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The Hum by Bob Doran

May 20, 2004


photo and headline

HER NAME IS MIRAH VOM TOV ZEITLYN [photo at right], but she's Mirah to her friends. Raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Mirah came west to attend school at Evergreen College in Olympia, then after graduation stayed on to become part of the town's vibrant alt. music scene. Looking back, she recalls that it was a school project that set her on the songwriting path. "I wrote my first song as an assignment for a class," she told me. A song about what? She ponders for a moment before responding, "I think it was a song about how I was feeling," then laughs, "probably describing the state I was in when I was 18; I think part of it was about missing my family." Of course, she's a bit older and wiser now; in fact, since she's approaching 30, she sees herself as "old."

"I'm looking forward to turning 30," she continues, "because maybe people will stop thinking I'm 15, and start thinking I'm 20 or something."

I suppose just listening to her breathy voice, one might mistake her for a teenager, although her lyrics show real maturity. Her new k records album, C'mon Miracle, is a brilliant collection of thoughtful, thought-provoking tunes, little gems in sparse setting that feature the expected guitars, plus an occasional string section, accordion or a harp strum. When I tell her how much I like it, she brushes off the compliment, saying she just makes music she likes. "I guess it's an affirmation to hear, `Hey, we like what you like,'" she tells me. What does she want her music to do for others? "I think what I want my music to do is what I want from other people's music. Music makes me whole. I don't know if this will make sense, but I think it takes me out of myself and puts me in myself at the same time," she says before getting distracted by the activity in the car. She's on tour with her good friends, Tara Jane O'Neil, an alt. rock goddess who bounced between NYC and Louisville for 10 years before settling in Olympia, and Liarbird, another Oly band described by singer/guitarist/pianist Kanako Wynkoop as "a five-piece acoustic act from Olympia." The band includes Themba Louis from Intima on upright bass, and his partner, Nora Danielson (also from Intima), on violin. Kanako, who answered the cell phone when I called Mirah, laughed when I ask if the band played some sort of chamber folk. "No, it's not chamber music," she insisted. "We don't play weddings."

Joining Mirah, Liarbird and Tara Jane on the bill Saturday, May 22, at the Placebo, is Fields of Gaffney featuring Eric Gaffney, formerly of Sebadoh.

Friday evening, May 21, at the Eagle House, it's the return of Songs and Strings, a tour that includes two musicians from the Shenandoah Valley: songwriter Andrew McKnight and guitarist Michael DeLilla, playing individually and together. Both artists record for the Falling Rock label and are part of a project called Moving Mountains.

McKnight, who was trained as an environmental engineer, has a song on the album he calls "Company Town," telling an eerily familiar tale. "It's a story about mountaintop removal mining in the mountains we come from. Basically the coal companies have been blowing the mountains to smithereens, which fills the rivers and streams with debris. The corresponding flooding that follows has devastated a lot of small towns. When there's no vegetation to absorb the rain, what happens is the water just runs off, and towns that only used to see flooding once every couple of decades are now seeing catastrophic floods every spring. A lot of places have been wiped off the map because of the mining."

Of course, not all of the duo's songs are political in nature. In fact, DeLilla's music is strictly instrumental, and judging from what I've heard, it's darn good.

Sean, the puppeteer who lives around the corner from me, dropped off a flyer for his latest production, Arcata Shadows, an evening of satirical sketches performed with Balinese-style shadow puppets planned for Thursday, May 20, at the Redwood Peace and Justice Center. Sean warns that despite the fact that it's a puppet show, some content may not be appropriate for children.

That night at Six Rivers McKinleyville, it's a benefit for the fryer-oil fueled Sustainable Communities Biodiesel Roadshow bus with Dub Cowboy and DJ Oracle laying down hip hop beats while Forest Stearns of Empire Squared paints to the rhythm.

There's more hip hop Friday, May 21, at Mazzotti's with oversized Def Jam South rapper Haystak headlining the show, and our own Manifest fulfilling his destiny. Down the way at Muddy Waters, Nucleus gets all maniacal with special guest Ginger Brown adding new flavors.

Friday, May 21, is Arts! Manila time at the Placebo, featuring photography by Josh Martinez and music by two one-man-bands: Talkdemonic, with Kevin O'Conner from Portland playing drums behind live looped tracks, and Modernstate with Sam Schauer, also from Portland looping his guitar. Third on the eclectic bill, Fiya, a politi-hardcore from Gainesville, Fla.

Meanwhile in Eureka at the Saffire Rose, the Randy Strom Trio plays some seriously funky jazz and/or jazzy funk, with Randy on his Warr guitar, Ken Lawrence playing his awesome handmade electro-basses and Demetrious Bogdanos going postal on drums.

Saturday, May 22, at Saffire Rose it's Blues Per Square Inch playing blues (naturally) early, followed by an Allegory underground hip hop show, the 2004 Clean Getaway Tour featuring, from NYC, Louis Logic, Brycon & Equal from Asheville, N.C., plus, from Arcata, Caveman (winner of the recent MC Battle), from Fortuna, Dirty Rats (yes, they have hip hop in Fortuna) and on the tables, that rad grad, Thanksgiving Brown.

Saturday at the Westhaven Center for the Arts, Seabury Gould performs traditional music of Ireland with his group Scatter the Mud, interspersed with poetry by the 13th-century Sufi mystic, Rumi.

Are you feeling kinetic yet? The big race isn't until next weekend, but the madness has already begun. Saturday night it's the annual Rutabaga Ball, where even you could follow in Queen Jane Doe's dainty footsteps and become the next glorious Rutabaga Queen. (Call 443-5200 for contest details.) You can also dance to the music of the glorious Joyce Hough Band. (I'm told this will be JHB's last performance until Pastels on the Plaza in October.)

Speaking of last performances, Sunday, May 23, is (allegedly) the last time Karen Dumont will be leading the Arcata Interfaith Gospel Choir. The occasion: the AIGC's annual Prayer Breakfast. That's in the morning at the Arcata Community Center -- food from 8:30-10, music beginning at 9:30.

Coming up next Wednesday, May 26, at Mazzotti's: late night alt. Americana with the Weary Boys, who hail from Austin, although many will remember that several of them (guitarists/vocalists Mario and Darren and fiddler Brian), first got together here in Humboldt County. Bring along some extra cash for a copy of their latest, Good Times, which includes a tune titled "Eureka Town" about that city on the bay.

My apologies to anyone who, based on what they read in last week's Journal, tried to see the Hangmen at the Alibi or Electric Mudd at Six Rivers Old Town. As you may have heard, ABC closed Six Rivers OT for a few weeks due to noise complaints. (BTW, the Eureka nightspot will be called something different soon, since they sold the Six Rivers name along with the brewery in McKinleyville.) The Hangmen? I heard they realized too late how far Arcata is from Reno and Boise.


Bob Doran



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