July 8, 2004
THE FIRST E-MAIL FROM singer-songwriter Mare Wakefield [photo above] came early in June. She wanted to let me know that she was heading out from Boston for a West Coast tour with her friend Carolyn Cruso. The plan was to hit Humboldt County mid-July for a show at the Saffire Rose. Mare, freshly graduated from the Berklee College of Music's songwriter program, was about to get a taste of the indefinite life of a touring musician, at least when it comes to booking shows here in Humboldt.
If you've been following the action for the last few weeks, you know that Saffire Rose unceremoniously closed its doors, leaving a number of bands in the lurch. Same goes with Muddy Waters, although they have not closed, just suspended the entertainment until the students return.
I found out about the Saffire closure in an e-mail from Mare, who followed a few weeks later with good news; with perseverance, she had found a replacement booking, in fact two: Carolyn and Mare play Wednesday, July 14, at the Coffee Break in Sunnybrae at 8 a.m. ("Yowch, that's early!!" she notes), then again at a more reasonable hour: a 7 p.m. show at Old Town Coffee and Chocolates.
Both artists sent me CDs, both were good -- I liked Wakefield's mix of humor and angst, but preferred Cruso's, which showed a more mature hand, understandable since she's been around longer, and some fine guitar work. Local Celtic musician George Ziminsky offered his endorsement, saying, he "met Carolyn playing Irish music in Seattle years ago, on hammered dulcimer and flute. She also plays sweet guitar."
On Thursday, July 8, at Rumours, Norton Buffalo and Friends play an acoustic gig, demonstrating that the man is more than an ace harp player. Says Norton, "This is a wonderful show that debuts a huge selection of my brand new or rarely heard songs, blending great vocal harmonies and beautiful acoustic tones with a wide variety of musical styles, including folk, country, Latin, rockabilly, bluegrass, reggae, ballads and more."
That night at Mazzotti's it's conscious hip hop featuring the dancehall-tinged raps of Wisdom (aka Tevya Jones) with his entourage, the Wisdom Creations Band, including beat boxer/lyricist Radio Active (formerly of Spearhead), among others. They've been hitting the festival circuit big time, coming here from the Oregon Country Fair, playing later this summer at Reggae on the River, the Trinity Tribal Stomp (Sept. 10-12) and at Earthdance (Sept. 17-19).
Across the way at the Alibi Thursday, upsidedowncross presents an evening of heaviness starting with the Hitch (pick up a copy of their new vinyl album) and continuing into the depths of dark, dark metal with Hammers of Misfortune from San Francisco.
There's a triple dose of metal on the plaza Friday night with P.H.I.S.T. continuing its "mission to destroy stereotypes" at Mazzotti's joined by Locust Furnace and Manic, featuring former Acts of Aggression guitarist James Kerr. And speaking of P.H.I.S.T., the band is opening that show at the Mateel I mentioned a couple of weeks ago with Superjoint Ritual and Lacuna Coil, two mega-heavy bands on an Ozzfest tweener July 30.
Across town at Humboldt Brews Thursday it's the Ripple Effect (formerly known as Dead Night) with Tie-dye Steve and friends playing Dead covers.
Another band with a similar mission has been playing what they call "open rehearsals" Tuesdays at the Clam Beach Inn: Play Dead includes Doug Shernock and Don Barry sharing guitar/vocal duties, plus Mike Emerson on keys (when he's in town), Gary Davidson on bass and Mike La Bolle on drums. Actually their mission is a bit wider. "We play Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia Band and Bob Dylan cover music," explained Barry.
Returning to happenings on Thursday, down in SoHum at Beginnings Octagon, it's a benefit for KMUD with the Flying Poetry Circus, featuring wild poet Chris Chandler and guitarist Anne Feeney fusing poetic rants with traditional folk melodies to create something they call "folken word." The event begins with an organic dinner at 6:30 p.m. followed by a solo set by Feeney before the Circus proper.
Thursday night at Redwood Yogurt (moved from Muddy Waters), Slackjaw guitarist Jeff Kelley goes semi-solo, raising funds for the upcoming Relay for Life. Jeff figures Fiddlin' Bob Huck may come along to join the fun, but don't expect Banjo John, who left town so suddenly the band was caught off-guard and were no-shows on the Fourth (at least in Arcata). Is this the end of Slackjaw?
The Eureka Summer Concert series fills the boardwalk with music Thursday nights; this week's band, Undercover S.K.A., is one of the tenacious third wavers still grooving to the hiccupping ska beat. I pulled out a big pile of ska CDs the other day to throw together a ska compilation for a friend, mixing tracks from early '60s Jamaican bands with '80s English two-toners and third wave ska from the '90s, mostly from California. In choosing 20 of my favorite tracks, only one band turned up twice on the list, an outfit called Monkey from Cupertino. Turns out the band is playing at Six Rivers Brewing in McKinleyville Sunday night along with a Canadian ska band called General Rudie touring with a brand new disc, Take Your Place. Monkey is still led by Curtis Meacham, who tells me, "We're still playing the ska and reggae, but we are going for a more `rock-oriented' approach with our new recordings. Also, I have given up organ, in lieu of playing guitar. I figured, it would get me out into the middle of the stage -- it's hard to be a lead singer when you are stuffed in the corner."
Prodigal jammers Nucleus, now resettled in Arcata, celebrate the release of a new studio album, The Vibe, with a show at Humboldt Brews Saturday, July 10. Drummer Pete Ciotti notes the record's "raw, pure stripped-down sound," in part a result of shifting from a quartet to what they term an "improv power trio."
Elsewhere Saturday, Rumours hosts the return of the Humboldt Funk'n Blues All Stars with several former Mamma Jammas, vocalist Kathy Thompson, bass man Chris Wixson and guitarist Andy Widman joined by second guitarist Jimi Jeff Robinson with Mike Kapitan on keys, Joe Nagy on drums, plus "special guests."
A Tuesday morning e-mail announced a July 10 show by Mabrak at the Old Town Heidelberg Co., which would appear to be the new name for what was once the Eureka branch of Six Rivers Brewing. As you may recall, Larry McCoy sold the brewing company's McKinleyville operation, along with the name, a while back, but kept his lease on the space that was once home to the Old Town Bar and Grill. The place has been quiet of late due to a temporary suspension of their liquor license by the ABC in response to noise complaints from neighbors. (Wouldn't you think that living in Old Town entails a certain level of noise?) Regarding Mabrak, that would be a roots reggae band from Oregon featuring veteran Nyabinghi drummer Leroy Mabrak. He's also playing Friday night at Six Rivers in McKinleyville, which will henceforth be known simply as Six Rivers.
One last thing, Austin-based Dale Watson and his Lonestars play authentic honky tonk truck stop music next Thursday, July 15, at the Blue Lake Casino. If you love country, this is the real deal. More details next week.
© Copyright 2003, North Coast Journal, Inc.