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April 6, 2006

Heading: The Hum, by Bob Doran, They Ride Again, photo of New Riders of the Purple Sage

Some of you may remember New Riders of the Purple Sage as a Bay Area-based psychedelic/cosmic country rock band formed at the end of the '60s as a spin-off of the Grateful Dead, with an original line-up that included Jerry Garcia playing pedal steel alongside Phil Lesh and Mickey Hart from the Dead, with David Nelson on lead guitar. The Riders put out a few records for Columbia in the '70s, but mostly without the Dead members, who moved on to other projects and greater fame almost immediately. Buddy Cage took Jerry's pedal steel chair in 1971, right after the first album came out; other changes followed as band membership continued to turn over. The latest, 21st-century version of the New Riders reunites David Nelson and Buddy Cage from way back when. They're joined by some other modern-day Dead associates: mandolinist/guitarist Michael Falzarano, who's been playing with Hot Tuna, and a rhythm section, Johnny Markowski on drums and Ronnie Penque on bass, who play with the revived JGB.

Now, this may seem inappropriate, but all this Dead rival talk somehow brings to mind a movie I watched late Sunday night after my wife had gone to bed, a remake of George Romero's Dawn of the Dead, which, following the basic Romero mythology, features an endless succession of dead folks who rise again. Of course there's a big difference: The dead in the movie don't play killer licks on guitar and sing tunes you know by heart. So, try to forget what I just said when you catch the new New Riders out at the Blue Lake Casino's Sapphire Palace on Sunday night.

Note to serious Deadheads: Please don't take offense. And don't miss Cubensis, a Dead tribute band out of Santa Monica that has been playing this music for 20 years. They're at Humboldt Brews Friday, April 7. Sorry -- while Vince Welnick has been touring with the band of late, it doesn't look like he's coming this far north.

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Coming this Thursday, April 6, to Mazzotti's, it's the Rap Renegades Tour, featuring Speech from Arrested Development (the band, not the TV show) and Tre Hardson from The Pharcyde. Now, you might be thinking, what kind of renegades are we talking about here, since rap is already a renegade sort of musical form?

Todd Thomas, aka Speech, was among the first to successfully move rap in a positive direction, a shift he made while he was attending in college in Atlanta. With his friend DJ Headliner, he assembled a multimedia show with dancers, drummers, musicians, turntables and rappers, as many as 18-20 people on stage in neo-tribal garb trying to put a positive Afro-centric spin on a hip hop form then dominated by gangsta rappers and hard-core political groups like Public Enemy. Two years, five months and two days after forming A.D. the band landed a record contract and began work on their debut album Two Years, Five Months and Two Days in the Life Of... a groundbreaking record that surprised many by yielding a major hit, "Tennessee," and earning the band several Grammys. Fifteen years and who knows how many months later, Speech is still trying to turn hip hop in a positive direction. With his latest, Vagabond, he continues down the same renegade path he followed back in the day.

Saturday night at the Van Duzer it's the annual visit by that master of the mandolin, the inventor of "dawg" music (and another former Garcia associate), David Grisman, with his quintet. What else do I need to say? Maybe that DGQ recently released their first live album, which is available for download (MP3 or FLAC) from Grisman's Acoustic Disc label website:

Same night elsewhere on campus (in Fulkerson Hall) the 27-member Humboldt Bay Brass Band plays British-style brass music in a show that also includes the HSU Saxophone Quartet, Baroque Trumpets von Humboldt and Brass Consort of Zinken und Posaunen, a group that plays sackbuts, precursors to the trombone from the Baroque era.

Meanwhile at yet another campus venue, The Depot, it's indie rock from Fruit Bats, a duo that records on the Sub Pop label, described by same as a "cinematic pop" band with hints of Holy Modal Rounders and Rumors-era Fleetwood Mac. Also on the bill: Sam Jayne from Love is Laughter and Amadine from Sweden, who play a shimmering style of folk-pop that sounds real good to me.

Out in Blue Lake that night Kulica plays at the Red Radish with Absynthe Quintet opening.

For the dancers out there, we have a benefit Saturday at Eureka High with The Delta Nationals. The Eureka High Jazz Ensemble opens show -- they're raising funds to help pay for the EHS music department's trip to New York City.

Sultry vocalist Mary Jo Casasanta sings jazzy tunes at The Pearl Saturday night accompanied, as always, by a top-notch band.

The night before at the Lounge, DJ Aspects lays down down-tempo groves on the turntables, with trumpet player Michel Navedo filling in the gaps.

At the Alibi Saturday, it's local metal from Entheogen, two sets, no opening act. Headbanger alert: Next Tuesday, April 11, Hell on Earth Presents a night of dark metal at the Eureka Vet's Hall, featuring Bleed the Sky from Orange County, on the road with Silent Civilian, plus locals Forcefed Trauma. This one's open to all ages.

Saturday night also marks the resurrection of the infamous 330 Club and the return of neo-old timey wonders Devil Makes Three straight outta Santa Cruz, with locals The Dirt Nap Band opening the show. For an advance taste of Devil Makes Three turn your radio dial to KHUM at 3 p.m.

Soulful Trinidad bluesman Earl Thomas performs "unplugged" Sunday afternoon at the Ferndale Repertory Theatre, accompanied by Bay Area-based guitarist Anthony Paule. The duo is together again after a prestigious opening slot on the SoCal portion of a national tour by "Queen of Soul" Aretha Franklin. The folks at KHUM love him and will surely help hype the show, and with all the E.T. fans in the area this is the sort of show where you want to make sure you have advance tickets.

And speaking of KHUM (for the third time), if you tune in Friday morning at 10 a.m. you can catch yours truly trading tracks in a game of "radio ping-pong" with Mike "The Funk Prophet" Dronkers, who will be broadcasting with the mobile unit from undisclosed locations all week.

I was thinking about changing Mike's nickname to "Funk Puppy" after hearing him bounce around the room live on the air last week when I sent him an e-mail telling him that "reliable sources" suggest that James Brown (yes, that James Brown, the Godfather of Soul) and his Famous Flames (or whatever he calls his band now) are in negotiations to open the next CenterArts season with an August 21 show at the Van Duzer. (CenterArts has not officially confirmed, but it's listed on Pollstar, the booking agents' bible.)

No, tickets are not on sale yet, and they won't be available to the general public until they're offered to CenterArts season subscribers, which means this might be a good year to become a season subscriber. I know I'll be at the show, which, as it turns out, falls on the 25th anniversary of the day I married my wife. We were not sure how we'd celebrate. Now we know: We're gonna get funky!

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