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315 W. Main Street • Downtown Merced


The Players PUBLISHER: Tom Price ASSOC. PUBLISHER: Janna Rodriguez CONTENT EDITOR: Nathan Quevedo WEB GURU: Kenneth Nelson


Merced Symphony takes on a heroes quest. Page 12

DISTRIBUTION: Donna Nelson CONTRIBUTING WRITERS & EDITORS: Nathan Quevedo, Jim Kocher, K Chico, Theresa Hong, Amber Kirby and Montse Reyes. CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER: Dan Hong, Roger J. Wyan and Drew Renyolds.

Zig and Zag

Set and costume designer uses skills to open new retail spot. Page 16

The Cover COVER: Pinback

Tribute to Etta

Lockett pays to tribute to legend at Multicultural Arts Center


Page 20

Food Find

A look at Downtown’s newest pizza joint, Gionni’s Bros. Pizza. Page 22


Issue 51 Volume 4

San Diego based rock band to play at Merced Theatre. Page 28

SUBSCRIBE Would you like to get 12 issues of the Downtown Life Magazine delivered to your house for just $25? You will receive Merced County’s premier entertainment, culture and event publication right in your mailbox along with a host of gifts from the DLM and deals from local sponsors and advertisers.




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January 18

January 18 The Art Hop


What: Quarerly Downtown art walk Time: 5 to 9 p.m. Location: Downtown Merced Info:

What: 2nd at Best Time: 7 p.m. Location Gottchalk Music Info: Facebook

January 18 Pinback

January 24-26 Wizard of Oz What: MC Theater Time: 7 p.m. Fri,Sat; 2 p.m. on Sunday Location: Merced College Theater Info: Facebook

What: Pinback in Concert with Awahnichi Time: 7 p.m. Location: Merced Theatre Info:

January 24

January 25 Symphony

Cabaret XI

What: Merced Symphony Winter Pops Concert Time: 7:30 p.m. Location: Merced Theatre Info:

What: Wildly Inappropriate dance, poetry, vocals and scenes Time: 7 p.m. Location: Playhouse Merced Info: Facebook

January 31

February 8 Islands What: Islands with Awahnichis Time: 8 p.m. Location: The Partisan Info: Facebook

Etta James What: Cheryl Lockett tribute to Etta James Time: 7:30 p.m. Location: Arts Center Info: Facebook


Islands Art Hop Billy Dean

Islands When: January 31, 2014 Where: The Partisan Cost: $7 Info: Photo by Todd Weaver Islands (pictured) will be performing on Jan. 31 at the Partisan with local artist Awahnichi.

Islands to make stop at Partisan on West Coast tour


ick Thornburn’s postUnicorns band, Islands, will be performing at the Partisan January 31 as part of its nine-stop West Coast Tour.

September of 2013. Islands always walks the line between serious and foolish with their clever lyrics and light instrumentation. Paste Magazine had this to say about the new album and the band. “That’s the beauty of The Canadian bred, and Islands; no matter how somber now Los Angeles based the songwriting, the band’s band have been pounding twinkling instrumentation the pavement in support along with Thorburn’s falsetto of their new album Ski makes the end product a Mask, which was released in pleasant one.”

Doors for the Partisan concert open at 8 p.m. Cover charge for the show is $7. For more information, visit www.partisanmerced. com.For more information on the band, visit www.

The Jump visit for a full list of events coming to Merced in January and February

Art Hop kicks off new year Jan. 18 in Downtown Merced


he Art Hop, Downtown Merced’s wildly popular walkable art art exhibit that places artists in dozens of businesses as well as musicians and other interactive entertainment along the streets, revs up for another year from 5 to 9 p.m. on Jan. 18. 10

The quarterly event is going on its sixth season of promoting art and business in Merced. Artists from nearly every genre imaginable participate and display their work inside of a Downtown business. The artists typically are on-hand to answer questions about their work and promote themselves. The Art Hop is a volunteer-based

organization. For more information on the Art Hop and to see how you can participate or help, visit their Facebook page or website at www.

The Jump visit for a full list of events coming to Merced in January and February

Contributed Photo Billy Dean (pictured) performa with local artists Cottonwood Creek on Feb. 7 at the Merced Theatre. For more invormation, visit,

Billy Dean and Cottonwood Creek at Merced Theatre


ountry star Billy Dean will be performing with local artists Cottonwood Creek on Feb.7 at the Merced Theatre. Dean is an award-winning artist with a destinct sound that has established him as a force in the Country Music scene. Dean was produced from the epicenter of country music — Tennessee. His insightful songwriting, clear and distinctive voice, and masterful instrumental gifts have earned him countless accolades and countless devoted fans. He has transcended genres with his unique repertoire earning

numerous awards, including the Academy of Country Music’s Song of the Year for “Somewhere In My Broken Heart” andACM New Male Vocalist of The Year, After 12 albums and 11 Top 10 singles spanning over a period of 18 years, Dean has founded the publishing company BDMG (Billy Dean

Music Group) and continues to make contributions to the Country Music world. He will be performing with popular local musicians Cottonwood Creek, which features Maggie Watkins and Scott Patrick Little. The show starts at 8 p.m. on Feb. 7 at the Merced Theatre. Tickets are $15 to $25 depending on seat location. For more information or to buy tickets, visis the Merced theatre website at or THEDLM.COM


Photo ©2014 Roger J. Wyan Photography Musical Director Henrik Jul Hansen conducts the Merced Symphony Orchestra’s performance of Edvard Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor at the Merced Theatre.


Heroes vs. Villains Merced Symphony brings music from the big screen to the Merced Theatre Jan. 24 Words by Tom Price


ll good stories need a hero and a villain. And a good story becomes legendary when it is given an epic soundtrack.

The Merced Symphony is pitting good vs. evil with its winter performance Heroes vs. Villains January 24 at the Merced Theatre. “We wanted to find a theme that would appeal to a wide audience,” says Judy Edwina Smith, president of the Merced Symphony Board. “The discussion centered around everyday heroes, like police, firemen, our armed forces, and the farmers and ranchers who feed the world.” Music Director Henrik Jul Hansen was tasked with finding music that would represent heroes overcoming the odds and conquering the villains. And he’s delivered with tunes from “Magnificent Seven,” “North by Northwest,” and “West Side Story.” Jul Hansen says these epic pieces and the

many others selected for the show tell the good, bad and ugly of life. “These heroes are most essential to our society and to living, but there are other sides to the fabric of life. Betrayal, deceit, robbery, even murder are also part of human experience, and nowhere is this better portrayed than in our great American movies,” says Jul Hansen. “This concert deals with the age-old battle between good and evil, not in the obvious sense of Superman vs. Darth Vader, but more as a journey through a psychological thriller, swirling through irresistible corners of the human psyche.” All the drama from the big screen will be brought to life with an incredible THEDLM.COM


ensemble of musicians that include concertmaster Heather Powell, Juilliard graduate, flautist Laurel Zucker, trumpet player Gary Dilworth and a special performance from local vocalist Cheryl Lockett. “Lockett is a household name and she does not need any special introduction,” says Jul Hansen. “Nevertheless, it’s the soulful sound of her voice that is so captivating and adds substance to a concert.” Organizers hope the inclusion of familiar names like Lockett’s and familiar songs like the theme from Magnificent Seven will broaden the reach of the symphony. Edwina Smith says that our heroes in the symphony are battling more


than the villains, they also have to battle misconceptions about symphony performances. “Often people say they “don’t like” classical music, because they haven’t grown up listening to the classics. After attending a Merced Symphony performance, these same folks are blown away by the music and many become regular attendees,” she says. “Orchestras play it all—classical, Broadway, Jazz, Blues, Country & Western, movie soundtracks, and even Rock and Roll. In fact, many rock stars began as classically trained musicians. I hope we are able to draw a more diverse group to this concert.” Smith says she would pit the collection of musicians

performing in the Merced Symphony against any other in California. What they may lack In numbers compared to say the symphony in San Francisco, she says they make up for with the quality. “This is fantastic programming that you cannot hear elsewhere,” says Edwina Smith. “We are so fortunate to have such a high level of talented musicians who choose to perform for our community. Few small cities can boast of having a cultural icon like the Merced Symphony in their towns.” Doors for the Jan. 24 show at the Merced Theatre open at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $39 for adults, $14 for students. Tickets can be purchased at

© 2014 License 0358327

Doing Business Right Over 100 Years th

725 W. 18 Street, Merced (209) 722-1541 •


Visit 309 W. Main Street • Merced



Photo by Dan Hong Corey Strauss, owner of Zig and Zag, poses in front of his new retail store, which opened on Jan. 7.



Wo rds the by T res h a@ eres the dlm a Hon .co m g


hen a person thinks of Merced, high fashion is probably not the first thing that comes to mind. House of Zig and Zag owner Corey Strauss, however, is looking to change this perception.



“I wanted to give people a place to shop that’s affordable and different.” “Fashion,” he says, “has no rules in our store.” With a keen eye for fashion and the ability to take an ordinary piece of clothing and make it extraordinary, Strauss is changing Merced’s fashion landscape, offering vintage and retro clothing with the option of modification, ensuring a oneof-a-kind outfit no one else will have. “I wanted to give people a place to shop that’s affordable and different while giving them the option to make a piece their own,” said Strauss. “Zig and Zag has so many great pieces ready to wear right off the rack, but style is so subjective and one little alteration or addition can completely change the whole look, making it a creation that is solely yours.” Strauss says his goal is to offer one-of-a-kind, retro, new and used clothing, jewelry, bags, shoes and other accessories, as well as a place to showcase local artists and designers. What’s more, he, along with Zig and Zag employee Megan Ward, work as personal shoppers and stylists, paying close attention to a person’s individual style, as well as body shape and other factors that could make or break an outfit. “When you come into

Photos by Dan Hong Left: A group of shoppers enjoy the grand opening of Zig and Zag in Downtown Merced on Canal Street. Above: Owner, Corey Strauss flashes a smile to the camera during the opening of his new retail store House of Zig and Zag.

the store, we personally pull and style items that you will fall in love with,” Strauss explained. “I see it all of the time – sometimes a person has no idea how to dress for his or her body type and while that person may think something won’t work, inevitably, it does — and that’s what I love about Zig and Zag — we want to

make you look and feel your absolute best.” Prices are affordable — ranging from about $7 to $20 and Strauss says the store will continually be stocked with new merchandise. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 12:30 to 6:30 p.m. House of Zig and Zag is located at 1708 Canal Street.

Photo ©2014 Roger J. Wyan Photography Cheryl Lockett will perform a tribute concert — The Blues of Etta James — on February 8 at the Multicultural Arts Center. For more information visit her Facebook page.

Blues of Etta Cheryl Lockett pays tribute to legendary voice Words by Tom Price


heryl Lockett remembers the music bouncing off the walls of her childhood house. There was Aretha Franklin, Patsy Cline, Mahalia Jackson, Billie Holiday — and then there was Etta James. James, an R&B and soul singer whose career spanned the better part of five decades left a lasting impact on Lockett. 20

“What attracts me to Etta James is the soul of her sound that is emanated from the gut,” says Lockett, a professional vocalist who will be performing a tribute to Etta James and her Blues on Feb. 8 at the Multicultural Arts Center. “Why I chose the Etta James tribute over the other

tributes of the legendary artists in my repertoire is because it resonates with the demographics of the people within society.” The one song in James’ vast catalog that stands out the most for Lockett is “Something’s Got a Hold on Me,” written by James, Leroy Kirkland and Pearl Woods in 1962. “That song title was also the same song title that was sung in African American churches, describing a feeling that one felt after encountering the rain of the Holy Spirit during worship,” says Lockett. “I had an instant connection with that song.” Lockett has been performing tribute concerts in California since 1997

with turns honoring James and Holiday from Merced and Fresno to Roseville and Newman. The February show at the Multicultural Arts Center will be an intimate affair in the cozy black box theater. “The Arts Center is indeed an intimate venue and from a performer’s perspective in many cases, it enhances a connection with the audience because the audience feels up close and personal with the performers,” says Lockett. “Another cool thing about the venue is that it is a central communal hub that draws people from all over to the community to one centralized locale.” Lockett is no stranger to the music scene in Merced.

She is the daughter of a founding member of the legendary Blue Notes from Merced, which is a grooveoriented sextet of the 50’s and 60’s era. She’s carrying the torch today with her solo performances and collaborations. She will be singing with the Merced Symphony on January 24 at the Merced Theatre. Lockett is also planning the release of her long awaited album of original material. Tickets for the show are $25 and can be purchased at www.brownpapertickets. com (just search for Cheryl Lockett) or by calling Lockett’s voice studio at (209) 720-4997. Doors for the Feb. 8 show open at 7 p.m.



Gionni and Bros. 433 W. Main Street Downtown Merced (209) 261-9664

Garlic Chicken & Veggie

What is it? 18-inch half/half pizza with the Garlic Chicken (white sauce, chicken, tomato, green onions and bacon) and the Vegetarian (white sauce, mushrooms, tomato, onions, cucumber and artichoke) How much is it?$4.20 slice/$18 full


What is it? Combination pizza (salami, linguica, mushrooms, onions, olives, tomatos, bellpeppers, ham and sausage) How much is it?$4.20 slice/$18 full

Meat Lovers

What is it? Meat Lovers Pizza (salami, pepperoni, ham and bacon). . How much is it?$4.20 slice/$18 ful





Power of collaboration New project focuses on interdisciplinary thinking


Words by K Chico

rin Mutch is an exceedingly practical woman. As the lab manager for the brand-new SPARC (Spatial Analysis and Research Center) laboratory at UC Merced, she has ample opportunity to make good use of this trait. Brought on to consult on the new project, UC Merced is trying to build a program from the ground up, avoiding as many mistakes as possible by learning from older campuses and projects. Mutch, with many years of experience with similar 24

projects in locations throughout the United States, does not describe her main function of facilitating academic collaboration as herding cats. Although apparently, the SPARC lab has been unique in her eyes, if only because

of the attitude behind it. “I’ve started a lot of programs with nothing, but here I have more support than I could ever imagine. There’s help everywhere, so I can focus on making a stateof-the-art facility,” she says. A research center, which

the SPARC lab is growing to be, is a fancy term for a place where exceedingly clever people bounce ideas off of each other and see what sticks. It’s a slightly less prosaic term than ‘think tank’ which seems to be the domain of corporations. It’s a good idea on paper, and it is already doing well. Unlike most other locations, funded through various grants, SPARC at UC Merced is entirely core-funded. It’s a seed facility, designed to support the whole university. It’s not coming from an outside source of funding, although it is likely that grants and donations will follow. What happens when you throw a mathematician, a historian, and representatives from a dozen other fields into a big room along with a knotty problem? Well, UC Merced is seeing what happens when you shake the box. And what a pretty box it is. There are 1200 square feet, 12 work stations, the LCD screen will be installed soon. The next toy will be a peripheral format room, which will include a 60inch, 5-foot photo-quality plotter, so they can handle large displays, and scanning historical maps. There’s also an agreement with the library for use of book scanning, but this will be used for a variety of applications. They’re working with the campus’ Information Technology center for finding places for their terabytes of data. If the amount of

information I’m talking about doesn’t impress you, dear reader, please go watch a movie. Yes, right now. I’ll wait here. Done? Lovely. Now, do that every day for the rest of this year, and you will have watched a little more than a single terabyte of data. The researchers at SPARC are trying to find a place for quite a bit more than that. The original idea came from a trio of the aforementioned exceedingly clever people, all from different fields. Qinghua Guo, an associate professor at the school of engineering, and an expert in Geographical Information Science (GIS); Ruth Mostern, a founding faculty member and noted historian and author, and Shawn Newsam, a computer scientist who has already won multiple accolades, including the National Science Foundation’s Faculty Early Career Development Award. The SPARC lab, among other things, intends to address a need-to patch a hole where all the wasted data is going. Almost everything in modern life at least partially depends on GIS. It’s how the post office decides efficient routes, how your trash collection is organized. Everything you do on your phone or computer generates a vast amount of information, and there’s a lot that just seems to vanish. One of the biggest problems is wasted information, data that

no one has written down, or the biggie, ‘proprietary information.’ No, not private personal information, that’s another, safely defended box. Proprietary information is just general data that someone, somewhere, decided might someday be useful to a company, and they sit on it, not allowing anyone else to make use of it. “We’re trying to expand the use of this information to more people-researchers, city councilman, everyone,” Says Mutch. An example of stupidly restricted information is old infrastructure maps. Mutch has a charming story about a family with an old manhole underneath their living room, leftover from decades previously, because there was no exchange of information between the old city planners and new housing developments. The DLM and the UC Merced library are collaborating on an exhibit, open to the public, for those interested in modern information and how it is used. We encourage anyone to attend and ask questions, and will announce the dates of the reception and length of the exhibit in the coming weeks at After all, as Mutch says: “How do you get things done with an organization, when a decision-maker doesn’t understand it? Especially when educating people about it, there can be a lot of issues.” THEDLM.COM


Photo by Dan Hong Sandra Overton, new owner of Holistic Xchange, performs a skin treatment on DLM writer Theresa Hong.

Holistic Xchange Words by Theresa Hong


nother year, another wrinkle (although I prefer the term “laugh lines”), at least that’s my mantra as time marches on a bit too quickly.

That’s why when Sandra Overton, licensed vocational nurse and new owner of Holistic Xchange, approached me about getting a facial, I was definitely intrigued. And as someone who never received any type of professional skin treatment and a My heart and soul is losing the battle with beauty regimen consisting of soap and the my physical bag of bones and skin — while cheapest brand of cocoa butter, I thought it I may feel young, the mirror tells quite a was worth a try. different story — a roadmap of journeys But I had questions. Would I break out? ranging from joy and pain, and everything Would I experience an allergic reaction in between. That said, my face is my own or break out in horrific red bumps like so personal story and I wear it with pride. I many others I’ve spoken to who have told don’t mind aging, however, as my mortality me their not-so-pleasant facial story? begins to show, I am among the millions of “No,” said Overton. “I’ve created women who don’t mind a little help here treatments that are strong enough to give and there to circumvent the process. you the results you want without causing 26

adverse reactions.” Having awesome skin herself, along with the Yelp testimonials praising her magic potions and touch, I booked an appointment. When I arrived, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Lying down a massage-like table, she pinned back what little hair I have and began working. To prove a point, she began working on only one side of my face. “I want you to see the difference,” she explained. And boy, was there a difference. Handing me a mirror, I looked at my face with scrutiny. There was an immediate difference. The lines on the left side of my face were visibly smoother and I swear I was glowing. It

was amazing. What’s more, it felt really good, too. I was in heaven. She scrubbed and then placed some kind of a proprietary mask on my face. This, she said, stays on my face for 15 minutes. Expecting her to leave the room while the mask miraculously erased my wrinkles, I closed my eyes. What I didn’t expect was the awesome hand and arm massage. It was so relaxing, I almost fell asleep, but I had more questions. Like, why did Overton and her partner, Ernie Carrillo, owner of E & J Auto Repair, decide to take Holistic Xchange over. “I’ve worked here for a while now and I saw such great potential,” she said.

“When the original owner decided to step down, I told Ernie I wanted to run the place. We created a plan and went for it.” Since becoming owner, Overton said she has seen her client base increase in all services — yoga, massage, pole dancing, belly dancing and skin care — so much so, she is currently in the process of expanding and adding services. “We always provided a great range of professional services and programs, so it’s really nice to see more and more clients walk through our doors,” she explained. To make an appointment or for more information on services, class times and more, call (209) 726-9762.



Words by Tom Price

Photo by Drew Renyolds



inback is like that misunderstood kid in high school with the mismatched shoes, tattered Slayer t-shirt and unkempt hair. He’s confident, carefree and a somewhat of a mystery. People are intrigued; others follow him like a cult leader and many think he’s from a different planet. Most importantly though — that kid doesn’t care whether you love him or hate him. Pinback has been producing its patient, calculated and unconventional music for nearly 15 years and have developed their own niche in the indie music universe.

people seem to like it,” says Crow. “We are constantly trying to create happy accidents. We are pretty different people in our tastes and in most things in general. We are just trying to create an hour worth of material that both of us enjoy playing.” Touring with the band’s latest album Information Retrieved (released in October 2012) — the duo’s eighth album —Pinback will be performing with Merced’s Awahnichi at 8:30 p.m. on January 18 at the Merced Theatre. Crow, 42, has no problem staying busy and staying on the road. In addition to Pinback, he is in a handful of other bands including Goblin Cock, Thingy and Optigonally Yours, while Smith is the bassist in Three Mile Pilot and has a solo project called Systems Officer. “We are constantly on the road,” says Crow. “I like it that way. I enjoy being able to do both things — put out as many records as possible and travel to as many places as I can.” Their January tour has them traveling from the Casbah in San Diego to the El Rey in Los Angeles and all the way up to Bimbo’s 365 in San Francisco. The stop in Merced is off their regular tour route, but location Crow is looking forward to.

“I don’t really care what people think as long as I enjoy what I’m doing and people seem to like it. We are constantly trying to create happy accidents. We are pretty different people in our tastes and in most things in general. We are just trying to create an hour worth of material that both of us enjoy playing.” —Rob Crow The principals — lead singer/guitarist Rob “At some point it becomes sort of blur with Crow and vocalist/bassist Zach Smith have a all the places you’ve been,” says Crow. “Every simple code when it comes to their work. once in a while it’s nice to throw a few extra “I don’t really care what people think things in there whenever you can.” as long as I enjoy what I’m doing and Promoter RC Essig has hoped to bring THEDLM.COM


Contributed Photo Pinback, a San Diego-based rock band, will be headlining a show on Jan. 18 at the Merced Theatre. For more information and tickets, visit

Pinback to Merced for more the better part of a decade. “I’ve been trying to get Pinback to come to Merced for years and with the Merced Theatre now open I have a proper room for them to play in,” says Essig, who in addition to booking shows at the theatre currently books concerts at The Partisan. Crow says the Pinback live show is adaptable to any venue and says when the band plays in large theatre spaces they add a visual component to the show. On a large projector screen behind the band, their songs come to life with stick-figure animation produced by Crow. Crow has a major presence on stage, often sporting a massive beard, shorts and 30

tall boots in stark contrast to Smith’s casual V-neck t-shirts and blue jeans. Crow has been known to crowd surf, like he did at the Catalyst in Santa Cruz last year. Musically, however, there is no mistaking the chemistry. The two weave their contrasting styles together to create a robust and dramatic sound. “We always wanted to create our own kind of thing,” says Crow. “It takes a while for us to finish an album, but we end up creating something that neither of us would have expected.” Another signature of a Pinback tour is the lineup of unique and surprising opening bands. Merced’s Awahnichi fits

that bill. They are a gentle three-piece band that spins yarns about animals, love and death. They can hush large crowds with their meaningful stories and bring them to their feet with songs packed with tension that eventually erupt with energy. “We definitely pick them out. I love messed up or fun bands that people would enjoy if more people got to check them out,” says Crow. “And this way I get to seem them too.” Tickets for the January 18 show are $20 and can be purchased at mercedtheatre.og. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show starts at 8:30 p.m.

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The Merced Active 20-30 Club organized the annual Downtown Christmas Parade. This year there was 85 floats that cruised down Main Street with thousands of onlookers crowding the streets.


CHRISTMAS PARADE Downtown Merced, December 7, 2013 Photos by Dan Hong





©2013 A-B, Bud Light® Platinum Lager (Ale in OR & TX), St. Louis, MO



©2013 Latrobe Brewing Co., Rolling Rock® Beer, St. Louis, MO

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