The Riverside Fox, after 18 months of dormancy, is back. I can attest to it, because I was there.
That was Friday night. I was among the crowd 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 of the Strokes, Fiona Apple and Irving Berlin, which was giddy fun. After them came Squeeze.
This was the first show at the Fox since comedian Ali Wong on March 7, 2020.
I didn’t necessarily intend to help usher the Fox back into life. That’s just how it worked out, via a show I felt like seeing. A latecomer to Squeeze — more on that in a minute — I’d bought a $35 ticket the day before.
Little irritations like steep fees that inflate the ticket price — I paid $48, the extra $13 not even resulting in the printing of a physical ticket — are just one of the rituals of concert-going. So was hunting for free parking a few blocks away, heh-heh, and then lining up for the security check. The rituals all rushed back, the good and the bad, after nearly two years without seeing a concert.
My virtual ticket was scanned. Inside the plush lobby, people got in lines for drinks or to eye T-shirts at the merchandise booth.
They were comforting sights. So was seeing all the fans milling around happily, in couples or small groups or solo like me (well, I brought a paperback), exploring the lobby or the balcony level before the 8 p.m. start.
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’s hosted a test screening for 1939’s “Gone With the Wind.” (Pomona had one for “The Wizard of Oz.” What a year!)
During the multiplex era, the Riverside Fox’s single-screen, 1,600-seat auditorium became a white elephant. City Hall bought it in 2007 and began a $32 million restoration, reopening the theater in 2010 with a Sheryl Crow concert.
I went there a few weeks later to watch the Marx Brothers’ “Duck Soup” and see Frank Ferrante perform live as Groucho. It was lightly attended, maybe 400 people, but fun.
Providentially, I had invited Jerry Tessier, whose family had recently renovated and reopened the 1931 Pomona Fox, to join me as a fellow Fox fancier. Eight years later he opened the very popular Riverside Food Lab food hall next door to the theater. I did not receive a finder’s fee.
Squeeze was only my second time at the Fox. (I will not again wait 11 years before returning.) And I’m a little surprised I was there. Squeeze had passed me by in the early 1980s, with only “Tempted” and “Black Coffee in Bed” ever denting my consciousness.
Then, a year ago, a musician friend tweeted about Squeeze’s “Pulling Mussels (From the Shell),” a Kinks-like song about a British seaside holiday. And after that I heard their remarkable song “Up the Junction,” which is like a novel compressed into three minutes.
With that groundwork laid, I was receptive when a ticket-alert email arrived this summer that Squeeze would be playing at the Riverside Fox. If the venue had been in L.A., I wouldn’t have bothered, but a night out in Riverside would be useful for me. I bought Squeeze’s hits CD to bone up.
The audience was made up of a lot of folks in their 50s and 60s, as expected, but a contingent of younger people too.
When Squeeze took the stage, co-founder Glenn Tilbrook said: “It’s great to see you,” sounding like a man who was grateful to be seen.
The band knocked out four songs straight with no pause: “This Summer,” “Big Beng,” “Hourglass” and — hooray — “Pulling Mussels (From the Shell).”
By then most of us were on our feet. “You’re amazing. Thank you for coming,” Tilbrook said, launching into “Up the Junction.”
My night could have been complete at that point. But the band played 20 songs, with little patter, before returning for a three-song encore, ending with “Black Coffee in Bed.”
Squeeze certainly seemed invested in the material, even songs four decades old. Maybe lockdown reinvigorated them. (May I say of their performance that they were “a tight Squeeze”? Thank you.)
I’m enough of a newbie that it took a while to figure out which one was Tilbrook and which was co-founder Chris Difford. But of the 12 songs on my hits CD, they played 11, so I had a lot of touchstones.
Now, about COVID protocols. Masks are required for the Fox staff and “strongly recommended” for the unvaccinated. I’d say under half the attendees were masked.
For most of the evening I wore one. Breakthrough cases are relatively rare, but they do happen. And as on an airplane, there is no distanced seating. Proceed at your own caution.
Before the show I saw a table with two members of the Fox Riverside Theater Foundation and introduced myself. Was this the first show since the pandemic? “Yes, it is. We’re ramping up slowly,” Ruthan Smith told me. “Jeffrey Osborne is tomorrow night, the Monkees next Friday.”
The schedule is filling out, with at least one event per 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 may be back before then. Smith, charmingly, emailed later to say she was sure she spotted me at Osborne’s concert, so maybe I can convincingly pretend I’m at them all.
La Gran Fiesta in Fontana on Saturday will celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month in a big way with name performers you wouldn’t expect at a free city-sponsored event. Las Cafeteras, a popular folk-fusion band, will be followed by headliners Ballet Folklórico de Los Ángeles, which is Disney-renowned via “Coco” tie-ins, and Mariachi Garibaldi de Jaime Cuéllar, who have backed ranchera queen Aida Cuevas. Those performances and more take place from 5 to 8 p.m. at Miller Park Amphitheater, 17004 Arrow Blvd. Bring a lawn chair or blanket — although if you want to dance for three hours, go right ahead.
David Allen sits still Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Email firstname.lastname@example.org, phone 909-483-9339, like davidallencolumnist on Facebook and follow @davidallen909 on Twitter.