Santa Cruz Good Times

Sep 30th
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Best Arts Entertainment Nightlife 2009

best_ae_ILoveSushiBest Karaoke
I Love Sushi


Bay Photo

Runners up
Kyer Wiltshire

Many Hands

For nearly 20 years, Many Hands Gallery has been a venue to see local artists on display. It houses a variety of different mediums including wall art, paintings, ceramics, glass sculpture, jewelry and mixed media.  Great news: The gallery provides home to a core group of artist who ensure that there is constantly art being displayed. The gallery also receives some spice from visiting artists who frequently provide new material to the gallery. 510 Bay Ave., Capitola
Runners up
The Mill
Dead Cow

Music venue - dedicated

Anyone who’s ever experienced a Kuumbwa show doesn’t need much explanation as to why it’s this year’s winner for Best Music Venue. The only question might be: What took so long? The sound is … like butter. The intimate atmosphere is … unparalleled. The history is … legendary. The acts are … legends. Jazz aficionado or not, you know you’ll be satiated. A nonprofit since the mid-’70s, when it was started by a 19-year-old Tim Jackson and a crew of inexperienced but determined jazz lovers, the Kuumbwa itself is a product of passion—and its mission reflects that. “We always saw ourselves as a jazz presenting and education organization with an artistic vision,” says Jackson, the Kuumbwa’s executive director. Staffed by volunteers and supported by grants and donations, the venue thrives due to the will of the people. Its educational services include free Master Class workshops six times a year, a summer Jazz Camp, the Kuumbwa Honor Band, and an Artist Performance Series for local schools. With 200 seats arranged in a theatre format, a café, a simple bar pouring wine and microbrewed beer, an outdoor patio and friendly staff, the Kuumbwa (Swahili for “act of spontaneous creation”) is an alluring scene to every member of the family: local college students, senior citizens, or single men and women—as long as you’re like-minded in the belief that the music comes first. And as for that stage and sound system? It’s been made famous by the world’s top jazz luminaries, but is also a favorite of local folkies and comedic troupes. McCoy Tyner, Bobby Hutcherson and Cedar Walton are some of Jackson’s favorite longtime returnees. “I think that at the end of the day, the real relationship at the Kuumbwa is between the artist and the audience, and we’re a catalyst helping to put those two pieces together,” he says. “A lot of the credit needs to go to our supportive community.” To the Kuumbwa, we give thanks—and to you who voted for it, we say, well done. 320-2 Cedar St., Santa Cruz, 427-2227
Runners up
Moe's Alley
Rio Theater
Vet's Hall

Music venue - bar/restaurant
Crow's Nest

There’s no denying it—a live show at The Crow’s Nest is an unforgettable thing. Who’d have guessed that this place got its start in 1964 as a small coffee shop? Nowadays it’s a first-rate music venue that looks and feels like the inside of a sailing schooner where the hottest party in town is taking place. Add to that a welcoming, classy atmosphere, fine cuisine, a superb view of the beach and a full bar that includes a great wine selection, and the end result is the best experience a Santa Cruzan can have out on the town. 2218 East Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz, 476-4560
Runners up
Crepe Place
Don Quixote's
Bocci Cellar
Britannia Arms

Music venue - cafe/coffeehouse
Ugly Mug

Who says you have to go to a packed nightclub or massive arena to get a soul-stirring live music fix? Sometimes the smaller, more intimate venues offer the best concert experiences. Case in point: The Ugly Mug, where you can order a cup of java, park yourself at a table and enjoy a little live music without having to strain your neck to see the performers or block out the shouting of belligerent concertgoers. Enhancing the Mug’s diverse entertainment roster is an open microphone every Monday night, many of whose highlights have been known to show up on YouTube. 4640 Soquel Drive, Soquel, 477-1341
Runners up
Mr. Toots
Santa Cruz Roasting Company
The Abbey

I Love Sushi

Sushi. Sake. Silly singing. It’s a winning triumvirate, capable of coaxing playful behavior from even the stodgiest of souls. What could make for a better bonding experience than a group performance of “We Are the World” by a bunch of buddies whose bellies are breaking down some of the finest sushi in town? What better way to work off calories from savory imported beer than an aerobic rendition of Olivia Newton John’s “Physical”? Located at the former site of Front Street Pub and Club Caution, I Love Sushi invites you to enjoy not only a first-rate sushi experience filled with all kinds of delectable free samples, but also a memorable night of goofy do-it-yourself entertainment, made all the richer by a projector screen and a stage for the singers.  Along with a big room that can seat up to 100 people, the restaurant offers a room for parties of 50 or fewer as well as a private party room that holds 15 people. The restaurant’s karaoke facilities are available to anyone willing to spend the minimum $10 per person, which—believe it—is very easy to do at I Love Sushi. Head waitress Marie Smith admits that even the staff has been known to join in the fun from time to time. Citing Wild Cherry’s “Play that Funky Music” as her personal favorite number to sing on the job, she notes, “If the party requests us to, and we’re not too busy, we will [sing karaoke]. We’re semi-obligated!”
Runners up
Coasters @ Boardwalk Bowl
Britannia Arms
Bocci Cellar
Michael's On Main
Fog Bank

Nightclub DJ

She’s been voted best DJ seven years in a row and was a fixture at Club Dakota in downtown Santa Cruz before the LGBT club folded (R.I.P.). No worries, though. DJ AD is still spinning strong. Her recent gigs at the revamped Seabright Bar & Lounge (a.k.a. Madhouse) as well as The Red continue to make her a prominent force in Santa Cruz’s dance-music galaxy. The lady is mobile, too, so remember that when have some kick-ass soiree to plan. (Nice range in music offered, by the way, everything from house to hip-hop and more.)
Runners up
DJ Eko
Trevor Williams

Radio Station

“Streaming world-wide since ’95,” KPIG continues to win over fans. Beyond its wildly inventive format, we can’t get enough of the PIG. Online access, Pig Store and Swine Art and more continue to keep us invested. But with great playlists, featuring everything from the Jayhawks to Merle Haggard to Neil Young, you really can’t beat this musical porker. Check out the PIG’s Pig Player online, too, if you’re not doing it already. There’s a wild array of videos there. The “Fresh Pork Chops” channel is delish. Never a bore here.
Runners up

Local band of the year
Extra Large

Now more than ever, we could use a little party music to help us shake off the stress, and the relentlessly upbeat Extra Large is just the band for the job. There’s no mystery why this aggressively dance-friendly six-piece outfit consistently gets the Best Band vote: Its enticing meld of funk, blues, Latin, reggae, rock and pop music is as a can’t-miss muscle relaxant for clenched booties. Just you try to stay stressed out.
Runners up
Byron Space Circus
Devil Makes 3
Ribsy's Nickel
Nobody's Own

Local solo musician
Yuji Tojo

Going it alone never sounded so good. A Santa Cruz staple—his guitar mastery can be witnessed around town at a variety of venues throughout the week—Yuji Tojo plucks, strums, taps and tackles his polished, black acoustic guitar with wild abandon. You seek jazz, rock, flamenco, pop or Japanese infused samba? Tojo delivers. Leaving no part of his axe unexplored, the solo act sounds like an ensemble on his own, and his prestigious resumé includes international tours, recording and producing. A musical maelstrom of steel-string technicality and unbound innovation that must be witnessed firsthand, Tojo is, rightfully, your loved local wonder.
Runners up
Patti Maxine
Joe Ferrara
Tie: Amy Obenski/Dave Cacace/ Sista Monica

Drum circle
Farmer's market

Runners up
None/hate them all
Jim Greiner
UCSC full moon

Street performer
Great Morgani

The Umbrella Man, the Yellow Man come and go, fin-de-siecle flights of fancy wrought from the freak flags they so proudly fly. But the Great Morgani is wholly different affair, a street performer who has wrung slaphappy, musical sleight-of-hands from his sidewalk stage for more than a decade. Happily he’s obviously here to stay. But to define him as a street performer is like calling an elegant chameleon a brown lizard. Not to lessen the mystery, but the Great Morgani is actually Frank Lima, retired stockbroker (whew, smart career move) who is as gonzo with a sewing machine as he is with an accordion. His costumes are veritable works of art; his performance defies the traditions of street theater. Only in Santa Cruz you say? Nah, the man goes far beyond that tired cliché, and then some.
Runners up
Pink Umbrella Man
Abbott Family Band

Dance club
Moe's Alley
It’s not often that you’ll find a small venue with ample space to dance. Somehow, Moe’s musters it all, thanks to the keen (and friendly) booking by owner Bill Welch and Moshé Vilozny. A cozy, dark club befitting your blues legend passing through, and a world class reggae and world-music Mecca for the devout booty shaker, Moe’s is your chosen dancehall. The inside casts a spell for oh so many local bodies to heat things up, while the back patio provides a cool-down hangout when the sweat gets to your head. Within its hidden nook, the dance party lasts all night—blessing us with myriad beats of funk, blues, rock, reggae, salsa and more, all for the young and young at heart. The votes are in, so let the toasting begin.1535 Commercial Way, Santa Cruz, 479-1854
Runners up
Blue Lagoon
Rosie McCann's

Live performances
Shakespeare Santa Cruz

Instead of sinking with other performing arts institutions during the economic downturn, the always brilliant Shakespeare Santa Cruz theatre company sent out a rally cry to locals: Help. They did, and, as a result, SSC can and will stay alive for this summer’s repertoire season of 2009, its 28th. Shows include “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Julius Caesar,” and  “Shipwrecked! An Entertainment.” Shakespeare Santa Cruz, Theater Arts/UCSC, 1156 High St., Santa Cruz, 459-2159
Runners up
Civic Center
UCSC Arts & Lectures
Broadway Playhouse
Avenue Theater

Movie theater
Del Mar - 535

Big. Bold. Beautiful. That’s the Del Mar Theatre. It was revamped  in 2002 under the guidance of owner Jim Schwenterley and serves as a sister movie playhouse to the Nickelodeon. The Del Mar serves up not only popcorn with sprinkles of yeast, but top contenders in indie cinema. If a film is hip and independent, worthy of your viewing, the Del Mar runs it. We did some snooping, wanting to know about the film footage the theater runs in a year’s time—about 1.1 million feet of it. (Look for midnight movies every weekend.)
Runners up
Regal Cinema 9
41st Ave
Green Valley
Scotts Valley

Theatre company
Shakespeare Santa Cruz

Runners up
Cabrillo Stage
Actors' Theatre
Kids on Broadway
Mountain Community Theatre

Improv troupe

Strip poker, strip aerobics, skinny dipping—adding an element of nudity can make just about any activity more interesting, which is why six comedy actors are out to do just that for local theater in Santa Cruz. Scriptease has been “leaving clothes all over stages since the mid-’90s,” according to troupe member Matthew Marichiba. He says that Scriptease was formed 11 years ago with non-theater goers in mind. “We wanted to take improv to a community of people that didn’t consider themselves theater goers, while also raising the stakes on improv comedy,” he says. And raise the stakes they did. While most improv doesn’t involve consequences when an actor breaks a rule, Scriptease originators decided that disrobing was the perfect punishment for such an offense, and one that would surely pique the interest of the audience—theater fans or not. Every Scriptease performance has certain scenes called “strip scenes” that enact the stripping rule, which states that a flubbing actor must strip when the audience tells him or her to. And, according to Marichiba, the audience can be pretty brutal, which is why he, and the others, tend to layer up before each show. “We don’t come out like the Michellin man, but we protect ourselves,” he says. He has never ended up completely naked, nor does he wish to. “Let’s just say we don’t break the rules on purpose. At the end of the show you can tell how well we do with obeying by the pile of clothes on the stage.”
Runners up
Um Gee Um
You Had to Be There

Place to take the kids

Was it the corndogs? That, and, oh, more than 100 years of amazing things. Our Adventureland by the sea is unbeatable—the arcade, the rides, the Cocoanut Grove. But, oh, that roller coaster—and the summer concert series and, geez, so much more. 400 Beach St., Santa Cruz
Runners up
The beach
Long Marine Lab 
Blue Ball Park
Natural Bridges