Music News & Reviews

15 shows to check out this fall in SLO County

After a few months of sun, surf, and yes, summer blockbusters, you may find yourself craving a little culture.

Luckily, Central Coast residents have full access this fall to the best in music, theater and dance. The list of critically acclaimed artists with upcoming shows includes Chanticleer, Cherish the Ladies, The Kingston Trio and Incubus. There are even two tribute shows dedicated to legendary British rockers The Beatles.

Below are some of the top acts set to perform in September and October.

‘CAROLINE, OR CHANGE’

Marian Theatre, Friday through Sept. 18

PCPA Theaterfest closes its 2010-11 season with a daring musical drama set during the Civil Rights movement.

Created by Tony Kushner ( “Angels in America”), “Caroline, or Change” focuses on the moral dilemma faced by Caroline Thibodeaux, a divorced black maid who works for the Gellman family in Lake Charles, La., circa 1963. She finds herself torn between providing for her children and preserving her principles.

Composer Jeanine Tesori’s Tony Award-nominated score blends the blues, gospel, R&B and soul music.

CHANTICLEER

Cohan Center, Sept. 25 ($20 to $47)

Chanticleer, an all-male a cappella choir based in the Bay Area, last performed in San Luis Obispo in 2009.

The Grammy Award-winning group returns to the Central Coast with a “Love Story” program spanning six centuries of romantic music. Selections include songs by Richard Strauss, Tomás Luis de Victoria and Sebastián de Vivanco — as well as excerpts from Stephen Paulus’s “The Lotus Lovers,” which was commissioned for Chanticleer.

A pre-show lecture will accompany the performance.

MC CHRIS

SLO Brewing Co., Sept. 28 ($12, $13 at the door)

A formidable figure in the nerdcore hip-hop movement, MC Chris — born Christopher Brendan Ward IV — merges geek and gangsta cultures via his high-pitched, attitude-soaked sound. His songs including references to such cultural touchstones as “Dungeons & Dragons,” “The Goonies” and “Star Wars.” (The rapper’s most famous song is “Fett’s Vette,” dedicated to the bounty hunter from “The Empire Strikes Back.”)

MC Chris’s eighth studio album, “Race Wars,” hit store shelves earlier this month.

JEFFREY BROUSSARD & THE CREOLE COWBOYS

Spanos Theatre, Sept. 30 ($36)

Jeffery Broussard & The Creole Cowboys represent zydeco’s past and its future.

The son of accordion player Delton Broussard, the Louisiana native launched his music career playing the drums in his father’s band, the legendary Lawtell Playboys. The experience later encouraged Broussard to help found Zydeco Force, an influential group that merged traditional Creole roots music with contemporary R&B.

Today, Jeffery Broussard leads the Opelousas-based Creole Cowboys as a vocalist, accordion player and fiddle player.

CAMERON CARPENTER

Cohan Center, Oct. 4 ($16 to $26)

Audiences can expect musical fireworks and visual flair when organist Cameron Carpenter sits down at the massive Forbes Pipe Organ.

Hailed as the “Bad Boy of the Organ,” the Juilliard-trained musician has dazzled music lovers across the globe with his masterful musicianship, wide-ranging repertoire and Swarovski crystal-studded shoes. Carpenter’s 2008 album, “Revolutionary,” made him the first solo organist ever nominated for a Grammy Award.

Don’t miss this chance to see the consummate showman at work.

‘OKLAHOMA!’

San Luis Obispo Little Theatre, Oct. 7 through Nov. 6 ($15 to $28)

Fifty years after the San Luis Obispo Little Theatre first staged “Oklahoma!,” director-choreographer Zach Johnson is bringing back the beloved musical for a whole new audience.

Set in the rough, rugged Oklahoma Territory at the turn of the 20th century, “Oklahoma!” centers on the love triangle between cowboy Curly, country girl Laurey and farmhand Jud. The soundtrack by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II features such classic songs as “Oh What a Beautiful Mornin’,” “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top” and the title track.

THE KINGSTON TRIO

Clark Center for the Performing Arts, Oct. 9 ($40 to $48)

A seminal part of the folk revival movement of the 1950s and ’60s, The Kingston Trio came together in 1957 as an acoustic act performing calypso, folk and foreign-language songs.

The group soon gained attention for its polished harmonies and artful interpretations of traditional tunes such as “Tom Dooley,” which won a Grammy Award in 1959. The following year, the Trio won the Grammys’ first folk award for its second studio album, “At Large.”

Today, Rick Dougherty, George Grove and Bill Zorn tour as The Kingston Trio.

INCUBUS

Avila Beach Golf Resort, Oct. 13 ($46)

Vocalist Brandon Boyd, lead guitarist Mike Einziger and drummer Jose Pasillas were still in high school when they formed the influential alt-metal band Incubus in 1991. It wasn’t long before the band gained a following far beyond their native San Fernando Valley.

Incubus achieved mainstream success in 1999 with its double platinum-selling album “Make Yourself,” featuring the No. 1 single “Drive.” Other successful albums, including “Morning View,” “A Crow Left of Murder” and “Light Grenades,” followed.

The band is currently touring in support of its seventh studio album, “If Not Now, When?”

KENNY ENDO AND ON ENSEMBLE

Cohan Center, Oct. 14 ($20 to $41)

Two taiko drumming groups come together for one memorable night.

Originally trained as a jazz musician in the 1970s, Kenny Endo performed with taiko groups in Los Angeles and San Francisco before embarking on a decade-long odyssey to study and perform classical drumming in Japan. Today, he’s a groundbreaking percussion pioneer who’s performed for Michael Jackson, Bobby McFerrin and The Who.

The Kenny Endo Taiko Ensemble will join On Ensemble, an innovative taiko quartet based in Los Angeles, for a performance fuses traditional taiko with electronica, hip-hop and rock ’n’ roll.

CHERISH THE LADIES

Clark Center, Oct. 14 ($38 to $48)

Named after a traditional Irish jig, Cherish the Ladies has been a force in Celtic music for 25 years.

The quintet came together in 1985 for a series of New York City concerts celebrating the rise of female musicians. It initially won recognition as the first all-women traditional music and dance ensemble.

Under the leadership of flute/whistle player Joanie Madden, Cherish the Ladies has since established itself a contemporary Celtic ensemble without peer — sharing the stage with entertainers including James Taylor, Joan Baez, Emmy Lou Harris and Vince Gill.

AXIS DANCE COMPANY

Spanos Theatre, Oct. 15 ($32)

Prepare to change the way you think about dance and the human body.

Founded in 1987, AXIS Dance Company is a physically integrated dance company that features dancers with and without disabilities working with well-known choreographers such as Bill T. Jones and Joe Goode. Its performances, which often incorporate wheelchairs, purposely challenge traditional notions about dance to incorporate a community that has been all but excluded from the performing arts.

MARY OLIVER

Cohan Center, Oct. 16 ($20 to $39)

Winner of the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize, poet Mary Oliver is considered one of America’s brightest literary lights.

A prolific and poignant writer, Oliver finds her inspiration in nature — in particular, the woods and wetlands of her adopted New England.

“Her special gift is to connect us with our sources in the natural world, its beauties and terrors and mysteries and consolations,” poet Stanley Kunitz said.

Oliver will discuss her poetry and read from her best-selling works during this not-to-be-missed talk.

‘THE YEOMAN OF THE GUARD’

Clark Center, Oct. 22 and 23 ($20 to $50)

Opera San Luis Obispo opens its season with a lesser-known gem by the British songwriting team behind “H.M.S. Pinafore,” “The Mikado” and “The Pirates of Penzance.”

“The Yeoman of the Guard,” which features music by Arthur Sullivan and lyrics by W.S. Gilbert, takes place in the Tower of London during the 16th century. The topsy-turvy plot involves a prison escape, mistaken identities, secret marriages and not one, but two love triangles.

Filled with intrigue, bawdy humor and tender romance, the opera is considered one of Gilbert and Sullivan’s finest.

‘THE MAGIC SCHOOL BUS LIVE: THE CLIMATE CHALLENGE’

Cohan Center, Oct. 29 ($24 to $27)

“The Magic School Bus Live” celebrates 25 years of educational theater with an all-new musical adventure.

While researching a play about global warming, Ms. Frizzle, her students and her reptilian sidekick Liz go on an eye-opening trip aboard the Magic School Bus.

They travel from the Arctic to the equator, witnessing the effects of climate change and learning about alternative energy, conservation and recycling.

Parents and kids have two chances — two afternoon shows — to take the title “climate challenge.” (This production is intended for children ages 3 and up.)

‘ABBEY ROAD: A TRIBUTE TO THE BEATLES’

Clark Center, Oct. 29 ($32 to $45)

Relive the magic and the music of the Beatles’ earthshaking album “Abbey Road.”

Brought to you by the same group behind last year’s sold-out “Ticket to Ride: A Tribute to the Beatles,” this tribute show faithfully recreates every aspect of the Fab Four, circa 1969 — from tailored costumes to vintage instruments to onstage banter.

“Abbey Road: A Tribute to the Beatles” features note-for-note renditions of the Beatles’ greatest latter-day hits — including “A Day in the Life,” “Penny Lane” and “Yesterday” — as well as earlier stadium anthems such as “Twist and Shout.”

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