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June 30, 2005


GYPSY JAZZ; ODE TO BROGI'S [photos of a factory, a baby in a swing and a metal mobile]

Art from Absynth Quintet flyers and album


ABSYNTH QUINTET GUITARIST RYAN ROBERTS laughed out loud Saturday when band-mate Bird Jowaisas asked him to help define their sound.

"It's music that would make Django [Reinhardt] roll over in his grave," Roberts said after thinking it over.

The group's combination of mandolin, banjo, upright bass, guitar and, as of a month ago, drums, may not be unique, but the Absynth Quintet is certainly out of the ordinary. Drummer "Tofu" Mike eats meat, the band makes seamless transitions from songs in the style of Miles Davis to "some pretty far out jams" and, as banjo player Ian Davidson admits, "We look like a bluegrass band, but we're not."

Some members do have backgrounds in bluegrass, others are classically trained musicians. Tofu held a seat in his high school jazz band, while Jowaisas prefers old-timey Appalachian stuff. Between the five of them, they listen to "pretty much everything."

In the continued attempt to clarify the group's sound, bassist Rudy Luera asked finally, "Have you ever drunk it [absinthe]?" Nope, I admitted, though the thought has certainly crossed my mind. "I drank it a couple of times," he continued. "It makes you crazy. It's kinda like the music."

Though hesitant to be placed in a genre, the quintet seemed satisfied to call its sound something close to gypsy jazz. "We're taking [the gypsy jazz of the '30s] and evolving it," Roberts said.

One thing is for sure -- the self-described "eccentric little sonic experiment" drew a huge crowd and got a lot of people dancing during its hour-long set at the Oyster Festival this weekend.

"How do you define that sound?" KSLG's Dr. Syd asked the audience after the performance. "You don't. It's Absynth."

While the quintet has been playing locally for a few years, Friday, June 17, will be the first time they play as a trio, due to some band mates' busy summer schedules. Roberts and Jowaisas promised a "more mellow, intimate setting" Friday at the Beachcomber Café in Trinidad.

Friday and Saturday, DJ Ray spins hip-hop at Brogi's in Eureka, as he frequently does. If it's anything like last Saturday, when I was cajoled into attending Ray's gig -- and Brogi's -- for the first time, it will be well worth the $2 cover. Anyone who can provide an atmosphere in which they get me (who has not gone to a "club," much less "shaken it," since high school) to dance to Juvenile's "Back that Azz Up" has got a good thing goin' on.

As far as I'm concerned, Brogi's cannot be topped in terms of audience diversity. We're talking serious variation in age range, ethnicity and fashion statements, ranging from cowboy hats and suspenders to tube tops and eye glitter. To top it all off, the smoking room, which includes little windows through which you can watch all the dancing action from the convenience of an indoor stool, was appealing even to my non-smoking self. Ray spins country next Thursday, and though I haven't sampled this event, Ray's record speaks for itself.

Hailing from the Seattle/Bellingham area, four-piece experimental rock group A Gun That Shoots Knives plays the Metro Friday. In an e-mail, the group described themselves as "an awesome spectacle, with costumes, suits, electronics and stupid gimmicks ga-LORE!"

AGTSK, who are also known call themselves "a rock-and-roll band" from time to time, will perform songs on topics including: robots, robot spiders, Robocop, the benefits of soap, how to kill lizard men, dwarves, coalminers, stupids, cake made from ice cream, Chinese puzzle boxes, literacy, etc.

My personal favorite is "USPS," a hysterical and utterly entertaining ode to the United States Postal Service. Lyrics include, "Fuck UPS, fuck Fe-de-ral Ex-pressss."

Stubby Abbot, AGTSK lead singer and keyboard player notes his inspiration on the band's blog. "I am motivated entirely by my need to entertain myself," Abbot writes. "The result is some of the funniest, most off-kilter songs you will ever hear. Does that sound stuck up? I don't care. Check out my songs and I'm sure you'll agree."

To listen to a few free MP3s, and have a laughing good time doing so, visit

The verdict? Anyone capable must attend this so-called spectacle -- if not for a good laugh, then at least to find out what band member Kelly's instrument looks like. (The website lists it as "boompa tap boomp.")

Bringing it back to the twangy side of things -- Saturday, July 2, The Bucky Walters (bluegrass) play Rumours and The Tumbleweeds fill their weekly slot at Chapala Café in Eureka with their old-time cowboy tunes. You've really got to hand it to a group of three folks committed to keeping the songs of the Old West alive. Go check 'em out.

Club West offers hip-hop Saturday with Bliss and DJ Wildfire and for rock fans, Seismic plays Six Rivers.

Jimi Jeff (Jimi Hendrix cover band) and Karen Dumont (blues) are across town at Sal's Myrtlewood Lounge Saturday, another venue with as much flavor as its strong drinks. If you haven't visited Sal's I strongly suggest you do. Who knows, you might end up in a one-on-one pool duel with a man in a red leather NASCAR jacket who's three times your weight. Heck, I have.

Reggae lovers can check out psychedelic reggae rebel-rockers Mobile Chiefing Unit at Mazzotti's Monday for socially and politically conscious beats, and next Thursday, July 7, at Mazzotti's, High Grade and Selecta Prime (dancehall.)

Also next Thursday, fiddler Tom Rigney and his Cajun band Flambeau play on the Eureka Boardwalk as part of the Summer Concert Series.

This Thursday, June 30, the Mateel Community Center hosts the second incarnation of the Mateel Community Jam, an all-ages open-mic-type series scheduled to take place on the final Thursday of every month. This week's performance features The Amphibians, Quantum and short sets from a variety of other local solo and duo performers. The event will also feature an open jam at the end of the night. Attendees are encouraged to bring their instruments.

Same night, NorCal world fusion band Rootstock plays at the Eureka Summer Concert Series on the Boardwalk, and don't miss old-school hip-hop with DJ Red at Humboldt Brews in Arcata.

*Bob Doran is on vacation.



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