WHAT CAN I TELL YOU?

That I didn’t last week, about how the anti-science idiots have ruined things for us all with their needless, reckless pandemic of the unvaccinated, that requires us to wear masks again and forces the music venues that were just opening up after 15 long months, to reassess everything. It’s going to slow things down tremendously, maybe even shove things two steps back. Some will not survive that.

Thanks, Donald, and your empty-headed QAnon cult cretins. It’s hardly the worst of his legacy, this hard hit on live performance, but he certainly has been the Blue Meanie, decimating musicians’ livelihoods and maybe their careers with the way he handled this pandemic politically and not scientifically, or humanely, and making live music venues struggle even more or even close their doors for good.

But Charles — it’s only music. People are dying! Yes, we all know who is getting seriously sick and hospitalized now, and dying, in unheard of numbers, predicted to hit 1,000,000 by the end of the year. So I guess I lied in my opening statement, that I already said all I had to say about this last week, but now I am one week more annoyed. That history and reality is always the backdrop against which I write each week and it’s hard not to let it intrude so if it bothers you, dear reader, I’m sorry, but I think a lot of us are going through the same process. It is hard to separate art from life sometimes.

WHERE’S THE FEAST?

Enough about the looming famine, eh? Count your blessings, even if you need only one handful of fingers, with a couple curled under.

The feast, this week, is being served at the same two places I’ve been writing most about lately, our own Harvelle’s on 4th Street, and the magnificent mountain stage showcasing the exceptional acting, directing and writing prowess of the beat-the-black-list endeavor actor Will Geer launched more than half a century ago, carried on faithfully by his family, amidst the sylvan setting of Topanga Canyon’s Theatricum Botanicum.

Yes, I do go on sometimes, but when I find something outstanding, and incredibly consistent (especially over a period of many years, or decades), and still little known by many… Well, that’s my own invented job description.

THE JAZZ BAKERY

I can think of only one other LA venue that I have found to be 100 percent reliable in the quality of performances they present, over a fairly wide range of their art form, and that is the Jazz Bakery. It doesn’t matter if I’m a fan of who is playing that night, and knowledgeable, or barely familiar, I have never walked out feeling anything but… really jazzed. Ruth Price, a renowned jazz vocalist of earlier days, started the JB almost 30 years ago and has curated and booked it with experience and impeccable taste the whole time. We are fortunate that it is now located in the beautiful Moss Theater space in the New Roads School right here in Santa Monica.

Their website calendar is a bit confusing and I haven’t spoken with Ruth for some time, but my guess is that she, like some others, is being cautious, and that probably is the best course right now. It looks like there are some shows booked for the late fall. When she gets up and running again, you will read about it here. Also cautious, it seems, is our beloved McCabe’s concert room. They have some shows scheduled for Oct. and Nov., but who knows? More likely to happen, we hope, is their coup booking of Janis Ian for next March, a stop on her The End of the Line Tour, and it likely really is, because she’s not 17 any more.

YOU CAN FEAST

At Harvelle’s for a while, every Sunday and Tuesday night. Sundays has seen the return of the inimitable, formidable, the always entertaining The Toledo Show. You’ve never caught this act? Where have you been for 30-some years? After long residencies in Hollywood, Long Beach and other parts of town, he has been ensconced here in downtown Santa Monica for… a very long time, disappeared for COVID but now is back, with his hot band and his dancing Dames.

I have heard that he may have brought the dynamic EM to the attention of the smart guys at Harvelle’s, and that would make sense because she also has a dancers performance schtick to her show too. I recommend you read what I wrote about her last week — I was pretty much blown away, thanks for the tip, Ron — but you might want to run a little faster to catch her because while Toledo Diamond has found a perfect home at Harvelle’s, EM is such a big talent that she begs a bigger venue. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

A PICNIC FEAST IN TOPANGA

Will be available all summer, and this weekend you can stuff yourself and be bouncing off the walls with great theater.

Why not? In a COVID-compelled shortened Shakespeare season, only two plays instead of double that or more, you can revel in “Julius Caesar” this Friday (tomorrow night!) and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” Sunday evening, treating yourself to the new “The Last, Best Small Town” on Saturday night. All at 7:30, various prices, generous discounts for seniors, students and teachers, veterans, and AEA. (Will would have wanted it that way.)

I’ll say it again: their Shakespeare is their reputation, deservedly so. You will not hear amateurs stumbling over the Bard’s luscious language, but caressing it, exploding it, giving it perfect nuance and understanding. And rarely will you see a stage with so many possibilities for setting, from troops coming down the hillside to soliloquies in the trees.

I saw the world premier of “The Last, Best Small Town,” by local playwright John Guerra, directed superbly by Ellen Geer, and I foolishly worried a little for part of the first half because I had brought three guests who had never been there before, I had of course properly hyped it, and… things were moving a little slowly.

And then we got what I should have known was coming, twists and turns and so many important human issues addressed with insight through the acting and excellent writing, of home and love, race and expectations. At play’s end my friends couldn’t stop talking about it and asked when the next performance was.

Well, now you know, and now you know how to have a rockin’ great weekend, through Tuesday actually. You can catch the Toledo Show Sunday night after you return from Topanga. No — seriously. I might.

Charles Andrews has listened to a lot of music of all kinds, including more than 3,000 live shows. He has lived in Santa Monica for 34 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at therealmrmusic@gmail.com