Hey, it doesn’t get any better than this

The world is dim and cold and gray and dull. Welcome to January in Northern California. The grape harvest is over and the mustard has yet to bloom. The Beverly Beer Bellys are incommunicado and the Columbia Poison Oak Festival is months and months away.

Sigh…

These are the times that try entertainment booking agents’ souls. Performing artists are lethargic and audience enthusiasm levels are approaching flatline.

January is that misty month when theater managers grimly wrestle each other in the mud for the opportunity to book an alcoholic banjo band from Beans Ferry for just one precious weekend. It’s the time when, as if by magic, acrobatic squirrel circuses take on new meaning in the entertainment world.

Like I said – everything’s dim and cold and gray and dull.

Fortunately, we’ve still got UC Davis Presents and they’ve got, er, Frogz…

And now, so can you!

With an announcement guaranteed to make readers’ eyes slam open, UC Davis Presents is promising adventuresome audiences an opportunity to visit “mysterious, absurd and fantastical universes difficult to describe yet hard to forget…with a frog the size of a grown man and lizards the length of two.”

(Yeah, yeah, I know many of us had similar experiences in Berkeley in 1969, but this is now and that was then and there probably won’t be as much tear gas as you remember from those dear, bygone days.)

This doldrum-busting stage magic takes place in the Main Theatre at UC Davis on Saturday when a five-member troupe presents “Imago: Frogz,” further described by the zany folks at UC Davis Presents as ” a series of clever vignettes that move sinuously from screwball comedy to high drama to abstract movement and back.”

Screwball comedy? High drama? Abstract movement? Only the California Legislature and the Oakland Hells Angels put on a better show than this.

With “Imago: Frogz,” you get not only giant frogs, but king-sized larvae and penguins cavorting across the stage “to an original soundscape influenced by silent movies and circus melodies.”

And then there are the orbs. Hey, everybody loves orbs…

According to the folks at UC Davis Presents, the show is also “a cross between a circus, vaudeville and the zoo” as well as “hard to forget.”

Uh-huh…

Not only is “Imago: Frogz” probably a whole lot more exciting than the average Ukrainian girls’ puppet theater, but it possesses all four of the necessary elements of classical theater as promulgated by Aristophanes, to wit: giant penguins, orbs, larvae and lizards.

Hey, it doesn’t get any better than this, amigos…

Originally published January 20, 2002

A family tradition is proudly observed

There comes a time in every father’s life when he decides to pass along a cherished family heirloom to his son.

The process may involve great-grandfather Beauregard’s cavalry saber, uncle Ned’s railroad watch or, perhaps, Dad’s tournament-winning bowling ball. Whatever the ancestral treasure, the transfer of ownership from father to son is a decidedly solemn occasion, a time for reflection and, perhaps, a tear.

“You know son, your great-grandfather used this very saber to slaughter a hog after the battle of Okolona Slough. Never forget that, son. Your great-grandpappy never did…”

Last week I determined that my 26-year-old son was of sufficient maturity and sober judgment to receive his own piece of family history and I traveled to the rustic community of Paradise to present him with my complete, three-album musical collection of the Beverly Beer Bellys.

I did not take this task lightly. There are very few complete collections of the Bellys in existence. Many have been lost during bar fights. Others are hopelessly warped from extended exposure to, er, beer. Still others have been burned during fundamentalist religious rallies and benefit car washes.

The three painstakingly preserved cassette tapes – “Bustin’ Out,” “Good People … Good Music” and “#*@! Music, Beer’s Our Life” – were collected over a period of five years, each sent to me, without warning, by band leader and guitarist extraordinaire Jefro Belly.

A lot of fathers would have jealously held onto this collection of classic Northern California tavern rock until their last breath, but I felt it my duty to share the Bellys sound with my son while he could still enjoy its irrepressible candor and lager-inspired energy.

Admittedly, my son’s tastes in music usually tend toward The Cure, Murder City Devils and Dead Milkmen. Despite this, I was sure he’d soon develop a real affection for the band that gave us such righteous rock as “Alcoholocaust” and “I’m a Pervert.”

Who can forget the glory days when anybody who was anybody – at least in West Sacramento – was sipping a frosty 40-ouncer and merrily humming along to “Hillbilly Hell Chili.”

Remember “Janitation Engineer”? Yeah, that was one helluva song:

“I woke up late this morning

and just what I feared:

I opened up the fridge

but I’ve run outta beer.

I want to get a job

but they don’t hire slobs,

so I think I’ll go downtown

and find someone to rob…”

Needless to say, my son was suitably impressed with the musical legacy I passed on to him last weekend.

“These are, er, great, Dad…” he said, obviously in awe as he read the Belly’s masterfully penned lyrics in wide-eyed wonder.

“So, wanna slap one on the ol’ stereo?” I asked.

My son blinked and shook his head.

“I’m not sure I’m actually ready to hear any of these right now,” he replied, clearly overcome with emotion.

At that moment I knew I’d made the right decision by entrusting my son with the precious cassettes. It was clear that he appreciated fine music and wanted to savor the Bellys’ unique sound on his own time and in his own way.

Rock on, son…

Originally published November 11, 2001