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January 12, 2006

The Hum heading



The big deal for the local indie music crowd this weekend is Saturday's gala premiere of Jensen Rufe's film, Rural Rock & Roll, a documentary about what he describes as Humboldt's "underground rock" community.

photo of Jeff Langdon of The Hitch (from Rural Rock & Roll)Rufe sent me a DVD with the first 10 minutes of the hour-long film, and I'd have to say it looks quite good. Of course I might be slightly biased since I'm in it; in fact mine is the first voice you hear after Jensen's voice-over intro, and a few bars of "Rock Star," a song by The Buffy Swayze with such a catchy melody it's been stuck in my head for weeks. When Jensen was here in June shooting, I sat down in a room he'd rented at the Hotel Arcata and answered a slew of questions with what seemed at the time to be incoherent rambling about the DIY nature of our thriving scene and why musicians are compelled to create, even though the financial rewards are minimal.

Left: Jeff Langdon of The Hitch (from Rural Rock & Roll)

Rufe approaches his subject from a unique perspective. Before he moved to L.A. to pursue a career in film and television, he was part of Humboldt's indie rock scene. He lived here for five years while working on a film degree at HSU, and played in now-defunct bands like The Sin Men and Tigerbalm, groups that included musicians who are featured in his film. His goal was to show the value of the Humboldt scene in relation to the music world on the other side of the proverbial redwood curtain.

"I drew on my experiences up there," he told me. "There were these bands I was in and people in bands who were comrades of mine; they'd write these great songs, then break up, then form a new band, write more songs. They'd keep doing that, knowing they were doing it basically anonymously. There was a wasteland of bands that never released records, or even demos, that were some of my favorite bands ever. The world at large will never know about these people and the great music they made. I figure there's a bazillion places like Arcata across the country where people are making music with no real aim of recognition outside their circle of friends."

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I'm guessing the Van Duzer will be packed Saturday night with the rural rockers in the film, among them The Buffy Swayze, The Hitch, The Great Salvation, Eureka Garbage Co., The Ravens, The Monster Women, The Ian Fays, Lowlights, JPG, Trash & Roll, The Smashed Glass, Que la Chinga and Dragged by Horses, plus their circle of friends and family and the just plain curious. Showtime is at 8 p.m. but there's a reception beforehand starting at 7. (Black tie optional?) The whole thing is a benefit for the ongoing Michelle Cable recovery fund (she's another indie rock pundit featured in the film). There is also a soundtrack album available at local record stores, another Michelle benefit. (It includes that catchy tune mentioned above.)

And speaking of Michelle, her good friends ShellShag play maximum rock `n' roll on Thursday, Jan. 12, at The Alibi along with local rock stars The Buffy Swayze. That same night the Shanty offers a collection of films by Jensen Rufe and Steve Love, including two docs Rufe made while at HSU: Orick and The Ugliest Fountain in the World (Without a Doubt). (BTW, it's not likely that Rufe will be able to attend the Shanty showing. "It's flattering," he said, "but I have no direct involvement with it.")

Humboldt's down home house of blues, the Riverwood Inn, keeps the blues rolling Saturday, Jan. 14, with a return visit by John Lee Hooker Jr. Meanwhile at the Rohner Grange in Rohnerville, it's a "Winter Dance" with swing dance lessons followed by swinging to rockin' blues by the Clint Warner Band.

Pearl Lounge continues its role as the new home of improv with a show Thursday, Jan. 12, by the Sam Maez Quintet featuring Swedish saxophonist Jim Leopordo, Jim Wilde on guitar and Michael Curran and Geoff Daugherty providing rhythm on drum and bass respectively. Friday, Jan. 13, at the Pearl it's Gypsy jamgrass by the Absynth Quintet; Saturday the club shifts into funk mode with Bump Foundation.

Friday is also Arts Arcata night, which means music all around the Plaza, including the friendly folk/grunge guitarist Tamaras, back in town for a show at the Metro.

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photo of Daveau WitherspoonI ran into Lila Nelson at the cram-packed KHUM Birthday Party Saturday night at the Bayside Grange; actually I slipped into line with her where she was waiting in the long queue for drinks. As I've said in the past, Lila is a talented songwriter. (I love her "folk porn" song, "Dirty Magaziners," the one about the trouble that "those girly magazines" cause for the image of women.) Did you know Lila is also a KHUM DJ? She missed doing her folky show, "Meet Me in the Morning" (Sundays at 9) while touring the East Coast for a few weeks, and came back with a carload of CDs from numerous indie folk artists and labels. Lila's next gig is a house concert in Eureka Friday the 13th at 8 p.m. (Call 499-6616 and, if you're lucky, you can still get a reservation.)

Daveau Witherspoon, photo by Kim Sallaway.

I had never heard her show before, so I tuned in on Sunday -- actually I clicked into the KHUM stream on my computer with coffee in hand -- to find Jerry Garcia singing Dylan's song "I Shall Be Released." Checking my e-mail I found sad news. My friend Kim Sallaway, the Reggae on the River photographer, sends me a photo of the day (potd) just about every day: something he just shot or an image from the past that shows what's on his mind. Sunday's potd was a portrait of Daveau Witherspoon, a 30-year SoHum resident who was killed Saturday when some careless driver crossed the centerline on the Benbow grade and hit his bio-diesel Mercedes head on.

I learned from Kim that, among other things, Daveau helped a lot of SoHum folks build their houses. As Kim put it, "He picked up the heavy end without being asked to do it." Other friends refer to Daveau as "a giant," and he was a big man in more ways than one.

I met Daveau at a couple of anti-recall fundraisers at the Grange, where he supplied big bottles of Chateau Daveau, really good red wine he made himself. We talked wine and politics and I somehow never learned that he was also a river rafter, a bass player and host of a KMUD punk rock show he called the Baby Seal Club.

I learned more about his radio life from KMUD operations manager Dave Myers, who called Monday. "Daveau would play everything from The Dead Kennedys to the Beatles on the Baby Seal Club," he told me. "He loved The Residents, Sonic Youth, anything by Les Claypool and Primus, but he played all kinds of music." And, he noted, Daveau was also a KMUD engineer who helped Estelle Fennell with the station's fine news and talk shows.

Myers actually called to let me know there's a potluck memorial for Daveau at the Mateel this Saturday, Jan. 14, starting at 1 p.m. with a prayer circle at 2, followed, naturally, by a music party. Plans were still tentative as we went to press, but since Daveau was a big fan of N.P.K., it's likely they'll play, along with The Non Prophets and The Garberville Town Band. An instant Daveau memorial blog, ( suggests, "Musicians are encouraged to bring their instruments, others to bring photos, memories, stories and good food and drink to share. There will also most likely be a bonfire and celebration down at Redway beach after the memorial for those who are interested."

One thing for certain, a lot of people will be there to remember the big man who touched so many. And many will raise a toast with a glass of good red wine to toast a life well lived.

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