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August 31, 2006

I called Wayne Hancock at the appointed hour, but it wasn't the best time to talk. I'd reached him on his cell, and as he explained, "I'm in the middle of a drive right now." If you know anything about the Texas honky tonk guitar man, you know he lives much of his life on the road, driving himself and his small band from gig to gig, playing a couple of hundred nights out of the year. From the tour itinerary I knew since it was Friday, "The Train," as he is known, was probably chugging into Iowa. I asked if he saw corn out the window. "We're not actually in Iowa yet, just comin' up the road here. I don't see no corn, man, just a lotta highway. I'm going through construction right now." We agreed to talk again soon.

Unfortunately later that day and throughout the weekend he was out of cell range; it was Monday when he called again. By then he'd passed through Iowa, swung over to Wisconsin then on into St. Paul, where he'd checked his messages before his set at the Minnesota State Fair. In the meantime I had received an advance copy of his soon-to-be- released Bloodshot album, The Train to Tulsa, a swingin' trip through Wayne's world of Texas swing.

In a languid number called "Highway Bound," driven by crying steel he lets you know about his true love, the road. "You go for hundreds of miles and never see a town; you're highway bound. When I sleep on the road, you know I just shut my eyes. All my hopes and my dreams are reborn when I hear those tires whine, 'cause I'm back home again. You know the road is my wife. I love my life. I love my life." "It'll be out Oct. 10," he tells me at mention of the record. "What's the concept behind the album?" I ask, "Does it show another side of your music?"

"A concept? Not really. I never really have a concept going in, just wanted to make a good record. I guess some people, when they do records they go, 'This is gonna be blues. This is gonna be rock, or jazz.' I never really do that. I just go into the studio and cut 'em the way it seems they should go. Basically it's the kind of music I play -- swing. The only difference between the record and my road show is I can't tour with a seven-piece band. The logistics get too great. It's easier with three guys."

"You ready for a sound check," Wayne shouts out to someone at the fair. "I don't know where the hell the rest of the guys went to. Lemme get 'em, Buddy and I'll bring right on over here." We continue to talk as he runs across the fairgrounds in search of his lead guitar player Eddie Biebel and his new doghouse bass player, Jake Erwin, formerly of Hot Club of Cowtown.

"Do you like the new record at all?" he wonders as he seems to come to a halt. "I do. I like it a lot," I tell him, noting that it 'takes me back to Tulsa.' With the opener, "Tulsa," stirring memories of the Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys tune, I'd figured the record was in part homage to the late great Texas fiddler.

"It's funny," he says, "a lot of people say it sounds like Bob Wills. I say, no, not really. He didn't write none of 'em; I wrote 'em. I just like the town, Tulsa. I've got a lot of friends there and I like the swing clubs. The place swings pretty hard when we show up. That was my concept there. That's my usual concept, to make it swing." As his bandmates showed up for sound check we cut our talk short again. He said he'd call back, but my guess is once he hit the road it slipped his mind. He's on his way cross-country, and should arrive in these parts Tuesday, Sept. 5, for a show at that McKinleyville honky tonk Six Rivers Brewery with Donny Barnyard and the Dust Devils opening.

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It's a really busy weekend for rock fans with Bummerfest running Saturday and Sunday (see Calendar for details) along with the Battle of the Rock Bands at the Mateel, the last weekend of Hedwig and the Angry Inch (at Synapsis) and the usual club action. But first there's the HSU Associated Students mini-rock fest Thursday, August 31, beginning with sets in the Depot by local faves The Monster Women and The Buffy Swayze. Then the action moves upstairs to Kate Buchanan Room with The Husbands (an all-woman trio from S.F. who I saw rock a summer wedding reception at the 330), then it's Oakland-based noise rockers xbxrx, and headliners Deerhoof, a wild and crazy band on the way up. Can you tell anything about a band by who they tour with? Deerhoof just returned from a Euro-tour with Radiohead. After playing big venues on the coast with Marc Ribot's Ceramic Dog, they jump around the U.S. with The Flaming Lips. Hard to believe they once played the Saffire Rose.

If that sound too rockin' for ya, there's outside jam/jazz trio Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey at Six Rivers Thursday with Moo-Got-2 opening.

KMUD's 3rd Battle of the Rock Bands, Saturday at the Mateel, pits Willits death metal band Embryonic Devourment against Humboldt psyche metalheads Entheogen, The Kickbacks from Legget, The Divebombers from Garberville, alt. rockers Montage from Ukiah and another SoHum rock outfit, Chain of Command. Needless to say, the emphasis is on the heavy side, with KMUD's rock/metal DJ Lisa Luv serving as MC.

The Cher-Ae Heights Casino Blast From the Past series continues Saturday with The Grass Roots, a band with a history stretching back to 1966, when songwriters P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri used the name on the single, "Where Were You When I Needed You." Sung by Sloan, the tune became a hit. At the time, there were no real Grass Roots, just studio musicians. Eventually another band, The 13th Floor (not Elevators BTW) took the name and cut "Let's Live for Today," an anthem from 1967's Summer of Love that became their claim to fame. That band's lead singer, Rob Grill, is still on the road, sha la lala lala, living for today.

Also coming this way, the Buffalo Field Campaign West Coast Road Show with BFC founder Mike Mease speaking and showing vids on the need to save wild bison and their habitat. Friday he's joined by local folk treasure Joanne Rand and indigenous funk band 7th Generation Rise at the Humboldt Unitarian Fellowship Hall in Bayside. Saturday, Goodshield and Mease take the show to the Redwood Peace and Justice Center in Arcata, then Sunday it's down to SoHum where the wonderful folksinger Calleaghn Kinnamon (who spent some time with the bison herself) joins Mease at the Garberville Civic Center.

Sunday, choose between two cool yearly Humboldt events. In Arcata you have the 21st Annual I Block Party by Los Bagels, raising funds for projects in Arcata's sister city, Camoapa, Nicaragua. There's beer and BBQ, auctions, dancing and music: the steel band Pan Dulce, rock by The Fickle Hillbillies, worldbeat from WoMama and funk by Bump Foundation.

Meanwhile, at Benbow Lake, it's KMUD's 9th Annual Lu'au on the Lake. The annual benefit lu'au features a traditional Hawaiian feast of imu kalua puaa (pit roasted pig), chicken laulau, grilled fish and more, along with Hawaiian music by Ohana Brown with Kaena, Ikaika and Kevin Brown from Maui, plus Kapalakiko Band from San Francisco, local slack key players and hula dancers. BTW, the meal is optional, but from what I've heard, it's incredible.

If all you want is rhythm, check out the Drumset Quartet, a collaboration bringing together drummers from Bump Foundation, VOGUT, Big Earl and the Cryin' Shame and WoMama, rocking HSU's Fulkerson Recital Hall Friday night.

The sweet alt. roots/country band Axton Kincaid is up from S.F. for a show Friday at the Jambalaya with The Rubberneckers. For a preview, tune in KHUM at 1 p.m. when they're live on Mike D's show. Later that day, Brushfire Records artist Matt Costa also plays live on KHUM at 4 p.m., although he apparently has no local gigs.

Saturday at The Alibi, The Leaders of Men offer their tribute to early Joy Division, joined by a new local band, Neptune Society eka. Sunday at the Alibi it's a post-Bummerfest gig with local heavies Do Not Resuscitate, aka DNR, and Genghis Tron, a dark, heavy electro-grindcore trio out of Philly who happen to be represented by Panache Booking. If the name sounds familiar it might be because they were the guys who set up a PayPal account to help collect funds for Michelle's medical expenses after the DMBQ van crash. Isn't that what friends are for?


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