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Fight the Lull 

Humboldt copes with winter break, mellow melodies, plus where to hear profanity!

click to enlarge Singer/songwriter Thad Beckman - SUBMITTED
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  • Singer/songwriter Thad Beckman

It's the first Journal of the new year! Huzzah!

Oh, wait. Unfortunately, that's also an indicator that we are dab smack in the middle of Humboldt's annual winter culture lull. With the extreme exception of New Year's Eve dropped in the middle, the lull generally stretches from round 'bouts the time the university crowd bails to, oh, when they return again. What a weird coincidence.

Many realms of Humboldt life, but especially the music scene, take a severe energy dip during the colleges' winter breaks. It's not that there aren't shows. Flip a few pages to the trusty NCJ Music and More grid. There's stuff goin' on! But if you've ever played a gig this time of year, you know the deal. Whether they're out of town, at one of a thousand Christmas parties, or deeply entrenched in "family time," your usually down-to-hang amigos generally have a "thing" they've gotta do.

'Tis the season. With the people occupied and the weather yucky, many venues go into semi-hibernation. Some -- Blondies, Persimmons Garden Gallery, for example -- close up shop completely during the slow down. (They'll be back!)

But don't let it all harsh your weekend. Embrace the mellow! Find a silver lining. Hmm. OK, look it at this way: If you venture out to the bars this weekend, less youthful exuberance slamming into you = less drink spillage. Right? There ya go.

All right, all right. If that didn't pump you up, how about some good ol' Americana tunes then. The Arcata Playhouse will again host roots/blues singer/songwriter/guitarist/raconteur Thad Beckman this Friday. A first-class picker and purveyor of "honky tonk truth," the 59-year-old looks, sounds and carries an aura of a seasoned country elder statesman -- like "Bad" Blake, except without the tragedy. In addition to his deep bluesy voice, Beckman's versatile guitar chops have led to stints with B.B. King, Bo Diddley, Los Lobos and Emmylou Harris.

Beckman will be joined on stage by the rest of his trio, namely drummer Danny Montgomery and bass player Gary Davidson. But by the time those two hit the Playhouse stage with Thad on Friday night they'll already be well acquainted with the space. On Thursday, along with local guitarist Fred Neighbor, Montgomery and Davidson will again provide the soundtrack for longtime Humboldt poet/activist Jerry Martien as he reads original poetry from Sailing to Atlantis: Visions of a Nation Underwater. Sailing is low-key. This fits right in.

Another mellow Humboldt return: Eclectic multi-instrumentalist David Lindley revisits the HumBrews stage this coming Monday. A longtime sideman for Jackson Browne, and leader of the bands Kaleidoscope and Rayo-X, Lindley uses a myriad of stringed instruments -- dude rocks a lap steel guitar, a saz, an oud, not too shabby -- while marrying traditional American music with more complex and rhythmic world-music styles. If you head out to see "Mr. Dave," keep in mind that, since this is a sleepy time o' year, this is an early show and starts at 8 p.m.

The subdued rolls on: Young, pretty Orange County-based singer/songwriter Alice Wallace is on the road on her first-ever tour. Her travels, in support of her debut album Sweet Madness, take her to the top of the hill in McKinleyville (that's Six Rivers Brewery, if you're not savvy). She cites Patty Griffin, Emmylou Harris and Bonnie Raitt as influences, and listening to her straightforward mellow, alt-country songs, it's impossible not to hear her idols peek through. And, at this stage, that's an endearingly good thing. Catch her whimsy on Thursday night.

OK, here's one that feels a bit more like your typical Humboldt weekend: Veteran L.A. rapper Abstract Rude's Cali Love Tour makes a North Coast pitstop at the Jambalaya on Saturday night. To make sure Humboldt meets its reggae quota for the week -- it was a close one -- he'll be joined onstage by local dancehall DJs One Wise Sound.

Did your New Year start off on the wrong foot when you were detained by the APD during the holiday crackdown? Remedy it with laughter (or awkward gasps, depending on whose team you're on)! Since 2011 saw the graphic, disturbing, poopy birth of the local Ba-Dum-Chh comedy quartet, they now enter the endearing smear-food-on-their-face stage of existence in 2012 with a pair of Wednesday night shows -- Jan. 11 and 25 -- in Cher-ae Heights Casino's Firewater Lounge. Will this turn into a regular gig for the budding punchline peddlers?

"We're going to see how the first month goes and decide then," says founding member Sherae O'Shaughnessy. So, for those of you who want consistent stand-up to live here in HumCo, laugh extra loud.

It'll help you fight the lull.

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Andrew Goff

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