Arts Listings

Summer Outdoor Cinema Series Features Classic Film, Live Music

by Justin DeFreitas
Friday August 18, 2006

Pyramid Alehouse kicks off its annual Outdoor Cinema series this Saturday with a screening of the 1969 Robert Redford-Paul Newman classic Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  

Each year Pyramid selects a nonprofit to co-host the series and take home the profits. This year, Pyramid General Manager Jeffery Crane has selected Epic Arts Studio, the South Berkeley cultural center, and they’ll be adding their own twist to the proceedings: Each screening will feature live music, thematically tied to the movie it will precede. 

Crane first came in contact with Epic Arts when Epic took over the How Berkeley Can You Be? Parade. Epic has co-produced the September parade for three years, but this year they will take full control, renaming it the How Berkeley!? Festival. Pyramid and Epic worked together on one of the features of this year’s event—a focus on local breweries—so when Pyramid went looking for a nonprofit to host this year’s film series, Epic came to mind and proved itself a perfect fit. All proceeds from admission and food and beer sales will benefit Epic’s ongoing arts programming. 

Epic Arts Program Director Justin Katz oversaw the band selection process for the Outdoor Cinema series, in some cases booking the bands himself, in other cases turning the evening over to a particular producer. The Sept. 23 screening of This is Spinal Tap allowed Katz a nostalgic indulgence: The movie will be preceded by a live performance by the Rocket Queens, a cover band with a very specific repertoire—they only cover Guns ’n’ Roses, and only the band’s debut album, Appetite for Destruction, complete with hair and clothes circa 1987. 

Apparently the Rocket Queens bring back fond memories of high school for Katz. 

“I’ve been dying to book this band for a long time,” Katz says. 

Another example demonstrates the care and creativity that went into linking the performances with the films: The Aug. 26 screening of Young Frankenstein posed an interesting set of creative challenges, requiring Katz and his colleagues to find a band that could somehow complement the humor of Mel Brooks and a plot centering on a homemade monster pieced together from disparate elements. The result was that Epic booked Baseline Dada, a band with highly literate lyrics and a hilarious live act that cobbles together household objects as instruments in the creation of a sound Katz characterizes as “politically charged grammarian funk.” 

For this week’s showing of Butch Cassidy, Epic Arts has enlisted the production talents of Twang Cafe impresario Tom Wegner to find just the right countrified down-home tone for the event. Wegner’s Twang Cafe, a monthly series held every first Sunday night at Epic Arts, features local country, folk, bluegrass and Americana musicians performing in Epic’s small, intimate Ashby Avenue studio. For the Outdoor Cinema show he has managed to lure two well-known local acts: J. J. Schultz and the JewGrass Boys. 

J. J. Schultz hails from Wegner’s own Wisconsin, and seeks to capture the essence of rural Midwest life in his music. The JewGrass Boys fuse a number of styles and sounds into their music, blending the rootsy sound of Kentucky bluegrass with “the semitic assimilation into and appropriation of America’s cultural heritage,” according to the band’s website. 

“Schultz is a great songwriter with a distinctive voice,” says Wegner, “and he’ll be performing with a full band, including slide guitar and upright bass. The JewGrass Boys are a lot of fun. They play high-tempo bluegrass and really know how to rev up an audience.” 

The series runs every Saturday through Sept. 30 (with the exception of Sept. 2) and features classics and cult classics projected on a large screen in the brewery’s parking lot at Gilman and Eighth streets. Pyramid encourages people to bring their own seating; folding chairs are most common, but in past years audience members have shown up with sofas, beds, patio furniture—even a canoe. Gates open at 7 p.m., with shows scheduled to start at 7:30. 

Other films in the series include Planet of the Apes, The Seven Year Itch and Hitchcock’s Notorious. 




901 Gilman St. 

Doors open at 7 p.m.; show at 7:30 p.m. $5 suggested donation.  

All ages welcome. 


Aug. 19: Butch Cassidy and the  

Sundance Kid 

Music by the JewGrass Boys and the JJ Schultz Band, presented by the Twang Cafe 


Aug. 26: Young Frankenstein 

Baseline Dada 


Sept. 2: no show 


Sept. 9: Notorious  

Music by Loretta Lynch 


Sept. 16: Planet of the Apes  

Music by Inspector Double Negative 


Sept. 23: This is Spinal Tap  

Music by the Rocket Queens 


Sept. 30: The Seven Year Itch  

Music by Project Pimento