LOS ANGELES – Like music venues around the world, the Paramount ballroom has been forced to endure months of limited work, reduced revenue and a forced transition to the digital world – no easy task for the venerable Boyle Heights venue, which is nearly 100 years old and has a legacy of supporting underdog artists.
Live-streaming is one option, but the expense is prohibitive, said Vicky Cabildo, the ballroom’s booker and production manager. Determining a price for the tickets is another issue faced by venues across the U.S.
“Aside from the location, you still need sound people, you still need to clean,” Cabildo said. “We have to pay the bands; you can’t ask people who aren’t working right now to do stuff for free, it’s just not fair. It’s also like how do we charge for these things? Not everyone is Katy Perry or Pearl Jam.”
COVID cancellations continue into the new year with the organizers for the annual Tucson Jazz Festival announcing that the 2021 festival is off.
Although this year's event was scheduled to take place outside in Armory Park, and with a smaller lineup and timeframe than previous years, the organizers have decided even the reduced event isn't feasible with Arizona claiming the worst viral spread in the nation.
"While we hoped by March of 2021 we would be able to host the Festival in a safe, enjoyable manner, it is now clear it's just not worth the risk," said festival executive director Khris Dodge. "We all look forward to the time when we can gather and enjoy live music together, but for now our priority must be the safety and well-being of our community."
The event organizers are currently working on plans for the 2022 festival, tentatively scheduled for Jan. 14-23. For more information, visit tucsonjazzfestival.org.
Tucson Weekly columnist Brian Smith’s article about the late guitarist Doug Hopkins, co-founder of the Tempe rock band Gin Blossoms, is being turned into a feature film. Smith originally wrote the article for the Detroit Metro Times in 2007, before he and his wife Maggie turned it into a screenplay titled "Lost Horizons." The film is now in pre-production and will be produced by Sarah Platt and Mike Tankel. The director and cast have not yet been selected.
"I’ve been wanting to tell this story in a film for many many years, but it finally came to fruition lately with my wife Maggie as writing partner," Smith said. "I knew Doug really well. He was a good friend, the kind who was never not there. I knew the shy, empathic, totally brilliant, cockeyed and writerly side to him. I loved him dearly. As did many people who knew him. He left a long, long shadow. Really, that love for him was the launching point for the script."
Hopkins co-founded Gin Blossoms in 1987. The band rose to fame after the release of their second studio album, 1992’s New Miserable Experience, which eventually went multi-platinum with singles like "Hey Jealousy" and "Found Out About You." Smith’s original Metro Times article detailed Hopkins' songwriting prowess, as well as his alcoholism, interpersonal struggles, and untimely death.
“The alcoholic side of him is there, and it can be brutal, and it is brutal, but there is also the tender, kind, generous, and absolutely witty and brilliant side to the man that needed to be told,” Smith said. “Also, the guy was a genius at whittling down complicated human truths into a three-minute pop song, such sadnesses beneath the surface. So precious few songwriters, before or since, could do that as well as Doug. That’s truth. Yeah, this all makes his story so hard to tell, and also makes it really layered and strangely beautiful.”
Brian and Maggie have collaborated on multiple projects before. Maggie directed a documentary based on Brian’s Tucson Weekly column “Tucson Salvage,” and they have also started a local press, R&R Press.
"Am I excited about the film in pre-production? Absolutely. Maggie and I are really excited because, for one thing, it is really difficult getting a film made," Smith said. "I am also really nervous because Maggie and I really want it to be accurate to Doug’s heart, to capture the essence of the man’s beauty, and tragedy."
If you hung out anywhere around Fourth Avenue or downtown Tucson in the past decade, you're most certainly familiar with multi-instrumentalist and KMKR DJ Scott Kerr, a.k.a The Vinyl Wizard.
Kerr, 51, passed away in November.
His friends at KMKR 99.9 FM are celebrating Kerr's beautiful and musical life with a Facebook Live event, featuring DJ sets by DJ Herm Guzman, remembrances from Tucson's creative community and a virtual benefit auction featuring Scott's massive collection of musical gear, instruments, costumes and other mementos. Proceeds will go to the Kerr family and KMKR Radio 99.9 FM.
The event kicks off at 7 p.m., Friday, Dec. 18.
Click here for more information about the auction and celebration of the Vinyl Wizard's life.
Zappa isn’t the first posthumous documentary on one of the 20th century’s greatest composers (and personalities), but it’s most certainly the best one yet.
Crowdfunded and years in the making, it’s bolstered by access to Zappa’s immense vault full of unheard audio and unseen video. Directed by Alex Winter (Bill from Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and the man who helmed the great cult flick Freaked), it’s a deeply felt, even heartbreaking look at the man who left us way to soon at the age of 52.
The doc begins with footage of Zappa playing his guitar, for what turned out to be the last time in public, in a celebration of the Soviets withdrawing their troops from Czechoslovakia (Zappa died in ’93). The film then goes back to the very beginning of Frank’s artistic life. Winter spends some good time on the early years, including Zappa’s home movies with his family, his obsession with composer Edgar Varese, and time spent at Studio Z, his first recording studio.
After the movie announces the formation of Frank Zappa and Mothers of Invention in ’65, it starts leaning on former band members like saxophonist Bunk Gardner, guitarists Ray White, Steve Vai and Mike Keneally, percussionist Ruth Underwood and bassist Scott Thunes to handle much of the narration. For fans, it’s just a great thing to hear all of the Zappa archival interviews interweaving with current takes from his past bands.
Nice touches include Vai recounting the complexities of “The Black Page,” followed by new footage of Underwood playing it stunningly on the piano accompanied by drummer Joe Travers. Keneally tells the story of illustrator Cal Schenkel’s album covers and, most wonderfully, the original handwritten note from daughter Moon Unit Zappa that birthed the hit single “Valley Girl.”
Early on, Winter often relies upon old monster movie footage to accompany interview audio. At first it’s a bit annoying, but as Frank reveals later in the film, he adored monster movies, so perhaps that was a creative choice Zappa himself would’ve made in telling his story. The same could be said of the often haphazard, zippy editing, which resembles the animated works Zappa directed with Claymation artist, Bruce Bickford, who we get to see making an all-new figure of Frank.
The film’s most heartwarming moment? Home video footage of Baby Moon Unit yawning, followed by Frank yawning while playing with her, all accompanied by the Firebird Suite on the soundtrack. Frank’s wife Gail (who passed away in 2015) gets some good screen time through an archival interview, while his children (Ahmet, Dweezil, Moon Unit and Diva) all appear in older footage.