CANADIAN RETRO-ROCKER RAY CONDO LOVES TO play the Riverwood Inn; the roadhouse atmosphere is perfect for the mix of blues and swing he favors. Riverwood proprietor Loreen loves to tell the tale of Ray and company stumbling in on a wet night when she had a pot of spaghetti on the stove (or was it chili?) and asking if they maybe could play a few tunes. That was six years ago; Condo played there a couple more times, but the last time was three years back when he had a trio he called the Ricochets.
"Now it's just Ray Condo," he told me when I called him in Vancouver, B.C. "I've been using musical chairs with people coming and going. When I play Europe this summer I'll have a Dutch rhythm section. Down there I'll have my Canadian guys, guitar, bass, drums and me. We'll do Portland, the Riverwood on Friday, then it's Bimbo's [in SF] on a Saturday night. In the city we're playing with Big Sandy [and the Fly Rite Boys] so they're expecting a good turnout."
Condo still swings, but he says his style has shifted a bit. "I've been taking an early '60s method, sort of bluesy, sometimes slightly psychedelic, a more rockin' approach, less arrangements, less jazzy stuff, maybe not as swingy as it was. It's back to rockin' and hard country."
There are shades of rockabilly in there, but he avoids the term, saying that an influx of "bangs and butterheads" turned him off. Bangs and butterheads? "You know, the Bettie Page look and the guys with the pomade?" he says laughing. "Basically we're still in honky tonk hell."
And although he's still wearing a hat in his press photo, that too is mostly a thing of the past. "Let's face it, every rock idiot or disco queen or whatever out there, they're all wearing hats. Have you noticed that? So I gotta move on, baby." Yes, Ray has become a 21st-century rocker. "Yeah," he says, "futuristic vintage, ya know, modern retro, that's where it's at."
Speaking of hats, the big hat crowd will undoubtedly be out full-force Monday, March 22, when Collin Raye plays at Cher-Ae Heights Casino. The Arkansas native broke into contemporary country in 1991 as a new traditionalist, scoring a hit with "Love, Me," a tearjerker about the afterlife with lyrics that now grace many tombstones. Since then he has become the compassionate conservative of country, mixing message songs touching on substance, spousal and child abuse in with his cowboy ballads.
At the Alibi Thursday, March 18, Dameon Lee offers a different sort of twang with Lowlights, well, not exactly twang, more like alt. folk rock with touches of country flavor, closer to Gram Parsons than anything from Nashville. MooM opens.
That night at the new Six Rivers McKinleyville (new owners anyway) Dub Cowboy presents an evening of reggae with Jamaican conscious dancehall star Yami Bolo, local rastagroovers Juce, and DJ David Gideon.
Saturday is looking like a busy day. I'm joining the Eureka Peace March at noon, an event that will include music along with speeches. Local activist/folkie Casey Connor will sing a couple at the Gazebo in Old Town; that evening Jim Page plays a post-march thing in HSU's Kate Buchanan Room.
I've also been invited to serve as a judge at the Ink People's Artware Affair. (Does this year's Arabian Nights theme seem ironic on the anniversary of the war?) My job is to taste artfully made desserts, but there's also Middle Eastern music, bellydancing, ethnic appetizers and dinner catered by Savory Thyme and things to buy.
That night at Six Rivers Old Town it's bluesman Tommy Castro, up from the city in his tight black T-shirt to give Humboldt another dose of serious rockin' TCB blues.
The Portland-based Dave Fleschner Quartet is at Trinidad Town Hall Saturday playing original compositions from their new CD, At Home.
Are we still celebrating St. Pat's Day? On Sunday afternoon at the Graves it's a St. Patrick's Irish music and dance concert with Good Company joined by Irish step-dancers, the Selkies, and the Irish Company Dancers performing reels, jigs and hornpipes.
Saturday at the Van Duzer it's the Celtic Fiddle Festival, a tribute to Johnny Cunningham. Fiddlers Kevin Burke from Ireland and Christian Lernaitre from Brittany played with Scotsman Cunningham for years, until he passed away in December. The festival lives on with French Canadian fiddler Andre Brunet taking Johnny's place.
Blue Lake rocks Saturday night with the Rubberneckers and Dragged by Horses at the Logger Bar. Meanwhile they're jammin' in Arcata with the funky Old Man Clemins and Alton Pacific at Mazzotti's; DJ State of Mind spinning before, between and after.
Tuesday, March 23, KHUM debuts "The Back Porch," a once-a-month live-music program at 8 p.m. hosted by Gary Franklin, showcasing the talents of Humboldt County musicians, mostly in the acoustic bluegrass, folk and blues vein. The plan is to air the show the third Tuesday of each month. Interested in performing on the radio? Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. The first show is an all-women's night including Eileen Hemphill-Haley, in honor of women's history month.
Placebo probably did not know that it is women's history month when they booked their Friday, March 19, show, but Portland's Pom Pom Meltdown is an all-woman metalcore trio; Schoolyard Heroes play punkish metal with a woman out front, Echo Ave from Moscow, Idaho, has a female vocalist, and at least one of Humboldt's fine girl groups will open.
Speaking of women out front, the Joyce Hough Band is at Six Rivers Old Town Friday night.
Coming up Wednesday, March 24, a really big show at Placebo with Jade Tree recording artists Joan of Arc, post-rockers led by moody singer/guitarist, Tim Kinsella. Also on the bill, Kinsella's new band, Love Of Everything and Make Believe, which is essentially the same band, but with everyone trading instruments. Added bonus: the debut of an as-yet-unnamed band featuring members of the Batars.
CenterArts has a very busy week in store. In addition to the Celtic fiddlers, they have two nights of Stomp, the amazing rhythm and dance review with folks making music with matchboxes, brooms, garbage cans, even the kitchen sink. And believe it or not there are still tickets as we go to press Tuesday. (They may not last.)
Wednesday, March 24, while they're on Stomp day two at the Duzer, one-man jamband Keller Williams is in the Kate Buchanan Room making remarkable music with his guitar and various FX-pedals.
The next night, Thursday, March 25, at the Van Duzer it's an awesome night of jazz, a little thing they're calling the SF Modern Jazz Collective. Saxophonist Joshua Redman serves as artistic director; he brought together vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, Nicholas Payton on trumpet, Miguel Zenon on alto, Josh Roseman on trombone, Renee Rosnes piano, Robert Hurst bass, and one of my favorite drummers, Brian Blade. You may not know all these names, but take my word for it; they're some of the best around. And again, I'm surprised that it's not sold out -- when it comes to jazz, this is the real deal.
© Copyright 2003, North Coast Journal, Inc.