Media Life: TV Olympics, Auburn festivals, Newcastle celebrity sightings and channel changes

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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The Winter Olympics were big in this area, with plenty of local Sierra Nevada heroes coming from the Tahoe region. KCRA 3 took advantage of the Feb. 12 to 28 excitement to post some huge numbers. The 2010 opening ceremonies on Feb. 12 had 455,500 local viewers watching in 288,900 homes. If you were watching the primetime coverage, you were far from alone. An average of 215,700 viewing homes per night were part of the network coverage. And the “Olympic Zone,” the locally produced show that originated live from the Resort at Squaw Creek in Lake Tahoe was beamed into an average of 98,600 homes per night. While Northern California isn’t exactly a hockey hotbed, the big showdown between Canada and the United States teams for the gold medal was a winner in the KCRA coverage area, with the audience peaking at 273,000 people and averaging about 180,000 over the 3½-hour tilt. WINCHESTER IN THE HOUSE The American River Musical Festival has found a gem to headline its Sept. 17-19 event in Lotus. Jesse Winchester, whose best songwriting years occurred when he was avoiding the draft in Canada, released some excellent albums but wasn’t able to reach a U.S. market until President Jimmy Carter granted a blanket amnesty in 1977. His best-known songs include “Yankee Lady,” “The Brand New Tennessee Waltz,” and “Mississippi You’re on My Mind.” He moved back to the United States in 2002 and currently lives in Virginia. This September will mark the fourth year for the little festival on the South Fork of the American River and it seems to be getting better every year. CALLING ALL BLUES FANS Speaking of festivals, we’ve heard it through the grapevine that moves are afoot to bring legendary guitar player Elvin Bishop back to Auburn Aug. 7 for what is being called the Northern California Blues Festival. If things work out according to plan, the festival will be held from noon to 10 p.m. at Regional Park. Also penciled in are Zac Harmon, winner of an XM Radio Listener Favorite Award, Dennis Jones, Real Blues Magazine’s best new artist last year, Chris Cain, the Volker Strifler Band and the Kay Bohler Blues Band. SEARS A CRAFTSMAN No surprise here but Scott Holbrook’s Keep Smilin’ Promotions – which is bringing the eclectic, Grateful Dead-inspired Moonalice to Auburn on Saturday – is part of the team attempting to make the blues fest a success. The Moonalice show starts at 7 p.m. at the Auburn Events Center on Harrison Street. While he may be in the background, probably the biggest name on the Moonalice bill would be Pete Sears. He’s likely best known for his work with Jefferson Starship and Starship in the 1970s and 1980s. Less likely to be known, his piano playing was a big part of Rod Stewart’s early 1970s sound, particularly on the “Every Picture Tells A Story” LP. WILD NIGHTS AT JACKS Constable Jacks had a sunglass-sporting celeb superstar in its midst last Saturday night. Van Morrison was in the audience to listen to his daughter Shana Morrison perform at the Newcastle nightspot. And Van the Man even hit the dance floor for one song. He picked a good one. It was his daughter’s version of his own “Wild Nights.” Get up and dance, indeed. SONS OF CHAMPLIN RETURN Constable Jacks will also be bringing in one of the most respected San Francisco bands from the late 1960s and early 1970s when the reformed Sons of Champlin make a rare appearance in these parts Sunday, led by Bill Champlin. It’s a bit of a twofer for Champlin fans, who had a chance to see the ex-Chicago singer on his own solo tour last fall. Ticket prices reflect the demand for a band that has kept up its popularity over six decades. Only 100 tickets are available for the 5 p.m. show on Sunday and they’re $65 and $70. HITCHCOCK FEST ON TAP Media Life may be sticking its neck out by saying this, but it looks as if Auburn is about to have its first film festival. The State Theatre will be presenting six Alfred Hitchcock movies the weekend of April 16-18. The roster is “Shadow of a Doubt” (1943), 1951’s “Strangers on a Train,” “Rear Window” from 1954, 1958’s “Vertigo,” “North by Northwest” (1959) and “Psycho” from 1960. Passes are now on sale through the Auburn Placer Performing Arts Center office at the State Theater, which will serve as the festival venue. They’re $39 for all six films, plus a slide lecture by Hitchcock scholar, Michael Callahan. Callahan taught film history and film production at the University of Southern California and led some of the first college courses ever on the films of Hitchcock. The passes are also available online at or It’s a chance to see the films in bright 35 mm versions that were re-released in the 1980s to movie houses and rave reviews. They’re all timeless and these, arguably, are the cream of the Hitchcock crop. R.I.P. KSSJ On the radio, listeners accustomed to the smooth jazz sounds of Sacramento’s KSSJ at 94.7 FM will have to tune in elsewhere or learn to love a very different format. As of noon Thursday, the old “quiet storm” had been replaced with alternative rock featuring everything from Green Day and Weezer to newer bands like Muse, The Killers, Train and Kings of Leon. The station is now known as 94.7 FM. Media Life’s Gus Thomson can be reached at (530) 852-0232 or