The Anderson Valley Solar-Powered Grange presented the 29th Annual Variety Show last weekend, March 6th & 7th. Despite the concerns of covid-19, each night the house looked full and Saturday, there were quite a few people standing. Many of our elderly valley folks stayed home this year and we missed you, but we also understand the wisdom and precautions for staying healthy. There may be videos of the acts going online on the "innertube" (aka internet - a show joke if you were there) in the next few weeks, so stay tuned for that news!
There are commonalities between this show and our uncommon community. For instance, how do people define "Variety"? The expression "If it's weird, we like it!" came up several times and from different people. Now THAT'S funny! We should make that our "Valley Motto".
Reminiscent of the old Hootenanny days (talent or not, it was all about having fun and entertaining the audience), there are no tryouts for this Variety Show. AND the word "talent" is not allowed because this show is all about entertainment and expressing oneself, no matter what the skill or type of expression. ALL are welcome! It's amazing how much quality is out there! It's about having the freedom to share something about oneself with the rest of the community. That four minutes in the spotlight, no matter what happens - this Valley supports those brave souls who get up on stage in front of everyone. Yet another glimpse of what this community is all about - we support each other.
Tech Rehearsals are just that - it's for the various tech crews (lighting, sound, staging) to get organized, figure out what each act requires from their departments and make it happen. It's remarkable to watch the impressive process of what seems like chaos at first, come together on show nights as near perfection. They have the process down despite constant changes that unexpectedly arise, and adjust through it all. JD, backstage crew, said this: "I love a challenge. There's always stuff happening, and the harder the work is behind the scenes, the better the show usually is." That sounds right!
The Opening Act - As usual, the Opening Act is greatly anticipated each year. It is always kept TOP SECRET and no one outside the immediate crew and cast are allowed to know any details. It's great fun to see and hear bits of clues and wonder... what are these crazy folks up to? What hilarious, super creative, stir-up-the-crowd fun will they come up with next? Let's take a vision quest and find out!
Our 2020 Visionary, Aaron (Cob), warmed up the crowd with his bowtie energy and got the audience participating, making noises and waving arms around like a wild crowd at a football game. We love to get involved with anything fun! Another great thing about this community. And thanks for those awesome 2020 glasses - the audience looked great on the big screen (thank to the new multi-camera video crew led by Chad the Man!).
50/50 RAFFLE - For the first time ever, on Friday night, the first ticket drawn was unclaimed! It was so funny to watch Captain Rainbow and his Raffleier, Tyce, adjust to this happening. What a little trooper Tyce was, selling tickets and participating in the drawing of tickets from the cage. He was quite the ham up there, a natural stage presence. Another ticket was drawn and it turned out to be one of our long time residents, Wendy Read (winning ticket - $502!). On Saturday night, more antics occurred and a familiar KZYX voice, Jerry Karp, had the winning ticket ($602!!). Wow - what a great raffle - cuz that means the same amount (50/50) goes to the Grange! Thank you, neighbors!
Every year, our Master of Ceremonies reads a list of our local Dusties - those who passed away in the past year. Sadly, the list seems to be getting longer with each year. What do we say about them? We miss you and think of you often. You made a difference in this valley.
The Weird, Different, and Unusual
That's us folks! The Variety Show is living proof! Here are some highlights of the more weird, different, and unusual acts we enjoyed:
A perfect example of what this Show is all about was an act called The Worst Song Ever, but was done the best way ever - on purpose! It was a riot and had people laughing through the entire song with their facial expressions, dance moves and singing (more like shrilling and thumming - but on purpose). "It's A Question" was written by Michael and his sidekick was Elizabeth. Truly the Worst Song Ever on purpose - how many verses did we get to listen to? Na na na, a real question! Now I can't get that song out of my head! Oh no!
Patty Liddy is a class act just being herself. And this skit was perfect for the Show. It was truly weird and we liked it! It was a great way to introduce the new doc, John Rochat, from the AV Health Clinic and he was a real trooper to participate in this funny skit. Is there a doctor in the house? Patty is so sick. Good thing the new doc from the clinic was in the audience! Surgery was required, but the doc got all that "stuff" out, and Patty got up and performed a rambunctious version of "Doctor Doctor" in gratitude of her rescue. Some panache, Patty - the crowd loved it!
Sarai gave us something different to talk about! She just returned from Peru where she performed this dazzling Tribal Fusion dance - a combination of many cultures and her own interpretations of dance from Asia, India, the Middle East... all quite exotic and beautiful.
Madeline of Circus Mecca - Wonderfully unique and original, we were amazed by young Madeline from Circus Mecca, a local non-profit circus school with 100+ students. Maddy has been attending the school for over a year. Her performance was outstanding as people gasped and cheered again and again.
Georgia Lane and the 3D’s (Dennis, Denver & Doug, fka - The Ukaholics) - After twenty years, she decided to dust off her tap shoes and start dancing again. She is dedicated to the art and history of American jazz tap, a classic form of expression. She wants to continue the legacy set before her by famous female hoofers such as: Diane Walker and Brenda Buffalino. "Toe tapping is an expression of rhythm and joy," says Georgia. It is a unique and rare form these days, but that's what makes this Show and Valley special - unique and uncommon - that's us!
Torrey Douglas - A Sense of the Census - It's not easy presenting dry information in an entertaining way, but Torrey did an amazing job of it! Her presentation explained the tricky process of the census this year and it's importance for getting government funding to keep the valley strong (our AVFD, schools, road maintenance, etc). There's a website with more information and the questionnaire (avail AFTER March 12, 2020): www.mycensus2020.gov. Thank you, Torrey!
Kids Expressing Themselves
Friday night started off with a delightfully sweet chorus of fun-loving 3rd graders, Miss Amelia's class, accompanied by Leslie and Michael Hubbert (also teachers). They sang a fun Irish song called "The Rattlin' Bog" and had some fun making gestures to describe the chain of funny events that happened to the characters. It reminded me of "The House That Jack Built". So refreshing to see the Grade School getting involved and giving kids a chance to experience the arts.
Laundry Day In Boonville - Bill Seekins set up this act on behalf of the Anderson Valley Historical Society and Museum (open weekends, 1-4pm). Old equipment from the Museum was used to demonstrate how laundry was done a 100 years ago. Another act that got our Valley kids on stage. They had so much fun dressing up, being funny and making people smile and laugh. And getting those 4 minutes of fame wasn't too bad either!
Astro Tots - The babies are back! Remember last year's "The Youngest Performers Ever" and the dancing preggies? Well, their babies are just gorgeous now and some are even walking! But on Saturday night, they took a giant leap on the moon and flew in space! It was so cute and the audience went crazy. The babies did so well - not a one cried! They even had a private trailer in back, which was hilarious to walk past and see babies in all the windows.
Animals Get Into The Acts
Custard, The Cowardly Dragon - I think everyone in the valley is encouraged when children take to the stage and create they own dramatic skit, including the props, costumes and script. This year, they created a skit around a poem by Ogden Nash, "The Tale of Custard, The Dragon". Kudos to the parents of these creative kids who perform, play, create, and work hard together. They included a new animal never seen on stage - a dragon. We're always looking for animal acts even if they sometimes have a little stage fright. But after a brief moment of hesitation, the dragon came through and got a big round of applause from the audience.
Another great animal act, came all the way from Chico this year - Bowser and His Human, the operatic singing dog performing a Canine Aria. In the beginning, Bowser was more interested in assessing the audience, so his Human got the audience to sing along to get him to raise his head back and sing with a rousing howl. Good timing with the full moon outside!
Storytellers & Jokesters
Katy Tahja - a retired bookmobile librarian, historian and author of five local books, shared some tales she heard on her many adventures. Collected from elders on the Hoopa Valley Reservation, she shared a story about why the opossum has a naked tail and why buzzards have a bare heads.
Laurie Adams - "Fox Woman Dreaming" - A storyteller with great facial expressions and animated gestures. Her final move of eating the apple and walking away was a perfect ending.
Les Clow - Performing at the VARIETY Show is part of his senior project. He has really improved his style and presentation over the past few years as he continues on his standup comedian adventure. Guided by his Drama Teacher, Arthur Folz, he roasted Anderson Valley with great gusto and drive. It's a good thing we can laugh at ourselves and follies because he was on fire! OUCH
David Jones - Known as the Bard of the Deep End and possibly the current record holder for appearances at the VARIETY Show. This year, he shared a personal story about the correct process to solve a problem. It was a classic Anderson Valley tale that starts out serious and ends with laughter. So many longtimers in this valley have stories to tell and are great storytellers to boot (or is that Boont? ha ha).
More Entertainment & Fun!
Ten years of Raging Grannies - and still going strong! We never know what they will sing or do, but they promise to be ornery to the end. They are the Red & Purple Gals and proud of it, living life fully until they become "Ghost Grannies In The Sky".
Bernadette has been with the Show at least twelve years and five years onstage. She is a natural performer; outspoken, yet a gentle spirit with a flicker of sass. This year, she expressed herself thru one of her wonderful poems called, "Stream of Consciousness Continued and Revisited." In a sassy, Southern drawl, she shared her creative process, expressing her feelings, observations and perspectives on life. She is committed to this community and she says "I offer my creative release to others - that release is so essential in life."
Jeannie Nickless - 93 years old and one of our beloved matriarchs of the Valley. She loves writing, especially poetry, which she has become fairly famous for. This year, she shared a poem about her life. It was told in increments of 10 years, sharing world history and her personal life. It was touching, humorous and sad since she recently lost her husband, Jim, after many, many happy years of marriage. She's been a regular participant of the show for quite a few years, but she couldn't remember just how many.
Ray, Mr Eleven has performed at the Show for over ten years, but also enjoys helping out wherever the need occurs. When asked why he does it he said, "The passion of artistic expression can enlighten the world. The world needs so much love and what they see on stage brings them joy and love. I love giving back to the community." Well, thank you Mr. Eleven, for sharing your humor and song!
Black Sugar Rose - a great duo from the coast returned to entertain us with their original folk music. Todd and Charlene share songs of hope, love and dreaming..."Music is the magic portal that helps us access our own true healing."
The Dork Side - another year of teacher antics on stage. Do they really teach the kids in this valley? Holds up to the statement "If it's weird, we like it". This act was a new Episode IV: A Blue Hope in which Han Solo and Garth Vader are having a band practice on the Millennium Falcon. From there, I got lost, but their fans sure laughed it up. I can't even keep up with Star Wars, let alone the Dork Side!
Baccanalics - Tommy Brown on fiddle and Greg Krause on accordian (one of our dedicated Pit Band members) - a sharp duo of gents played some Django Reinhardt tunes that had the audience tapping their feet with wild applause afterwards. Tommy doesn't get to come to Boonville very often from far away Comptche. This is his second appearance, so we hope he will continue to entertain us!
Ted Lecour - Wow! He can sing, play guitar and chew gum at the same time! So relaxed and professional - a "retired" guitarist living in Philo decided to come out and play with us. A real pro musician from way back. Loved his colorful cowboy shirt! He's re-defining "retirement" as he's been seen playing at the Boonville Farmers Market, some open mike events and house parties somewhere in the valley. Always doing something - that's the Valley way!
Jeff Moss has lived in the valley for 15 years and is recognized from playing with the Valley famous band formerly known as the Joe Blow Band. Look for him out on the coast playing with Switchback now, or playing his acoustic guitar somewhere in the valley. This year, he's playing in the Pit Band for the show AND he did his own solo performance playing, "Play With Fire".
Madrone Berries - Trill and Mitcho, Father and Son duet from Fish Rock - all organic, free range musicians. Every so often they come out of the bushes with a collection of original folk songs. It was hard to choose just one for them to play, so they customized one just for our Show. GREAT, professional folk singers - excellent guitar playing. AND a cool hound dog!
GrimeTime - What a great act to follow intermission on Friday night! After all that sugar and coffee, this band was a real waker-upper. A Ukiah based pop punk band who have been playing at the show for a few years now. VERY popular with the crowd, and a few folks jumped up to dance in front of the stage, which made the crowd go wild and others danced at their seats. A riot of fun and craziness even if only for a few minutes - even Judy Bashor got up and got wild!
Leslie and Michael Hubbert - No strangers to the stage, our or any other! This duet has taught and played music together for many years. They also teach 3rd grade and somehow find the time to keep playing "because we have to - it keeps us sane" - words of wisdom that echo in our Valley.
Catfish Jack - 30 years ago in West Oakland, there was a little fish market where every few days, two old bluesmen, "Big Bob Deance" and "Carl Good Rocking Robinson", would come in and say "Hey, Jack! How's the catfish today?" And that's how he got his name! And such a perfect name for an outstanding blues harpist (harmonica). He's right up there with the other famous guys like Charlie Musselwhite, Little Walter, and Sonny Boy Williamson. Bonus! Instead of just playing a song, we got a "fishing lesson" on the history of harp in blues. He could play every style that morphed out of the eras and locations of blues. Whether he's playing with others or flying solo, he's a big catch for this Show!
Burton Segall - After being away for ten years, Burton recently returned to Mendocino County and "retired" by starting a new career doing acupuncture here in Boonville. You might recognize him from KZYX, Buckhorn and various musical activities back in the day. Welcome back, Burton!
Marcus Pereda on guitar & Christine on flute - lovely music, cultural beauty, soothing to the soul, entrancing the audience. This duo has performed for us for a few years and we welcome them with open arms every year.
David Baas - A fairly newcomer to the Valley and the Variety Show scene, he came to this valley with nothing, losing everything in the Paradise fire. But he still had his guitar and so life began again in this wonderful valley. He's been helping out with the sound crew, but his real passion is playing blues guitar. So on Saturday night, he got to be onstage for a few minutes and entertain us with some ripping good blues. No wonder he's also on KZYX. What a voice!
Kitty Rose - The singing cowgirl from Hopland is a classic country musician with the big hat, dazzling costume and a big guitar. Looks like she brought a ton of fun with her and her original song about Hopland was awesome! Ten years ago she wowed us on this very stage and then disappeared! But she's back now and when we heard her at tech rehearsals, we looked at each other and said "YES!" - she was the perfect closer for Friday night!
Closing acts are generally very special and Saturday night was a joyful surprise to see Clay Hawkins, a professional guitar player going way back and also has a show on KZYX. He loves the valley and plays here with every opportunity. He's played at the show many times and everyone always requests he gets out his sweet steel guitar and slide us some tunes. We love you, Clay! What a way to end the show!
And that's a wrap folks!
(NOTE: More photos and stories will be shared on social media in the near future.)