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The metaphor was unfortunate, even if it did declare itself a metaphor. The subhead in the Times-Standard preview of Wednesday night's Winter Ruckus 4 promised "six exciting acts that plan to metaphorically burn the place down." Of course the hardcore hip hoppers, Tech N9ne, Potluck, LCA, Subnoize Souljaz and Blaze Ya Dead Homie do not really intend to burn down the Mateel Community Center - but those who know the history will recall that an arsonist did just that back in 1983, and SoHum has not been the same since. (BTW, the Ruckus is Wed. Jan. 24 - that's tonight, if you picked up this paper when it first hit the street.)

You've probably heard the story about what came after that fire. Members of the self-proclaimed Mateel Nation united to rebuild, put on a little fundraising concert that kept getting bigger, and they eventually rebuilt the Mateel bigger and better than ever. And the headquarters for the Mateel Nation, a counterculture enclave dedicated to peace, love and unity, seemed to be thriving, mostly thanks to that annual fundraiser, Reggae on the River. Forgive the overblown hyperbole, but, to quote Honest Abe's Ettersburg Address, "Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure."

While things seem to be moving forward with Reggae 2007, the battle is not over. No lawsuits have been filed, but lawyers are exchanging letters. Results are in for the Mateel Board election: The incumbents and their supporters won. Boots Hughston of 2B1, the new production company, met with coordinators last week, and everything remained civil; some of the old crew will stick with the show and the "no confidence" dissidents loyal to People Productions are mostly remaining quiet, at least for now. What will happen in March when the Planning Dept. reviews the Mateel's Reggae permit remains to be seen. (I'm guessing "safety" might come up.) One would hope that no one wants to destroy Reggae; certainly no one wants to burn the Mateel down - again.

The "house that Reggae built" has not exactly fared well through all this. An Oregon-based concert promoter who called me yesterday said he wanted to bring KRS-ONE to the Mateel Jan. 31, but was told the place is not adequately staffed - instead his show will run at Mazzotti's. (Winter Ruckus 4 was booked ages ago, before the mess got so ugly.)

Forgive me if I sidestep the question of why the nonprofit is broke, but that's the case. The MCC just received a cash infusion from Boots, basically an advance on his licensing fee, but the organization needs more money.

"We need to get the staff back in and get the hall open," explained Mateel Executive Director Taunya Stapp. "People don't think the Mateel hall takes a lot of money to run - it does. We're looking at how to keep the place open, to pay the utility bills, insurance, the staff, all those things. We have no money."

What to do? How about a classic SoHum-style benefit? They're calling it Mateel Forever.The multifaceted "all-encompassing" event is scheduled forSaturday, Jan. 27, from afternoon (4 p.m.) until the wee hours. It begins with a blast from the Garberville Town Band, followed by performances by some of the theater/dance groups that use the hall - Feet First, Recycled Youth, Random People Monologues, among others. Then you have the usual "gourmet" dinner, crafted by an all-star collection of chefs led by Andrew Perrone. (5:30-7 p.m.) Dinner and after-dinner music is provided by Del McCain and Marcia Mendels, Bill and Victoria (from Subconscious Revolt), Tom Pavone,and the "out"spokenAnna "Banana" Hamilton. Then it's boogie time, with neo-classic rock by The Non-Prophets, alt. rock by The NPK, and funky hip hop by Subliminal Sabotage. You've got the requisite raffle and silent auction on the side - and what would a Mateel show be without reggae? DJs Sister Yasmin and Dub Cowboy should keep the positive vibes flowing on the turntables. The SoHum/Jamaican band Massawa, with Stevie Culture on keys, closes the show, backing Jamaican "conscious" dancehall artist Little Hero. He may not be big in the U.S., but Little Hero (aka Paul Nathaniel Gayle) is a rising star in Jamaica with a number of hit singles under his belt, including "Inna De Ghetto," a No. 1 in 2005, and more recently "Prayer Time," which topped the JA charts last fall. It'll take more than prayer to get things back on track. All involved in the Forever benefit are volunteering their time and energy "in the spirit of unity." A bit more unity is in order all around.

People Productions has been pretty quiet of late, which is not to say they haven't been busy doing what they always do: booking reggae concerts. They have Steel Pulse and Morgan Heritage coming to the Mateel Feb. 23; in March they bring reggae to Indigo in Eureka, including Midnite (March 14) The Skatalites (March 23) and Sizzla (March 29).

Urban Style Productions takes over Indigo Thursday, Jan. 25, for some serious "urban style" hip hop, including old school Oakland rapper Too Short (whose brief appearance at the Mateel years ago is infamous), with This Man, I & Iand Humboldt's own DJ Ray.

Returning to reggae, Ishi Dube and Massagana play Mazzotti's Friday, joined by Jay "The Sarge" of Onewise Sound. Completing the picture on that KRS-ONE show, next Wednesday, Jan. 31: "The Teacha" offers his hip hop lessons following sets by Scott Free, Collective Elements and Dub Cowboy. (Bluesy songwriter Jackie Green returns to Mazzotti's Thursday, Feb. 1.)

What does a hard-working musician do to celebrate a birthday? Well, you might book yourself at a club, invite all your friends and have a big party. That's what Wandering Menstrual Melody Walker is doing Friday night at the Jambalaya. In case you've forgotten, the Menstruals lead the "Ladylike Open Mic," on Mondays at Muddy's Hot Cup. Friday is also drummer Pete Ciotti's B-day. He's partying with Nucleus around the corner from the Jam at Humboldt Brews; Nuke friends from S.F. The John Howland Trio share the bill. (Nucleus will play with them down in the city some time soon.)

Also on Friday: The return of Kulica, playing at the Red Fox after a few months maternity/paternity leave while Julie and Cutis tended to the newborn babe. That full-grown babe Lila Nelson opens.

Tuesday morning e-mail from one Twisted Kitty: "HEY BOB! The Forever Young Experience has a gig this Friday night at the Clam Beach Inn. Please alert your readership. They make Dragged by Horses sound like little girls." That may be an exaggeration (I'm pretty sure Kitty's boyfriend is in FYE).

You may recall that DbH switched drummers; the musical chairs game has their former drummer, Matt Marek, taking over for Bandon Taylor in The Ravens, who BTW are playing Saturday night at the Alibi as part of an animalistic three-band show that also includes Seattle's hard rockin' Iceage Cobra(touring behind their new Heavy Soul Records release, Brilliant Ideas from Amazing People) and Santa Cruz-based garage pop band Origami Elephant.

Speaking of musical drum chairs, I got a note from Joyce Hough (name-dropped with Fred in Stage Matters this week) about the upcoming Country Pretenders show on Saturday, Jan. 27, at Muddy's Hot Cup. "We haven't played since the Don Wolski benefit last February at the Grange," she notes. "And before that, I don't think we had played for two or three years! The problem has been the lack of a committed drummer, or any drummer for that matter. We have recently drafted Tim Gray(I won't disclose the contract negotiated, but he may wish he was a soccer player, not a drummer) on drums and of course, vocals. So the Pretenders are back in the saddle and looking forward to playing our roots country music once again: Merle Haggard, George Jones, Hank Williams, Hank Snow, Patsy Cline and much more. And how often can you go out and hear Brooks [Otis] play the pedal steel?"

The Rubberneckers hit the Jam Saturday, joined by The Common Vice. Says `Necker Clay, "We haven't played around here in a while and we love the Jam and Ricardo and Rose and all the other fine folks that work there. Yeah, that's right, Bret and Gibby (of Que La Chinga) have a new band and it's called The Common Vice. This is a sneak preview show, sure to be hilarious and heartwarming all at the same time. Bring a friend."

Not enough choices for Saturday? Blues fans may want to consider heading to Blue Lake, where Catfish Keith plays country blues at the Red Radish. Catfish picks fingerstyle and makes the guitar cry with a bottleneck slide; he favors National steel guitars and he's real good.

I was surprised to see a big ad in last week's Lumberjack saying one-man-jam-band Keller Williams is playing Jan. 23. Well it was just plain wrong. In fact he's at the Van Duzer Feb. 15. Other additions to the Feb. schedule at HSU: Olmeca, playing for free (Feb. 2) indie rockers Of Montreal (Feb. 5) Rob Crow from Pinback (Feb. 17) and New Monsoon (Feb. 24).

One more item: Wet Confetti, a very cool band from Portland, plays their brand of herky jerky pop punk on Wednesday, Jan. 31, at the Green House. Wet Confetti comes with some impressive credentials: The band's new CD, Laughing, Gasping, was produced by Dave Allen of Gang of Four and released on his Pampelmoose label. W.C. was one of the bands on the latest Burn to Shine vid, a project that involves top indie bands in some city (this time Portland) recording one song each in a house slated for demolition - each film ends with the building burning down. Since this is basically an underground show, you'll have to figure out where the Green House is on your own. Clues: It's not a horticultural type greenhouse. It's green. It's not far from a major intersection. It's not slated for demo and will not be burned down following the show. And, oh yeah, the house has its own MySpace page. Do you? Friend me. C-ya in Space.

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Bob Doran

Bob Doran

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