Wednesday, May 31, 2017



I have been holding this secret for weeks, and I just can't contain it any longer! But finally, finally, finally the staff at the Cascade Theatre has told me that just like Jodie Foster in Contact, I am OK to GO.  Yeah, you heard me. OK to GO. And that is your cue to stop reading, get your Cascade Theatre membership immediately, purchase tickets to the band that has never let me down, and then meet me back here for more.

Breathe, Valerie. Breathe.

I feel like I've been so excited that I could burst since the day I found out the Cascade Theatre had landed one of my favorite rock bands of the past 10 years, and it's been hard not to tell anyone, but I haven't. Not even my daughter. But now the moment we've all been waiting for is finally upon us, and I have the distinct honor of releasing the 2017-18 Cascade Theatre season lineup. Finally I can tell you that OK GO is coming to the Cascade Theatre November 1st. The band that I can only describe as being a cross between my favorite local band (Papa Fez) and my favorite California band (Cake), on steroids and with a better budget for outfits and video production. You know who these guys are, right? They are THE reason you need to get a membership immediately so you can buy tickets today. Not just so you can get the best seat, but just so you can get in the door. Because I believe this is a show that will be sold out by the time tickets are on sale June 13th to the general public. Tickets go on sale to members June 1st, so grab that membership immediately, call the box office at 530-243-8877, or show up in person at the box office at 1733 Market Street and get in line. The door opens at 11am.

If you're not familiar with all the insanely catchy music of OK GO, chances are you're still familiar with their extraordinarily clever and viral videos that consistently up the ante. About a decade ago they were creating well planned, tightly choreographed low budget videos with the help of a bunch of treadmills (that they purchased and later returned). Now they're making huge, beautiful messes in a zero gravity environment. I just can't love them enough. I know you're curious now, so here's a small sampling of their video brilliance:

I've never seen OK GO live. So I don't know if they'll have a giant Rube Goldberg machine on stage like they created for this brilliant piece of art-science.

Maybe they'll bring in trained dogs or schoolgirls with umbrellas, a marching band or maybe they travel with those treadmills to bring their music alive as they do on video. It doesn't really matter to me. I adore them, I praise their holy name, and I'm so excited to see and hear them, with or without the props. They're an incredible band that creates music that is as fun and catchy as their videos, which are really just a byproduct of their amazing creativity that extends past the recording studio. They're smart, funny and get get bonus points because members of OK GO have worked in public radio and have testified in front of Congress about net neutrality. And back in the stone age of 1999, OK GO taped a lip synched performance of C-C-C-Cinnamon Lips for a public access TV station in Chicago that included a fake back up band made up some co-workers at WBEZ, including Peter Sagal on bass (host of Wait Wait Don't Tell Me) and Ira Glass on the drums (host of This American Life). Peter can tell you all about it, and you should check it out just to see how young Ira Glass was!

But of course, that's just the beginning. On to the rest of the reveal.

The Cascade Theatre crew has been working hard to put together an entire year's worth of live performance, rock, country, acrobatics, musicals, a classic film series and children's summer movies and lots more. The entire calendar is posted below, and at the bottom of today's column you'll find a streaming Spotify playlist filled with some of the performances you'll have a chance to experience live if you're lucky enough to land tickets the upcoming shows. And since I'm big on OK GO, there's a lot of their music on the list, including the song that helped get me through my divorce. You'll just have to figure out that one on your own.

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, LeeAnn Rimes, Lukas Nelson, Travis Tritt and Don McLean.
The calendar below begins with a Summer Kid's Movie Club every Sunday afternoon in July as well as a set of four classic films sprinkled throughout the year. But I know, you're all about the music. The first live performance of the season is July 21, with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Other country-leaning acts include LeeAnn Rimes in September, Travis Tritt in October, and next March Don McLean will take to the stage to revive some of his greatest hits. Another name that might not be immediately familiar to country fans, but should be well worth your attention is Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real with Nicki Bluhm coming July 29th. Lukas is the son of the legendary Willie Nelson, so you may have seen them if you've seen Willie play, as they've opened for him many times. They also backed Neil Young for The Monsanto Years, and served as John Fogerty's band for his 2012 tour. Lukas also played guitar or sang on 10 out of 14 tracks on his dad's Heroes album. Young and Jimi Hendrix are some big influences for the band, but they've also got a dirty surf rock twang to them that should appeal to the alt-country surf punk in all of us. There is one in all of us, right?
The Wailers and Joan Osborne
Speaking of legends, Bob Marley's band has long outlived its original lead singer, and continue carrying the torch in his honor for more than thirty years. The Wailers perform in September, and every die hard Reggae fan in the north state should be there. They honor Bob's honor memory, they do the music the way you love to hear it, and I know this show will be incredible.  Another tribute will grace the stage in October when Joan Osborne ("What if God Was One of Us" singer) brings her trio to the Cascade to sing the songs of Bob Dylan. Osborne is gritty and full of soul, and I have no doubt she'll make it worth your while.

I need to back up for a moment, because I failed to mention some of the non-music live shows of the season, which include a night of stand-up comedy with former SNL cast member Rob Schneider in September. You'll also recognize him as a regular face in many Adam Sandler films.

Rob Schneider
Another TV star who is now taking his show on the road in October is magician/illusionist Michael Carbonaro of "The Carbonaro Effect." If you haven't seen this incredible slight-of-hand master in action, check it out, and be amazed. I've always been entertained by his show, but his moments behind the counter in the toy store are brilliant.

In November, the season of Valerie-absolutely-must-be-here-for-these-shows begins with OK GO. followed by the Gin-Blossoms, the rock band who's big hit "Hey Jealousy" still runs through my head all the time, and in December the darlings of the Cascade Theatre return once again with a Pink Martini holiday show, featuring original vocalist China Forbes.

Pink Martini featuring Thomas Lauderdale and China Forbes

Other holiday shows this year include an evening with Olivia Newton-John, and the perennial favorite singing, dancing and storytelling spectacular A Celtic Christmas. But the holidays wouldn't be complete without A Cascade Christmas with a whole new storyline.

Marc Cohn, The Blind Boys of Alabama and Olivia Newton John
The new year brings a two-fer in January with Marc Cohn sharing the stage with The Blind Boys of Alabama. Later that month, the Peking Acrobats return to the theatre, followed by another helping of the world famous Glenn Miller Orchestra in March. Other shows rounding out the season include two more live musicals featuring regional talent: Oliver and Hair.

Additional shows are always added during the season, and members continue to get first crack at tickets before they go on sale to the general public.
  • July  2             Kid's Movie Club: Minions
  • July  9             Kid's Movie Club: The Incredibles
  • July 16            Kid's Movie Club: James and the Giant Peach
  • July 21            Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
  • July 23            Kid's Movie Club: Homeward Bound
  • July 29            Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real with Nicki Bluhm
  • July 30            Kid's Movie Club: Up
  • Sep  15            Comedian Rob Schneider
  • Sep 17             The Wailers
  • Sep 24             LeAnn Rimes
  • Oct   5             Illusionist Michael Carbonaro
  • Oct   7             Manhattan Short Film Festival
  • Oct 22             Travis Tritt
  • Oct 25             Joan Osborne Trio Sings the Songs of Bob Dylan
  • Oct 29             Classic Film: Hocus Pocus
  • Nov  1             OK GO
  • Nov  8             Gin Blossoms
  • Nov 24-Dec 3 A Cascade Christmas
  • Dec  6             Pink Martini Holiday
  • Dec 10            Olivia Newton John
  • Dec 17            Classic Film: Miracle on 34th Street
  • Dec 22            Celtic Christmas
  • Jan 20             Marc Cohn and The Blind Boys of Alabama
  • Jan 31             Peking Acrobats
  • Feb 11            Classic Film: Breakfast at Tiffany's
  • Mar 10           Don McClean
  • Mar 16           The World Famous Glenn Miller Orchestra
  • Mar 25           Classic Film: Some Like It Hot
  • Apr 19 - 29    Spring Musical: Oliver
  • Jun 15 - 23     Summer Musical: Hair
There's a whole year full of shows on the calendar, and we haven't gotten to the last performance of this year's season. Still to come is a two week run of the Cascade summer musical, Rock of Ages. But with the buzz that's been going around about this show, it's probably not a surprise to anyone that it's about to take over the Cascade stage for two glorious weeks with the music of Journey, Styx, Twisted Sister, Whitesnake, Night Ranger, and so much more.

Anyone who grew up in the 80's is gonna love this show, which features a live band, a bar, a stripper pole, a small town girl who ends up in the big city, and lots and lots of hair and makeup. It'll be hard not to sing along to this musical, but why would you hold back anyway, right? And who doesn't want to get out of the summer heat and into the air conditioned bliss of the Cascade to see this great show. One quick word of caution, for those thinking about bringing along the kids to this one. This show contains some language and provocative content. In fact the language starts during the pre-show announcement, so don't say I didn't warn you! If you're interested in a pair of tickets to opening night (Thursday, June 15th), leave a comment below - and make it clear you're interested in the tickets - so I can put your name in the hat, and I'll draw a name in the next couple of days.

In the meantime, hit the play arrow on the Spotify playlist below to enjoy music from artists and some of the films in the upcoming Cascade Season, plus a couple of my favorite hits from Rock of Ages as well.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Not My First Rodeo

I'm ashamed to admit this, but I'd totally forgotten that it was Rodeo week in Redding. It was only for about five minutes, this past Monday morning, but it was long enough. I was standing in my kitchen right around 9am, admiring the deep violet hues of a hydrangea bush I'd just planted in the backyard, when I heard the gunshots.

I actually grabbed the phone to call 911 before I gave myself an eyeball roll and chuckled. I should've known. It's not like this is my first rodeo.

It reminded me of the moment a few years ago when my husband experienced the same thing during his first Rodeo week in Redding. He called me just after 9am on a Monday morning because he'd just heard a slew of gunshots coming from the direction of downtown. He wanted to make sure I was okay, and told me to lock the door...and then he wanted to know why I was laughing.

Oh nothing, honey. It's just a bank robbery.

Moments later, my friend Matt Grigsby posted photos online of this gang heading down California Street, displaying guns and flags.

Here's another bombshell confession: This week marks my 16th rodeo week in Redding, and I'm still not entirely sure if these guys are supposed to represent the thieves, or the posse chasing after them!

That doesn't mean I don't enjoy rodeo week. I really do. I think I've done my best to embrace Redding's western heritage, especially since so much of rodeo week - outside of the actual rodeo, that is - unfolds right outside my office door. I have to literally weave between thousands of pancake eaters on my bicycle just to get to work during the Asphalt Cowboy's Pancake Breakfast. The boys in yellow have already shown up on the block twice this week (they generously reward me for the inconvenience of not being able to drive my car to the office for several days in a row during the festivities by giving me breakfast tickets).

I also really enjoy going to the rodeo, and that's most definitely because I enjoy the sport of cattle roping and the athleticism of bronco riding. It's most definitely not to ogle cowboy butts. Definitely not that.

This year my husband surprised me with a brand new cowboy hat, which he purchased in the authentically western state of Nebraska. It's white and gorgeous, and he probably looks better in it than I do, but I'm going to wear it anyway. I've got the jeans, I'm good with shirts, I've even got a bolo tie. There's just one thing I'm missing, and I'm putting it out here, just laying it out here, in case there's some boot company out there in the world looking for a public radio celebrity endorsement.

What I'm saying is that I don't have cowboy boots.

I used to have the most amazing pair of cheetah spotted boots made out of some kind of animal hide with pointy silver toe tips and heel plates that I found in a little store in Mexico back in 1991. I loved those boots so hard that I wore them under my first wedding dress. But alas, they contracted a bad case of mange about ten years later, and I had to put 'em down. It was a sad day. Since then, I just haven't found a pair I really like.

Until now.

So I'm just laying it out there to the universe that I'm a size 8 1/2 wide, and I really dig these:

But I also like these, these, these and these.

 But in the meantime, if you happen to run into me at the rodeo, or the pancake breakfast, please pardon my lack of appropriate footwear. and if you know anyone in the funky boot manufacturing industry that you could pass some information along to, I've got an extra ticket for the pancake breakfast for you. I'm also reviving my Honky Tonk Girl playlist  - one of my favorites - for all you buckaroos to enjoy as you kick up your heels while the rodeo is in town!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Viva Mexico

Ten years ago. It was Cinco de Mayo, and I found myself at the Del Taco drive-through ordering a burrito (which really isn't a thing in Mexico, btw). On a whim, I asked the kid at the window if she knew what Cinco de Mayo celebrates, and she didn't have a clue.

I filled up at the gas station next door, and asked the attendant, who had a distinctly Latin American accent if he could tell me what Cinco de Mayo was recognized for. Turned out he wasn't Mexican at all (he was Guatemalan), and he didn't know either, but thought it was the day Mexico celebrated its independence from Spain.

Pero no. Mexico's Independence Day is September 16th. Cinco de Mayo actually commemorates a much smaller, sort of obscure (but also important) moment in Mexico's history. But just like the U.S. has taken St. Patrick's Day and morphed it into a wild day of binging on green beer and corned beef (and pinching), we've also taken a holiday that Mexico traditionally celebrates with a somber military parade and have turned it into a wild day of binging on tequila and Mexican food.

I don't want to rain on anybody's margarita parade, I just think that it's good to know the reason behind your Saturday morning hangover. Because while everyone in the United States is gung ho to hoist a Corona and dance to a mariachi band on the fifth of May, how many people really understand what its all about? Well amigos, I'm gonna tell you. So crack open a Dos Equis, and get ready for a little history lesson.

Cinco de Mayo commemorates Mexico's victory in one singular battle with the French.

Oui, the French. Or to point the finger more directly, Napoleon III. This guy was the nephew of the original playground bully, Napoleon I, who was exiled to a remote island after invading, conquering, or going to war with Italy, Egypt, Russia, Austria, England, Prussia, Spain and Portugal (and I probably forgot a few) during his maniacal military career. But fifty years later, his nephew was in charge of things, and decided to follow in his uncle's footsteps by taking Mexico.

Mexico had already asserted itself and separated from Spain (which happened in 1810). But there were still some hard feelings there. Which is why, more than fifty years later, Spain at first jumped on board when Napoleon III decided to stage what he called an 'intervention' (as if Mexico had a tequila problem the French wanted to help with). And so did England.

Why? Well the claim was that Benito Juarez, the newly elected president of Mexico, decided to undo some of the things that had been enacted during the previous conservative government's administration. If you like to draw similarities, it was kind of like how the new conservative led U.S. government is recalling the Affordable Healthcare Act of the last administration. Part of Juarez's plan included halting interest payments to Mexico's foreign debtors: France, England and Spain.

This was Napoleon's moment, and he seized it. He convinced Spain and England to join him in pressuring Mexico to resume payments, but most of the history books (and Wikipedia) will tell you that Napoleon was really planning to conquer Mexico all along, to get his hands on more territory and the country's rich silver resources. Napoleon sent ships. So did Spain, but when they arrived at Veracruz in March of 1862, and realized what Napoleon's plans really entailed, they broke off their little affair and went home. England followed suit, leaving France to invade Mexico on its own.

And here's the thing: they won the war. For a time (it was a short time), Juarez's government was ousted, and Emperor Maximilian was crowned. But within a few years Juarez was able to gain control again, Maximilian was executed, and the French went back to France.

A depiction of the Mexican cavalry
kicking butt on the French troops in 1862.
But there was one battle in that war that Mexico won. It was on the fifth of May, in the colonial city of Puebla. The French had twice as many soldiers (8,000), but they seriously underestimated the passion and strategy of the 4,000 Mexicans. Long story short: David conquered Goliath. More than 450 French soldiers died in battle; only 83 Mexicans perished. The French withdrew, licked their wounds, and went on to other battles. By the way, the French came back and fought another battle in Puebla a year later, and this time they won.

Cinco de Mayo is widely celebrated in the state of Puebla to commemorate the grit and proud machismo of its people, as well as their willingness to stand up and fight against bigger forces. But since Mexico didn't actually win this war, the whole country doesn't mark this day with celebrations. Its normally recognized with a military parade and a re-enactment of the battle on a hillside near Mexico City.

How does the United States factor into Cinco de Mayo? It totally doesn't. We didn't have any part in this whole escapade. We had a pretty good excuse: Our hands full at the time with a little skirmish we called the Civil War. But once our war with ourselves was over, we stepped in to protect our ally to the south, and threatened Napoleon III with a new war if he didn't pull out his troops and go home. So he did, and eventually President Juarez was returned to power in 1867.

So I suppose we did have a part in helping Mexico establish its sovereignty once again as kind of a big brother, which kind of justifies our happy celebration of all the fun aspects of Mexican heritage on Cinco De Mayo. As long as you sweep under the rug the fact that our nation's current president is now endeavoring to build a wall between our two countries. Sigh.

There are many other wonderful aspects of Mexican culture besides pinatas, tequila and tortilla chips. Mexico's music scene has really been blossoming in the past decade, producing some very catchy, incredible music that I have just been waiting for an excuse to share with usted. Taste some of this muy sabrosa musica for yourself by pressing the play button below and checking out today's Viva Mexico playlist. If you're hip to the Mexican music scene and have some favorites of your own to add to the list, lemme know!