Well, we've survived another year. To paraphrase (and reverse) Dickens, 2007 was neither the best of times nor the worst of times. So we'll take a cup of kindness yet, and make plans to celebrate the coming of a New Year.
You might want to stay home and see if Dick Clark is still alive for another "New Year's Rockin' Eve" with all those hot bands du jour, but if it's something live you're after, as usual options for the eve's festivities abound.
We'll start within walking distance of my house. The Jambalaya has an eclectic collection of local indie bands: alt. country/rock by Yer Dog, alt. Victorian grunge by The Common Vice, metal from Ashes and something-grass by The Bucky Walters.
Reggae? You got it — at Humboldt Brews, where Humboldt's most irie band Ishi Dube and Massagana keeps the one-drop churnin' and burnin' into the wee hours of Ought-Eight.
Looking northward you have those grass-roots groove-rockers Kulica returning to their old haunt, Six Rivers in McKinleyville, for a New Year's party. Kulica's ace mandolinist Jason Hodel is one of the ukulele players in UKEsperience, so it's natural that they open the show.
Up in Trinidad, Humboldt's hottest honky tonk band, Rooster McClintock, once again takes over the Ocean Grove, which they refer to as their "hometown joint." They promise, "It's a bit crazier every time. Sure to be over the top."
And down the road at Cher-Ae Heights Casino Jimi Jeff and the Gypsy Band play "old-school funk, Hendrix, Prince, blues, R&R" and more Hendrix.
At that other casino, the one in Blue Lake, the Wave has bluesy rock by NightHawk. (Is Clint Warner still filling in on guitar? I think so.) Same time at the Sapphire Palace, it's the return of Diamond Eyes, with Neil Diamond covers for those who like that sort of thing.
Over in Eureka The Boiler Room offers a "Funkin' Hip Hop New Year's" with Mr. P Chill and Trunk of Funk.
At Red Fox Tavern, Exit 7a offers something for the jamband crowd: a New Year's Eve party with Garaj Mahal.Need a reminder about this Marin-based jazz-fusion/jam outfit? The quartet includes guitar/sitar virtuoso Fareed Haque, jazz/funk keyboardist Eric Levy, master bassist Kai Eckhardt and former KVHW drummer Alan Hertz. Some of the band's first gigs were up here at Café Tomo — seems like aeons ago. More recently the guys won top honors in the jam category in the 2007 Independent Music Awards.
In their blurb on Humboldtmusic.com, Dr. Squid promises to "play all your favorite dance tunes all night long" at Sal's Myrtlewood Lounge NYE. The classic rock band also mentions that they've added a new vocalist, "Australian singing sensation Bridget Devaney." They go on the suggest that you, "Celebrate the New Year with Humboldt County's longest running dance band." Now, I don't know what differentiates a "dance band" from other bands, but I think I can name at least a couple of longer running Humboldt bands — and, by chance, both are playing New Year's Eve.
At the Bear River Casino you can dance to The Roadmasters. (Bear River also has DJ Ray playing for dancers in a tent outside.) The Roadmasters have been playing hereabouts since 1976, which I'd say must give them a few years on the good Doctor's band. Now, you could argue that they're a country-western band, but they definitely bring out the dancers.
That said, there's another band that I'd say has both of them beat. As noted on Humboldtmusic.com, "The Merv George Band will be rockin' in the New Year at the VFW Hall in Willow Creek." (For those who need directions, that's by the softball field near Camp Kimtu.) The phone number on the listing connected me with Merv George Jr., who plays in his dad's band. I put the Squid longevity claim to him. his response was, basically, no way. "My dad has been playing professionally since he was 16 and he was born in 1943," he said. "Let me do the math. That makes 48 years he's been playing in Humboldt."
The New Year's Eve dance party at the Pearl Lounge is a triple DJ thing with DJ Danny, Jet Eye and Zanapod. "Jet Eye is visiting from Spain," says Danny. "He and I have been doing a show together the past couple years when he visits that always ends up being really special. Expect the night to be a kaleidoscope of styles ranging from loungy bossa nova and jazz early on through various fusions of hip hop, reggae and electronic music as we come upon the New Year."
Little Jimmy Forbes of Henpecker wrote to tell me about, as he put it, "the new band which I am a part of: Arrogant Hare." They're playing New Year's at the Vista. (The club's MySpace offers a different spelling for the band name, Arrogant Hair, but I figure Jimmy knows better.) Jimmy lists the band members as follows: Jessie (from Buffy Swayze, etc.) on vocals, Ryan (from the Great Salvation, etc.) and Tommy (cook from the Vista and now Humboldt Brews), both on guitars, Trevor (from Arcata via SoCal) on drums, and of course Little Jimmy on bass. They're opening for that new EKA hipster band Zach Institute and TBA, which is not the name of a band (but could be). "Ten p.m. sharp we start," Jimmy says. "No waffling..."
St. John and the Sinners lay down blues and conspiracy theories at the New Year's Eve bash at the Riverwood Inn, an annual rager renowned for Loreen's midnight buffet.
A bit further south, in Garberville, you have the Humboldt County Funk-n-Blues All-StarsatCecil's California Creole Café. Among the players: stellar vocalist Earl Thomas, Andy Widman on guitar, Tim Randles (who can play any style) on keys and the solid rhythm section, Chris Wixson on bass and Joe Nagy on drums. All of them stars indeed.
Now, that's a lot of choices, but sadly, they share something in common: Every one of the shows above is for adults only. What's a teenager to do? Well, there's always the wildness on the Arcata Plaza, or unchaperoned house parties galore.
Or ... Ben Herman from Accurate Productions has something he's calling the "High School Collective 2008 Jump-off" at the Arcata Community Center, with Ben, aka DJ MuziqLement, spinning "current hits," plus a dance performance by Step, from Eureka High. As indicated in the title, this one is for high school students only. "We'll have a car showcase with NorCal Imports bringing cars to the parking lot at 7," says Ben. "The dance starts at 9 and goes until 1 a.m." He went on to note that they'll have party favors and everything you need for teen fun: Mexican food from Don Juan's and also something Ben calls a "full virgin bar" supplied by Two Moms Party Planning. Presumably the moms will make sure the kids keep those drink celibate.
The kids from Steel Toed Slippers (who had a pretty good year in '07) are thinking all ages for their big CD release party in February at Mazzotti's, but in the meantime they're often playing in bars where they're not otherwise allowed. It's not a New Year's show, but you can hear them at Six Rivers Friday night. There are several other shows this weekend if you want to get a jump on Monday's party. Check the Music and More listing and you'll find something to do. My suggestion: Read that book you got for Xmas or play with your new toys and rest up for Monday.
Wondering about that "cup ‘o kindness"? You've heard of it before in the New Year's song written a long, long time ago by the Scottish poet Robert Burns. "Auld Lang Syne" translates roughly as "days gone by." Sing it with me:
"Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind? Should auld acquaintance be forgot and days of auld lang syne? For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne, we'll take a cup o' kindness yet, for auld lang syne."
So raise your cup, your champagne flute, your pint glass, your paper cup with virgin something-or-other or whatever — toast the past and brighter days ahead. And have a happy!