OK, so we're down to four contestants on "Project Runway," and I really believe Leanne (pictured, who grew up in Yuba City) has as good a chance at winning as anyone. Her rocky start put aside, she probably should have won last week's Rock 'N' Runway challenge.
Anyway, tomorrow night will determine which of the final four become the three designers who get to show a complete collection at New York Fashion Week. There's been speculation that the only reason Kenley and a her bad attitude are still on the show is for the drama. I say one more week of her snippiness - and retro rerun designs - and she's done.
For sure, there will be no "fierceness" this season.
That said, I'm pulling for Jerell, Korto and, of course, Leanne to make it to the end. Wednesday's show (at 10 p.m. on Bravo) is titled Nature Calls. Drawing inspiration from nature, the remaining designers head to the great outdoors to design an outfit of their choosing.
Why do I think there will be feathers?
FYI: We all know L"oreal Paris supplies all the makeup for "Project Runway." If you're interested in special deals (read: coupons) or which products are used on this show, visit www.lorealparisusa.com.
The successful Free Night of Theatre returns to Sacramento on October 1. That's right - free - as in you don't pay anything for tickets but you do have to have tickets.
Twenty area theatre companies are involved including American River College, B Street Theatre, Benvenuti Performing Arts Center, Broadway Sacramento and The Cosmopolitan Cabaret, Capital Stage, Celebration Arts, Chautauqua Playhouse, City Theatre, Garbeau's Dinner Theatre, Imprint Theatre Company, River City Theatre Company, River Stage, Rocklin Youth Theatre Company, Sacramento Theatre Company, Sierra College Department of Theatre, Stage Nine Theatre, UC Davis Theatre and Dance Department, Woodcreek High School Theatre Arts and the Woodland Opera House.
The expected participation of over 160 Sacramento region and Bay Area theatre companies in a collaboration of The League of Sacramento Theatres (The League), Sacramento Area Regional Theatre Alliance (SARTA) and Theatre Bay Area (TBA) makes ours the largest Free Night of Theater (FNOT) event in the country. All show listings are available for a preview online at seeaplay.com. To access the listings a new Free Patron I.D. program is available so anyone interested can create a free login and see exactly what is there. Interested audiences will need a Free Patron I.D. to get Free Night tickets and should do so before the October 1 giveaway.
Now a national event with over 90 cities across the participating Free Night of Theater will offer an estimated 9,000 free tickets in the Bay Area and Sacramento with new groups of tickets available every Wednesday from October 1 through October 22 through at seeaplay.com.
Now in it's fourth year FNOT has proved incredibly successful at attracting new audiences to theater. 75% of the people who came to Free Night 2007 were visiting that theatre company for the first time, and 56% of them had seen two or fewer other live arts events in the last year. 80 %of the audience was under 50 years old and 41% were people of color.
This will be the third consecutive year Sacramento area theater companies will be involved in the event which has steadily grown in popularity.
Local musician Martin Birke looked far beyond Sacramento to bring an international flair and depth to his latest project.
Birke founded Genre Peak as a electronic pop trio in 2004 but after a band mate moved to New York, he turned to the Internet to add to the core that includes guitarist Christopher Scott Cooper.
The result? Collaboration with influential British bassist Mick Karn (Japan, Kate Bush) and the Spanish electro-pop group Stereoskop as well as a new Canadian vocalist, Tara C. Taylor, found via MySpace.
Now Birke says, Genre Peak reflects its players exhilarating take on collaboration.
"I gave up my rock star dreams a long time ago," says Birke, whose past projects include Casualty Park, a synth pop duo that composed work for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and the 1998 Joe Carnahan film, "Blood, Guts, Bullets and Octane."
"Now there's a real joy in getting to work with people who have the same ideas I do - I think that's the success of the album."
"Preternatural" is available online at CDBaby.com and locally at The Beat and R5 Records.
Listen to the single "Wear it Well" at www.sacbee.com/ sacramentosingle.
Song: "Wear it Well"
Style: Densely layered, soaring electro-pop
Behind the song: "This song (originated) from a drum program I created several years ago," Birke says. "I went back to it with the idea of getting a new lead vocalist.
"I was tired of hearing my own voice (because) I always get compared to Depeche Mode's Dave Gahan, so I sent the rough demo to Tara," he says.
When Taylor sent him back her vocal demos, Birke knew he'd hit on the right sound.
"I told her, 'this is good - we need to get you down in the studio," Birke says.
"Wear it Well," he adds, served as the album's launching point.
"I hadn't consciously been thinking about doing an whole record but after that song, but that's the track that the album grew from - the rest of it just came so easy."
I just spoke with KCRA 3 news director Anzio Williams, who was very upbeat about the DTV tests conducted last night on Channel 3 (during the 6:30 p.m. newscast) and then again this morning during the 8 a.m. slot on KQCA MY58.
"We learned a lot about our own system and the things we need to work on," Williams says. "And Comcast also came away with what they need to accomplish."
The transition from analog to digital television (DTV) will happen Feb. 17, 2009, so, in addition to the public service announcements that have been running, Williams opted to give viewers a chance to see if their TVs were ready for the switch, especially those viewers with converter boxes.
He reports that some viewers received a "failed" signal "even though it's a good chance their TVs will be fine. And there were some folks who called and realized they didn't have their converter boxes hooked up right. Some still don't have a box."
Some changes were made between last night's test and this morning's test.
"Overall, we learned a lot and I think the tests went really well," Williams says. "Comcast and other smaller cable providers will continue to work on their end."
Williams says the stations will repeat the tests Oct. 17, Dec. 17 and Jan 17 - with a couple of adjustments.
"We'll repeat the tests during a broadcast because we did get some calls from viewers who didn't have enough time to check all of the TVs in their homes," he says. "Our goal is the same as the FCC's - to make sure our viewing community is ready for February."
Williams definitely doesn't want the headaches his sister station in Wilmington, N.C., got hit with when it made the switch to DTV about three weeks ago. The station didn't perform any preliminary tests and got nailed with about 1,500 calls a day until viewers got the problems worked out.
"Just so you know, I did my own personal tests at the station," Williams says. "My DirectTVs worked, one other TV failed and one picked up the signal."
If you particpated in the test and you got a failed signal, doublecheck your converter box to make sure it's hooked up properly. Questions? Click here to get info from KCRA 3.
The show's not listed on the club's calendar yet, but looks like Mates of Statewill be playing a show at Harlow's on Oct. 6.
The Kansas-based married couple - they used to call San Francisco home - are on tour with Santogold. The Brooklyn artist doesn't list Sacramento on her tour calendar but here's hoping that hip-hop /pop (hip-pop?) singer will also make the show.
If you have yet to hear Mates of State's latest album, "Re-Arrange Us," give it a whirl. It took me a while to take a shine to the critically acclaimed disc but then after about the 10th listen all if its beautiful nuances clicked into place (I'm a big fan of their earlier discs so I knew it was just a matter of being patient).
Mates of State's Jason Hammel and Kori Gardner recently did a Peta ad - kind of a surprising choice for the animal rights organization given that the duo's not very well known outside of indie rock circles.
Maybe it's just that they look so darn good all naked-like.
Unless you've shut down your TV for the past umpteen months, you've probably seen numerous ads/warnings about the upcoming - that would be Feb. 17, 2009 - swtich to digital television.
The pitches pretty much advise viewers if you've got "rabbit ears" (code for an ancient, analog TV) probably won't pass the digital test once the transition occurs.
So, to find out if you're equipped for DTV, KCRA 3 and KQCA MY58 TV are conducting Sacramento's first DTV tests so viewers can determine if their sets are tuned to receive digital signals. The tests wil occur on KCRA 3 during the 6:30 p.m. news tonight. Then, on Thursday, the test will take place on MY58 (Channel 4) at 8 a.m.
Just make sure all the TVs in your home are tuned to the stations either day to test the reception.
Here's how it will work: Viewers will get a warning from the stations' news teams that the analog signal will be turned off for 30 seconds. At that time, viewers will continue to see the newscast on sets that are adequately set up for the DTV transition.
In other words, those 30 seconds will either be no big deal or you'll see a giant graphic that informs your TV is not up to digital speed. Of course, if that happens, you'll get info on how to obtain more information and assistance.
According to Gene Robinson, creative services director for KCRA 3, other tests are on tap for Oct. 17, Dec. 17 and Jan. 17 - in case you miss the ones this week.
"Viewers who have recently purchased a new TV stand a good chance of having a TV that is capable of receiving digital broadcasts," Robinson says in a statement. "All television sets manufactured after March 1, 2007, are required to have digital tuners built in, but analog TVs are still on store shelves."
That's why the tests are important.
If your set doesn't pick up the signal, you'll need to purchase a converter box, which is available at most electronics retailers.
Make sure you do the test. Heaven forbid anyone miss whatever's on during the bleak days of February!
Waltzing melody lines and two-step beat changes - it's easy to imagine swinging through a
ballroom to one of Keith Gray's quirky pop songs. Recording and playing under the Bicycle Rider moniker, Gray crafts indie pop that reflects his love for the baroque and theatrical.
"I'm really into classical music and musicals," he says. "I love Julie Andrews kind of stuff - 'The Sound of Music' and 'Mary Poppins.' "
Although the Bicycle Rider is, essentially, Gray's solo project, the 25-year-old musician has nonetheless enlisted some stage and studio help from drummer Matt Spahn and bassist Todd Coleman.
"They both bring such style and a real presence to what we do," Gray says. "They bring a really warm vibe to the music."
Gray and friends are working on a new album with local producer Matt McCord. The CD won't be out until February; until then, check out the single "Only This Time, This Year."
The Bicycle Rider
Song: "Only This Time, This Year"
Style: Quirky ballroom pop
Behind the song: "This is one of the first ones written, and it helped put me in the direction that I'm going now," Gray says.
While the song's lyrical focus is simple - "It's about family and relationships and hardships and trying to get through them all" - its makeup is more complex.
Gray initially crafted the tune, also featuring Harley White Jr. (bass) and An Angle's Kris Anaya (piano), with a particular sound in mind. The finished song, however, ended up in an entirely different direction.
"I began it with a classical guitar pattern, and then it just started developing into something else - this nursery rhyme just came out." Such evolutions are becoming a familiar part of Gray's songwriting process.
"I find that a lot of the music I listened to as a kid (is) now coming out in my writing," he says.
"I think it works, and I think people (relate to it) because the sound is not completely outrageous - but it's not completely normal, either."
The adage "all politics is local" certainly applies to politics.
But it also applies elegantly to classical music.
That's because nothing inspires an interest in classical music among young audiences as when local and young musicians are featured at concerts.
This is the charm of the Sacramento Philharmonic's partnering with the recently formed local nonprofit Talent Launch, Inc., and St. Hope's Guild Theater. All three will join forces to put the spotlight on local talented musicians.
The initiative is called "Monday Music at the Guild."
The first performance in that effort will be at 7 p.m. on Oct. 20, and will feature student ensembles from Rio Americano High School and the performance will be held at the Guild Theater at 2828 35th St., in Sacramento's Oak Park.
The Sacramento Philharmonic is facilitating the production of the concerts, said Charlie Weiss, director of development and marketing for the Sacramento Philharmonic.
"With this inaugural concert, Talent Launch and its partners expect to inject a new, youthful element into Sacramento's music scene, inviting young people from throughout the region to perform dynamic and eclectic musical programs," Weiss said.
For more information call 916-732-9045 or visit www.sacphil.org
21Q caught up with CBS13 morning anchor Ron Hyde earlier this week to chat about what his first week back on TV was like. In his words: "I used to tuck my kids in. Now they tuck me in!"
Ron's new stint at KOVR is a departure from his almost 15 years at KCRA 3. He left the station two and a half years ago as its sports director - a nighttime gig. Now, as a morning guy (on the air from 5 to 7 a.m., plus the occasional cut-ins during "The Early Show), he's going to bed at 6 p.m. and getting up around 1:30 or 2 a.m.
Talk about your time change.
"It hasn't been that bad," Ron says. "I start dropping off around 3 or 4 in the afternoon. Some colleagues have advised a catnap; others say suck it up. Sunday nights are difficult because I usually stay up later on Friday night or go out with my wife on Saturday night."
But, the guy who put "high" in local high school sports coverage is happy with his new gig, especially co-anchoring with Lisa Gonzales. "She's so bright and quick on the air," Ron says. "She laid a lot of my fears aside."
Ron, 49, who ran a video production company during his hiatus from TV, was looking for a great opportunity to return to the airwaves, even if it wasn't in sports, which he loves.
"It's like if a dog eats steak every day for 20 years, chicken or fish might taste good, too," he says. "CBS13 asked if I wanted to be the morning anchor. I had worked with the show's producer before. I knew I was more than a nuts and bolts sports guy because it's still story-telling. You still have to care about your community, whether it's news, sports or weather."
And speaking of weather, Ron's ultimate goal is to pull off the trifecta of broadcast journalism: sports, news and then get his meteorology degree online from Mississippi State University.
"Wouldn't it be great to do the weather in, say, Arizona and be able to tell folks pretty much every day that, 'Hey, it's a great day for a hike'!"
Ron says he's always been fascinated by weather and, during his stint at KCRA, spent a lot of time in Mark Finan's weather center. "He would talk golf; I would talk about cooling systems."
And, as with most media these days, learning to adapt to new chores is nothing new. Ron is also doing a blog, webcasts and online chats.
But when I mentioned how great high school sports coverage has been since Ron reinvigorated it more than 10 years ago, he got a little nostalgic.
"Of all my years covering high school sports, I have this great memory. Donte Stallworth was a football star at Grant High. He went on to play for the University of Tennessee. While he was with the Volunteers, he called to thank me for covering his (high) school when no one else would.
"Those were some of the most rewarding times of my life."
Have you been keeping up with Season 5 of "Project Runway?" I have - and haven't. I watch on Wednesday (at 9) right before the new show if I missed the week before. But, I admit, I've yet to embrace this crop of designers.
But, in fairness to the local talent, kudos to Yuba City native Leanne, who is still in the competition with three more challenges before it's determined who will compete in the finale at Bryant Park on Oct. 15.
Leanne, who struggled at the outset of the show, has really come on strong and was one of the best in last week's "horoscope" design challenge. FYI: She was paired with former contestant Emily, who is a Sactown native.
Tomorrow night's challenge? It's called "Transformation." Here's Bravo's take: "Growing up is hard to do, but the designers get their own lesson in sophistication as they help re-invent college-aged women for entry into the working world."
Translation: From frump to fashionista - kicking and screaming all the way! Guest judge is designer Cynthia Rowley (pictured).
And, I believe Wednesday night is the short-cut hair episode on "America's Next Top Model" ( 8 p.m., Channel 31, The CW). Will Analeigh, who is from Sac, get whacked - and I don't mean eliminated. She's got quite a following on the show. But a lot of bloggers are saying the show shouldn't crop her lovely tresses. Guess we'll see if someone gets scissor happy!
That familiar retort explains a lot in the business of real estate. And it explains how an opera company like the San Francisco Opera can keep pulling rabbits out of its hat in the major gifts category.
Nothing opens up pockets like the immediacy of geography. And when you're San Francisco you've got an enviable demographic from which to call on for major gifts.
That became abundantly clear this past week when the San Francisco Opera announced
the whopping $40 million gift from philanthropists John and Cynthia Gunn. John Gunn is chairman and CEO of Dodge and Cox Investment Managers. He's also board chair of the San Francisco Opera Association.
The gift represents the largest single gift ever received by San Francisco Opera, and is easily one of the largest ever made to any opera company by an individual. The gift surpasses the blockbuster $35 million gift by patron Jeannik Mequet Littlefield in 2006.
The best thing about this gift is that a major portion of the funds are slated to underwrite new special artistic projects, including the commissioning of new operas.
This all makes you wonder about Sacramento.
It makes you wonder who would ever step up here in a big way with a major gift.
Will anyone in the region take up the mantle of "super-patron" to allow a company like the Sacramento Opera the enviable freedom to commission new operatic works?
Location and demographics aside, it shouldn't be a far-fetched notion.
It's homecoming week for Brian Buckley. The Bella Vista High School graduate is back in town for his 10-year reunion and, to celebrate, brought his band with him.
It'll be Buckley's first time in front of a Sacramento audience.
"I've been playing music all my life but just started playing in front of others a few years ago," he says.
The Brian Buckley Band, featuring Mike McGraw (guitar), Albert Estiamba (drums) and Dan BodemanQ (bass) is finishing up work on a new CD.
"We're done recording and we were very blessed to work with Mark Howard who produced Bob Dylan, the Red Hot Chili Peppers - everyone," Buckley says.
"We recorded at the Mack Sennett Stage - the oldest sound stage in LA; it has 100 foot ceilings and is the size of a football field - the whole thing was pretty unreal."
The album won't be in stores until February, until then you can preview the sound with "My World," a cut off Buckley's self-titled 2007 debut.
Song: "My World"
Style: Epic, orchestral rock
Behind the song: "I'm a real fan of using separate time signatures - speeding things up and then slowing them down," Buckley says.
"I had the idea of starting the song in a particular way and it just ended up having all these parts - (there's a) an acoustic bit and then the chorus and a B-section bridge followed by a hard rock piece and then a quiet, almost ballad-like ending."
For Buckley, much of the song's success is owed to an appearance from noted session drummer Vinnie Colaiuta (Frank Zappa, Joni Mitchell).
"Vinnie really made all those parts stand out," Buckley says. "He makes all those motions with tempo and time changes feel seamless - that's a tough thing to do and he just makes it all seem like a wheel that's just rolling along."
See them: Wednesday at Marilyn's (908 K St, Sacramento). The 21-and-over show starts at 8 p.m. and is $8 at the door.On the Web: www.myspace.com/brianbuckley
Maybelline New York is rolling out its fourth annual Beauty of Education Awards that honor someone who has changed lives through - obviously - the power of education.
Do you know someone in your community who might fit the bill for this award?
If so, now's your chance to nominate her for this prestigious Maybelline award and a $10,000 grant for her particular education-related cause. Heck, you can even nominate yourself!
There will be 10 winners awarded this year. In addition to the $10,000, the winners get a trip for two to New York City for a big-time gala awards event and then have an opportunity to have her cause showcased in a national ad in People magazine.
According to Serena Giovi, vice president of Maybelline marketing, "Our past awardees are a phenomenal group of women who inspire, motivate, mentor and teach in their communities every day through education."
One of the 2006 winners was Oral Lee Brown of Oakland, founder of the Oral Lee Brown Foundation. She adopts first-grade classes with the promise of a college education.
A class act all the way.
For more information or to nominate someone, click here.
No, that's not an inappropriate question - I really do want to know.
Tom Mailey, of KNCI's Pat & Tom Show Morning Show e-mailed me today with a Very Important Question: What is that yellow thing sticking to Simpson's leg on the back cover photo of her new CD "Do You Know"?
Simpson, as you know, just pulled up her pop-gospel roots to replant herself as a country singer.
Intrigued, I dug my copy of the CD out from underneath the mountain of discs on my desk and, yep, sure enough - there's something really weird about that photo.
So far, Mailey says, listeners have weighed in with guesses ranging from " a sun reflection (or) summer squash to a penalty flag (our fave, given her relationship with Tony Romo)."
Mailey has a different idea.
"I think it's a foam pad or pillow they put their to elevate her leg to make it look sexier, with the intention of airbrushing it out later," he says. "But somebody neglected to do so, probably because they were hypnotized by that come-hither stare."
Any guesses? Musings on the manipulations of photos in the entertainment industry? Leave your thoughts in the comments section or head over to the KNCI site.
If you want to hear, firsthand, what's going on at the Sacramento Opera this year, then attending its "Coffee and Conversation" talks is just the ticket. The event will take place at 10 a.m. Saturday, in the Lois Crowe Patio, Arboretum Terrace Garden, at UC-Davis.
Executive Director, Rod Gideons and Sacramento Opera Artistic Director, Timm Rolek, will discuss the company's upcoming season including its collaboration with the Sacramento Philharmonic and Sacramento Ballet in "Arias, Overtures, & Arabesques" which will be performed at Sacramento's Community Center Theater on Sept. 21.
Complimentary coffee, bagels, and pastries will be served. To attend, call the Sacramento Opera office, (916) 737.1000, by Sept. 10.
Clark Pest Control is holding open auditions for the chance to star in a TV commercial during the upcoming Lodi Grape Festival. If you're interested, you'll get to create your own commercial in front of a "green" screen that will eventually appear as a backdrop of an "infested' residential home.
There will be props (maybe giant ants!), but the most important thing will be dipping into your creative side to ad-lib a 30-second spot.
Of course, you've gotta end the ad with the well-known "Clark We Need You!" call for help.
The contest will run each day of the festival at the Clark Pest Control booth (near the Pavilion). Here are the times: 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday and 3 to 8 p.m. Friday through Sunday. The festival grounds are at 413 East Lockeford St. in Lodi.
All of the auditions taped during the festival will be featured on the Clark Pest Control Web site (www.clarkpest.com) beginning Sept. 15. The winner will be notified by Sept. 30.
I didn't know this, but Clark Pest Control is actually based in Lodi and is the West's largest family owned pest management company. Now that's a claim to fame, for which the company is so proud that it wants to pick someone from the area to be the face of its next commercial. And, in keeping with the charitable nod, Clark is selling $1 raffle tickets at the festival for prize drawings. Those tickets, plus other money raised, will be donated to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
No, I'm never going to wait in line behind Vogue editor Anna Wintour to interview Tara Bradley. I'll never believe Anna's all that.
But one thing's for sure: Tara is all that and can no longer be considered a "local" designer."
With Friday night's show under the tent at Bryant Park at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York City, Tara, 25, (pictured left) moved from Land Park to Central Park in a stiletto moment.
Her senior collection, which she designed for graduation from San Francisco's Academy of Art University, debuted to a throng of media - both in the audience and back stage - including Women's Wear Daily and other notable fashion mags.
Tara, who moved to the city in June, has been working for esteemed French designer Catherine Malandrino, whose own spring 2009 show was Monday. However, on Friday, it was Tara who was one of nine AAU students to make the cut to show her own collection at fashion week.
Her parents, Claudia and Erv Bradley, left Sacramento last week to be a part of Tara's big night. But, as it is with fashion shows, they didn't see much of their daughter beforehand.
"It was a whirlwind trip, very exciting," Claudia said Monday, after returning from New York on Sunday. "She stayed at our hotel because of the late nights and her commute home to Brooklyn. But it was an amazing experience."
Claudia says the reviews came in quickly, and Tara was one of two AAU designers mentioned in WWD.
"There was so much press backstage before the show," Claudia says. "It was really overwhelming."
In fact, Tara wore a dress she designed and wound up having most of her interviewers asking who the designer was. "Me!," she answered.
A shoe glitch in the show, which featured about six outfits, proved no problem. A model's shoe fell off, but the other models picked up the pace - either taking off their own shoes and carrying them or moving on as though nothing had happened.
Tara's parents and roommates hung out backstage and helped gather her collection after the show. Hailing a cab, they took off for one of the favorite local pubs where San Francisco designer Sara Shepherd and friends gathered with the Bradleys for dinner and drinks. Erv Bradley's treat.
With her employer Malandrino's show on Monday, Tara still worked until about 3 a.m. Sunday morning. During the Malandrino show, she assisted as a dresser backstage. She told Claudia afterward that it's amazing how fast the clothing changes take place!
"It's hard work but she loved the excitement of it all. Tomorrow (Tuesday) she will be helping to take photos of all the outfits and will then be in on the meeting where decisions will be made on which things will actually go into production," Claudia says.
On a very positive note, Malandrino's lead designer loved Tara's collection, calling it "very European."
"When you hear that, you never know what might happen down the line." Claudia says.
Neither of Tara's parents had been to New York in a long time, but they decided to do the whole sight-seeing bus tour. At one point, Claudia's emotions got the best of her.
"I started thinking, 'Our little girl is living here in all of this. She's doing it and is not phased by any of it.' I'm so proud of her because she's so mature and ready."
To see a gallery of Tara's New York fashion show, click here.
]t's nearly impossible to write about politics without being political.
Christian Kiefer admits that much is true.
But still, the Rocklin-based musician says, he and friends Jefferson Pitcher and Matthew Gerken aimed to "minimize the rants and raves" on their new project, the three-CD, all original set "Of Great and Mortal Men: 43 Songs For 43 Presidencies." (Standard Recordings, $30).
"We tried to present songs that would have longer legs than our current political concerns," Kiefer says of the all-original tunes.
"We didn't want this to be politically offensive - it's too easy to take cheap shots."
The project was conceived in 2006 when Pitcher, a former Davis resident now living in New York, decided to take the February Album Writing Month challenge. The annual event was launched in 2004 by a musician who was inspired by November's better-known National Novel Writing Month exercise.
The Rocklin-based Kiefer jokingly said he'd join in, too - by writing sequels to Pitcher's songs. That was before he even knew the subject matter but once he did, Kiefer says, he was amused and intrigued.
The idea blossomed further after the two invited Sacramento bassist Gerken to join them. The three split up songwriting duties, each taking on 14 former chiefs-of-state and then collaborating together on the 43rd song, George W. Bush's "Through the Night."
Throughout, the task proved daunting, Kiefer says, as they tried to layer their songs with political, historical and cultural context.
"Some of the lesser-known presidents were difficult to write about (and) I found myself thinking I should say something concrete about them," Kiefer says.
"Everyone knows George Washington so you can be quirky with his story - you can't do that with Millard Fillmore," he says. "I wanted to teach people something."
While the songs were written in a month, it took the next year-and-a-half to polish the lyrics and fill in the musical gaps.
To help complete the songs, Kiefer, Pitcher and Gerken called on friends such as Sacramento musicians Vince DiFiore, Matt McCord and John Gutenberger. They also corralled a who's who of nationally known indie musicians, including Rosie Thomas, Bill Callahan and Low's Alan Sparhawk.
The Mortal Men project will continue, past the Nov. 4 election, with a song for the 44th president, either John McCain or Barack Obama. And, yes, again, the songwriters will strive to write something that straddles the party line.
For Gerken, it's the only way to ensure their songs will endure.
"(These songs) have to place the presidencies in historical context," he says. "They have to make interesting commentaries that could be challenging and maybe critical - but not whining."
Of Great and Mortal Men
Song: "Washington Dreams of the Hippopotamus"CQ
Style: Brooding, surreal political pop
Behind the song: "This was the first song I wrote and it came together very quickly," Kiefer says of the album's inaugural track about George Washington.
"The song is basically about George having teeth that are not made of wood but actually carved from hippopotamus teeth - which is actually the truth. I learned that in my research.
"It's about how (Washington) basically lived a lie (about his teeth) his entire life and, at the end of his life, he had these nightmares about the hippopotamus (coming) back for the teeth."
It was fun to play around with the Washington mythology, Kiefer says.
"For some reason it really came together effortlessly," he says, laughing. "If it hadn't been so easy to write, I might not have gone on with the rest of the project."
See them: Saturday9/13 at the Fox & Goose (1001 R St, Sacramento).CQ The 21-and-over show starts at 9 p.m. and is $3 at the door.
On the Web: www.43presidencies.com.CQ
Listen to "Washington Dreams of the Hippopotomus" here:
Fox40 continues to add new faces to its newscasts. Recently, it was announced that radio fave Paul Robins will join the new "Fox40 Live" morning show, which debuts Monday morning at 4:30. (It's great to have him back in local media!)
Today, word comes that news anchor Jaime Garza (pictured) will join the station's 10 p.m. news - presumably as the replacement for anchor Thomas Drayton, who leaves the station for a Top 5 market on the East Coast.
Like I said, this is just an assumption on my part. I'm waiting to hear back from news director Brandon Mercer. In a statement he said: "Jaime Garza is more than an anchor. He's a leader and an innovator. ... He has a gift for explaining why a story matters to your community."
Garza is no stranger to Northern California TV. He was a reporter/anchor on morning newscasts in Sacramento in the mid-90s. He also did local radio.
He's moving back to Sac from Los Angeles where he spent the last 13 years as an anchor/reporter for KCBS/KCAL.
For rockers Ann and Nancy Wilson of the rock band Heart, there's nothing fitting about the Republican National Convention's use of its 1977 hit "Barracuda".
That much became clear after the sisters issued a cease and desist order that seeks to bar Sen. John McCain from using the song as an anthem to underscore images and appearances of vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
The song was used, without permission, as a musical backdrop during Palin's appearance at the just-ended convention in St. Paul. It was meant to capitalize on Palin's nickname of "Sarah Barracuda" that she earned during intense and aggressive basketball play in high school in Wasilla, Alaska.
It is not the first time that the McCain campaign has run afoul of musicians for it's appropriation of theme music for campaign use. In February, John Mellencamp, an ardent Democrat, told the McCain campaign to stop using his two heartland anthems, "Our Country" and "Pink Houses".
One of the most exciting things about the Internet is how it has been opening a door to the arts and creating audiences for things, seemingly, from thin air.
For opera fans, one of the most interesting portals is www.operacast.com, where you can find stations across the globe broadcasting operas you wouldn't normally hear stateside.
The Operacast portal offers a list of opera stations broadcasting high-quality audio on the Net -- some of them 24/7.
The site also offers something called "The Opera Table," which is a page of broadcast schedules that lists stations, program name, and times for each regularly scheduled high-quality audio operatic broadcast. In some cases the page also offers links to each station's highest quality audio stream.
So, if you are hankering to hear something from, say, Switzerland of France - this site is the place to go.
Ultimately, what I like best about the site is that it is user-friendly. There is even a page called "Internet Radio for Simpletons"!
As promised, the hugely popular Metropolitan Opera HD simulcasts are being released in DVD. The first installment of six operas will be released by EMI classics and go on sale Tuesday, Sept. 16. They include:
Puccini's "La bohème" and "Manon Lescaut"
Tan Dun's "The First Emperor" (from the 2006-07 season).
Engelbert Humperdinck's "Hansel and Gretel"
Britten's "Peter Grimes"
The Met's Live in HD effort also continues this year, and the simulcasts are taking on a more international scope with an expansion to 800 venues in 28 countries.
OK so it's time for my annual edict on white shoes-Labor Day - blah, blah, blah. This year, in the spirit of tossing fashion caution to the wind, go ahead and keep wearing those pesky white pumps.
Maybe even pair them with some black tights for the proper style effect!
I wish I could get women (even men) to do away with their white shoes altogether. We're not talking flip flops or sandals, of course, but definitely pumps. They just draw attention to the feet. And there's no way to keep them from getting scuffed up.
So here's hoping for a really early start to fall and the breaking out of the boots. FYI: "Today Show" co-host Meredith Vieira sported black boots this morning!