The first heard time I heard Tristan Clarridge and his big sister Tashina play music, they were pre-teen fiddle prodigies wowing a crowd at the Humboldt Folklife Festival. At the time, the kids were living with their mom in a teepee out in Burnt Ranch; she was home-schooling them, basically allowing them to pursue fiddling dreams. Both had already won age-group championships in various fiddle contests. A few years later, in 1999, they put out their first album, a collection of tunes showing off Texas-style contest fiddling skills plus Nova Scotia-style Cape Breton tunes with a little classical thrown in, a take on Pachelbel's "Canon in D" that mutates into a series of reels.
Ten years later, the kids are 20-somethings at the top of the "new acoustic" game. They've graduated from being students at Mark O'Connor's String Camps to become teachers. Tristan's gone from age-group contest wins to take the Weiser Grand National Fiddle Champion title, first in 2002, at the age of 15, which made him the youngest champ ever. He won four more times, with his sister edging him out one year to take the title herself. Tashina has played on the stage of Carnegie Hall as part of Edgar Meyer's Young Artists program. Tristan has played with Natalie MacMaster, the top Cape Breton fiddler. He's also become an innovator on cello, adapting the instrument to bluegrass and old timey music, and landing Rushad Eggleston's chair in the hot alt. stringband Crooked Still.
Both kids played in chambergrass master Darol Anger's Republic of Strings. That's where they met hammered dulcimer virtuoso Simon Chrisman and banjo phenom Wes Corbett, the other members in a quartet originally called New Old Stock, now known as The Bee Eaters. The band recently spent some time in Anger's Portland studio laying down an album's worth of their next generation new acoustic music, an amalgam of bluegrass, Celtic, old timey, new timey and jazz that runs fresh and clear as a mountain stream. If we're lucky, the disc will be ready in time for The Bee Eaters' local debut Friday, Feb. 6, at the Arcata Playhouse. Catch them live on KHUM earlier that day.
The Playhouse show starts early, which means it should end around the time the Inferknow Area 74 benefit starts at the Jambalaya. As you may recall, Inferknow is a group of Burning Man burners working on making a move from underground shows to legitimacy on a piece of property out Fieldbrook way. The requisite permits cost money, thus a series of fundraisers. Friday's combines a rare club gig by local rockers The Nucleus with two CD release things, one for The Whiskey-fish, another for Unstable Table.
"It's our first show in I don't know how long," said Nuke drummer Pete Ciotti. "We only played like two shows last year; babies and businesses have kept us busy otherwise." Pete says the band is raring to go. "We have all new music to play -- we're getting ready to record an album in this state-of-the-art studio in Weed -- and we're about to celebrate 10 years together as a band."
Pete explains that The Whiskey-fish is a "rock comedy duo" with keyboardist Lenny 'Nipsy' Pettinelli and guitarist Wolf Navarro singing about "Dead Kittens" and other "Tender Moments."
You'll find a review of the eponymous album by new local post-pop outfit Unstable Table elsewhere in this issue. "This is supposedly their first and only show," said Pete, and UT bandmember Ryan Roberts confirmed the rumor of the band's instability. "It's kind of up in the air, but it looks like Amy's going to be leaving town," said Ryan, referencing UT vocalist Amy Hundley. What then? "We might switch it up, do something completely different," said Ryan. Truth is, the band originally didn't plan on playing anywhere but in Ryan's Trinidad studio. "The gig wasn't really part of the plan for the band," he said. "It's more of a writer's collective. When we started it was more about writing than gigging -- we all had gigging bands." (Ryan plays with Absynth Quintet; Tim Lane and drummer Tommy FitzMaurice are both in The Bump Foundation.) "Now that we've done the album we had to learn to play the tunes," Ryan continued. And to further complicate matters, he'd doubled up on bass in the studio, so they needed another player. His neighbor Alex Kantner agreed to learn the tunes and proved adept, not a surprise when Ryan learned that Paul Kantner (of Jefferson Airplane fame) is Alex's dad.
Meanwhile around the corner at Humboldt Brews Friday, it's a cool blast of Portland alt. old timey/Americana with Whiskey Puppy, The Clampitt Family and Jackstraw.
As if that's not enough stringiness for one night, there's also a Folklife Contra Dance Friday at the Bayside Grange: Natalie Cabrera calling, music by The Rocky Gulch Collective, which includes David Isley, Kurt Hippen, Erica Carlson and trails maven Jen Rice.
Among the musicians playing for Saturday's Arts Alive!: Ken Jorgenson and the Rovers at Humboldt Baykeeper. The Rovers are family and friends of Ken, maker of Blue Heron softshell instrument cases and host of "Bluegrass Country" Tuesday mornings on KMUD. BTW, it's a celebration of Ken's 60th birthday. HBD Ken!
Blues? John Lee Hooker Jr. is at the Riverwood Friday night. His latest, All Odds Against Me, is up for a "Best Traditional Blues Album" Grammy.
Jam on your toast? Animal Liberation Orchestra offer a sunny, jammy blend of rock, jazz, blues and funk; ALO's Tour d'Amour III hits the Van Duzer Sunday. Catch them live on KHUM at 2:30 that day. Big Light opens at the VD; they'll be on KHUM too.
Jammy turntablist DJ Logic teams up with Vegas-based jammers Moksha and Neville Bros guitarist Brian Stoltz for a jammy evening at the Red Fox Sunday. The Fox is busy all week with dirty soul/funk/pop band Pimps of Joy Time from Brooklyn/N.O. playing Tuesday. Electronica jammers EOTO with Michael Travis and Jason Hann from String Cheese play Wednesday.
Mardi Gras proper isn't until Feb. 24, but they're already parading in N'Arlins and The Dirty Dozen Brass Band is at the Fox Monday night. So why not party now? Extra bonus: Another N.O. funk/brass combo, Trombone Shorty and Orleans Ave., shares the bill.
What with the thick neck and tattoos, former lead singer for punk legends Black Flag, Henry Rollins, doesn't look much like a TV talk-show host, but he is. Actually, IFC's The Henry Rollins Show (which mutated out of a movie chat session called Henry's Film Corner) is an alt. talk-show. Henry is also a poet of sorts, although he uses the term "spoken word." That's what he'll be doing when he comes to the Kate Buchanan Room Saturday -- speaking words.
Friday marks what would have been reggae icon Bob Marley's 64th birthday, if not for his death at the age of 36. As has become a tradition, reggae shows abound during February, among them the annual Tribute to Bob Marley Tour by reggae stalwarts Groundation. The tour hits the Mateel Thursday, Feb. 5.
Dancehall reggae is the ting at the Red Fox Thursday with Rude Lion Sound and DJ Jimmy Jonz spinning platters. More reggae Saturday at the Fox when Jah Sun and Gravity are joined by Stevie Culture and AKA Boom Sound.
Later in the month, Feb. 18 to be exact, Bob's son, Stephen Marley, returns to Humboldt for a solo acoustic show at Toph's House in Benbow. Somalian "Dusty Foot Philosopher" K'Naan plays Toph's the following night.
More reggae news: The Mateel announces that Reggae on the River 2009 is set for Saturday, July 18, at Benbow Lake State Recreation Area. "Talent, ticket, vending, and camping info coming soon!"