Reside radio present captures native quirkiness

By Bridgette M. Redman
Pasadena Weekly Contributing Author

Wdo you want a prairie when you’ve the dual cities of Pasadena and Altadena?

Radio present lovers who maintain a particular place of their coronary heart for the Garrison Keillor program of previous will wish to tune in to Sandra Tsing Loh’s plans to have a good time the quirkiness of residing within the ‘Denas in her stay radio present on the iconic Espresso Gallery Backstage in Altadena.

Operating month-to-month for the subsequent yr — barring pandemic hiccups — the stay present is lining up native visitor stars who highlight every part that makes the cities distinctive.

The primary present is 3 pm Sunday, Jan. 30.

Loh is aware of what it takes to make radio sparkle, even when it is not being delivered over the airwaves. She’s a longtime NPR and KPCC commentator, recognized for her present “Loh Down on Science.” She’s lining up such friends as a Nobel prize-winning banjo participant David Politzer — no, he did not win for enjoying the banjo, that is only a bonus — and an MTV star who additionally does thriller theater.

“For many years, I have been serious about the ‘Prairie Residence Companion’ — Garrison Keillor’s authentic present,” Loh mentioned. “Thirty years in the past, I did a music, ‘A Freeway Residence Companion,’ that was a Los Angeles model. It nonetheless had a homey story, besides with helicopters overhead. I’ve at all times cherished that concept.”

The brewing thought got here to a boil on the finish of final yr, impressed by Bob Stane’s Espresso Gallery Backstage. In the course of the pandemic, she met a buddy for espresso there sometimes simply to get out of the home. The 2 of them peeked into the again room, the place Stane hosts stay performances.

“You open a door and there may be this lovable efficiency area,” Loh mentioned. “It is actually old school, actually homey. They have been doing music for years and years, and I assumed it will be actually enjoyable to do one thing native with every part small scale.”

Whereas plenty of individuals consider Beverly Hills or Sundown Boulevard after they consider Los Angeles, Loh is completely happy to make her present about Pasadena, Altadena and Eagle Rock, which she dubs “Eagle Rock-a-dena.”

“They’re these hilarious suburbs,” Loh mentioned. “They’re form of mild. Some have drought-resistant gardening. There’s a bit of cheese store of soy-based cheese. As an alternative of a sluggish week in Lake Wobegon, we’ll have, ‘It was a sluggish week within the ‘Denas.’ It is going to be the same, small-town feeling with hyperlocal tales and charming acoustic music.”

It is the kind of present, she mentioned, that looks like a tonic for the time, a remedy for all of the people who find themselves feeling stressed and alienated.

Just like the present on which it’s based mostly, it is going to have pretend sponsors, equivalent to Altadena Goddess Put on, Peachables and Let’s Go to Fresno.

The goddess pants are a continuation of her persona in an autobiographical humor ebook she wrote, “The Madwoman and the Roomba.”

“You may have these mild pants the place we’re not fats, we’re goddesses,” Loh mentioned. “There’s a boutique of goddess put on. It has a dusty retailer cat and has good smelling lotions and candles for when you may’t deal with the remainder of the world.”

Peachables are… one thing. It could be a cheese. It could be a fruit. It could be a snack meals. In one of many sketches, it is supplied up for the hostess confronted with one visitor who’s gluten free and one other who has a wheat allergy.

“It is for these of us who can’t face cheese with out fruit,” Loh mentioned.

The “Let’s Go to Fresno” is for many who cannot afford a luxurious trip.

Then there are homespun tales that seize the character of the ‘Denas. Loh talks about how drought gardening is an area factor.

“It’s nearly a violent factor that we debate with our neighbors over who has the higher bee, probably the most pollinator-friendly gardens,” Loh mentioned. “It is aggressive gardening that’s on a passive-aggressive stage.”

Different tales will embody arguments in Dealer Joe’s over soy milk and questions on parking or the eccentric billionaire within the hills who by no means comes out of his home. The tales will probably be advised on their fictional new public radio station, KNDA.

“The information is at all times very nice, after which there’s the climate,” Loh mentioned. “There aren’t any politics or COVID. It might be raging round us, however the information could have the climate or how somebody’s cat wandered into another person’s yard. It is a satiric, however mild, fiction.”

Then there’s the music. She’s asking her friends to carry out songs with a basic American twist — tunes which may have been heard on “The Ed Sullivan Present” or that folks might discover at hootenannies.

The friends for the primary January present are John Michael Higgins (“Pitch Good,” “Greatest in Present”), Maxayn Lewis (authentic Ikette, did Ma Rainey’s vocals in “Ma Rainey’s Black Backside”), Jim Turner (MTV’s “Randee of”) the Redwoods,” Duck’s Breath Thriller Theater), and Politzer.

Higgins, who was additionally in “A Mighty Wind,” loves doing vocal preparations. He’ll put together them for the present and herald vocalists.

“He is actually obsessive about four-part harmonies,” Loh mentioned. “He wish to do eight-part or 10-part. He has a whole vibe of being a fantastic comedic actor and is totally fascinated by multipart harmonies. I am so delighted he is agreed (to be part of the present).”

Lewis is an actor, singer and authentic solid member of “Ma Rainey’s Black Backside.” Loh mentioned she isn’t just an incredible singer however a fantastic spirit. She expects Lewis will sing “Proud Mary” amongst different songs.

Turner has ready a comedy sketch a couple of new age guru who leads a workshop for ladies solely and does it in a ridiculous approach. His character, Loh mentioned, is a little bit of a charlatan however one who is bound to earn laughs.

The exhibits are scheduled for the final Sunday of every month for the whole yr. Every present could have a unique theme, one thing that may very well be taken from an almanac. Loh says after two years of the pandemic, there’s something fantastic about making music collectively, even when we will not go to an enviornment with 10,000 individuals.

“This system is a bit of over an hour, which is ideal for COVID instances,” Loh mentioned.

“We’ll have a hootenanny on the finish the place the viewers can sing alongside. If they carry an instrument, they’ll play it. We’ll do a pair songs all collectively, and folks can sing or faucet spoons.”

“A ‘Dena Residence Companion”

WHEN: 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 30, proceed the final Sunday of every month

WHERE: Bob Stane’s Espresso Gallery Backstage, 2029 Lake Avenue, Altadena

COST: $20

INFO: 626-798-6236,

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