Music: Zoo Front plays Thurs., Apr. 18, with special guest Mara & the Dead Batteries

Indie rock group Zoo Front plays Best Video Performance Space on Thursday, Apr. 18. Mara & The Dead Batteries will be a special guest on some songs.  The show starts at 8 PM and the cover is a sliding scale of $5-10 (pay what you can in that range).

The last couple of years have been busy ones for Zoo Front. Their CD Red Stereo Dress marked the beginning of a new era for the band, with Nancie Tief making her singing and songwriting debut. Adding to the fun, they adopted a new working philosophy they call ABM – “ambient background mischief.” The idea is to add a subliminal track to each song that somehow fills out the sound in a way that defies definition. The personnel is Ed Ekendu (Guitar), Nancie Tief (Guitar),  Lisa Tonner (Drums) and Ju Dee Luna (bass).

Laura from Mara & The Dead Batteries will be sitting in on cello on a couple of the songs.

Click here for the complete list of upcoming events.

Music: DeCoster, Karen Hogg perform Wed., Apr. 17

Singer-songwriter DeCoster and eclectic acoustic performer Karen Hogg play Best Video Performance Space on Wednesday, Apr. 17. The show starts at 8 PM and the cover is $10.

DECOSTER is the musical project of singer/songwriter Paul DeCoster. Based in Brooklyn, NY, he combines the elements of adult contemporary pop from Bryan Adams to Shawn Mendes with elements of progressive rock like Rush. His writing style, much like the themes of his upcoming album “Universe”, covers worlds beyond and within. He performs frequently in the Northeast with percussionist Rich Kulsar who adds elements of world beat to the mix.

Multi-instrumentalist Karen Hogg is a prolific performer, author, and educator. Her influences are wide-ranging with a foundation in American Roots music. One might hear anything from Norman Blake to the Beatles to an Iron Maiden song re-imagined as a cowboy tune during her sets. A sought-after side-person as a mandolinist and a lead guitarist, Karen plays with several groups, including Flint Ladder. She’ll be taking center stage for this performance at Best Video, playing a rare solo set.

Hogg also has a deep interest in the roots of American music, from a historical, cultural, and musical perspective. In 2015, Karen received her master’s degree in Folk Studies/Folklore from Western Kentucky University. She is currently delving into the catalogue of murder ballads, both as repertoire and cultural signifiers. This research will culminate in a concert on the next International Women’s Day, March 8th, 2020, at First Church in Middletown, titled The Murder Ballad Project: Reframing Songs of Violence. Hogg will be joined by other women performers, exploring what these songs mean in a modern-day context.

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Music: Naomi Sommers & Lisa Bastoni —aka The Gray Sky Girls—play reunion show Sat., Apr. 13

Naomi Sommers and Lisa Bastoni reunite as The Gray Sky Girls for a concert at Best Video Performance Space on Saturday, Apr. 13. The show starts at 8 PM and the cover is $10.

Naomi Sommers and Lisa Bastoni are two accomplished singer-songwriters in the folk/americana genre. As their “slow grass” duo, Gray Sky Girls, Naomi and Lisa play an engaging mix of traditional and original tunes, with sweet harmonies accompanied by guitar, mandolin and banjo.

With roots in bluegrass, the blues, jazz, traditional folk, and old-time country, singer/songwriter Naomi Sommers is committed to the life of an aspiring musician, always more to learn and do! She grew up in a New England home full of music and instruments, and still performs regularly with her parents and brother in the Sommers Rosenthal Family Band.

Since 2002, Naomi has released three solo CDs on her father’s (bluegrass musician and and record producer Phil Rosenthal) independent label, American Melody Records. In 2004 she was a New Folk songwriting finalist at the Kerrville Folk Festival in Texas. In 2006 she and Lisa Bastoni released a mesmerizing CD, Gray Sky Girls, with an organic, old time “slowgrass” feel. Two years later, Naomi released an album recorded in Nashville, produced by the acclaimed musician/producer Jim Rooney (John Prine, Iris Dement, Nanci Griffith, Bonnie Raitt). She is thrilled and honored to have worked with many of Nashville’s finest musicians, along with her friends and family to have created this collection of songs called Gentle As The Sun. Most recently in 2016, Naomi and her father and brother (trumpeter/producer Daniel Rosenthal) recorded “Down the Road”, a family trio album featuring re-makes of some trad bluegrass songs, as well as several original songs by Phil, Naomi and Daniel.

Following a ten year break from music, a career change, and two children, Lisa Bastoni has returned with The Wishing Hour (2017). Produced by Grammy-nominated songwriter and producer Felix McTeigue (Anais Mitchell/Lori McKenna), the album debuted as #1 most played on Boston’s WUMB.

In the past year, Lisa has been selected to showcase at the New England Regional Folk Alliance (NERFA) conference, as well as the Falcon Ridge and New Song Music/LEAF Festivals. Her song “Rabbit Hole” was grand prize winner of the Great American Song Contest. She has opened for artists such as Lori McKenna, The Low Anthem, Regina Spektor and Arlo Guthrie. “Americana of the highest order…along the lines of Gretchen Peters or Patty Griffin” (Maverick-UK).

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Music: Guitarist Jim Hurst plays in a GuitarTownCT show Fri., Apr. 12, at 7:30 PM

Guitarist Jim Hurst plays Best Video Performance Space on Friday, Apr. 12. The show starts at 7:30 PM. Advance tickets are $25 and are available through

To listen to Jim Hurst is to be amazed by his tasteful and flawless performances. Perfect timing and tone and his unusual picking style has enchanted guitar players from the novice to his peers. It’s no surprise, then, that his musical mastery began with a musical upbringing paving the way for a winding and varied career path.

After a solid career touring and recording with Country and Bluegrass artists—Holly Dunn, Sara Evans, Trisha Yearwood and Claire Lynch—Jim decided in 2010 to embark on a solo career. Already seasoned with seven recordings, Open Window, Second Son, A Box of Chocolates, Intrepid, Looking Glass, Atlantic Crossing (duet recording w/Roberto Dalla Vecchia), and JHT-1 (from his Jim Hurst Trio), these exhibit his diverse and deft guitar work and soothing vocals. His shows meet with rave reviews as he astounds his audiences with his brilliant playing yet makes people feel right at home with his humble congenial and funny persona. Jim is currently performing solo full time and with his Jim Hurst Trio, both nationally and internationally, as well as teaching at camps and workshops in North America and Europe. Additionally, his highly sought-after talent has led to side projects with other bluegrass greats such as Claire Lynch, and David Grisman.

But his solo show and his Jim Hurst Trio, which allows his personal style and unique creativity to come through in spades, is what keeps his audiences mesmerized.

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Music: Chrissy Gardner & Robert Messore team up to offer acoustic soul Thurs., Apr. 11

Chrissy Gardner and Robert Messore bring their version of acoustic soul to the Best Video Performance Space on Thursday, Apr. 11. The music starts at 8 PM and the cover charge is a sliding scale of $5-10 (pay what you can in that range).

Chrissy Gardner is a singer-songwriter originally from Chicago, IL. Whether from behind a piano, holding a guitar or standing at the front of the stage with mic in hand, she belts out her tunes in a style that is often compared to both classic and contemporary singer/songwriters, but also has real shades of hard rocking Blues and R&B. On stage, Chrissy can effectively convey the depth of meaning in her music with her passionate voice and genuinely sophisticated and romantic piano playing, but when the time comes to get the crowd up and dancing, she can rock as hard as anyone.

Robert Messore (meh-sor’-ee) has been called “Connecticut’s finest fingerstyle guitarist.” He plays beautiful instrumental guitar music and he is noted for composing tuneful pieces that work well as music, and not simply as fancy guitar playing. Robert has been called “the Heart of the New Haven Folk Scene” for his vital and many-faceted contributions as solo performer, side man, recording artist, teacher and concert presenter (working on several concert series and the Connecticut Folk Festival).

When Chrissy Gardner and Robert Messore get together, their performances are full of vulnerability, triumph, and joy. Chrissy effortlessly embodies the spirits of soul, folk and contemporary music through her masterful songwriting and her shape-shifting voice that in one phrase can be as delicate and lovely as Joni Mitchell and in the next express the heart and soul of Janis Joplin. Robert has passionately devoted himself to the guitar for 30+ years and was voted Best Instrumentalist in a New Haven Advocate readers’ poll. Together, Chrissy and Robert make a kind of acoustic soul music that is sheer bliss.

Click here for the complete list of upcoming events.

New releases 4/2/19

Top Hits
Vice (Dick Cheney bio-pic, Christian Bale. Rotten Tomatoes: 66%. Metacritic: 61. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “It will break no news and spoil nobody’s fun to note that [director Adam] McKay is not a fan of his protagonist. His argument is essentially that much of what critics of the current president fear most — the erosion of democratic norms; the manufacture of ‘alternative facts’; the rise of an authoritarian executive branch — already came to pass when George W. Bush was in office. But ‘Vice”’offers more than Yuletide rage-bait for liberal moviegoers, who already have plenty to be mad about. Revulsion and admiration lie as close together as the red and white stripes on the American flag, and if this is in some respects a real-life monster movie, it’s one that takes a lively and at times surprisingly sympathetic interest in its chosen demon.” Read more…)

The Mule (drama, Clint Eastwood. Rotten Tomatoes: 70%. Metacritic: 58. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “‘The Mule’ was inspired by a startling 2014 article in The New York Times Magazine by Sam Dolnick, ‘There’s a True Story Behind “The Mule”: The Sinaloa Cartel’s 90-Year-Old Drug Mule.’ The mule was Leo Sharp, a World War II veteran and great-grandfather who came across in news accounts as an unsolved puzzle. Working from Nick Schenk’s script, [director/star Clint] Eastwood fills in the portrait of his mule with creative license, characteristic dry humor and a looseness that seems almost completely untethered from the world of murderous cartels. There’s also some political editorializing and a flirtation with Eastwoodian autocritique.” Read more…)

BumbleBee (family action/adventure, Hailee Steinfeld. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. Metacritic: 66. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “Can a ‘Transformers’ movie be good? It turns out the answer is yes — if the right talent is given enough leeway. The latest, ‘Bumblebee,’ is the sixth in the franchise. As directed by Travis Knight, an animator who made his directorial debut with the striking 2016 animated film ‘Kubo and the Two Strings,’ ‘Bumblebee’ is cleverly plotted, neatly allusive and has dialogue you can envision real people and, um, real Transformers speaking.” Read more…)

Mortal Engines (adventure, Hera Hilmar. Rotten Tomatoes: 27%. Metacritic: 44. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “But the guiding model for the plot — rebel alliances, secret family histories, London as a terrestrial Death Star — is almost certainly ‘Star Wars,’ whose knockoffs are so numerous that it seems useless to dock points for effort. As these things go, ‘Mortal Engines’ offers a fair amount of fun.” Read more…)

The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot (action/absurdity, Sam Elliott. Rotten Tomatoes: 75%. Metacritic: 50. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “‘The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot’ revives an exploitation film tradition, in which a sensational title hooks viewers for a movie that’s all windup and no pitch. The writer and director, Robert D. Krzykowski, even appears to have leaned into the concept, turning false advertising into a motif. The man [Sam Elliott], hunting for the Bigfoot, drawls that his average-footed prey is ‘not really living up to its name.'” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
The Mule
Mortal Engines

New Foreign DVDs
Capernaum (Lebanon, Oscar-nominated drama, Zain al Raffea. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 75. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “‘Capernaum,’ Nadine Labaki’s hectic and heartbreaking new film, borrows its name from an ancient city condemned to hell, according to the Book of Matthew, by Jesus himself. The word has since become a synonym for chaos, and modern Beirut as captured by Ms. Labaki’s camera is a teeming vision of the inferno, a place without peace, mercy or order.” Read more…)

The Mafia Kills Only in Summer (Italy, dark comedy/drama, Pierfrancesco Diliberto. Rotten Tomatoes: 63%. Metacritic: 62. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “The best that can be said for the Italian television host Pierfrancesco Diliberto — as far as his comic, feature-film debut is concerned — is that he’s not nearly as annoying as Roberto Benigni. Granted, that’s a very low bar to clear. But as the director, star, narrator and one writer of ‘The Mafia Kills Only in Summer,’ Mr. Diliberto (known as Pif) must bear most of the responsibility for the movie’s clashing tones and penciled-in characters.” Read more…)

Antonio Gaudí (Japan, 1984, documentary/architecture/visual poem. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Stephen Holden’s 1998 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “If any film could be described as an architectural symphony, it is Hiroshi Teshigahara’s 1984 movie, ‘Antonio Gaudi.’ The film, which begins a one-week engagement today at the Walter Reade Theater, takes a sweeping look at the revolutionary Spanish Art Nouveau architect’s work, which is centered in Barcelona. Using few spoken words and relying mostly on sketchy biographical subtitles to tell Gaudi’s story, the film is a visual rhapsody enhanced with music and sound effects created by the renowned Japanese film composer Toru Takemitsu and two collaborators.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
I Wanna Hold Your Hand (1978, comedy, Criterion Collection, Nancy Allen. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. From Janet Maslin’s 1978 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The gimmick behind ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’ is the fact that you never actually see the Beatles; the genius of the film is the fact that you never miss them. Their likenesses turn up everywhere, plastered on record jackets and tacked on doors and walls, and their music is continually in the air. At the end of the movie, which revolves around the group’s first appearance on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show,’ the sneakiness with which the neophyte director Robert Zemeckis skirts the issue is positively dazzling. The Beatles are both there and not there, and the paradox hardly even matters.” Read more…)

Flirt (1995, Hal Hartley romance, Martin Donovan. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%. From Stephen Holden’s 1995 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “You might describe ‘Flirt,’ Hal Hartley’s smart, sexy, wafer-light new movie, as a jauntily romantic theme and variations on young love, international style. Hopscotching from New York to Berlin to Tokyo, the film flaunts the perilously cute concept of telling the same story in three different places with three sets of characters speaking three different languages. Watching the movie is like eating ice cream — or is it ice milk? — in three different flavors: vanilla, chocolate and green tea. They go together nicely.” Read more…)

New British DVDs
The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco (BBC mystery series transplanted to San Francisco. Rotten Tomatoes: 25%.)

New Documentaries
Jane Fonda In Five Acts (bio, history, Jane Fonda. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%. Metacritic: 87.)

New Music DVDs
Joni 75: A Birthday Celebration (concert, tribute to Joni Mitchell with multiple artists)

New Children’s DVDs
A Silent Voice: The Movie (Japanese animated feature. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 78. From Peter Bradshaw’s The Guardian review: “Naoko Yamada’s animation A Silent Voice is a lovely coming-of-age story, a tale of redemption and romance, based on a manga series by 27-year-old Yoshitoki Ōima. It’s enriched by a plangent musical score and moody ambient sound design. The original title is Koe No Katachi, translated in the opening and closing credits as “The Shape of Voice”, which comes mysteriously closer to the film’s meaning.” Read more…)

Tom & Jerry Triple Feature

Second Wednesday Open Mic cycles back around Wed., Apr. 10, at 7 PM

Musicians! Comedians! Poets! Magicians! Spoken word artists! The Second Wednesday Open Mic takes place Wednesday, Apr. 10, starting at 7 PM. Admission is a Suggested Donation of $3-5 to support BVFCC.

Poet Karen Ponzio (aka KP The Word) — who writes for the New Haven Independent and has a show on Cygnus RADIO — is the host for this show.

The sign-up sheet will be put out at 6:45 PM in order for prospective performers who haven’t been able to get here earlier to have a chance at performing slots. No sign-ups will be taken before 6:45.

Each slot is 10 minutes or two songs (whichever is shorter) with a 5-minute break between each performer. We have a total of 10 slots from 7-9:30 PM if people use their maximum time.

We will play it by ear after that with any “extra” performers getting time as available in order of signing the sheet. While 9:30 PM is the official cut-off time, we may at our discretion continue with performers up to 10 PM.

Click here for the complete list of upcoming events.

Music: The Elm City Ramblers bluegrass ensemble performs Tues., Apr. 9, at 7:30 PM

The Elm City Ramblers, led by Phil Rosenthal, play Best Video Performance Space on Tuesday, Apr. 9. The music starts at 7:30 PM and the cover is $5.

The Elm City Ramblers are a talented group of bluegrass/folk musicians, led by local bluegrass legend Phil Rosenthal, playing an assortment of classic, contemporary and original songs. They meet weekly at the Neighborhood Music School, but make occasional appearances in the area, and are delighted to bring their music to Best Video! The group includes Mike Milano on banjo; Lenore Hammers on fiddle; Barbara Dobay Ljungstrom on autoharp; Bill Kaplan, Thom Peters, Rich Walser and Phil on guitar; Brian Funaro, Estelle Baik, Ruth Lively and Matt Light on mandolin; and John Jarvis on bass.

Phil Rosenthal was lead singer and guitarist in the seminal bluegrass band the Seldom Scene. His compositions have been recorded by Johnny Cash, Bill Monroe, Nick Cave and others. He was selected Connecticut State Troubadour in 1994, and has been called “a roots master” by Billboard Magazine and “one of the most expressive singers in traditional country music” by the Washington Post.

He has performed with Jerry Douglas, Bill Monroe, Emmylou Harris, Jonathan Edwards and many others in his career in folk and bluegrass music.

Click here for the complete list of upcoming events.

Music: GuitarTownCT monthly Sunday afternoon bluegrass jam takes place Sun., Apr. 7, 2-5 PM

The “First Sunday” Hamden Bluegrass Jam—hosted by GuitarTown CT Productions—takes place on Sunday afternoon, Apr. 7, from 2—5 PM in Best Video Performance Space.

There is no cover so come on down—have a coffee, beer or glass of wine and enjoy the music. It’s all acoustic and mostly traditional. Any and all bluegrass players are welcome.

Bring your instrument or just bring your ears. Come to pick or just to listen.

Click here for the complete list of upcoming events.

Music: Singer-songwriters Anne Marie Menta, Shellye Valauskas, Lys Guillorn, Kierstin Sieser trade tunes Fri., Apr. 5

The singer-songwriters Anne Marie Menta, Kierstin Sieser, Lys Guillorn, and Shellye Valuaskas trade off songs Friday, Apr. 5, at Best Video Performance Space. The show starts at 8 PM and the cover is a sliding scale of $5-10 (pay what you can in that range).

Anne Marie Menta is a longtime New Haven singer songwriter working on her fourth album. Personal meets universal in her lyrical, catchy, folk/pop/country influenced tunes.

Shellye Valauskas writes meticulously crafted power pop songs that shimmer and shine; think Rasberries/BigStar/Posies/dB’s/Slight R.E.M. Listen to her latest release “History of Panic” and try not to fall in love with it.

Lys Guillorn is a singer songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and discipline-hopping artist from Shelton, CT.She is a stylistic shape shifter, dipping her blue cowboy boots in folk and psych-rock. Her most recent release is the single “Chipped Fingernails.”

Kierstin Sieser is lead vocalist and songwriter from Tiny Ocean, whose music is part dreamy Americana, part strange folk rock and a little psychedelia.

Click here for the complete list of upcoming events.