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August 17, 2006

My musical taste was not really formed in 1965. I was entering high school and had gone from being a Cali-surf rock fan (and dressing in Madras shirts) to discovery of The Rolling Stones, who I saw as somehow cooler than The Beatles and other British invasion bands. I knew a little bit about Motown from listening to Top 40 on my little AM radio, but for the most part black music was still a mystery to me.

A movie came to play at the El Rey Theater in my hometown that summer, something called The T.A.M.I. Show with the initials standing for Teenage Music International. It was aimed right at me. Jan and Dean were the hosts. The Beach Boys were one of the featured acts along with a duck-walking Chuck Berry, Smokey Robinson, The Supremes and Marvin Gaye. A few other acts played at the concert videotaped at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium: a couple of forgettable Brit bands and proto-garage rockers The Barbarians, who I recall had a drummer who'd lost his hand and replaced it with a drum stick.

Waiting for the Stones to close the show, something earth-shattering happened. James Brown came on -- and blew my mind. He did two or three songs, but it was "Please, Please, Please" that stopped the show. An appeal to a lover who's going to leave him, it ends with James begging "baby please don't go; please, please, please." He becomes a man possessed; he can't let go, not just of the woman who wronged him, but of the audience and the song itself. He grabs the mic and falls to his knees -- hard. His handlers put a cape around him and start to walk him offstage. He stops, throws the cape off and stumbles back to the microphone to resume his plea. He falls again, they return with the cape, he throws it off, tears off his hound's-tooth check coat, cries out, leaves once again and returns, singing, "Please, please, please..." He chants the word 37 times hitting every beat until he is spent. (Check out the clip at and count them.)

I know now that the song was almost 10 years old at that point in his career, and that the cape business was a routine part of his act, but he had me hook, line and sinker. I went out and bought his then-current hits, "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" and "I Got You (I Feel Good)" and I felt good. I picked up Live at the Apollo Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 and eventually a dozen or more other albums by Mr. Brown, many of which have since been appropriated by my son who knows timeless funk when he hears it. Sure, he's a lot older now (73 to be exact) and crazier than ever. He demands odd things like ice cubes frozen from Mountain Dew, and he probably lets his band carry most of the show, but I'll bet he can still dance 1,000 time better than I ever did, and I'm guessing he can still milk an audience for all it's worth. So I'll be there dancing in the aisles of the Van Duzer Monday night when he opens the new CenterArts season with a sold out performance. And I know when he's done I'll feel good.

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A few years into high school my musical horizons expanded exponentially with the invention of underground FM radio. Listening to KMPX out of San Francisco I was exposed to all sorts of old and new sounds including the cosmic blast of psychedelia emanating from the City itself. I became a fan of bands like the Dead, the Fish and Quicksilver, and one called Jefferson Airplane. Over the years the band evolved, sometimes in directions I didn't much care for. In the mid-'70s Paul Kantner and Grace Slick changed the band name to Jefferson Starship to show they'd become more modern. When Kantner left in 1984, he blocked further use of the Jefferson portion of said name. Almost immediately the band called just "Starship" produced the group's biggest hit ever, the poppy "We Built This City," but to my mind it was another animal (or vehicle). Now we have two touring bands called Jefferson Starship, one with Mickey Thomas from the Starship era, and another, which I presume is the one playing Saturday, Aug. 19, at Cher-Ae Heights (it's hard to tell from their website) with Kantner and Marty Balin from the Airplane days and Diana Mangano covering Grace Slick's parts. There's a certain nostalgia factor: It's part of the casino's ongoing "Blast From the Past" series for boomers like me. It could be really good or really bad.

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If there's one thing they know how to do down SoHum way, it's throw a benefit party for a friend in need. Guitarist Ty Anderson from the Ideals and other bands is the one in need this time. Saturday's party at Beginnings Octagon will raise money to pay his medical bills. It's an all day family thing with Mexican food, fun for kids, and lots of music: guitar by Paco Martin, twang from Twango McCallan, blues by BlueThorn, jazz by Humboldt Time, rock by The Non-Prophets, reggae from The Ideals, hip hop by Subliminal Sabotage, closing with a set by Big Daddy Blues with Ty on guitar.

The folks who took over the place in Eureka once known as Rumours and Kelly O'Brien's have just about finished the transformation into The Red Fox Tavern, a space that I'm told should have much better sound than before. They open Thursday with a grand party, a benefit featuring Ishi Dube and Massagana who impressed thousands of people (myself included) with a killer set at Reggae. Selectah Karilily spins dancehall before the live set; Proseed spins after.

(Arcata MainStreet's Summer Music and Art Series on the Plaza continues this Sunday afternoon with a set by the above-mentioned Massagana.)

The Red Fox opening weekend continues Friday night with a show by alt. country rockers Yer Dog and the related post-garage rockers Trash & Roll. Saturday it's funky jams by Moo-Got-2 with Acasia up from the Bay Area. Someone who calls himself Piper Dan spins Phish tunes Sunday (which might tell you something about the new management), then on Tuesday, Aug. 22, it's The Wayward Sons, a neo-bluegrass outfit from Colorado with Benny Galloway, who wrote all the songs for the Yonder Mountain String Band's Old Hands album, along with a couple of guys from Broke Mountain Bluegrass Band.

Later that night, Jon-O's Movies @ The Shanty series features the world premier of The Professional Superheroes' zombie music video (shot in part in the Journal offices) followed by The Daddy of Rock and Roll, a documentary about outsider rapper Wesley Willis. (I once bumped heads with the late great Wesley.)

Sunday at the Alibi, catch Arcata alt. rockers Strix Vega with Elba, an indie band from Seattle whose music I'd describe as post-emo.

Also on Sunday, the dark, goth/industrial DJ thing known as Fathom moves to the Boiler Room with DJ Innit and DJ Etheraum laying down the noise. (Did you know that Etheraum is also the owner of the Bat Kave Gallery in Arcata?)

Looking for something different in a different place? Tuesday, August 22, the Green Life Evolution Center, a raw food place in Blue Lake, welcomes Shimshai, a dreadlocked yoga teacher/musician who plays what he calls "misticonatural" music on his guitar, sitar and flute. He's on tour with the like-minded MJ Greenmountain, percussionist from Hamsa Lila.

Then the following night, Wednesday, Aug. 23, hit the Boiler Room for Domestic Fury, a ska/punk/reggae band from L.A. on tour with a band of French-Canadian punks from Montreal, who for some unknown reason named themselves Sidhartha after Hermann Hesse's novel about the Buddha (but minus a "d"). Then again, what's in a name?

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