Arts DEVO: Last call

Saying goodbye to a local icon

Jason Cassidy

To scroll back through the photos of fliers, performers and people at shows on the Facebook page for the Maltese Bar & Venue is to see the recent history of Chico flash before your eyes. The volume and breadth of events hosted at the dive bar over its dozen years is overwhelming—from drag shows and Malteazers burlesque to stand-up comedy and concerts of every genre. Chicoans of all stripes have been represented. The Maltese is us.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made a mess of everything, and this beloved venue is the latest casualty. This weekend, the dive bar is hosting a “final farewell and dance-party weekend,” titled “Maltese is for Lovers,” with a drag show/dance party spanning Friday and Saturday nights (Feb. 4 & Feb. 5, 9 p.m.—tickets at eventbrite.com).

I’ve said it in these pages before: Maltese owner Archer Lombardi and the hard-working staff have created a warm, welcoming and always fun environment where musicians, hipsters, artists, students, queens, kings, punks, hippies and townies of every sexual identity, race, faith and gender could cut loose and feel safe to be exactly who they are. Lombardi nurtured the best of Chico in his funky space. I love the Maltese with all my heart. Some of my fondest memories of the past 12 years are of performing or partying or just communing with the community in the south Chico bar, and I know many of you would say the same.

Thank you for everything, Archer, and best of luck with whatever kick-ass endeavor you dream up next. The Maltese now takes its rightful place alongside the Blue Room, Juanita’s, Cabos, Burro Room and all the other forever-revered, retired, iconic Chico venues.

Season two

The arts folks at Chico State have so far taken a cautious approach to publicizing public gatherings during the pandemic, including Chico Performances, which announced only a partial summer/fall calendar—instead of its usual full academic year of shows—before school started. The second half has just dropped, and winter/spring brings a fresh schedule to the Laxson Auditorium stage.

Nobuntu

There are two Grammy-winning heavy hitters on the roster: iconic musician/activist Melissa Etheridge (March 20) and blues guitarist/singer Robert Cray (April 8).

And there’s a very eclectic range of choices among the lesser-known offerings, starting with The Queen’s Cartoonists (tonight, Feb. 3). The concept involves a sextet of jazz/classical musicians playing live along with a reel of classic and contemporary cartoons projected on a screen behind them—everything from Bugs Bunny and black-and-white Mickey Mouse films to more abstract modern works.

Others that look intriguing to me include comedian Demetri Martin (Feb. 6); Nobuntu (March 10), an all-female a-cappella group from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe; and the trippy, groovy duo Black Violin, featuring violinists Wil Baptiste and Kev Marcus mashing up classical, hip-hop, bluegrass and whatever else for a style they refer to as “classical boom.” (Feel the boom March 22.)

Find more info and the rest of the schedule at chicoperformances.com.

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