By MATT MUNOZ, Californian contributing columnist
It's not every day you get a chance to rub elbows with Kevin Costner in your hometown.
Not that I actually did, but it sort of felt that way on Facebook this week, with so many of my friends posting pictures and information about the Academy Award winner, on location in McFarland filming a movie aptly titled "McFarland."
The film is based on a 1997 Los Angeles Times article about the inspiring McFarland High cross-country coach Jim White, who coaxed his team to nine state cross-country titles from 1987 to 2001.
The program also was the subject of a 2004 Sports Illustrated feature. Costner plays White in the film, and actress Maria Bello ("Prisoners," "The Cooler") plays his wife, Cheryl. Morgan Saylor ("Homeland") plays their daughter, Julie.
Following a series of open casting calls for extras in Bakersfield and McFarland, production is finally off the ground, shifting between Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley.
"My brother's been talking about it for a year, but I didn't believe him," said Aaron Puentes, 33, who made the quick trip to McFarland from Bakersfield this week to catch a piece of the Hollywood action. "I did a lot of research online, so I knew it was finally gonna be made."
Puentes' older brother, Victor, who graduated from McFarland High in 1989, was a member of the championship team portrayed in the film.
According to Puentes, the city came out in droves Monday to greet Costner as he arrived to begin filming. Most locations are locked down as filming moves around the city; yet despite the security, Costner has been seen mingling with the locals.
"He's been walking around talking to people all the time, taking pictures, signing autographs," Puentes said.
Filming is scheduled to continue the rest of the week. "McFarland" is set for release in the spring.
"I think the movie will be big here in Kern County," Puentes said. "We'll have to wait and see what everyone else thinks. I'm glad it's being made. It makes me proud of my brother and the town."
Bearcoon is real
We've all heard spooky stories of mutant creatures like the Chupacabra, Jersey Devil, and the OG -- or original ghoul -- Big Foot.
But it wasn't until a few moments into my interview with Solange Igoa that I became aware of another, possibly even more horrifying monster: the elusive Bearcoon.
While there's no proof the creature -- often described as a bear-sized, rabid raccoon -- actually exists, Igoa and bandmate Andrea Walker have decided to name their group after the mythical monster.
But not to worry: Igoa and Walker are neither monstrous nor angry; rather they're a pair of rootsy, soulful songwriters making their local debut at the Lone Oak on Friday.
"It was a joke when we first started dating and playing music," said Igoa, a Bakersfield native who now lives in Long Beach. "There's this serious raccoon problem in the city, and we'd always say, 'Watch out for the Bearcoon.' The name just stuck."
News reports from Long Beach back Igoa's claims, but while nocturnal raccoons have been known to surface in packs from downtown sewers, no sighting of grizzly-sized fur balls devouring citizens has been reported. Yet.
"If you're out at 3 a.m., you can see them crawl out and wreak havoc. We do too, but kind of sweetly."
Igoa offered more hints at the duo's musical direction, which can be previewed on their YouTube page, bearcoonmusic:
"I would say we're kind of folk blues Americana. But definitely not pop or country."
Since forming last year, Igoa and Walker have made some impressive strides in the Long Beach music scene, scoring shows in area watering holes while composing new music. Live, the duo mix it up with originals and covers, reworked to suit their uniquely raw, stripped-down style: Vocals, guitar and the occasional melodica from Igoa.
It doesn't hurt that her earliest musical teacher also happens to be popular Bakersfield singer Sherry "Mystic Red" Wilson, a familiar voice and presence on many a local pub and festival stage. Igoa hopes to reconnect on her visit.
"It feels good. I'm excited. It'll be a way to see all my old friends when I get back."
Friday's showtime is 8 p.m. Admission is free. The Lone Oak is located at 10612 Rosedale Highway. 589-0412 or visit facebook.com/bearcoonmusic.
Halloween is one week away, but for most adult party-goers, ghouls night out happens this weekend. Costume up and check out these parties for some tricks or treats.
Halloween Pre-Party with Soulajar, Lonely Avenue, Revelator at On the Rocks, 1517 18th St., 9 p.m. Friday, $5, 327-7625. Costume contest.
Halloween Show with The Bird Channel, Crime Bison at Sandrini's, 1918 Eye St., 9:30 p.m. Friday, $5, 322-8900.
Naughty Halloween Party at Replay Lounge, 4500 Buck Owens Blvd. 9 p.m. Friday, $5-$10, 324-3300. Costume contest, with music by deejays Joseph Gomez and Rick.
Halloween Bash 2013 with Dub Seeds, Velorio, Mento Buru, DJ Mikey at On the Rocks, 1517 18th St., 8 p.m. Saturday, $10, costume contest, giveaways all night, 327-7625.
'80s Video Dance Attack at Narducci's Cafe, 622 E. 21st St., 8 p.m. Saturday, costume contest, 324-2961.
Halloween Party with the Baka Boyz at Elements Venue, 3401 Chester Ave., 9 p.m. Saturday, $20, 215-9407.
Halloween Block Party at 19th and K streets, 10 a.m. Saturday, free, 322-8783.
Rockabilly hula gals and the gearheads who love them will be out in force for this daytime fiesta in the heart of downtown. Featuring classic cars and vendors selling stylized merchandise to spruce up any wardrobe, there also will be plenty of food and drink vendors to keep motors running. For the little ones, there's a kids corner. Live onstage will be War on 45, the Dirt Road Band, Loner Troubadour and the Rockabilly Rat, Garrison and Kennedy duo, and a pin-up girl contest. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Jeremy Staat Foundation.
Benefit for Art and Julie Byrom at Julie's Branding Iron, 1807 N. Chester Ave., Saturday, 1 p.m., $20, 399-3237. Local party bands join together to help Art and Julie Byrom of Oildale at their music and watering hole, Julie's Branding Iron, after a car accident a few weeks ago put the couple on temporary cruise control.
For more on the event, check out Scott Cox's column.