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Behind the Scenes: Ed Stoner

A 200-capacity beacon for local musicians and touring alternative and hip-hop acts, the Blue Lamp this month marks a decade in business at Alhambra and N Street in Sacramento.

Lending the club the same name as their (since-closed) San Francisco club, brothers Ed and James Stoner transformed what had been the Club 400 topless bar into an open, concrete-floor space where the women's restroom gets used by more than just the employees.

Ed Stoner, an amiable 38-year-old who plays a little guitar himself, explains how the venue has stayed in business 10 years.

What distinguishes the Blue Lamp from other clubs around town?

We make music the main focus of our business. Some places don't even have a stage or a sound system. They just have (the band) set up in the corner and play. We are always trying to make it more professional.

Are people coming out regularly to hear live music despite the economy?

It's really fickle. Some shows are like nothing's ever changed, but on other nights, it's like, "What's going on here?" On top of the economy being bad, the music scene is a little run-down. … A lot of the younger kids coming up aren't bar-band material but more house-party (material). That, and some of the bands who were headliners are just getting older, and they really have to buckle down and get a job or focus on their families.

Do you ever hear from patrons of Club 400?

Yeah (laughs). In Sacramento, guys still want to go to the first bars they ever went to, no matter what they are! And we get the phone calls still.

What are the phone calls about?

Whether we are having a midday "show." I (also) get the calls from the girls looking for audition nights.

You have the same phone number as the strip club?

Yes, we bought the whole business, including the phone number. Having the same phone number has been more helpful than not. … (But) you would figure when people call and you answer "Blue Lamp," it would be a big indicator that it is not the Club 400 anymore.


Rockin' good causes

Most of Tesla will be represented at the All Star Jam at 8 p.m. Saturday at The Boardwalk in Orangevale.

Sex and drugs are only part of the rock 'n' roll lifestyle. There's also charity, as embodied by Band Aid, Live Aid, Farm Aid and virtually everything Bono steps out of the house for.

More locally, rockin' hearts of gold will put on two benefit shows Saturday night, one of them a sophisticated gathering featuring cocktails and classic holiday songs, the other an attempt to blow the lid off the 'Vale.

Baby Grand's Cocktail Christmas

What: A cocktail party- themed, holiday music concert with Baby Grand, 99 Tales, Hearts + Horses and special appearances by the C, Sea of Bees, Poplollys and more

When: 9 p.m. Saturday Where: Old Ironsides, 1901 10th St., Sacramento

Beneficiary: The Sacramento Children's Home

Back story: Holiday traditions come in all sorts – from illuminating menorahs and Christmas trees to club shows at which Sacramento bands enthusiastically and/or ironically tackle holiday standards.

Started by Dean Seavers of the now-defunct band the Decibels, the Old Ironsides holiday show has for the past several years been spearheaded by dreamy-pop group Baby Grand. Two years ago, the band started donating proceeds to the Sacramento Children's Home. Last year, the musicians donated a guitar, amp and cash to the home.

"None of us playing at this level locally is doing it for the money, anyway," said Baby Grand guitarist Cory Vick. "This is a really good opportunity to give back."

It is also an opportunity to dress in cocktail finery and enjoy Old Ironsides cocktails made specifically for the occasion. Vick also promises an especially smooth night of music: Since Baby Grand provides most of the instruments, the holiday tunes won't have to stop while bands break down equipment.

Cost: $7

Information: or (916) 442-8832

Pat Martin's All Star Jam

What: A concert featuring four of five members of Tesla (with Steve Brown of Oleander sitting in on drums), former Night Ranger guitarist Jeff Watson, Cake trumpet player Vince DiFiore, Tesla guitarist Frank Hannon's the Frank Hannon Band, and others.

When: 8 p.m. Saturday

Where: The Boardwalk, 9426 Greenback Lane, Orangevale

Beneficiary: The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society – Greater Sacramento Chapter

Back story: 98 Rock DJ Martin became involved with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in 1992, after his 2-year-old son, Denver, was diagnosed with leukemia. Now 19, Denver is a testament to benefits of leukemia research, Martin says.

"When my son was diagnosed, there was a 62 percent cure rate" for kids his age and with his type of leukemia, Martin said. "Because of the money that has been donated, the cure rate is now at 92 percent. … That is what is so gratifying. We are not just raising money in the name of charity. It actually is working."

Tesla bassist Brian Wheat, who knew Denver's story and watched the boy grow up, "didn't even let me finish my sentence before he agreed to (the benefit show)," Martin said.

The guys from Tesla will join other musicians at the end of the evening, Martin promises, for a "a massive, out-of-control jam session" that will encompass AC/DC's "Highway to Hell," Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll," the Stones' "Honky Tonk Woman" and whatever else strikes their fancies.

Cost: $25; tickets are available at the Boardwalk, through at (800) 225-2277, at Dimple Records and at the 98 Rock front desk at 5345 Madison Ave., Sacramento.

Information: or (916) 988-9247


A good time can do good works, too

Richard March is among the performers participating in benefits for Haiti earthquake relief.

Tonight, local musicians will open the Sam Cooke songbook to help Haiti.

One of three Haiti benefit shows in Sacramento in the coming weeks, the Cooke tribute already was on the Old Ironsides calendar when promoter Jerry Perry decided, "just by virtue of wanting to do something as quickly as I could" after the Jan. 12 Haiti earthquake, he says, to turn the show into a benefit.

Perry preferred repurposing the Cooke show – which had a prime Friday-night spot – to scheduling a new benefit from scratch that would have fallen on a midweek night and likely drawn fewer people, the promoter says. The talent already booked for the Cooke tribute agreed, and Perry has recruited other acts since, with Richard March, David Houston and Ricky Berger among those scheduled to appear tonight.

The requested minimum donation is $8, with all proceeds earmarked for the Red Cross.

Though he knows of no connection between Cooke and Haiti, Perry points to Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come," long associated with the civil rights movement, as a paean to overcoming adversity that might be appropriate in this instance as well. "Change" will be one of 30 Cooke songs performed tonight.

Opportunities to help Haiti while being entertained continue Tuesday with a benefit at the Punch Line comedy club. Funny men Ngaio Bealum and Dennis Gaxiola head a lineup that includes Marcella Arguello and Keith Lowell Jensen, a Sacramento comedian-promoter who helped organize the benefit with Bealum.

"The Punch Line donated the club for the night," Jensen said. "We were hoping for just 50 percent (of the door), but we are getting 100 percent." Admission is $20, and proceeds go to the Red Cross.

For those who want to help Haiti but lack proper I.D. to enter the 21-and-older Old Ironsides or 18-plus Punch Line, Sacramento electronic band Sister Crayon (see story, Page 6) will headline an all-ages musical benefit show Feb. 19 at Luigi's Fun Garden. Organized by Sister Crayon and the Sacramento News & Review, the show also will feature Chelsea Wolfe and Ross Hammond and will benefit Doctors Without Borders in Haiti. The suggested minimum donation is $10.

Local rock band the Inversions are among the performers participating in benefits for Haiti earthquake relief.


If the King of Rock 'n' Roll were here today …




Three to See: Sacramento events to catch this weekend

Natasha Kmeto

Natasha Kmeto

9 p.m. Saturday

$10. Marilyn's on K, 901 K St., Sacramento

Sacramento-raised Natasha Kmeto discovered, while at music school in Los Angeles, that composing on piano just didn't cut it.

"I became a little bored with traditional forms of songwriting," said Kmeto, a Kennedy High School graduate who once sang in a local cover band behind parents Pete and Cydney Kmeto, a criminal defense attorney and real estate agent, respectively. "So I look for different textures and sounds to inspire the writing."

Kmeto's writing process incorporates electronics and found sounds, and her one-woman shows involve Kmeto's soulful voice, a synthesizer and a laptop.

"The software I use is called Ableton Live," said Kmeto, 26, who now lives in Portland, Ore. "It allows me to manipulate music. It makes playing your laptop a creative experience."

Whether they are found or remixed on stage, Kmeto's R&B sounds are eminently danceable. She even moves a bit on stage herself, despite the laptop.

"It is not like I am a one-man band, and kind of tied to everything," she said with a laugh.

Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue

8 p.m. Sunday

$17.50 in advance, $20 day of show

Harlow's, 2708 J St., Sacramento or

Equally exciting on trombone and trumpet, 24-year-old New Orleans native Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews melds jazz, funk and rock. A former sideman for U2, Green Day and Lenny Kravitz, Andrews is joined at Sunday's night's show by his high-energy band Orleans Avenue. Local old-school funk and R&B favorites The Nibblers open the show.

Davis Film Festival

6:30 p.m. today, 12:30 p.m. Saturday,

7 p.m. Saturday

$10 general, $5 for seniors and students

Veterans Memorial Center Theater,

203 E. 14th St., Davis

Packed with short films, the seventh Davis Film Festival on Saturday will offer a daytime program of animated and live-action shorts and an evening program capped by "Oh My God! It's Harrod Blank!," David Silberberg's full-length documentary about the eccentric Bay Area car artist and filmmaker.

Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue


Wild & Scenic Film Festival movie list grows to 135

An episode of "First Ascent" at the Wild & Scenic festival features climber Alex Honnold.

NEVADA CITY – Films can delight, frighten, even provoke a tear or two. But they rarely cause lasting changes in viewers' behavior.

At the Wild & Scenic Environmental Film Festival, however, "inspirational film" takes on a new meaning. Last year, for example, "Burning the Future," a film exploring mountaintop coal mining in Appalachia, inspired some young film enthusiasts to recognize the true cost of cheap energy and subsequently start turning off unnecessary lights at home.

"They had heard their parents talk about conserving energy … but now they 'got it' and started conserving energy on their own," said Debra Weistar, who leads a youth filmmaking program through which students make films that play at Wild & Scenic and also watch other festival films and interview directors.

Since it was started by the South Yuba River Citizens League as a fundraiser in 2003, Wild & Scenic has grown exponentially. Offering cinematic cautionary tales as well as beautifully photographed celebrations of the great outdoors, Wild & Scenic has ridden the waves of a green movement that has gone mainstream and films such as "An Inconvenient Truth" that have acclimated audiences to the idea of conservation lessons learned via the big screen.

Whereas the first Wild & Scenic event offered about 50 films at two venues and sold around 500 tickets, this year's festival, running Friday through Sunday, will encompass 135 films, eight venues, more than 100 guest speakers and around 5,000 tickets sold. The eighth Wild & Scenic festival also will feature a bona fide Hollywood celebrity in "Star Trek" actor Patrick Stewart, who will appear Saturday night at the historic Nevada Theatre with "Nature Propelled," an eco-adventure film he narrated.

Increased awareness of conservation issues over the past several years has "changed the way filmmakers see environmental filmmaking," festival director and co-founder Kathy Dotson said this week at the Main Street Victorian that houses the South Yuba River Citizens League. "We get way, way more submissions (than when the event started), and not just by professional filmmakers, but by amateur filmmakers who want their films to be inspirational."

Enhancing the idea of film as a call to action are the festival's host of free workshops, several of which this year will focus, like the film lineup itself, on food and water themes.

"People come from far and wide because of the sheer amount of information that gets gathered in one spot," said Weistar, who attended the festival before she and her husband, Tom, began making films with students – including one this year on a proposed Berryessa/Snow Mountain national recreation area – through their Synergia Learning Ventures nonprofit.

With lines between observer and participant happily blurred, Wild & Scenic has created a sense of community ownership that helped the festival survive into 2010 despite a troubled economy.

When area residents reacted with dismay to word that the event might not happen this year, the citizens league board decided the show would go on regardless, Dotson says. Marketing funds from Nevada County, along with a $10,000 grant from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences connected to festival coverage of American Indian-related issues, helped defray costs.

"We tried to cut back and make some major changes" but ended up with more films than ever, Dotson said with a smile. A festival that seems to blossom organically despite outside impediments, Wild & Scenic has been established as an indoor extension of the environmentally conscious, outdoors-oriented ethic suffusing this idyllic Sierra Nevada foothills town.

"Film is so visceral, and it just is a powerful medium" said Dotson, who screens every submission herself. "I almost have a hard time now watching films that don't have a message: 'They just spent $5 million making this film. Why? What does it tell me?' "


Behind the Scenes: Working the ticket booth at Sacramento's Crest Theatre

Heather Crocker sells tickets from the old-fashioned booth at the Crest.

Like its vivid exterior bursting with neon blues, reds and yellows, the first human face presented by the Crest Theatre is cheery and bright.

Smile at the ready, Heather Crocker, 28, collects cash and hands out movie tickets from her seat inside the free- standing box office. She also answers, via a phone line into the theater, such burning questions as whether the popcorn is fresh, and if so, can a corn lover bypass the show and grab a bucket?

Outfitted with a cooling system and curtains to keep the metal-and-glass, 5-foot-by-6-foot box office from becoming a hot box, the ticket booth affords an expansive view of K Street from 10th to 11th streets.

During a typical four-hour box-office shift, Crocker, a six-year employee of the Crest and one of its managers, will encounter theater patrons, light-rail users and pedestrians intent on brightening her day with walk-by witticisms.

How often are you in the box office?

Usually at least once or twice a week. … There are five managers, and we rotate through shifts so we don't get burned out. Also, it keeps us more grounded about what (employees) are doing. We know what it is like to do box office.

Do you like it in here?

Yeah. It is like a little television show of K Street. It is pretty interesting. … People think this is the best shift. It is one of the shorter shifts, and you kind of get your own little world for a while.

How much time total have you spent in this booth over the years?

If you add it all up, probably like three months.

Do random people come up to you?

We always get people coming up here asking, "Where is such-and-such restaurant?" or "What time is it?"

Do you get hassled?

Not really. … I'll give you an example. (Walks outside, approaches the booth from the sidewalk and smacks the counter with the palm of her hand): " 'Smile!' " People will do that, or they will do " 'Working hard or hardly working?' " That kind of thing.


When he's not flying with Eagles, Schmit builds a solo career

Eagles vocalist and bassist Timothy B. Schmit will perform songs from his new solo CD, "Expando," tonight at the Crest Theatre.

Timothy B. Schmit's 2009 release "Expando" follows the typical single-album format. Its title, by contrast, is double-wide.

"The Expando was the name of the old trailer house I used to live in" while growing up in Sacramento, said Schmit, 62, longtime bassist for the Eagles and lead singer on the band's 1979 hit "I Can't Tell You Why."

His family first bought trailers, Schmit says, so his musician father, Danny, could bring everyone with him to gigs. The Expando – which could be cranked out to extend its road width by 7 feet – came later, after the Schmits had settled into a trailer court on Auburn Boulevard.

"That was the big palace," Schmit, speaking by phone from Southern California, said of the Expando.

Schmit's 85-year-old mother, Janey, confirms his version of events. Up to a point.

"Well, we don't call it a trailer," Janey Schmit said. "It was a mobile home. Trailer sounds kind of trashy."

Janey Schmit will be among the big contingent of Sacramento family members and friends at Schmit's show tonight at the Crest Theatre. The Crest show, in which multi-instrumentalist Schmit will be backed by a small band, marks his first local solo concert and just his seventh solo show ever, the first having occurred in October in Los Angeles.

Though he has made in-store appearances and released four previous solo albums, Schmit put off full-scale shows before now partly because, "It is a lot easier to perform in front of thousands of people in a band context than it is to be up there as your own act in smaller venues."

Schmit adds that before "Expando," he never felt he had the material to support solo shows. Having written songs with others for his previous solo albums, Schmit authored all of "Expando," the title of which also alludes to his musical growth.

"This album is a true representation of me, for a change," Schmit said.

With its layered harmonies and folk foundations, "Expando" belongs to the same musical family as the Eagles' recordings while sounding alternately more stripped-down and funkier.

Graham Nash, Dwight Yoakam, Keb' Mo' and Kid Rock, among others, appear on the CD, recorded entirely in Schmit's home studio. Schmit also enlisted a gospel choir for "White Boy From Sacramento," his tongue-in-cheek tribute to flattop haircuts, the Limbo and other hallmarks of 1950s and '60s suburbia.

"That phrase has come out of my mouth before" over the years, said Schmit of the song's title. "If it had anything to do with anything really hip, I would say, 'What do I know? I am just a white boy from Sacramento.' "

Schmit's flattop was growing out and his horizons broadening by the time he and three Encina High School classmates became the New Breed, a British Invasion-inspired group that had a local hit with the song "Green Eyed Woman."

Schmit sees his old bandmates every time he comes to town.

"We are still close, and a lot of that has to do with Tim's efforts," says George Hullin, 62, a Sacramento insurance broker who was the band's drummer. "He is very grounded for being in such a super group. He has never forgotten his roots."

Hullin has a gig tonight with his party band, the J Rolerz. Otherwise, he would be at Schmit's show along with former bandmates Tom Phillips and Ron Floegel.

But the guys will get together for one of their regular lunches. Often held at Jack's Urban Eats, the meals are paid for by royalties from a Rhino compilation album of San Francisco psychedelic songs that includes New Breed's "Want Ad Reader."

A Schmit-less New Breed went on to record as Redwing, and Schmit lent his beautiful high tenor to the successful country-rock outfit Poco before joining the Eagles in 1977. Always in high demand as a background session singer, Schmit has maintained his youthful voice with some effort – especially after being hit in the throat by a surfboard a few years ago while out in the waves with his teenage son.

"When people used to talk about my voice, I would pride myself on saying, 'Oh, I just learned from the radio,' " Schmit said. These days, keeping his voice in shape means daily neck exercises and vocalization work – a regimen vital to his solo performances and his work with the Eagles, with whom Schmit has toured and recorded since the band reunited in 1994.

The Eagles' continued success still wows the kid from the mobile-home park on Auburn Boulevard.

"Back when I was practicing music (with the New Breed) in our parents' living rooms and garages – if you would have told me I would be at this level at this age, I would have totally been in disbelief," Schmit said. "So many people dream about doing this when they are young, but even if (success) happens, it usually doesn't last that long."


Sacramento Ballet performance interrupted by bat's entrance

Sacramento ballet fans witnessed an awkward pas de deux last weekend during a performance of "Carmina Burana."

As dancer Richard Porter performed a solo in the sensual, soaringly orchestrated ballet, a spotlight-seeking bat fluttered 5 feet from the dancer.

"I just tried to keep my head in" the performance, Porter said. That proved easy enough, even as the bat re-entered Porter's line of vision and cast shadows by flying in front of stage lights.

"It's kind of funny, really," Porter said. "They're so small."

Porter has seen bats before during the two seasons he has danced with the ballet at the Community Center Theater. The animals' cameos go back even further.

A bat first appeared – spookily enough – during a performance of "Dracula" several years ago, Sacramento Ballet artistic director Ron Cunningham said.

"People asked me how I was able to do that," Cunningham recalls with a laugh. "And I said, 'You have no idea how hard it is to get a bat to come out on cue!' "

Cunningham said that last weekend, a stagehand caught a bat with a net and released it outside. It was an approach far gentler than one taken by San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili when a bat interfered with a game against the Sacramento Kings last Halloween in San Antonio.

When it came within arm's reach, Ginobili swatted the creature to the floor. (The bat survived, and Ginobili received rabies shots and a scolding from PETA).

Tales of bats residing in the wings have become part of Community Center lore. But actual appearances by bats still are rare, theater manager Bryan Chatterton said.

"We do see them a few times each spring when the bugs increase outside," Chatterton wrote via e-mail. The animals visit rather than lodge in the theater, gaining entry through a large door kept open for 'load-ins' of equipment. They fly back outside when given the opportunity.

"They apparently mistake the big, open load-in door for a cave, and then, when the door closes, they get trapped," Chatterton said.

The bat that revealed itself near the stage Friday caused titters among audience members. But the animals have been harmless, Chatterton says.

"They haven't actually touched anyone or landed in the audience," Chatterton said. "They quickly realize there's nothing for them (in the theater), and they go back to hiding."


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