.Things to do in Santa Cruz

Week of 11/29/23



Harold López-Nussa | photo: Paulo Vitale


Cuban-born pianist and composer Harold Lopez-Nussa lived in his native Havana until recently. He’s currently touring to support his newest project, Timba a la Americana. The album is a byproduct of Lopez-Nussa and his family’s decision to leave their homeland and resettle in Toulouse, France, where they have family roots. The album is a cycle of 10 original songs inspired by Lopez-Nussa’s major life change, with a modernist approach to traditional Latin jazz. His quartet features Swiss-born harmonicist Gregoire Maret, bassist Luques Curtis and Harold’s brother, Ruy Adrian Lopez-Nussa, playing drums. DAN EMERSON

INFO: 7pm, Kuumbwa Jazz Center, 320-2 Cedar St. $36.75/adv, $42/door. 427-2227.

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On March 10, 2023, the Pajaro levee breached and flooded the small town. Over 900 buildings were destroyed, and roughly 3,000 individuals were evacuated. Almost nine months later, many are still struggling to make ends meet. This Thursday, a never-before assembled group of authors, activists and journalists will team up with Bookshop Santa Cruz, UC Santa Cruz and the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County for a special benefit to support the Watsonville/Pajaro nonprofit Community Bridges. The special guests include Jaime Cortez, Alexis Madrigal, Rebecca Solnit, Claudia Ramirez Florez and Ingrid Rojas Contreras, who will all speak at the Cowell Ranch Hay Barn. MAT WEIR

INFO: 7pm, Cowell Ranch Hay Barn, 94 Ranch View Road, Santa Cruz. $50-$10,000. 423-0900.




According to the Shopify-Gallup Holiday Shopper Pulse survey, a whopping 59 percent of Americans procrastinate their holiday shopping until November or December. That usually means crowded stores and frantic online shopping with expensive shipping rates, resulting in stress, frustration and a lot of ho-ho-humbugs. Instead of running the rat race, why not buy loved ones a piece of Santa Cruz County art while supporting local artists? The Santa Cruz County Office is currently exhibiting the work of Aptos painters Anil and Charlene Sawe, along with four other local artists in its halls. On Friday, there will be a special reception with live music where community members can rub elbows with the artists. MW

INFO: 5pm, Santa Cruz County Office, 701 Ocean Street, Santa Cruz. Free.




Veteran Santa Cruz-based singer-songwriter and keyboardist Tom Ralston and his 14-piece band play what may be their most high-profile gig of the year this Saturday to benefit Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Cruz. Second Harvest Food Bank’s food distribution and nutrition education programs serve about 65,000 county residents monthly. Ralston is a fourth-generation resident of Santa Cruz and has released three albums of mostly original, genre-blending music since 2016. DE

INFO: 7pm, Rio Theatre, 1205 Soquel Ave. $32. 423-8209.



The days are getting darker, and a sobering truth is upon us: winter is coming. As the pagans and Druids have always known, it is wise to acknowledge the coming darkness with a light ceremony before launching into the season of hibernation and mulled beverages. Santa Cruz Mountain Priestesses lead such a ceremony at Lille Aeske Arthouse’s “Yule Illumination,” incorporating dinner, drinks, poetry and music into a night of warmth and radiance. Performers include Julie Grant, Mary Isis, and Christina Sabella—priestess, musician, and reiki healer, respectively. It is an essential truth of winter that when immersed in darkness, we must shine the light ourselves. JESSICA IRISH

INFO: 6pm, Lille Aeske Arthouse, 13160 Highway 9, Boulder Creek. $100. 703-4183.




A free family holiday opera is uncommon, making UCSC’s production of Amahl and the Night Visitors, directed by Sheila Willey, as unique as a bright star. Italian composer Gian Carlo Menotti’s holiday classic tells the story (in English) of the night an impoverished, imaginative child, Amahl, gets a visit from the Three Kings. At a kid-friendly 50 minutes, this colorful opera will warm hearts as the chilly holiday season kicks into high gear. The production will also appeal to history lovers as Amahl and the Night Visitors was the first-ever opera written for television and premiered live on NBC on December 24, 1951.   ADDIE MAHMASSANI

INFO: 1pm & 2pm, UCSC Music Center Recital Hall, 402 McHenry Rd., Santa Cruz. Free. 459-2292. 



For the past two years, there has been a lot of talk in defense of ska. The musical genre that was a brief cash grab for the major labels of the ’90s has much deeper roots in the worlds of punk, anti-racist activism and Jamaican culture. None know this more than the Slackers, Manhattan’s suited-up stewards of ska, rocksteady, soul and reggae. They’ve picked up the dance craze sound for three decades, earning well-deserved respect from punks, rude boys and mods. On Saturday, they’ll shake the roof off Moe’s Alley with another legendary band from the scene—the “band geek mafia” from Riverside, Voodoo Glow Skulls. MW

INFO: 6:30pm, Moe’s Alley, 1534 Commercial Way, Santa Cruz. $27/adv, $32/door. 479-1854.




This December, California indie hip-hop supergroup Living Legends brings back How the Grouch Stole Christmas, one of the West Coast’s most celebrated reunion tours. With founding member and Oakland native Corey Scoffern (a.k.a. The Grouch) holding the sleigh’s proverbial reins, the show is a jolly journey through new and old hits—including music from the group’s first album since 2008, The Return. Also joining is another legend—Brother Ali—whose recent album All the Beauty in This Whole Life on Atmosphere’s Rhymesayers label confirms that the scene these artists created with raw talent and hustle in the ’90s is still alive and well. AM

INFO: 8pm, Catalyst Club, 1101 Pacific Ave, Santa Cruz. $37/adv, $42/door. 713-5492.


Austin Lucas | photo: Tiffany Black


On X, Austin Lucas’ bio names them as a queer country singer-songwriter, but Lucas also has the goods to stake a claim on a punk-folk label. At a recent festival in Florida, they performed covers of Against Me! songs while dressed as Dolly Parton—a pretty punk rock move. Lately, their music features the kind of fingerpicking, twanging emotion fans of Drive-By Truckers and Justin Townes Earle will find particularly moving. Lucas’ down-home sound and clear, pining voice prove that country and folk music belong to those beyond the gender binary as much as anyone else. JI

INFO: 8pm, Crepe Place, 1134 Soquel Ave, Santa Cruz. $12. 429-6994.


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