The Riverside Fox is back after 18 months of rest. I can confirm it because I was there.
That was Friday evening. I was right in the middle when the English band Squeeze broke the silence.
Or rather, Squeeze’s opening act, Lizzy and the Triggermen, a 40s-style hot jazz group, led by a torch singer who mixed originals with covers from Strokes, Fiona Apple and Irving Berlin, which was great fun. After them came Squeeze.
This was the first show at Fox since comedian Ali Wong on March 7, 2020.
I didn’t really intend to bring the fox back to life. That’s how it worked out, on a show I’d love to see. A straggler at Squeeze – more on that in a moment – I bought a $ 35 ticket the day before.
Small irritations such as high fees that drive up the ticket price – I paid 48 dollars, the additional 13 dollars don’t even cost me to print out a physical ticket – are just one of the rituals of going to the concert. So I looked for free parking a few blocks down, heh-heh, and then queued for security. The rituals all rushed back, the good and the bad, after almost two years without going to a concert.
My virtual ticket has been scanned. In the plush lobby, people lined up to have drinks or check out T-shirts at the merchandise stand.
It was a calming sight. So I saw all the fans running around happily, in twos or in small groups or alone like me (well, I brought a paperback), exploring the lobby or the balcony level before the start at 8 p.m.
Have you been to the fox? The 1929 theater was part of a chain that included Fox-branded movie palaces in Redlands, San Bernardino, and Pomona. Riverside hosted a test screening for Gone With the Wind in 1939. (Pomona had one for The Wizard of Oz. What a year!)
During the multiplex era, the 1,600-seat Riverside Fox auditorium became a white elephant. City Hall bought it in 2007 and began restoration work, valued at $ 32 million. In 2010 the theater reopened with a Sheryl Crow concert.
I went there a few weeks later to see the Marx Brothers “duck soup” and to see Frank Ferrante live as Groucho. It was lightly attended, maybe 400 people, but it was fun.
As a providence, I’d invited Jerry Tessier, whose family had recently renovated and reopened the 1931 Pomona Fox, to join me as a Fox lover. Eight years later he opened the very popular Riverside Food Lab next to the theater. I did not receive a finder’s fee.
Squeeze was only my second time at the Fox. (I won’t wait another 11 years before coming back.) And I’m a little surprised that I was there. Squeeze had passed me by in the early 1980s, only “Tempted” and “Black Coffee in Bed” dented my consciousness.
Then a year ago a musician friend tweeted on Squeeze’s “Pulling Mussels (From the Shell),” a Kinks-like song about a British beach holiday. And after that I heard their remarkable song, Up the Junction, which is like a three-minute novel.
With that foundation in place, I was receptive when I got a ticket notification email this summer that Squeeze would be playing at Riverside Fox. If the venue had been in LA I wouldn’t have bothered, but a night in Riverside would have been useful to me. I bought Squeeze’s hits CD to keep myself energized.
As expected, the audience consisted of many people in the 50s and 60s, but also younger people.
When Squeeze took the stage, co-founder Glenn Tilbrook said, “It’s great to see you,” sounding like a man grateful to be seen.
The band knocked out four songs without a break: “This Summer”, “Big Beng”, “Hourglass” and – Hurray – “Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)”.
Most of us were on our feet by now. “You’re fantastic. Thank you for coming,” said Tilbrook, starting with “Up the Junction”.
My night could have been complete at this point. But the band played 20 songs with little splash before returning for a three-song encore that ended with “Black Coffee in Bed.”
Squeeze certainly seemed invested in the material, even songs that were four decades old. Maybe Lockdown revived her. (May I say of your performance that you were “a tight squeeze”? Thank you.)
I’m newbie enough that it took me a while to figure out which Tilbrook and which co-founder was Chris Difford. But of the 12 songs on my hits CD, they played 11, so I had a lot of touchstones.
Now for COVID logs. It is mandatory to wear a mask for Fox staff and “strongly recommended” for unvaccinated persons. I would say less than half of the participants were masked.
I wore one for most of the evening. Breakthrough cases are relatively rare, but they do happen. And like on an airplane, there is no remote seating. Proceed on your own.
Before the show, I saw a table with two members of the Fox Riverside Theater Foundation and introduced myself. Was that the first show since the pandemic? “Yes, that’s it. We’re going up slowly,” Ruthan Smith told me. “Jeffrey Osborne is tomorrow night, the Monkees next Friday.”
The schedule fills up with at least one event a week: tribute acts, mariachi music, Broadway-style shows, and name musicians. The last event on the current schedule sounds good to me: Boz Scaggs, June 5, 2022.
I can be back by then. Smith later charmingly emailed me to tell me she was sure she spotted me at Osborne’s concert, so maybe I can convincingly pretend I’m with everyone.
La Gran Fiesta in Fontana on Saturday celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month in a big way with name artists you wouldn’t expect at a free, city-sponsored event. Las Cafeteras, a popular folk fusion band, will be headlined by Ballet Folklórico de Los Ángeles, known for “Coco” ties, and Mariachi Garibaldi de Jaime Cuéllar, who supported Ranchera queen Aida Cuevas. These performances and more take place from 5pm to 8pm at Miller Park Amphitheater, 17004 Arrow Blvd. Bring a lounge chair or blanket – but if you want to dance for three hours, do the same.
On Wednesday, Friday and Sunday David Allen sits still. Email [email protected], phone 909-483-9339, like davidallencolumnist on Facebook, and follow @ davidallen909 on Twitter.