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Man From MARZ 

Jesse J's busy weekend, plus Shpongle, Devin The Dude and Girlyman

click to enlarge Jesse Jonathon and The Humboldt Calypso Band
  • Jesse Jonathon and The Humboldt Calypso Band

Jesse Jonathon's name pops up often in this column, and for good reason: The HSU music grad is central in the world fusion band WoMama, leads the Brazilian-style drum/dance troupe SambAmore (along with other less formal drumlines), he's still a member of Humboldt Calypso Band and most recently he's been working for AmeriCorps overseeing the MARZ Project, an Ink People DreamMaker program for teens.

He explains that MARZ is an acronym for Media and Arts Resource Zone. "We provide access to the digital resources kids need to develop skills in video and audio editing and design." As with many arts programs and the Ink People in general, money's tight, so he's been doing benefits to keep things going.

The latest is an all-ages thing Friday night at Redwood Raks. "We're calling it Cirque du MARZ," said Jesse, explaining that the show was conceived as a collaboration between the jugglers of Poetic Motion Machine and "a faction of drummers" he calls Seismic Activity. "We use samba drums, West African and Middle Eastern drums, steel pans, anything we can get our hands on, but it's more contemporary in style with experimental soundscapes and groove-oriented rock 'n' roll."

The Seismic rhythms serve as a soundtrack for a dozen pieces by acrobats, aerialists and jugglers, "some black-lit, some using mirrors and projections. It's a benefit for MARZ, so the students will be adding a multimedia aspect, projecting what's going on on the walls and adding new dimensions." The rhythmic circus business will be followed by reggae by the local band Synrgy.      

Jesse has a full weekend. In addition to the MARZ thing, he'll be at Humboldt Brews Thursday night with SambAmore, one of three bands playing for the last in the KHSU 50th Anniversary Showcase series. This one represents the station's world music programs: "Ethnic Excursions" with Halimah the Dreamah, (Thursdays 2-4 p.m.) and two Sunday shows, "In the Tradition" with Dan Chandler (9 p.m.) and "Pagan Dance Music" with Ramona, (10-midnight). Filling out the show: the excellent a cappella group AkaBella (who are about to head out on a U.S. tour) and the all-women West African drum troupe Guinea Gbe.

As noted, Jesse also plays steel drum with the Humboldt Calypso Band. They share a show at the Van Duzer Saturday with the HSU Percussion Ensemble highlighting rhythms from Africa, Hawaii and Mexico with a special tribute to Led Zeppelin, "Bonham" by drummer Christopher Rouse.

When UK-based DJ/producer Simon Posford joins forces with flautist Raja Ram, they call it Shpongle. Their fourth disc, Ineffable Mysteries from Shpongleland, came out recently, so Shpongle is touring the U.S. laying down mystical music with visuals by digital artist, VJ Zebbler and ArcheDream from the theater company HUMANKIND, merging ancient ritual with modern technology. Shpongle plays Thursday at Arcata Theatre Lounge with the like-minded Phutureprimitive, aka Rain, a trance/chillout pioneer from Portland who's with a full band including vocalist Alyssa Palmer. Opening, Arcata-based electro-artist Dojo, aka Andrew Juarez.

ATL's electro-dance boom continues Friday with another GeT TuFF: Electro Dubstep Dance Party with the Helicopter Showdown crew, plus Ultraviolet, up from S.F. and locals Sam Supa and Psi-Fi.

The reggae flow continues unabated: Thursday, April 29, it's Jamaican roots singer I Wayne at the Jambalaya along with another JA singer, Bobby Tenna, and Humboldt's own Ishi Dube.

Ishi's "Tuff Riddims Presents" has become a regular thing. Saturday he brings Papa Michigan to the Red Fox with backing by The Sure Shot Rockers from SoCal. Papa Michigan, aka Anthony Fairclough, was a pioneer dancehall toaster in Jamaica in the ’70s, working with General Smiley (aka Erroll Bennett) as Michigan and Smiley, recording hits like "Rub a Dub Style."

The Hawaiian reggae band Natural Vibrations was here last weekend as they headed north on a West Coast tour; Monday, May 3, they stop at Humboldt Brews on their way south.

Tuesday, May 4, again at Humboldt Brews, catch the legendary Devin The Dude, an offbeat, laid-back rapper from Houston who's revered in the hip hop underground. His latest joint, Suite 420, dropped last Tuesday (4/20); the requisite tour includes special guests The Coughee Brothers.

As noted in the calendar section piece on Ladyfest (where you will find full details on the three-day, three-venue music party), Aunty Mo's is back in action this weekend with a Ladyfest thing Saturday preceded by "One Last Drag" on Friday. The cross-dresser show, presented by Humboldt Pride and Where's Queer Bill as a benefit fir the 2010 Humboldt Pride Festival, promises guest performances by "Drag King and Queens from Fresno" (of all places) with DJs Ninja and Buddy supplying the tunes.

You'll find a different sort of gender-bending Sunday at the Arcata Playhouse, a bill with two sexually ambiguous folk pop combos, Girlyman, a harmony trio who were just touring with the Indigo Girls, and Coyote Grace, a duo led by "transman" guitarist Joe Stevens, who, in the compelling song, "Guy Named Joe," wonders: "Who am I to change my life? Who am I to fuck with form? Who am I to weather a storm? But I go slow. I said goodbye to everyone I know, and in the morning I awoke, and I was this guy named Joe."

Cher-Ae Heights Casino offers a double-shot of nostalgia Friday night with Billy Joe Royal and BJ Thomas. Billy Joe's a Georgia boy best known for his 1965 hit "Down in the Boondocks" and for "Cherry Hill Park" from a few years later. He went on to a career in country music in the ’80s and ’90s. BJ Thomas (whose name is also Billy Joe) was raised in Texas and broke out in ’66 covering Hank Williams' "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry." He hit big with "Hooked on a Feeling" in ’68 and the Bacharach/David song, "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head," featured in the 1969 movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Like Royal, he's been working the country circuit of late.

Blue Ox Millworks has its 9th Annual May Day Living History and Artisan Fair all day Saturday. While you'll want to see the old time crafts in action (blacksmithing, spinning etc.) the event also features the best in local old time music including Huckleberry Flint, The Compost Mountain Boys, Striped Pig Stringband, The Bucky Walters, The Tumbleweeds. Proceeds benefit KKDS-LP, Blue Ox Youth and Community Radio (LP for low power).

The Compost Mountain Boys also play for CCAT's May Day gathering at HSU, a celebration of fertility with demos of their cobb oven, new (green) timey crafts, a May Pole Dance, and perhaps advice on composting.

Six Rivers Brewery kicks off its May Day Weekend Celebration later Saturday with everyone's favorite old time murder ballad band, The Pine Box Boys. The party continues Sunday with a family friendly all-ages afternoon show by The Mystic Roots Band, a reggae/dancehall outfit originally from Chico, now based in San Diego. Monday, Six Rivers offers Cheezy Pop Karaoke Night, focusing on the ’80s and ’90s. They're encouraging costumes -- makes me wonder, what is a ’90s costume?

Monday Budget Rock at the Jambalaya May 3 has Eureka psych blues outfit Radio Moscow, who moved here from Iowa earlier this year. They're at the tail end of a tour that first took them all over the U.S. after they'd played all over Europe. The American tour paired them with Naam, a heavyweight psych trio from Brooklyn; same goes with the Arcata show. DJ Paul Maul spins before and between sets.

Last but not least, a community tradition: The Arcata Interfaith Gospel Choir presents its annual Prayer Breakfast Sunday morning at the Arcata Community Center with the usual gourmet continental breakfast and inspiring music by AIGC plus special guests from the Oakland Youth Gospel Choir.  Glorious!

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Bob Doran

Bob Doran

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