June 3, 2004
PATO BANTON [photo at right] is not your typical reggae musician, nor is his music limited to reggae. Born and raised in Birmingham, England, he first came to prominence in the `80s during the two-tone ska era when he teamed up with Ranking Roger for a track on an album by the English Beat, and the Brit ska influence has stuck with him, and not just the playfulness in the music. Those in the two-tone movement were not afraid to take a stand on politics and social issues, and the same goes for Pato. He sees having a message in the music as crucial, especially since his audience is young.
"Sometimes I do songs that are hard-hitting and serious," he told me, "and then I'll do a silly kind of chorus that will have a serious verse with it. People will only hear the chorus like, `Na na na na na, niceness' and they go, `Here's a silly lyric,' but the youth, they hear the verse where I say, `The whole wide world is in a great big mess, because of political foolishness. When we should be striving for happiness, everyone's putting up their defenses. To make things worse some mad scientists seem to specialize in destructiveness.' The kids hear the message hidden in there, and if it's right, they'll hold on to it."
Asked what inspired him to get into reggae, he says it was Bob Marley. "I've watched a lot of different music, and it's amazing when you see something happen spiritually. It's great when a guy can play his instrument, and when a guy can sing, but when he is trying to live up to something he is talking about and live up to his highest ideals, and express it through music, that's the ultimate to me.
"I chose this career because it meant that I could touch other people, I could meet people and talk to them and maybe change people -- guide them in the right direction."
What direction? "I think everybody's got light, but some of us keep throwing liquid on it -- it could be beer or whiskey or sex or drugs. I think if we all took a little time to fan the light, we would all shine."
Pato Banton and the Reggae Revolution return to Humboldt next week for a show on Tuesday, June 8, at 535 Fifth Street (or is it called Club West -- I'm not sure).
There's more reggae-inspired music Friday, June 4, at Rumours: a six-piece combo from Oregon known as the Uprite Dub Orchestra. The band originally came together at Mt. Hood Community College, where most of the members were in the school jazz band. Inspired in equal parts by Lee Perry's dubwise Black Ark recordings, old school ska and modern mixes of the two by bands like Sublime, they shifted away from jazz to explore Jamaican sounds, then integrated hip hop elements into the mix.
The David Nelson Band, now celebrating a full decade of psychedelic country rock, returns to town Friday for a show at their favorite Humboldt venue, Six Rivers McKinleyville.
That night at the Saffire Rose it's the roots rockin' Delta Nationals, who are rarely seen in places like Old Town. As drummer Paul DeMark pointed out in a press release, "The dance, for which there is no admission charge, is the band's only public nightclub appearance for the month of June." Not that they haven't been busy -- among other things they're putting the finishing touches on a live album -- it's just that lately they mostly play at places like the Elks Lodge where membership is required.
Guitarist Paul Wood was born in Oakland (hey, me too), but now calls Memphis, Tenn., his home. A veteran who played for two years with John Lee Hooker's Coast to Coast Band, Wood fronts a smokin' blues outfit known, appropriately enough, as the Paul Wood Blues Band. On the road out west, they hit the Mateel's Summer Arts and Music Festival Saturday afternoon (at 3 p.m.) then head north for a Saturday night gig at Six Rivers McKinleyville.
Saturday night at the Plcebo, it's a raucous blast of rock from a vanload of young punks, two bands here from Sacramento: the Helper Monkeys and the Rif Randles, who describe their music as "killer chick punk." Inspired by the Donnas ("Hey we could do that") and named for a character from the Ramones' movie, Rock `n' Roll High School, the girls play hard and loud with lyrics that tend towards the sexually explicit. The Helper Monkeys, formerly known as Panda Bear Greens, are equally punk, but not as nasty. Watch out, this is just the sort of rowdiness that got the Placebo in trouble in the first place.
Monday, June 7, at Six Rivers McK, an indie folk duo from Arizona with the intriguing name, Nowhere Man and a Whiskey Girl. I'll admit, I don't know much about them. Amy Ross plays piano and sings; Derrick Ross plays guitar -- they could be brother and sister or maybe they're married (think White Stripes, but not musically). According to their micro-label, 727 Records, they "play to sepia-tinged memories, sunkist daydreams and simple pleasures, wresting hope from hopelessness and countering heartbreak with a splash of humor and a melodic twist." Whatever that means.
Former Oregonian Eileen Hemphill-Haley rolls out her full band, Oregon Dogs, at Humboldt Brews Wednesday, June 9, for that club's "acoustic night," although I would not describe the Dogs that way. Eileen is out front with her acoustic guitar, but the band rocks behind her.
Wednesday at the Saffire Rose it's an evening with the Billy Nayer Show, featuring twisted tales from the depths of Cory McAbee's psyche, backed by equally twisted music. It's an early show, so you could easily make a full night of it by heading to the Alibi afterwards where another band from San Francisco, the Graves Brothers Deluxe, plays music that (at least according to their Web page) "alternates between noise-scapey garage-pop and dark parlor music -- drawing comparisons from Sonic Youth to Credence Clearwater to the Stooges to Sun Ra." Opening the show, a relatively new Arcata band, Shaking Hands, fresh from a California tour with Lowlights. I haven't heard them yet, but I know a couple of the players and I'm thinking they will fit right in with the Brothers Deluxe.
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