I dropped into Claremont’s Folk Music Center Saturday evening to let them know my Joan Baez column would be in the next day’s newspaper, and they said, “Are you here for the concert?” Er, concert? Frank Fairfield and Meredith Axelrod would be performing in a few minutes.
I had seen Fairfield once before, an instore at Rhino Records in the same block maybe five years ago, and in fact had just seen his name about an hour before as I read about the “American Epic” PBS show and recordings, to which he contributed. And here he was.
So I stayed for the first half, as the duo performed folk and pop tunes from the early 20th century, “Down on the Brandywine” and “Frankie and Johnny” among them. I liked it. Fairfield seems more natural and relaxed than the Dock Boggs enthusiast he was that other time I saw him; maybe he’s internalized the music in the interim. Axelrod was winning too.
I counted 28 in the audience, all of us on folding chairs, and it’s a treat to hear live music in such cozy quarters. The duo joked around and took their time, and audience members interacted with them a bit too. (I’d have stayed for the whole show, but given that I hadn’t intended on seeing a concert, I was desperate for food.)
Fairfield will be in Tuesday’s “American Epic” episode.
My month of newspaper movies goes into its final edition Thursday when I screen “Citizen Kane” at Ontario’s Ovitt Library. Have you seen it? I also round up some Culture Corner items and more in Wednesday’s column.
2016 was my slowest moviegoing year in forever: I saw 16 new releases in theaters, a number that includes three that were released in late 2015 (Anomalisa, Big Short, Son of Saul) and two re-releases of classic films (Chimes at Midnight, Howards End). Thus, my Top 10 would include all but one of the 2016 releases I saw.
This isn’t a reflection on the quality of films out there, I hasten to say, but rather on my priorities this past year. Many weekends I felt I couldn’t spare two or three hours for a movie because I needed time to work on my book, and then there was laundry to do, groceries to buy, papers to read. You know how it is.
Still, this annual post is a tradition, my choices might make you check out a movie and it’s always good to ask the movie lovers among you: What movies did you like, or dislike, this past year? While we await your comments, here’s my Top 11, i.e., everything I saw, ranked in descending order of interest. None were stinkers, although No. 11 wasn’t as interesting as a Justin Chang review led me to expect.
- Love and Friendship
- Manchester by the Sea
- City of Gold
- Hunt for the Wilderpeople
- Kubo and the Two Strings
- In Order of Disappearance
- La La Land
- Captain America: Civil War
- Dr. Strange
- The Shallows
I could add that Anomalisa was tonally monochromatic and disappointing, The Big Short and Son of Saul were excellent, Howards End held up and was great to see again, especially after having read the novel a few weeks earlier, and Chimes at Midnight was affecting and entertaining despite its low-budget, protracted genesis and oddly amateurish dialogue looping.
As is tradition around these parts, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite CDs of the year, as did my music-lovin’ colleague Wes Woods. He used to host our lists on his IE Music Now blog, but that’s defunct, so we’ll do it here. Wes’ list is much more au courant than mine, it must be said.
My Top 15 releases of 2016:
- Billy Bragg/Joe Henry: Shine a Light: Field Recordings From the Great American Railroad (Cooking Vinyl) (video can be seen here)
- Various artists: God Don’t Never Change: The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson (Alligator)
- Regina Spektor: Remember Us to Life (Sire)
- Parquet Courts: Human Performance (Rough Trade)
- Twin Peaks: Down in Heaven (Grand Jury)
- Car Seat Headrest: Teens of Denial (Matador)
- Drive-by Truckers: American Band (ATO)
- David Bowie: Blackstar (Columbia)
- Tacocat: Lost Time (Hardly Art)
- Blind Alfred Reed: Appalachian Visionary (Dust to Digital)
- Terrace Martin: Velvet Portraits (Ropeadope)
- Paul Simon: Stranger to Stranger (Concord)
- Angel Olsen: My Woman (Jagjaguwar)
- Wussy: Forever Sounds (Shake It)
- Leonard Cohen: You Want it Darker (Columbia)
Note on the above: Blind Alfred Reed recorded in the ’20s and ’30s, but this 2016 compilation was so impressive I included it anyway.
Wes Woods’ Top 13:
- Anderson .Paak: Malibu (Steel Wool Records)
- Kaytranada: 99.9% (XL Recordings)
- A Tribe Called Quest: We Got It from Here…Thank You 4 Your Service (SME Epic)
- YG: Still Brazy (400, CTE World, Def Jam)
- Case/Lang/Veirs: Case/Lang/Veirs (ANTI-)
- Thao & the Get Down Stay Downs: A Man Alive (Ribbon Music)
- Schoolboy Q: Blank Face LP (Top Dawg, Interscope)
- Bon Iver: 22, A Million (Jagjaguwar)
- Chance the Rapper: Coloring Book (download only)
- Run the Jewels: Run the Jewels 3 (Mass Appeal, RED)
- Solange: A Seat at the Table (Saint, Columbia)
- Open Mike Eagle (with Paul White): Hella Personal Film Festival (Mellow Music Group)
- Beyonce: Lemonade (Parkwood, Columbia)
Did you buy any new releases in 2016? What did you like?
We, and others, did lists for 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2009. [I don’t recall if we didn’t do lists in 2010 and ’11 or I just can’t find them.]
As a Dylan fan, I’m excited for his Nobel Prize for Literature, not offended. So are two English professors at Pomona College who are very knowledgeable about his work. In advance of Saturday’s ceremony, we sat for a discussion for Friday’s column. Above, Jonathan Lethem, left, and Kevin Dettmar.
See how many Dylan references you can spot in the column. I doubt too many will find all 24, but even if you don’t recognize the sources, most of them stand out — but hopefully don’t overwhelm the column.
The Claremont Museum of Art, open from 2007 to 2009, is reopening Sunday in a new venue: the train depot. I write about the museum’s revival in Friday’s column.
I visited two museum-type exhibits recently, one in downtown LA about the long-gone Claremont sculptor Burt Johnson, the other in Ontario about Route 66. Three Culture Corner items and a Valley Vignette round out Wednesday’s column.
On a visit to Bunny Gunner‘s new digs in the old Pigale Optical Parlor space at 230 W. Bonita Ave. in Claremont, I was directed outside from the framing shop and art gallery to see the Hole in the Wall Gallery in the breezeway. First pass through, looking for a door, I missed it. Then someone pointed it out to me.
It’s a cabinet in the wall, about the size of a shoebox, that probably once held a fire extinguisher. Bunny Gunner co-owner Juan Thorp said he’d noticed the empty cabinet when he’d moved in to a nearby space two years ago and got Pigale owner David Wilson’s permission to make use of it. Thorp had turned a similar receptacle in an alley behind his former space in Pomona into a tiny art space too.
“This was empty and I loved it,” Thorp told me as we admired his handiwork. “Dave said go for it. He said it was a drug drop in the ’70s.”
Thorp put in plexiglas and a new light (there’s a key and lock too) and christened the space the Hole in the Wall Gallery. It lives up to its name.
Artist Anne Seltzer has the current show, if that’s not too grand a name for the single piece inside the space. It’s titled “…and now for my next trick” and is priced at $95.
“I’m a fan of alternative spaces,” Seltzer told me, mentioning that she had installed the Little Free Library box at eye level in a nearby alley behind Heroes and Legends. She’s had sculptures or paintings in the tiny gallery several times and has sold half a dozen of them.
Of the location, Seltzer said: “It’s fun to come up on.” In my case, you might come up on it and not even realize it. Keep an eye out for it.
James Hueter, one of the Claremont artists from the GI Bill era, has a one-man show, “Explorations,” that opened Saturday and continues through June 1 at the Bunny Gunner gallery, 230 W. Bonita Ave. It’s got a couple of dozen works in various media: paintings, drawings, sculptures and assemblages.
Hueter, seen at right above, turns 91 on May 15 “and continues to make new work in his studio in Claremont,” daughter Barbara Schenck told me. I attended the opening, as did many others, including a lot of local artists there to pay obeisance.
Hueter is the last survivor of the “Four Friends” group of Sam Maloof, Rupert Deese and Harrison McIntosh. One of his pieces was acquired recently by the Huntington Library for its permanent collection.
His most recent solo show was at the Claremont Museum of Art in 2009. “It was a 60-year retrospective — and that was seven years ago,” Schenck noted.
In Friday’s column, I write about events in Claremont and Rancho Cucamonga around the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, as well as collect a half-dozen Culture Corner items.