Off the grid: Paul Gillis and Maura Bendett display at Cabana Home

Paul Gillis - Night III
Paul Gillis – Night III

Two very different approaches to painting can be found at the current and very modest show at Cabana Home. Artists Maura Bendett and Paul Gillis approach canvas as a puzzle to be solved, but as these dozen or so pieces show, there’s more than one solution.

Mr. Gillis works in infinitesimally small grids, creating problems for himself, then working himself out. Although his online portfolio shows familiar objects and silhouettes in his work, the selections at Cabana Home tend toward the abstract and geometric. His method consists — it appears — of working on top of stretched hessian fabric adhered to a canvas. Hessian is the underlying coarsely woven material used in rugs and tapestry, but here it becomes a grid for a further grid placed on top, drawn with graphic, ruler, and, one would assume, steady nerves.

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This chef keeps the lid on: Predictable French comedy has only food going for it

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‘You are not creating these dishes,” says a critic to the up-and-coming chef in this flaccid French comedy. “You are just following a recipe. You are like someone singing karaoke.”

That sums up the majority of “Le Chef,” from director Daniel Cohen, which is thoroughly predictable and mildly amusing in molecular amounts. Not to be confused with the also formulaic “Chef” (this summer’s sleeper hit), this French film boasts Jean Reno as Alexandre Lagarde, a famous chef who is under the gun from his restaurant’s new CEO and the possibility that a couple of food critics will appear and dock him a star from his Michelin rating.

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Waltz into Darkness: Touring one-man play ‘The Actual Dance’ examines breast cancer from husband’s perspective

Writer-performer Samuel Simon
Writer-performer Samuel Simon

Samuel Simon calls it his “fourth career.” Now a playwright and performer in his late sixties, it took him a full career to find his calling. After decades of being a lawyer, advocate and businessman, it was his wife’s brush with breast cancer and mortality that pushed him in semi-retirement out from behind a desk and conference calls to standing alone on stage for “The Actual Dance,” coming to Center Stage Theater this Thursday. How did this happen?

“I’m an actor and a playwright,” he says. “And that is such an incredible thing to hear myself say.” Right out of law school he worked for Ralph Nader, then joined the Army, then worked in D.C. and at the Federal Trade Commission. He then created a public relations firm at the dawn of the Internet, which turned out to be nicely profitable, enough to retire. In 2000 Mr. Simon started to take improv classes in New York City for personal development, taught by veterans from The Second City and the Groundlings. Around the same time, his wife Susan was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer.

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Laugh factory: Get ready for the six-day LOL Comedy Fest

Ben Gleib
Ben Gleib

Scott Montoya may not be a comedian but he knows his comedy. From helping his dad hand out pamphlets for the United Farmworkers to organizing festivals, Mr. Montoya has been bringing unheard voices to the masses. Starting this coming Tuesday, the Santa Barbara Laugh Out Loud Comedy Festival opens its doors for six days of stand-up comedy and more. A majority of the evenings are being filmed for broadcast, showing that Santa Barbara isn’t just being used as a practice run.

“Comedy is what is driving everything online right now,” Mr. Montoya says. “This is the best time to be in the comedy world. Even up to three years ago there was only Showtime and Comedy Central. Now it’s all over the place: there’s Netflix and we have our own channel on Hulu.”

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It’s a funny ol’ world: Comedian Russell Peters is one of the most-traveled stand-ups

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Comedian Russell Peters may have never been to Santa Barbara before — “I remember the soap opera” — but he’s starting his world tour here as part of the opening of LOLFest.

“An actual world tour!” he adds. “Not like when some comics say ‘world tour’ and they mean USA and Canada.” He means it. The Canadian-Indian standup started his career in Canada, found success in Britain and now performs in any country that shows interest. In 2010 his show in Australia attracted the largest-ever audience for a stand-up in that country. He’s set similar records in London, and has found himself playing sets in South Africa and Thailand and beyond. And his wanderlust has added to his routine, where he affectionately pokes fun at the culture and behavior of various nations.

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Behind the mask: Frank’s musical odyssey is truly something remarkable, big head and all

Michael Fassbender as Frank
Michael Fassbender as Frank

In real life, Frank Sidebottom was a character created by British artist Chris Sievey, who performed live with a large, cartoonish papier-mache head on. His character was a bit Pee Wee Herman, singing in a reedy high register like he had a clothespin on his nose. The music was played on children’s instruments, but he covered major pop hits of the day — the mid-1980s through the ’90s. For those growing up in the UK during that time, he was an affectionate satirist, the music of working-class cul-de-sacs and corner newsagents, a contrast with the shiny business offices of the pop world.

However, in the fascinating and rather inspiring new movie “Frank,” we get a knowingly glamorized version of the story, but so far from the truth that it can hardly be called poetic license. Instead, director Lenny Abrahamson and writers Peter Straughan and former Sidebottom band member Jon Ronson have created a fantasy around the myth of the troubled genius. Behind his mask, Frank stands for all kinds of famous outside musicians, whose creativity gets tied into their mental illness. Yet it’s also a musing on the wonder of making music in a band, and in certain scenes the cast really captures that magic of when noodling turns into a song and a song turns into something transcendent. (The cast, apparently, really did jam and created the songs heard in the film, and it’s a thing of wonder that what comes out really does sound unlike anything I’ve heard before.)

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DRINK OF THE WEEK: Joe’s Cafe Mai Tai

Photo by Nik Blaskovich
Photo by Nik Blaskovich

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you … a cocktail. Yes, we’re paraphrasing, but on this great Labor Day, isn’t this one of our great luxuries in life, enshrined in the Constitution to boot? And shouldn’t we go in search of cocktails made by those who have labored, readily, to provide excellent drinks to several generations?

Yes, we thought so too. That’s how we got in touch with Steve Velliotes, who has tended bar at Joe’s on State Street since 1988. His resume lists several heavyweight Santa Barbara venues that are still with us like Harry’s and The Sportsman, and many that are not: Mom’s and El Patio (where Best Western is on Cabrillo). And another called Tony’s Log Cabin. Never heard of it? It used to sit where Joe’s is now, and Mr. Velliotes’ grandfather used to run it. In fact, bartending “is in the blood,” he says, and that’s the kind of labor on Labor Day we’re toasting: working-class Americans passing down knowledge from generation to generation. And from that knowledge springs Steve’s Mai Tai, his greatest hit, and full of classic tiki goodness, sweet and fruity and even containing Trader Vic’s mai tai mix, surely a blast from the past. This Labor Day, let’s give a nod to the generations that make our drinks and often lend an ear to our problems. And don’t forget to tip!

STEVE’S MAI TAI at JOE’S CAFE
2 1/2 ounces dark rum (preferably Myers’s)
3/4 ounce white rum (preferably Palo Viejo)
1/2 ounce mai tai mix (preferably Trader Vic’s)
1/2 ounce pineapple juice
1/4 ounce orange juice
2 drops grenadine

Add all ingredients over ice, shake and pour into lowball glass. Garnish with lime wedge and cherry.

Joe’s Cafe
536 State St. 966-4638 or www.joescafesb.com

Drink of the Week: Tipsy Jalapeño

Photo by Nik Blaskovich
Photo by Nik Blaskovich

Yes, there is a certain art in making a cocktail … but what about cocktail-themed art? In a Funk Zone collaboration between Reds Bin 211, Ian Cutler’s distillery across the street, and a selection of local artists, the exhibition “Spirits: The Art of Distillation” is exactly what makes the Funk Zone so funky: It’s a mix of people who all care about their craft. Now this column isn’t an art review, so I’ll let you go check the works by Dan Levin, Lindsey Ross and even Reds owner Dana Walters yourself. But as long as the exhibit is up (through Sept. 7), Reds is offering cocktails designed to show off Cutler’s vodka (with proceeds going to The Arts Fund). We decided to try the Tipsy Jalapeño, which uses Cutler’s vodka, grapefruit juice, lemon juice, grapefruit bitters and a ginger-jalapeño simple syrup. Spicy, right? Not really — the grapefruit takes the heat away but leaves the earthy pepper taste. And Cutler’s vodka is smooth to start, so the whole thing wraps up like a nice present of citrus and spice.

And while you’re there at Reds, look up at the bar’s high walls … those two large projection screens are showing video art, close-ups of the distillation process and its final outcome — vodka on the rocks. The videos are by Drink of the Week photographer Nik Blaskovich, so come check it out!

TIPSY JALAPEÑO

1 1/2 ounces Cutler’s vodka
1 splash grapefruit juice
1 splash lemon juice
2 dashes Fee’s Grapefruit Bitters
1 squeeze ginger-jalapeño simple syrup (see instructions)
1 rosemary sprig, for garnish

Combine vodka, juices, bitters and syrup over ice, shake and strain into lowball glass filled with ice. Garnish with rosemary sprig.

To make the ginger-jalapeño syrup: simmer 3-4 slices ginger and 5-6 slices jalapeño (both shaped like rounds) in cup of water for a minute or more. Strain out solids, then dissolve 1 cup sugar into water. Let cool and refrigerate.

Reds Bin 211
211 Helena Ave. 966-5906 or redsbarandtapas.wordpress.com

Best friends forever: Rebelution’s opening act Iration have known each other since college days

Iration has strong ties to the band Rebelution Photo courtesy Mitch Schneider Organization
Iration has strong ties to the band Rebelution

Photo courtesy Mitch Schneider Organization

The venues get bigger but the friendship between Iration and Rebelution remains just as strong as ever. The two bands go back to their days playing keggers on Isla Vista’s Del Playa, and now Iration is opening for Rebelution’s return to the Bowl. It’s the bands’ third tour together.

Like Rebelution, Iration plays sunshine reggae, positive vibe music. With three albums and three EPs under their belt, they haven’t risen to the same heights as their friends, but the two bands have a symbiotic relationship.

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