Doing things as needed, from making sure that her hosts were set up for her (Peter hosted her for two nights in his Bay Area home), checking with venues on their preferred load-in and sound-check times, to generally making sure that travel and set-up and take-down at each venue went as smoothly as possible.  (And, of course, keeping a close eye on the gear while Victoria was busy meeting and greeting.  She has a “gear” link on her website with photos of her great uke collection.)

The best part was the learning experience.  It’s not often that an amateur like me has the opportunity to so closely watch, listen and learn, and along the way I picked up a ton of information about performing.  Watching Victoria adjust to each venue, and the personality of each audience, was a tremendous experience.

If you ever get an opportunity to help a visiting musician, jump at the chance.  In the meantime, wherever you go to hear music, make sure those touring musicians know how much they’re appreciated.  There are a lot of easier ways to make a living that don’t involve sleeping in a different home each night, lugging gear on trains, planes and automobiles, and constantly working to set up the next gig.  So tip generously, and buy lots of merch.

And in the meantime, Victoria’s getting ready to do a house concert this coming Monday, May 26th … from her own house!  You can attend on your computer.  Go to https://www.concertwindow.com/shows/5886-victoria-vox

‘Til next time …

More Music, All The Time

It was a busy week, with Victoria Vox’s NorCal MiniTour concluding Friday night at The Strum Shop in Roseville, and then two nights of house concerts in the Sacramento area with the wonderful Kiki Ebsen.  I’ll catch up with stories about all the shows, but in the meantime, Kiki’s CD release show for her latest, the “Scarecrow Sessions,” is about to sell out.  Father’s Day at a wonderful outdoor location in the Los Angeles area.  Go to http://www.kikiebsen.com/#/scarecrow-sessions-cd-release-party for more info.

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We get comments!

And some weird ones, too.  If someone out there can translate this recent comment (which — for obvious reasons — I didn’t approve for publication here on the blog), be sure to let me know!

“Scott can begin to play wide with both sides, contains a wonderful give good results mentality together with one who considerably is usually a power team person. Even though nonetheless very youthful fresh a lot of practical experience with this degree, and was an inclusive element of Charlton’s Team One label successful facet many years gone by. In numerous ways he can be a comparable professional to help Scott so when a totally free shift, repeatedly, they available your time and money.Inches.”

Perhaps a spy somewhere has confused me with a CIA agent who’s code name is Ukulele Rob, and is trying to get an important message to me?

Victoria Vox — One More NorCal Night Only!

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Wonderful crowd last night at the Carnegie Arts Center in Turlock CA.  Only one more Victoria Vox performance in NorCal this time around, tonight at The Strum Shop in Roseville.  Tickets are still available at the door.  Go to http://thestrumshop.com/tonite-here-at-the-strum-shop-tickets-still-available-at-the-door-700-show-come-early-to-a-get-a-good-seat for info.

And more about Victoria and her California mini-tour right here on this blog, coming soon.

A Temporary Good-Bye To The Uke (Autobiography Part II)

When we left off, I was strumming my plastic Mauna Loa.  When I was in the fourth grade we had an all-school talent show, and a kid a year older than me wowed the crowd singing a folk song and strumming a huge guitar.  Right then and there I knew I had to have a guitar, too.  My first was a Sears Harmony “western style” guitar, ordered by mail, and shipped to our local Southern Pacific depot via Railway Express.  (Wow … that goes back a bit.)

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I recall we had a Pontiac station wagon, and that my Mom had some shopping to do after we picked up the guitar.  I can still picture myself in the front seat, in a grocery-store parking lot, tuning the guitar and giving it a try.

The ukulele got left behind.  From then on it was guitar, guitar, guitar.  And I had that Sears guitar for quite a while, going so far as adding a pickup to it when I joined a surf band in junior high.  These days there are musicians who spend thousands of dollars to recreate a really nasty sound like the one I got from that old guitar, a DeArmond pickup, and an old record player converted into a guitar amp!

Victoria Vox Northern California Mini-Tour!

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Don’t miss these shows:

Wednesday evening May 14th, Hotel Utah Saloon, San Francisco (headlining, with Delta Halos and Jean Marc Enriquez opening).  Show starts at 8:00 p.m.  Info and tickets at http://www.hotelutah.com/event/481571-delta-halos-jean-marc-san-francisco/

Thursday evening May 15th, Carnegie Arts Center, Turlock (workshop AND concert!).  It all starts with the workshop at 5:30 p.m.  Info and tickets at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/victoria-vox-in-concert-tickets-11210642333

Friday evening May 16th, The Strum Shop, Roseville.  7:00 p.m.  Info and tickets at http://www.meetup.com/StrumShopEvents/events/169771722/

The Story of the Ukulele Club of Santa Cruz

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No other film covers the ukulele phenomenon the way Nina Koocher’s lovingly-presented “Under the Boardwalk” does.  It’s fun, it’s funny, and it’s moving, with the people behind the Ukulele Club of Santa Cruz telling the Club’s story as though they’d just dropped by your home for a chat (and a strum or two).  Don’t miss it if it shows up at a theater or event near you.  Or better yet, buy your own copy.  It’s available on line from places like Amazon and Bookshop Santa Cruz, or you may order directly from the director herself (!) at http://ninakoocherfilms.com/

Where It All Began

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Consider this Part 1 of what might become a long and rambling autobiographical trip.  I recently bought a copy of “Under the Boardwalk,” the documentary about the Ukulele Club of Santa Cruz.  The Club’s known as “the UCSC where you can get a REAL education.”  I went to the “other” UCSC, the University of California at Santa Cruz, so long ago that we had to walk miles through the snow to get to classes each morning.  It was through alumni activities that I first met fellow Banana Slug Sandor Nagyszalanczy, a uke player, performer and collector who’s been a big part of the Ukulele Club of Santa Cruz since its founding.

In the documentary Sandor displays a plastic “Carnival Aloha” uke from the 1950s.  His wife gave it to him some years ago as a Christmas gift, not knowing at the time that his very first musical instrument, given to him shortly after his family arrived in New Jersey after fleeing Hungary during Soviet oppression in the mid-1950s, was the very same make and model.

I’ve got my own plastic uke story.  In the photo above I’m sitting outside my childhood home in Southern California strumming what a contributor to another uke site tells me is a “Mauna Loa.”  The year is 1956.  It was my first musical instrument, and I recall it was given to me by an aunt who’d taken a trip to Hawaii with my grandparents (on the wonderful ocean liner the S.S. Lurline, of course).

My brothers and I grew up with music in the house.  My nearby grandparents had a beautiful baby grand piano that’s been restored and gets lots of use at one of my brother’s homes, and my grandfather had an ancient Martin mandolin that I’ve previously written about on this blog.

And I had a portable 45 rpm record player and a small collection of records.  After all these years it’s hard to remember just what I listened to, but two pre-rock & roll tunes that stand out in my memory were “The Music Goes Round and Round,” written by Edward Farley, Mike Riley and Red Hodgson in 1935 and recorded by Tommy Dorsey’s band, and “Three Little Fishies” by Saxie Dowell and recorded by Kay Kaiser and his band in 1939.  (Rock & roll came along pretty quickly, and those two platters were soon abandoned for new stuff from Ricky Nelson, Elvis Presley, The Everly Brothers and Johnny Cash.)

That plastic uke diappeared a long, long time ago.  It would be fun to find one like it.  So if you see something that looks like this,

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… let me know.

In our next episode, the guitar makes it’s first appearance!