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Knowing Where You've Been 

Or: What's old is new again

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There's the old saying that goes, "You can't know where you're going if you don't know where you've been." I think Jesus said that. There's also a slightly less older saying that goes, "Well, we know where we're goin', but we don't know where we've been." That was David Byrne of the Talking Heads. I'm not mentally equipped to tell you which proverb is correct, but there's something important to be reflected upon in each. If you are truly clueless about the past, get ready for some blunders upon your path. (U.S. foreign policy shout out!) However, if you spend too much time wondering about the past you may remove yourself too much from the present and miss out on now. Is there some sort of middle path? A way to honor and acknowledge the past, yet be committed and bound to the future? Let's hope so.

The North Coast Journal is celebrating 25 years in existence, and as someone who has been writing for them 25 years less than that, I find that previous fact rather interesting. No one would have guessed that 25 years later this alt-weekly would be publishing not only a print edition, but a digital online companion as well. The music industry was more or less the same 25 years ago as well. When Byrne released his first solo album after leaving the Heads a little more than 25 years ago, even he probably couldn't imagine the future of the music industry shifting away from one that was almost exclusively based on physical units.

As musicians nowadays are cruelly aware, putting out a (good) album won't cut it as it did in the past. With CD sales in freefall, musicians need to not only get their albums up online, but also need to spend inordinate amounts of time on Facebook, Twitter, ReverbNation, Flickr, Grindr, Instagram and other horribly named social media platforms just to make enough to buy new guitar strings. Want to write a new song? Well your time is probably better spent hashtaggin' some cat video on Facebook to increase "engagement" with your fans, or crafting a retro looking music video to put on YouTube. The public wants more from bands today and for way less. Is that good or bad? Maybe it's neither, and just the way it is. We can't get too hung up on how things used to be, but just hope we're in the mix when things start becoming what they will be. With that in mind, and barely understood, it's no surprise that many bands these days are incorporating echoes of their heroes and sonic influences, or just covering them outright. Know where you've been? No idea where you're going? Me too.


In an ode to the film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (released 44 years ago), Primus (formed 31 years ago) is touring to support its musical interpretation of said musical soundtrack. I've never thought about it before now, but if I had to imagine what Gene Wilder's Willy Wonka's inner monologue sounded like in 2015, it would probably sound a lot like Primus. Les Claypool probably would have made a damn good Wonka as well in the more recent release of the film (sorry, Johnny Depp). Anyway, catch Primus and the Chocolate Factory at the Eureka Muni tonight at 8 p.m. for $37.50.

If that's a little too rich for your taste, and going back one decade too far, head over to the Jam (what we have always called what used to be called the Jambalaya) for '80s Night with DJ Red. In terms of '80s dollars, adjusted for inflation, it's still free and starts at 9:30 p.m.


So-Cal retro rockers the Growlers will be performing for mostly HSU students tonight at the Van Duzer Theater on campus. With a kind of low-fi-psychedelic-'60s-surf-garage-rock sound, the Growlers are true to their So-Cal roots, sounding like a sunny L.A. band with choreographed, hip dance moves made for Top of the Pops, but with a bleaker lyrical content a la Laurel Canyon in the '70s post-cocaine-takeover. Their music video for "Chinese Fountain" — lamenting where technology has taken us — is all '70s mustaches and sideburns located somewhere around Grauman's Chinese Theater. The show's already sold out but maybe you'll find a way in around 10 p.m. Throw a quarter in the fountain kids, and make a wish.

At 9:30 p.m. you can catch the Sean Hayes Trio at Humboldt Brews. A 23 year native of San Francisco (I think), Mr. Hayes has a voice that sounds similar to Brett Dennen at points. To be fair, as Dennen is younger, it should be noted that Dennen's voice sounds a bit like Sean Hayes. $20 at the door for this show.

Humboldt's premier Talking Heads tribute band, Naive Melodies, is at the Jam(balaya) at 10 p.m. My own kids were dancing it out pretty hard to "Once in a Lifetime" the other night, which would have made David Byrne proud. Bring your own lamp and dance the night away. Not sure what the price is, but it'll be worth it.


Speaking of looking to the past for musical inspiration, Wake the Dead doesn't just go back to the Grateful Dead's catalogue for its sound, it goes all the way back to Celtic music. Always wanted to hear "Brokedown Palace" as if it were sung in a Cork County pub? This is your band. An 8 p.m. showtime at the Arcata Playhouse and $15 will get you in the door.

Humboldt Brews has Soul Night tonight and for just $5 you can sweat and shake your booty at 9 p.m.

The Jam hosts hip-hop with Little Kidd Lost joined by recent album-releasers Object Heavy at 10 p.m. Price TBA.


The Arcata Playhouse sees the return of Front Country which has one-sixth of its roots here in Humboldt County. A talented ensemble winning many awards for its ... well, talentedness. Catch 'em for $15 at 8 p.m.


For a sound hearkening back to gay Paris, when accordions were king and baguette makers didn't take the summers off, look no further than Musette Explosion. If you don't really know what that charming, lilting sound of French accordion music sounds like, but you want your friends to think you do, put Musette Explosion next to your Amelie soundtrack. They'll be at the Playhouse at 8 p.m. and $15 will put you in a great mood.

Full show listings in the Journal's Music and More grid, the Eight Days a Week calendar and online. Bands and promoters, send your gig info, preferably with a high-res photo or two, to

Andy Powell is a congenital music lover and hosts The Night Show on KWPT 100.3 FM weeknights at 6 p.m.


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Andy Powell

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