Arts DEVO: Live music tonight & big losses for the arts scene

Mother Hips - Back to the Grotto
Jason Cassidy

Tonight, go Back to the Grotto

Chico’s favorite sons are turning 30 this year. The Mother Hips, naturally, had wanted to celebrate in the way that they do best—with epic live shows throughout 2021—but those plans have been dashed by COVID-19. Thankfully, the band’s label—Blue Rose—has stepped up to make sure the occasion gets appropriately recognized by re-releasing nine of the band’s albums on vinyl. Some of them were never put on on vinyl in the first place, including the debut, Back to the Grotto, and the limited release of that and the two follow-ups has already sold out! (The rest are available at the Blue Rose site.) But, you can still enjoy Back to the Grotto … tonight! The band will perform the classic in its entirety at 6 p.m. (Friday, Jan. 29) during a livestream on Facebook.

In other Hips news, co-frontmen Greg Loiacono and Tim Bluhm both have new solo albums: The former’s Mystic Traces was released last spring, and the latter’s tribute to country legend Merle Haggard, Hag Heaven, drops this month. And the icing on the anniversary cake: According to a recent article in Glide Magazine, the Hips will top off the year with “two albums of new material.”

Get stoked for it all with some vintage Hips (and vintage Chico vibes) live in the old City Plaza in 1996:

Live at Laxson tonight … seriously!

One of the brightest spots on what’s left of the local arts stage during the COVID-19 pandemic has been the Chico Voices Virtual series produced by Chico Performances. The shows are an online-only version of the local-artist spotlight shows that were a part of the regular calendar of events at Laxson Auditorium—with artists like The Bidwells and The Yule Logs being filmed and interviewed for streaming shows to tide music fans over until “real” live music can return.

Lo & Behold on the Laxson Auditorium stage. (Photo by Jason Halley for Chico State)

The CN&R has partnered with Chico Performances for the series, and yours truly has been invited to each of the filmings to ask the artists questions for the interview portion of the shows. The next performance premieres tonight (Jan. 29), at 7 p.m., and features the chill groove of local faves Lo & Behold. Visit Chico Performances online for info on how to stream the Friday-night tunes.

Saying goodbye to two local icons

One would be hard-pressed to come up with a more universally beloved personality in Butte County’s greater community of musicians/artists/friendly freaks than Burt Levy. According to multiple social media posts, including one on the KZFR Facebook page, Levy died Thursday (Jan. 28). He had suffered a stroke a couple days prior.

A construction worker and musician, Levy has been a constant presence in the scene. If there was live music being played outdoors in the last 20 years, he was there in signature cargo shorts and floppy canvas hat with hand drum on his lap. Levy was a co-founder and rhythm-master of the Eastwind Bellydance troupe; he collaborated with GravyBrain guitarist Brian “Gravy” Asher on the trippy East-West swamp fusion project, Ancient Echo; and over the years he’s loaned his generous spirit and percussion to countless jams, classes and fundraisers. Here’s Levy on an appropriate trip through space in the video for Ancient Echo’s “Mandarin Moon”:

Ancient Echo, with Burt Levy (far right).

And earlier this month, Butte County lost a major figure in the theater scene. Long time Theatre on the Ridge lighting/sound designer and board member Gary Kupp died on Jan. 18. He was 74. Kupp was also a former journalist, most recently working as a copy editor at the Chico Enterprise-Record before his retirement. Theatre on the Ridge released a statement paying homage to one of the venue’s cornerstones:

Today we heartbreakingly mourn the loss of one of our own, a member of our family for 40+ years. At this time, we cannot imagine our world without him. Gary Kupp passed away last night surrounded in spirit by those of us who loved him and called him family and friend. In the theatre, the hands that operate the spotlight are—well, indispensable. The technical parts of the show are often the most overlooked by the audience, but never by the cast members and directors who depend on the lights and the sounds that prompt their onstage entrances, scene cues, and exits. For 40 years, those hands have belonged to Gary, our technical wizard and lighting designer. For nearly all but a handful of shows over its 45-year history, Gary was “up in the booth” creating the magic for audiences to see, hear and enjoy in our shows. He was able to cobble together old equipment long past its time, learn and install new systems, create sound and light innovations (even in a power outage!), and support our theatre playhouse in a myriad of other ways as graphic designer for our beautiful Curtain Call programs, performer, board member, and on and on. It is the understatement of all time to say we will miss him. Our hearts go out to his twin brother, Bary, as we surround him with the love and support of our theatre family. Rest in Peace, Gary, dear friend. Our theatre will always have your handprints in our hearts and on our light board.

A memorial for Kupp will take place Feb. 13, at 10 a.m., at Neighborhood Church. The service will also be livestreamed online.

Gary Kupp

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