Rogue Festival Reviews: Tomatoes Tried to Kill Me but Banjos Saved My Life/WHAT PIECE DID YOU LOSE?/Brother Love’s Good Time Gospel Hour/Accordion Fight Show

Mar 11, 2022 | 2022 Articles, Mallory Moad, Music, Rogue Festival, Terrance V. Mc Arthur, Theatre

by Mallory Moad
& Terrance McArthur

Here are 4 more Rogue Festival show reviews-Tomatoes Tried to Kill Me but Banjos Saved My Life/WHAT PIECE DID YOU LOSE?/Brother Love’s Good Time Gospel Hour/Accordion Fight Show–with possibly a few more to come! Be sure to head out to weekend two of this year’s Festival! You will be able to find all of our Rogue Festival Reviews in our Rogue Festival Section here on KRL!
Due to the recent redesign over here on KRL all of our preview articles and our Rogue Festival event page have been posted over on KRL News and Reviews! You can find all of those articles, including some performer preview articles, by clicking here! You can find our Rogue Festival event page here. For more information be sure to check out the Rogue Festival website. Be sure to check out their website for their current Covid safety policies.

Tomatoes Tried to Kill Me but Banjos Saved My Life
Review by Mallory Moad

Keith Alessi plays the banjo. Keith Alessi also tells jokes. However, Keith Alessi is not Steve Martin.

That’s the way in which Keith opens his solo performance, Tomatoes Tried to Kill Me but Banjos Saved My Life. Through a series of personal stories, this is a tribute to one man’s optimistic resiliency and the power of music to heal: bodies, minds, and hearts. That banjo isn’t just a musical instrument here. It represents hope, motivation, and community.

From becoming a successful CEO of his own company at age 27 to a life-changing diagnosis ten years later, Keith shares the “obstacles, choices and consequences” of his life, which he compares to a road (a recurring metaphor). Although one of the elements is a devastating illness, this isn’t a disease-of-the-month production. Nor is it a therapy show or pity party. In a matter-of-fact approach, he tells it like it is, honestly and sincerely, without hysterics, drama, or judgment.

Keith’s stage presence is warm and engaging and his storytelling is captivating. He fearlessly recalls memories of his father’s abusive behavior, shares a couple of history lessons that are joyfully goofy, and sings a rendition of a Willie Nelson tune that is delightful in its simplicity. His positive outlook is infectious. When he says he finds what he’s looking for, even if only in the moment, there’s no doubt he’s speaking the truth.

I recommend Tomatoes Tried to Kill Me but Banjos Saved My Life if you like gentle, non-insulting humor, a look at the good side of human nature, and a tune or two played on the old banjo.

Tomatoes Tried to Kill Me but Banjos Saved My Life is playing on Friday, March 11 at 5:30 p.m. and Saturday, March 12 at 8:00 p.m. at Dianna’s Studio of Dance.

Mallory Moad is a visual/performance artist, vocalist in the jazz band Scats on The Sly and a proud Central San Joaquin Valley native.

WHAT PIECE DID YOU LOSE?
Review by Terrance McArthur

Blake Jones has performed at every Rogue Festival for 20 years, and his combination of music and quirky commentary is always welcome and welcoming. This year, he launches some tunes from his Homebound Tapes collection, which he attempted to record in one month during the pandemic, but it took longer (Didn’t everything take longer during the pandemic?).

Blake usually talks between his songs, but this Rogue show and all that has been going on have given him a lot of subjects for talking. Still, the songs are the focus. Intriguing, complicated, even cathartic, and his back-up duo keep things rolling. With or without the Trike Shop (his usual band), Jones is the Iron Man of the Rogue, with 20 festival shows to his credit. He has even been granted the Festival Pith Helmet by Marcel Nunes, the Roguefather, who started the festival in 2002.

Blake’s remaining 2022 Rogue performances on the Veni Vidi Vici patio, behind 1116 N. Fulton St., Fresno, are Friday, March 11 at 5:30 p.m. and Saturday, March 12 at 3:30 p.m. Even though it’s outdoors, the area is kept snug and warm.

Brother Love’s Good Time Gospel Hour
Review by Terrance McArthur

Noam Osband’s Brother Love’s Good Time Gospel Hour is in the right Rogue Festival venue, presented under a tent behind Goldstein’s Mortuary & Delicatessen. It follows in the tent-revival tradition of Billy Graham, Billy Sunday, and Marjoe Gortner, but it’s like no religious service you have ever seen.

Osband has slicked-back hair that wants to curl mightily. He wears a seersucker suit, carries a guitar, and has bells strapped around his ankles to add a jingling accompaniment to his songs. His songs? You won’t find “Shall We Gather at the River” on his playlist. He prefers to sing about his “Sexy Jesus.” The crowd plays along on tambourines given out before the show.

Brother Love isn’t o Brother Love’s Good Time Gospel Hour orthodox, or catholic. He’s wild and crazy, in your face. No crucifix hangs above the faithful, but a big, green dollar sign presides over the collecting of offerings (play money given to the crowd). The coached testimonies are filled with double entendre. It’s a satiric portrait of a hypocritical, itinerant preacher raised on rock-and-roll. It is often offensive, but maybe that shock to the system will help examine your own attitudes and level of faith.

Brother Love’s Good Time Gospel Hour finishes its Rogue run with performances Friday, March 11 at 5:30 p.m. and Saturday, March 12 at 6:30 p.m. at Goldstein’s Mortuary & Delicatessen, 1279 N. Wishon Ave., Fresno.

Accordion Fight Show
Review by Terrance McArthur

He came whirling into Fresno a few Rogues ago, part of the Northwest Invasion, armed with an accordion (If that doesn’t send a shiver down your spine, nothing will). They called him Strangely, which fit. Hidden off at Hart’s Haven Bookstore, 950 N. Van Ness, Fresno, The Accordion Fight Show could be the most bizarre, the most inconceivable, and the most fun experience of the Fresno Rogue Festival.

This thin, tall, bearded sprite dances around the venue, balancing objects on his chin, playing the accordion as an accent to his steps and thoughts. He makes allusions to Victor Borge and Robert W. Service, even performing “The Cremation of Sam McGee” with musical accompaniment. He finds amusement in Fresno audiences bundled against the cold, and strips down with bravado. You might even win a prize (Strangely also is the “house band” for the Rogue Fringe Factor game show).

Strangely has been chosen to join an Arctic adventure, so see his show, buy his merch, and make his dreams come true.

The final performance of Accordion Fight Show is Friday, March 11, at 9 p.m. While you wait for the show, you might browse the bookstores wares. You might find some books or videos that you’ll want to take home. I did.

Check out our Rogue Festival section for more reviews! Tickets for all shows can be purchased on the Rogue website and at the door, but be aware they do not accept cash.

If you love local theatre, be sure to check out Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast, which features mysteries read by local actors. You can find the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play, and also on podbean.

Check out more theatre reviews & other local entertainment articles in our Arts & Entertainment section.

Terrance V. Mc Arthur worked for the Fresno County Public Library for three decades. He is retired, but not retiring. A storyteller, puppeteer, writer, actor, magician, basketmaker, and all-around interesting person, his goal is to make life more unusual for everyone he meets.

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