Archive for October, 2011

Dead Man Rockin’ out this week

Local band Whiskey Avengers releases their third album, Dead Man Rockin’, this Tuesday.

The band previously billed their style as “dirty ska”, but with this album they’re now calling it “renegade reggae and rocksteady”. This is a slightly different focus, musically and thematically, than their earlier work. The band’s first two albums, Round 1 and Wet and Wreckless, were most memorable for high-energy, hepped-up jump-ska beats and lyrics about bad relationships and the (ahem) physical benefits of good ones.

The new album still has a couple of fast songs (“Run”, “Misery”), but mostly settles into slower, smoother, but still hard-driving grooves. There are still songs about bad relationships (“Run”, “High all night”), but there’s also a new focus on political and social events in songs like “Who are they” and “Uncle Sam”.

The slower groove shows up in songs like “Feel anything”, a pretty much straight-up reggae mover, and the already-released single “Monkey”, with its melodic chorus and horn-toned synthesizer riffs. Alongside “Monkey”, “Me, Myself, and I”, with its faster beat, reminiscent of Irish music or something from The Pogues, and its give-em-hell attitude is another standout from the album.

Overall, if you’re into ska rhythms and punk attitude, you should check out this new album.

To introduce the album, The Blank Club will host a CD release show on Friday, October 28. Over the remainder of 2011, the Whiskey Avengers will be touring the west coast from Seattle to Scottsdale, so if you want to hear this material live and local, October 28 is your best bet.

The album will be available after October 25 on CD at cdbaby and the Avengers’ own site. It will be available as a digital download at iTunes and Amazon. Previews of “Monkey” and “Uncle Sam” are currently available on the Whiskey Avenger’s Facebook page, and a video for “Uncle Sam” is out on YouTube.


We stopped by REI at El Paseo De Saratoga for the first time this morning. They do carry impressive sports equipment, and classes are offered on how to best use some of it.

Also, there are events in which to participate, volunteer opportunities, and much more. I recommend a visit.

While there we noticed breathtaking photography on display. Any one of which would make a beautiful gift for any occasion.

Mark Wiens Photography


Note: When visiting the photography site click on the first photo etc. – to view more.

400 El Paseo De Saratoga
San Jose, CA 95130

(408) 871-8765

Hours: Sun 11am–7pm; Mon-Fri 10am–9pm; Sat 10am–7pm
REI facebook

THE LAST ROMANCE at SJ Rep will sweep you off your feet

The San Jose Reparatory Theatre’s regional premiere of  Tony Award-winning Joe DiPietro’s The Last Romance is brilliant. The story flows perfectly and there is never a dull moment. The actors are phenomenal and the direction by Laird Williamson keeps the characters rich and delightful.

You can tell right off the bat that the characters are humorous and enchanting. Rose (Sharon Lockwood) is great as the bossy, disapproving sister of Ralph (Will Marchetti). Ralph likes to joke around. He is jovial and gets a kick out of life, even if he is lonely.

Rose and Ralph, who are in their golden years, are set in their ways. Rose has dinner on the table for her brother every night at the same time. Ralph takes a walk every day on the same route, until one day he goes a different way and his life is changed forever.

He comes across a dog park where he sees the beautiful Carol (Kitty Winn). He is intrigued by her and goes back the next day to see her again. He gets talking to her, but she is very proper and standoffish and wants nothing to do with his come-ons. Throughout their interactions, you can see the rich characters that Laird Williamson has created; the humor and flirting from Marchetti and the rigidity from Winn.

Carol (Kitty Winn) and Ralph (Will Marchetti) meet for the first time in San Jose Rep’s regional premiere of The Last Romance. Photo by Kevin Berne.

Carol has some fears that keep her from fully living her life. She’s afraid of flying, so she doesn’t get to visit her family. She also has a fear of loss that makes it difficult to experience romance. There is a great moment when Ralph, after much cajoling, gets Carol to discipline her dog in a very strict and authoritative way. She quickly goes from reserved and fearful to confident and strong. This is the arc that helps lead her to giving in to Ralph’s come-ons. And so the romance begins.

There are delightful moments in Ralph and Carol’s romance. They are like teenagers again and Ralph quickly falls in love. Unfortunately there is something standing in the way of their romance.

Throughout the play there is beautiful Opera singing by a young man (Joshua Jeremiah). Ralph loves the Opera. He has always wanted to go to Italy and see an Opera at La Scala. He used to sing himself, in his younger years. Ralph says that in all Italian Operas, life gets in the way of love and that the music makes it better. In this story, even though life gets in the way of love, everyone changes for the better.

Ralph has a strong acceptance of the end of his romance with Carol. He has a newfound appreciation of his sister and his desire to make their relationship stronger is the music that gets him through the loss of his last romance.

Carol makes a tremendous leap into the unknown and faces her fear of flying head on by flying to Italy and going to La Scala by herself, after Ralph realizes he can’t go with her. She absolutely loves Italy and is shining because she is finally living her life to the fullest.

It’s rare to find a play that gives you that much needed catharsis. I definitely felt the emotions in this production. The characters were so real to life, that they touched something inside me that brought up my own thoughts on love and life. When that happens, you know that everyone involved; the writer, the director, and the actors have done their job.

What came up for me is that something amazing can come along and you get lost in the idea of making it reality. Real strength comes when after finding you cannot have what makes your heart sing, you realize your life is just as wonderful without it and you appreciate what you do have and do all you can to make it better.

The last Romance will take you on a compelling ride of love, loss and the strength to change and appreciate life.

The last Romance runs through Nov. 6, 2011 and tickets can be purchased at or by calling 408.367.7255.

Fresh & Easy in Downtown San Jose?

I haven’t seen any public announcement yet, but “Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Markets” has requested a city permit for beer and wine sales at 272 East Santa Clara Street in San Jose. That’s the former Albertsen’s / Lucky’s / Su Vianda location next door to City Hall.

If this works out, it will be a great shopping option for downtown dwellers. Fresh & Easy has a kind of different business model: They have a lot of own-branded items like Trader Joe’s, but they tend to focus more on prepared items like salads and sandwiches rather than the packaged items that dominate TJ’s. In addition to ready-to-eat, they also have a pretty much complete line of other kitchen basics including fresh fruit, vegetables, and meats. They don’t have the selection of a full-size suburban mega-market, but they cover every-day needs.

They’ll be in direct competition with Safeway’s The Market a few blocks away, but they’ll have the advantage of a surface-level parking lot. If they do one thing to improve the streetscape on Santa Clara Street, though, it will be to keep that parking lot clean, which previous owners have never done.

Here’s looking forward to another shopping choice in downtown.

Silly and Dramatic; Sister Cities:Theatre at it’s Best

Boy do I love modern plays that incorporate things like Google and iPhones. Add silliness and a character prancing around in men’s underwear and I am all over it.

Dragon Productions’ Sister Cities is a mash of realism, great comedic moments, family coming together and dark subjects.

Carolina (Kim Saunders), Baltimore (Katie Rose Krueger), Dallas (Alexandra Bogorad), and Austin (Darcie Lee Grover) are four sisters from different fathers, different corners of the country, and different perspectives, and they must reunite after their mother’s abrupt death (Shelley Lynn Johnson). What unfolds is a comic but heartfelt look at the ties that really bind.

The playwright, Colette Freedman, has created a masterpiece that appeals to a young, modern audience as well as any age. Director Dale Albright took her story and made it shine onstage with an amazing cast who portray these sisters remarkably.

Grover is outstanding as Austin. She’s comfortable on stage as the chill sister, lounging in her PJs eating Ramen. Austin has many huge emotional transitions, and Grover nails these.

I love Saunders’ portrayal of Carolina. She plays the stuck up lawyer well. Very up tight and from a different world than the others. It’s a relief when she lets her hair down and starts to relax a little. Just like Austin, Carolina has quite a few scenes where she has to go from drinking vodka with her sisters, to extreme emotion. Both of these roles would be difficult for any actor, and you can see that Grover and Saunders have put a lot of work into making these emotions real.

Bogorad is cute as the sister with the “perfect life”. Her character is a little boring, but Bogorad spices it up, especially during the drunken vodka scenes and an outright confession she makes to her sisters, which makes her not seem so perfect afterall.

Krueger is beyond awesome as the free-spirited Baltimore. She is a blast! Funny, outrageous, and huge props for walking around in her underwear for 90% of the play. This actress blew me away!

Johnson takes you into the mind of Mary, the mother, during flashbacks. She does a great job at showing us the sadness and pain of what she was going through before her death and is hilarious at telling the audience of her love for sex. What a vivacious character!

Don’t miss this wonderful multi-layered and side-splittingly funny play.

Darcie Lee Grover (Austin), Kim Saunders (Carolina), Alexandra Bogorad (Dallas), and Katie Rose Krueger (Baltimore).

Sister Cities runs through October 23rd, 2011.

Visit Dragon Productions Theatre Company for details on times and tickets.



Left Coast Live scenes

I started off the evening at the The Trims on the Lightson Stage. The brick walls surrounding the stage were a great backdrop for some straight-ahead rock & roll from this band. I had read good things about the Trims in the Metro a couple of weeks ago, and they lived up to their reputation.

Popular local singer-songwriter Ben Henderson showed off his stuff on the main stage.

Idiot Fish at Left Coast Live 2011

Idiot Fish were my discovery for the night. Unfortunately the jazz-electronica fusion experiment was only able to play through two songs before they had to change gears and play out a set of straight-ahead jazz, out of fear that their regular repertoire could rattle the glassware off the shelves at A Perfect Finish. I will definitely be checking these guys out at their regular Wednesday-night gigs at South First Billiards.

Silent Disco at Left Coast Live 2011

Silent Disco managed to keep a crowd moving pretty much throughout the night. Unfortunately, not every act was able to do that. Chico Mann, in particular, despite being one of the acts highlighted in the LCL marketing, played to an almost non-existent audience. Which is disappointing, because his mix of DJ grooves with traditional sounds deserved a few more people tuning in to it.

The Limousines at Left Coast Live 2011

Headliners The Limousines provided catchy pop tunes, including their YouTube sensation, Internet Killed the Video Star.

All in all, Left Coast Live 2011 was a great night out, with plenty of bands to discover. The Post Street site made for a nice compact arrangement where it only took a couple of minutes to walk between stages. I’m already looking forward to 2012.

Good Eats for a Good Cause at San Pedro Square Market

Silicon Valley Eats

I don’t know about you, but at our house we are really excited about what’s going on at the San Pedro Market. Talk about something that can revitalize downtown and make it a destination. Last week we were at Vino Vino, soon to be our favorite wine bar and hangout. The owners are friendly, the small plates are great and fun and the wine selection (from the tap!) is quite good. While we were there the owner of nearby Morocco’s Restaurant dropped in for a glass of wine and a chat too, and we talked about how great it is to see dropping in for a bite to eat and talking about what’s going to be going on in the market.

If you haven’t been down to see the Market yet, tonight’s your chance. This afternoon and evening the market will be host to their first annual “Eats and Treats” with live music, nosh on food from some great Silicon Valley chefs and sample some tasty beverages too.

It’s all for a good cause, the Housing Trust of Santa Clara County, whose mission is to make Silicon Valley a more affordable place to live by providing loans and grants to make housing more affordable.

Date: 10.5.2011
San Pedro Square Market, 87 N. San Pedro St., San Jose, 95110
$45 includes food and drink tickets ($50 at the door)
*Vegetarian and gluten-free options available.

Learn more about the San Pedro Square Market on their blog, Twitter and Facebook.

Good Family Fun at ComedySportz

I’d heard of ComedySportz before because they give away tickets as a prize for one of the between inning games at the San Jose Giants games, but I had no idea what it really was. I expected some kind of funny take on sports, and since it was supposed to be interactive, I had baseball with the audience in my head. So then it must be something to take two 11 year old boys to and keep my head down while balls flew around the audience.

Not at all, ComedySportz is improv comedy. The audience gives two teams of comedians ideas for skits and they play it out on the stage in two teams. The audience votes on which team is the funniest and at the end of the night one team wins. Sounds simple right? Ahhh, but that’s where the fun comes in. The emcee/referee does an excellent job of creating challenging scenarios on the fly, piecing together a story line or a skit from audience suggestions. Then the actors run with it and make it funny in a series of timed sequence events. Of course the audience is involved in every step and sometimes even come on stage.

What we really loved about it is; it was fun for everybody in different ways. The boys loved the skit where the players had to stuff Psycho doughnuts in their mouths every time they didn’t get something right until they looked like deranged chipmunks trying to say their lines. Us adults liked the more mature humor that insinuates itself into the show without being too much for the kids. The energy of the players translates well to the audience and by the end of the evening the audience and the players are laughing and happy. Isn’t that what we look for in family entertainment?

The actors are pretty darn good too, and the screen at intermission reminds us of the celebrities that got their start at ComedySportz venues around the country. Jason Sudeikis and Liz Cackowski went on to Saturday Night Live, Jeff Davis is now on “Who’s Line is it anyway?” and Frank Caeit went on to MadTV among several others.

Wanna see more? Here’s a link to a video promo, and of course they’re on Facebook, Twitter and Youtube, but really, you’ve got to see it in person to really get it, and that’s the fun.

*Disclosure: I was given tickets to this event. Would I pay for it and go again? You betcha.

This weekend: Left Coast Live

This Saturday, October 8, is the date for the third iteration of San Jose’s Left Coast Live music festival. The organizers continue to work on the formula to make the festival take off: They’ve moved the location from South First Street up a few blocks to Post Street, and they’ve reduced the stages down to three outdoors and three indoor locations. But they have continued to program a mix of up-and-coming national acts and local bands, with an emphasis on pop sounds. And even with the smaller footprint, there are still over two dozen bands taking part, more than enough to fill an evening.

I haven’t had a chance to listen to many of the scheduled bands, but what I’ve heard has been snappy and engaging. My neighbor Bonnie Ross, who has been a fan and supporter of the local music scene for years, and this year has increased her generosity to the level of becoming a logo’ed sponsor of the Fountain Blues Festival and Left Coast Live, had these recommendations:

My have-to-see picks are Orgone at 8:15, then Chico Mann at 9 pm. I’ve seen Orgone a few times at Moe’s Alley in Santa Cruz and their combination of afrobeat and funk will forcefully compel you to dance (in a wholly fun way). I just discovered Chico Mann, downloaded his Analog Drift release, and have been grooving on it for a solid two weeks. Mara Hruby has a more chill and sophisticated vibe, and a beautiful voice. The Limousines have a fun zombie video out. I also like the electronica of Seabright. And I’m still discovering discovering new performers on the festival webpage. Oh, and there will be a beer garden, silent disco and food trucks!

To get a listen for yourself, there’s a cool LCL Radio page where you can hear a mix of the bands.

Left Coast Live once again looks like a great opportunity to discover new bands, try tasty food and drink, and enjoy a fun, upbeat atmosphere.

  • What: Left Coast Live music festival
  • When: Sat., Oct. 8, 4 pm to Midnight
  • Where: Post Street and Lightson Alley, between First and Market Streets in downtown San Jose, as well as three nearby restaurant/bar locations.
  • How much: Tickets $15 in advance or $20 at the gate.
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