August 3, 2006
It was the Fourth of July and Arcata was celebrating Independence with a musical array that included roots reggae by a homegrown Humboldt band called Massagana fronted by Humboldt-raised vocalist Ishi Dube, a master of many Jamaican styles with a red, green and gold scarf around his neck, who shifted easily from roots to lover's rock to singjay and on to dancehall with well-crafted anthems to freedom and songs of praise.
While he was raised here, Ishi was born in India, son of a German mother who he explained "was there with a community of people, Shiva Lila, raising children in a non-nuclear family setting. My father was Indian, a swami, and a sitar and tabla master. He had taken a vow of chastity, but he fell in love with my mom and had me, but felt bad, so he went back to his spiritual life and my mother and I moved on."
After a short time in Germany, Ishi and his mom settled in Humboldt, living on a commune until it was time for kindergarten and they moved to Arcata. He went to a number of local schools eventually finishing his high school education at Triple Junction in Honeydew.
While he'd grown up listening to reggae and says he was writing reggae songs at the age of three, he really got into it seriously in high school. He took an AfroCuban percussion class from Howie Kaufman when he was 16 and caught the drumming bug. "I knew I was meant to play music," he says. "After that it just snowballed. We started a reggae band at school for an elective class, a group called The Soul Rebels — Sam Safier of Universal Productions and the Mateel Sound Co. was our keyboard player."
Ishi told me his story last week while on a break from his day job working for his old friend Sam, who took over Jimmy Dangler's sound company after the long-time Mateel/Reggae on the River sound wizard was incapacitated by a stoke. (Keep getting better, Jimmy.) Ishi was almost done loading a trailer full of gear headed for Reggae, where he and Massagana open Saturday's lineup with a set at noon just before those other SoHum rising stars Luna and Moese Angel.
Returning to Ishi's story, he learned recording when he was a senior at Triple Junction. He also played drums, which is not the easiest thing to do as a lyricist. The Soul Rebels morphed into The Provitals, "and we did that for some time." Then he met NoHum reggae mon Kiriki Delaney of Roots Massive, Makagedon and Juce, also a founder of the very successful streaming media company StreamGuys. "I knew immediately that I wanted to play music with that guy," said Ishi. "I infiltrated and became a member of his band while still playing with The Provitals."
The local reggae scene is a small world with less than six degrees of separation. Members of Provitals, Makagedon and the related Resistance joined the I-Rise Band backing Luna and Moese Angel. At a transition point when the Angels were not playing, some of the SoHummers became NoHummers and Massagana was formed. After three and a half years together the band went on hiatus only to be reborn, but with Ishi as clear leader.
"I don't rule with an iron fist, but I'm in charge of spending the money and paying people, and I compose a lot of the music. I'm really happy with the line-up, with the personalities and musicians we have right now. We brought in the ladies of Vidagua and that was a beautiful addition." Ishi is living a lifetime dream playing at Reggae, but it gets sweeter: He's also dropping his first solo album, Thanks and Praise, at Reggae. BTW, as any serious reggae fan knows, Massagana means thanks and praise.
Also on the homegrown tip at this year's Reggae: Jade Steel who returns to Humboldt from the Bay Area as a cartoon, opening Friday's lineup, and the SoHum/NoHum collaboration, Subliminal Sabotage with NoHum jazz/funk/rockers Nucleus plus Chris Noonan from Bump Foundation laying down grooves for a young SoHum rap crew with Elision, Mika Sun and MCP plus singer Bernie Steinberg, who some will remember from RBS Syndrome or from those Music for Little People records he made. Catch their set at 2:15 p.m. Friday.
One more note for those heading down to Dimmick Ranch for Reggae. Don't forget that this is Reggae 2.0, a whole new set-up on a new space where they're still working out the kinks. I'm guessing the brutal heat wave last week slowed the final push to get everything set, which is one more reason to cut everyone down there a lot of slack. Relax. Have a good time, be irie and don't whine. See you there.
Knowing that the Reggae juggernaut will absorb a fair portion of the music-loving crowd, a number of venues are skipping music entirely this weekend. An e-mail came in from Humboldt Brews saying they'll be closed Friday through Sunday, noting, "We are always so slow with Reggae we figured it would be a good time to re-tile the bathroom floors and do some more much needed work behind the bar." HumBrews worker/owners are adding new taps to expand the brew line, which should help dispel false rumors that the place might disappear now that the building has been sold. The new (local) owners are still making plans, but from everything I've heard, the restaurant/bar is part of that future.
Saturday is Arts Alive! in Eureka and that always means music, especially old timey bands busking on the streets of Old Town. Blues guitarist Buddy Reed rips it up at the Graves in a preview of upcoming Buddy Brown Blues Festival (Aug. 19 in Blue Lake). Across town at The Pearl, it's that funky folky Tamaras performing with drummer Nathan Kaplan, as she did when I caught their fine set at the Folklife Fest. Around the corner at Old Town Coffee, Breeze offers her acoustic blend of folk, soul and gospel.
Meanwhile in Arcata Irina Rivkin and her Rose Street sistren, Sharon Bousquet and Tricia Godwin, play feminist folk at Sacred Grounds. On the other end of the hormonal scale you have the third annual last show ever by Humboldt's top Judas Priest cover band, Sad Wings of Destiny, sharing Saturday's Alibi bill with Sindios, a harsh, dark metal outfit from Seattle on tour with their latest, Modern Plagues.
Sunday at the Alibi it's cool liquid rock from Santa Cruz by El Sonido plus local alt. country/rockers Yer Dog (which means Pete from Sub Sab has to cut his Reggae experience short).
Moo-Got-2 does the funky thing Saturday night at the Jambalaya. That show follows a Friday night live recording at the Jam by Blue Lake groovers Kulica. (Curtis, you'd better not record that song. You know which one I mean.)
There's a tres cool show Tuesday, Aug. 8, at the Jam with Righteous Babe recording artists Drums & Tuba, which is just two cats from Austin, drummer Tony Nozero and Brian Wolff on tuba, but the wonders of modern electronics give them a sound that's way beyond the alt. marching band music they started with. Opening the show, neo-locals Universalia Jane and the Simple Symphony.
Want more harsh throbbing metal? Stop by the Eureka Vet's Hall Wednesday, Aug. 9, for the Bloodletting America Tour, an all ages Hell On Earth metal blast with Deeds of Flesh, Forcefed Trauma, Vile, Decrepit Birth and Odious Mortem.
Same night at Synapsis, it's a SoCal junk-noise showdown between Gang Wizards and The Pipe of the Doctor of Witchcraft, two new pmp-disk recruits. That duels with Placebo's hardcore politi-punk show on the Empire Squared side of the same building with Acts of Sedition, 801 Warning and Mega Total Violence.
Placebo also has two E-2 events earlier in the week: first a show Thursday, Aug. 3, featuring guitarist Tom Carter, formerly of Charalambides, who my son says is pretty amazing. Also on the bill, a couple of Portland bands: Grand Junction Grand Therapy and Privacy, a cool minimalist act called Valet, and Samoa's CD-R stars Starving Weirdoes.
For Arts Alive! Saturday the Placebo has five wild bands, most of them from Arizona, plus photos by jASMINE and Serafina (remember them from last week?) and a Placebo flier retrospective.
A lot of people have been asking when they can get individual tickets for the slew of great CenterArts shows coming up later this month and beyond. The answer is right now! Although you may not be able to get seats for the season opener with James Brown, you could put yourself on the list and pray for funk.
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