THE CHEECH: Primo stuff. Courtesy photo

AMERICAN PIE? PTOOEY!

Before you decide it would be really great to see DON MCLEAN July 1 in Beverly Hills, consider this. He was scheduled to perform at the NRA convention 5/28 in Houston, just 275 miles from Uvalde, TX and just days removed from the gun slaughter of 19 children and 2 adults there. He canceled at the last minute, saying it would be “disrespectful and hurtful” to perform. To the victims, their families, America… or his career? I think it was damned disrespectful to have agreed to perform at that event in the first place.

FROM STONER TO SHINING STAR

And then you have counter-culture cannabis comedy cultists Cheech & Chong. Who will also be performing in Beverly Hills, Aug. 13 at The Saban Theatre. Poor Tommy Chong was railroaded into prison for selling glass pipes on the Internet – same as hundreds of head shops had done for years. But George W’s out of control far right Attorney General John Ashcroft decided to make an example of Chong. (Lest we forget how many terrible things good ol’ oil paintin’ George did and stood for.) 

Don McLean will forever have the shame, and Cheech & Chong have the last laugh, career resurrected, and Cheech Matin has really made a name for himself. He started collecting Chicano art in the ’70s, fueled by money from hit albums and movies. “I always knew how important and overlooked it was, and always knew I had to make it public and recognized in a big way, with a permanent home.” 

As of last Saturday, with the opening of The Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture (“The Cheech”) in a beautiful new building in the center of Riverside, that promise and decades-long dedication has been realized.

He was there, I was there, I was thrilled by the art, and I will tell you more about it in future columns. 

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED:

RICK SHEA – One of my very favorite country-folk singer-songwriters. You have to shut up and listen, to take in the simple magic of his lyrics and the depth and breadth of his expressive vocals. Up close at the intimate Cinema Bar is the perfect place to catch him. Fri 9 p.m., Cinema Bar, Culver City, $0.

THE HOT CLUB OF LOS ANGELES – Well hallelujah and skip around the ol’ corral, the Cinema Bar is back. Live music every night, a full schedule, mostly country and Americana, sometimes acoustic, always no cover and a friendly crowd. I hope THCOLA is picking up where they left off, with years of Monday nights there. Unless during the hiatus they decided Django was not God, I expect to be amazed again at their musicianship and ‘30s repertoire. Mon 9 p.m., Cinema Bar, Culver City, $0.

RECOMMENDED:

“GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER” – Let’s hear it for all the arts groups struggling to survive a pandemic for two years without box office, only to cautiously return, to limited seating, audience trepidation/absence, having to cancel rehearsals or even performances, losing key players to COVID at the last minute, never knowing what’s around the corner. But here they are, a performing arts gem of Santa Monica, launching a production everyone would be highly anticipating even in normal times. With the LA premiere of Todd Kriedler’s adaptation of the 1967 film about racial and generational family upheaval that, sadly, still has relevance half a century later. Directed by Lita Gaithers Owens. You can bet on whatever happens on the Ruskin stage. Fri, Sat 8 p.m., Ruskin Group Theatre, SM Airport, $20-35.

“THE WESTSIDE WALTZ,” “THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR,” “MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM” – Theatricum Botanicum is our world-class troupe in Topanga, for more than half a century (and you still haven’t gone?!), specializing in The Bard and performing “Midsummer” every year, outdoors in their very own enchanted forest. Also known for their socially conscious choices of material.

“WESTSIDE WALTZ” – Theatricum artistic director Ellen Geer; her sister, Melora Marshall; and daughter Willow Geer take on the roles of an aging concert pianist, her violinist spinster neighbor, and a would-be actress on New York’s Upper West Side in the tumultuous ‘80s, from Oscar-winning writer Ernest Thompson (“On Golden Pond”).

“MERRY WIVES” is transported to small-town America, 1950s, with music to match the rolicking fun. Wait until you see Falstaff ride in on his Harley. But it’s not all hilarity – there is an undercurrent of the blossoming women’s rights movement.

“WALTZ” Sat 7:30 p.m., “MIDSUMMER” Sun 3:30 p.m., “MERRY” Sun 7:30 p.m., Theatricum Botanicum, Topanga Canyon, $10-60 (discounts for seniors, students, teachers, veterans, AEA, ages 5-15).

TOM PAXTON – Two things to consider here. You should always see a legend perform, at least once, because there are reasons they became a legend. But in this case, Paxton is bringing his two pals, calling themselves the Don Juans, longtime singing, songwriting and recording partners and probably drinking buddies, but… they didn’t become legends. Or even well known. Do you have all their albums? Hopefully, Paxton will have the sense to make the show mostly about him. Fri 8 p.m., McCabe’s, Santa Monica, $48.

BRANDI CARLILE – I saw her some years ago at Amoeba Music, early on, with a lot of hype about her being the Next Big Thing. I came away quite unimpressed. I thought her voice lacked range and emotion and her song choices were kind of dull. Either I missed something then or she’s been working hard on the songwriting, and especially on the vocals, because now she can use that instrument in the most dramatic fashion, and belt and hold a note until you just surrender. She’s won big awards and has become a legit star. Fri, Sat 7 p.m., Greek Theater, LA, $29.50-425.50. 

STEVE POSTELL’S NIGHT TRAIN MUSIC CLUB – I’ve never seen this group but the component parts are hard to resist, including virtuosic picker Albert Lee, local legend blues shouter Teresa James, Alphonso Johnson (Weather Report, Santana, Chet Baker), Michael Jerome (Richard Thompson, John Cale, Taj Mahal), Chris Stills (parents Stephen, and French chanteuse Veronique Sanson). Sun 7 p.m., McCabe’s, Santa Monica, $32.

TOLEDO DIAMOND — Every time the thought pops up, what shall I do with my weekend, you should remember you can blow the top off it by ending it in front of Toledo Diamond and his superb, unquestionably unique show at Harvelle’s. The doorman there recently told me that someone showed up and said, “I’ve been reading Charles Andrews recommend this for about a year, so I finally have to see for myself.” The report was that the patron was danged pleased he did not miss another Sunday. Every Sun 9:30 p.m., Harvelle’s, Santa Monica, $12. 

NORAH JONES – Would you be more likely to go see her if her name was Geethali Norah Jones Shankar? (That’s what’s on her birth certificate.) You might, but you probably wouldn’t expect her low-key, soft jazzy vocals and piano playing, informed by a wide range of styles and genres and delivered so sweetly it’s hard to resist. When I first heard her I fell in love. I wasn’t alone’ her debut album, “Come Away with Me,” sold 27M copies. What a captivating package of influences. Now, 60M record sales and bunches of awards later – Top Jazz Artist of the 2000s: Billboard – I guess she’s no flash in the pan. I saw her at Amoeba Music 15 years ago and she was enchanting; I think it’s time to go again. Wed 8 p.m., Greek Theater, LA, $35-149.50.

COMING ATTRACTIONS: RAY BAILEY, Harvelle’s, 7/1; “GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER,” Ruskin Group Theatre, 7/1 – 17; “THE WESTSIDE WALTZ,” 7/2 – 10/1, “THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR,” 7/9 – 10/2, “TROUBLE THE WATER,” 7/9 – 10/2, “A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM,” 7/10 – 10/1, Theatricum Botanicum; TOLEDO DIAMOND, 7/3. 10, 17, 24; LIQUID KITTY’S PUNK ROCK BBQ, Harvelle’s, 7/10; LIBRARY GIRL, Ruskin Group Theatre, 7/10; HOT CLUB OF LOS ANGELES, Cinema Bar, 7/11, 18, 25; EM, Harvelle’s, 7/12. 19, 26; OZOMATLI, GRAMMY Museum, 7/14; CALIFORNIA GUITAR TRIO, McCabe’s, 7/17; LA PHIL, DUDAMEL, “The Valkyries,” Hollywood Bowl, 7/17; LA PHIL, DUDAMEL, PARIS OPERA BALLET, Hollywood Bowl, 7/20, 21; BURNING SPEAR, Youtube Theater, 7/24.

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 36 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at therealmrmusic@gmail.com