I caught Jason Webley'sact a few years ago in an unlikely place: a sports bar behind the now defunct Arcata Denny's. (The Placebo put on shows there for a spell.) What I remember most is him jumping up on a table with his accordion to lead the crowd in one rollicking sing-along after another.
Webley did not start out as one of those geeky kids playing "Two Guitars" and "Dark Eyes" on the squeezebox. "I was just a geeky kid; accordion came later. It's since playing accordion that I've become cool," he contends. "I used to be a geek with an electric guitar. I had a guitar and played in punky bands and I had a computer. I sequenced stuff. I was much geekier."
Webley picked up the accordion in college when he was part of a performance of Bertolt Brecht's play The Caucasian Chalk Circle. He says he's sometimes described as Brechtian, but rejects the notion. He'll cop to a bit of influence from Brecht's collaborator Kurt Weill, but, he says, "I grew up on punk rock music and crappy things like Billy Joel, and no matter what happens later in life, no matter what I listen to, those are my influences, the stuff I listened to when I was 16 or 17."
And, he emphasizes, he does not just play accordion. "It's just one of many tools. I play a lot of instruments, I tell stories. The accordion is dynamic and memorable, but I don't really consider myself an accordion player. I'm not all that good at it."
He assured me that he also played guitar when I saw him. "You just don't remember. I also probably had a plastic vodka bottle full of pennies that I would bang and shake."
He was in Tucson the day we talked, another stop on a long string of solo tours. This weekend he hooks up with The Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band for a series of shows. The Big Damn Band is a family thing: the Rev, his wife and his brother make up the trio. The Seattle-based Webley met them at a club in their hometown, Indianapolis.
He was impressed. "They play something like Delta blues, incredibly straight, traditional Delta blues music, to my ear anyway. And because they play it so straight, to me it sounds almost like punk rock. Punk was originally a folk form more so than most popular music. Punk grew out of kids in their garages banging on drums and electric guitars -- it's not something that comes out of music schools or an intellectual elite."
Webley and the Reverend joined forces for an album, Two Bottles of Wine, which will be officially released this weekend. The associated tour includes a stop in Arcata Tuesday, May 8, at Muddy's Hot Cup. Expect individual sets from Webley and the Big Damn Band, then some numbers from the joint sessions. For example, the title track, a hard-driving, foot-stomping number with lots of slide guitar and a washboard-powered Cajun beat: It's good, strong stuff, nothing geeky about it (not that there's anything wrong with geeks).
If you habla español even just a little bit you know that this Saturday, May 5, is aka Cinco de Mayo. As a result, the fliers for the Moo-Got-2 show Saturday at Humboldt Brews show a band in Mariachi drag, although the funky Moo-Got-2 will not be playing anything remotely Mexican. It's just a marketing thing.
Huayllipacha plays the Arcata Farmers' Market that day and at the Graves Museum that night for Arts Alive!, but they're not Mexican either -- they're from Peru, and the breathy mix of pan pipes, guitars, etc. is Andean.
The Santa Cruz-based SambaDá has a gig that night at Six Rivers Brewing, and while their music has some Latin elements, it's not Mexican either. Founder/guitarist Papiba Godinho is a Capoeira master, and the band's music is mostly Bahian samba (from Brazil) merged with AfroCuban salsa and New Orleans funk. Think of it as the soundtrack to a perpetual Mardi Gras.
"Of Course: A Cinco de Mayo Celebration" is another event with a Mexican look on its poster, but the music is more in the jam/reggae vein. It's an all-day (2 p.m.-midnight) all-ages Passion Presents party with a massive collection of bands including reggae jammers Mobile Chiefing Unit, jamrockers the Steve Watts Band, straight-up reggae from Ishi Dube and Massaganaand the patented "high-altitude Bohemian tribal funk grass" sound of Tahoe's Blue Turtle Seduction- plus Sound Trek, Full Sun, and guests like Ruben Diaz, Chris Nance and Chris Noonan (you know, the usual suspects). Former Journal graphic artist Matt O'Brien will display his work. The concessions will be handled by the folks from Surf for Peace to prepare for their thing later in the year. My guess is they might have a few Coronas on hand. (Note: Blue Turtle Seduction is hanging around to play Humboldt Brews Sunday, May 6.)
The Blue Ox hosts yet another May Day Living History and Artisans Faire on May 5, once again a benefit forBlue Ox Youth and Community Radio station 97.7 FM.Along with living history of the blacksmithing, woodworking, etc. sort, they'll have a slew of local old-timey, bluegrass, etc. stringbands: The Compost Mountain Boys, Wrangletown, The Striped Pig String Band, The Bucky Walters, The Tumbleweeds, Wild Iris, Seabury Gouldand friends, plus an all-star jam.
Hip hop fans have a couple of choices Saturday night. The Mateel hosts "Homegrown Hip Hop 3," with B-Legit, a rapper out of Vallejo aka Brandt Jones, aka The Savage, and his cousin, Turf Talk, another Vallejo-born gangsta rapper, aka Demar Bernstein, both of them at the forefront of the Hyphy movement. Then you've got your locals and semi-locals: SoHum/NoHum faves Subliminal Sabotage, A.F.F.I.L.I.A.T.E.S. from Lake County, The Mendo Green Team, DJ Assassin and DJ Jiggawatt on the wheels of steel, MC 2 Son as master of ceremonies, and, your own chance to rock the mic: The Homegrown Cup, an MC battle open to all wannabe rappers. They're saying it could sell out - might be worth checking before you make the drive.
If you prefer your hip hop more from the underground side, Mazzotti's has "The Bay 2 Bay Hip Hop Reggae and Soul Showcase" presented by 808 Media and Dirty Rat Records with former Arcatan Bicasso of Living Legends, Sonicbloom, The 808 Band with Robert Herrera, and DJ Pause on the tables. This one's put together by Gabe McDowell of The 808 Band, a former local who was once drummer for a band called Lakota with Pete "Manifest" Collins (I wonder how he's doing) and Robert Herrera. Lakota morphed into an outfit called Critical Measures and Bicasso, then an HSU student, joined up as MC. Gabe and Bicasso ended up moving down to Oakland after college and hooked up with a crew called Mystik Journeymen that eventually evolved into the Living Legends -- with Bicasso thus becoming legendary. The old crew is reassembling in Arcata for the party with cool B.A. jazz-hoppers Sonicbloom and Fortuna's Dirty Rats joining the fun.
I'm in just a little bit of trouble with Julie Cupp, leader of The Broken Hearts. She's a heart-on-her-sleeve girl, both in her songs and her life, and she let slip a personal detail about breaking up with one guy that I made the mistake of repeating to another guy, which I realize now was a dumb thing to do since he said, something like `Bob tells me... yada-yada.' It's no excuse, but I've forgotten how hard it is to be 20-something. Anyway, The Broken Hearts are another band playing on the Fifth of Mayo. Catch them at Muddy's where DJ Red will make you dance later on.
Monster Woman Courtney Jackson writes to say that her new two-piece, Clean Girl & the Dirty Dishes(Courtney and Gary from The Monster Women "playing all different songs") are "back from our brief European tour (a show in London and one in Florence)." CG&tDDs play Friday, May 4, at the Accident Gallery with Olympia's The Five Fingers of Romanteek (Romanteek with a full band) and Wealthy Whore Entertainment, an experimental cello/bass/sequencer glam trio from S.F. (CG&tDDs also play Saturday for Arts Alive! at Ramone's Old Town with The Invasions.)
Got a note last week from local turntablist/DJ Chris "Itchie Fingaz" Grossman, who can be found spinning at Sidelines a couple of nights a week. (He's also at Humboldt Brews next Tuesday.) He wanted to let me know about a show he's doing at the Jambalaya Friday, May 4, with a new band, Grass, which apparently is not another of those string bands playing blue- or some other kind of -grass. He emphasizes, "This is NOT a hip hop show. Grass is a rock-funk-blues band and I will be scratching over them and performing FUNK mixes in between their sets. This is gonna be a great show, you should check it out -- very different from other band/DJ groups. NO rappers!"
The Sumner Brothers, an alt. folk/blues/country quartet from Vancouver B.C. are on the road with Phil Saylor Wisor from the Shiftless Rounders. They hit Humboldt for two shows: Monday, May 7, at the Jambalaya and Wednesday, May 9, at Muddy's Hot Cup.
Along the same lines, a show right up the street Wednesday at Big Pete's Pizzeria with two alt. country outfits from Portland: Juanita Family and Friends and Drunken Prayer.
Last week was a big one for Reggae. Judge Watson issued a ruling rejecting the Mateel's request for a preliminary injunction against Reggae Rising. Tom Dimmick and People Productions declared victory, but it ain't over yet. The validity of the Mateel's lease with Dimmick is still up in the air and won't be decided until July 11, when the mediator rules. (That's just 24 days before Reggae.) Then there's the permit from the HumCo Planning Commission, which the Mateel says belongs to them. Expect yet another contentious hearing this Thursday as both sides dig in their heels.
It was nice to see the major players in the drama leave their politics at the door of the Mateel on Saturday as the community pulled together for Coco's benefit. (BTW, Coco asked me to correct something: He does not have throat cancer; it's in his tongue.) The healing event served as a reminder, if only for a day, that there's still a sense of unity down SoHum way. As some anon on rotrblog.blogspot.com pointed out, "We are still the Mateel Nation, and we built the hall for nights like that."