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The Buckhorn

Copyright (c) 2010
Winters Express
312 Railroad Avenue, Winters, CA 95694
(530) 795-4551
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The Palms,
but better

Iconic music venue prepares
to open its doors under new, local ownership

By DEBRA DeANGELO
Express editor
Those who yearn for the live, low-key magic of The Palms, and feel its absence like a missing tooth can stop reminiscing and start rejoicing: The Palms will open its doors at 13 Main Street in the historic Winters Opera House in January.
New owners Andrew Fridae and Nora Cary, who collectively are Cary & Fridae Productions, LLC, made their big announcement to the Express last week that months and months of planning and negotiations are about to come to fruition and very soon, tickets to their first show will go on sale.
Who is it, and where will the tickets be available? Those details and a few others are still being worked out, but come the new year, there will be something old and familiar returning to town — but in a new and fresh way.
Both Fridae and Cary come from families very familiar to most Winters residents. Fridae is the younger son of Winters school teachers Rebecca and Woody Fridae, and Woody Fridae is additionally a long time former city council member and mayor. Cary is the daughter of Diane and Keith Cary; her father is an iconic musician and music teacher.
Besides their homegrown roots, Fridae and Cary also share a lifelong love of music, dance and theater. Fridae is a director for the Winters Shakespeare Workshop, and made his directing debut with the Winters Theatre Company’s “Circle Mirror Transformation“ last year. Cary is an accomplished ballet dancer and mother of two.
Both grew up attending shows at The Palms and are quite familiar with its vibe, which they intend to carry forward into the next evolution of one of Yolo County’s most cherished music venues.
Loyal Palms customers (“Fronds of The Palms) will be relieved to learn that many of the old, familiar musical acts are expected to return to the Palms stage, along with fresh new musicians and bands in the same music genres, particularly folk and bluegrass. Fridae says folk music is thriving amongst the under-30 population, and says he and Cary want to attract that younger crowd without alienating the people who already love The Palms. He is optimistic that love of music will bridge the generation gap.
“Previous fans will be delighted to find new music in the same genre,” says Fridae, predicting that “kids will bring their parents to Palms shows and parents will bring their kids to The Palms.”
While aiming to retain the familiar “spirit of The Palms,” Fridae and Cary also plan to complement the musical performances with new offerings, such as daytime music and dance workshops and theatrical performances, but for now, Fridae stresses that “the focus is 100 percent on the music.”
Returning customers will notice that the Winters Opera House room still looks pretty much the same, and there is still beer and wine at the little bar in the corner, but there are new selections on the food menu, like sandwiches and salads.
“But we’ll still have Cracker Jack,” adds Cary with a smile.
Increasing the food menu allows The Palms to be open to all ages, and they didn’t waste any time getting a younger crowd through the doors: Winters High School’s winter ball is booked there on Jan. 21.
While some who grew up in Winters and moved away might view returning home with disinterest, Fridae and Cary both feel that coming back to Winters after going away experiencing the world is a welcome experience. They see the town with fresh eyes and realize the business potential here.
“Now is the perfect time for people who grew up in this town to reinvest in this town,” says Fridae enthusiastically.
He notes that The Palms came to town in 2002, on the cusp of a downtown business renaissance, and Winters is once again poised to blossom and The Palms will again play a key role. He lists the PG&E training facility and downtown hotel as exciting changes that will impact the business community, bringing new people into town to attend classes or stay for the weekend. Those people will discover The Palms, which will “improve the quality of music and the quality of nightlife entertainment here.”
Those who are already familiar with The Palms aren’t in for a huge shock, however.
“We love The Palms as it was and we don’t want to alienate longtime fans,” says Cary. “We want them to feel like this is a continuance of what was here before.”
She adds that she and Fridae are invested in retaining “the feeling that people get when they come to shows here; a warm, intimate environment… something that is familiar.”
Co-owning a music venue is a natural for Cary, who literally grew up surrounded by top-notch music and musicians. Her father, Keith, is known far and wide for playing a huge and eclectic number of instruments, and sitting in with various bands on a regular basis including Bonanza King and Miss Lonely Hearts.
“I grew up in a deeply musical family,” she says, adding that she hosted small, intimate house concerts of her own while living in Davis. A graduate of UC Davis with a double major in design and anthropology, Cary lived in Merced for awhile before returning to Winters with her husband and children.
Fridae says The Palms was one of the things that inspired him musically as he grew up, and like Cary’s father, he has become quite an eclectic musician himself. He plays the guitar, ukelele, piano, “a couple of stringed instruments,” and even the musical saw, having learned from the famed saw-master himself, Winters resident Bob Armstrong. Coincidentally, Fridae has even performed at The Palms before, as a member of the band Skidmore Bluffs, which toured the country.
Besides music, Fridae has a solid background in theatrical performance and is a skilled puppeteer. He a graduate of Bennington College, with a liberal arts major and focus in theater and math. Fridae loves “interdisciplinary performance art” and performance that includes music (which is not the same as musical theater, he emphasizes). However, folk music is really where his heart is.
“Folk music on stage has been a big inspiration in my life,” he says.
Fridae and Cary are deeply appreciative of former Palms owner Dave Fleming, who retired in April and relocated to Las Vegas. Fleming was instrumental in making a smooth hand-off to the new owners, and they are devoted to retaining the musical foundation he established. Fridae adds that “the network that Dave built and his rapport with musicians” have “amazing richness,” and he and Cary plan to continue where Fleming left off.
“Dave has been really supportive in helping us maintain those connections,” adds Cary.
As for which of Fleming’s musical connections might perform first, that’s still a well-kept secret. However, Cary and Fridae did reveal that John McCutcheon is booked to play The Palms on Martin Luther King’s birthday, Jan. 15. Palms fans can expect tickets for the reopening show to be available in early December.
Longtime fans will surely take solace in Cary’s summary of why she and Fridae are taking over The Palms.
“We wouldn’t be doing this if we didn’t love The Palms,” she says. “I am honored to be one of the two people taking part in this next phase of The Palms, and we are so grateful to Dave and to the Palms community for supporting us and for giving us a chance to show you how great it can be.”
Fridae adds, “And it’s only going to get better.”
For more information about The Palms, email [email protected] or visit www.palmsplayhouse.com. Ticket outlets for The Palms for upcoming shows will include Pacific Ace Hardware in Winters and Armadillo Music in Davis.
A note from Dave
The Express contacted Dave Fleming by phone, and while he offered praise and support for the new owners, and expressed optimism for their future with The Palms, Fleming preferred to offer his message from the Palms Playhouse email newsletter, rather than be quoted:
“Both Andrew and Nora are smart, energetic and driven individuals with a love for music and the arts in general, and will be terrific stewards of what has been a regional treasure for more than 35 years.
“I expect Andrew and Nora to continue with many of the musical elements that has made the The Palms what it is, and I also expect them to put their own spin on what they want to produce, and what they think will work and be successful. I will happily be available to give advice or recommendations to them when such advice is wanted.“
Fleming also expressed his gratitude to both the performers and his customers.
“As I retire, I want to express my utmost thanks to many people... first of all, to the many, many extraordinary performers, musicians and true artists who have performed here at The Palms during the past decades.
“I think we all recognize that no matter what the style of music, the performers that have played here are the best in the world at what they do and I know I feel lucky to have been associated with them. I fully expect this level of talent to continue as Andrew and Nora take the reins.
“Secondly, none of this could happen if there wasn’t an audience that felt equally as lucky, and was willing to buy tickets to see them. Thank you for coming to the shows. You really have been the best audience anyone could wish for. You have been passionate, respectful, friendly, very generous, knowledgeable and loyal. Thank you to all who shared an evening with us.
“And, of course, to all those who have helped behind the scenes, I am grateful to you all. Thank you all so much.“