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Mardi Gras Humboldt-style 

Winterfest, Pin-Ups, psyche metal guitars, steel drums and Fat Tuesday haps

click to enlarge Howlin Rain
  • Howlin Rain

Bone chilling winds tell us that winter is finally here, for real. Time for another Winterfest, the third annual. What started out as a barhopping offshoot of the sunny Mad River Summerfest morphed into an indoor beer festival with a slew of microbreweries pouring for a Mardi Gras-themed affair at the Arcata Community Center. The drummers and dancers of Samba da Alegria will surely add to the Carnival feel; Lyndsey Battle strums her uke and sings her folky tunes, and there will be funky jams from The Fickle Hill Billies and Speakeasy Saints, both bands augmented by horn sections for the evening. Organizers tell us that "costumes and masks are encouraged" for Saturday's bash, but beads will suffice. They'll have food to soak up some of that beer, a good thing since it starts at 6 p.m. and ends early. While it's a benefit for Coastal Grove Charter School, you must be 21 to attend. And since it ends at 10 p.m., that leaves time for an official afterparty: Moo-Got-2 brings the funk over to Humboldt Brews.

Speaking of fundraisers, the vaudevillians of Humboldt VarietyVille celebrate their first anniversary Thursday with a benny at the Arcata Playhouse for Spare Change, the theatrical youth outreach arm of Six Rivers Planned Parenthood. Among the many acts: the above-mentioned Lyndsey Battle, accordionist/human jukebox Rick Fugate, tap dancing juggler Holly Johnston, Jeremiah the Juggler, StevenWeven (another juggler), Savage Henry comic Sarah Godlin, Knee High Puppets, Don Husman of In Human Creation, and some Spare Change alums. The Small Axe Ensemble closes the show with rock ‘n' roll for dancing.

Bay Area bandleader/vocalist Forrest Day walks the line between hip hop and rock with the band that bears his name, spitting out rhymes and singing on a debut album also called Forrest Day. Forrest hits the Jambalaya Thursday for a show that also includes Chico's Soul Union, an African/Caribbean fusion founded by John Dutro featuring Malian kora player Karamo Susso.

In the wake of last weekend's tattoo expo at Blue Lake Casino's Sapphire Place comes Friday's Humboldt Fire Pin-Up Party, a celebration hosted by the local rolling paper company. Organizers plan a rolling contest (using some sort of herbal mix), a show with the Humboldt Pinup Girls, as featured on the Humboldt Pin-up Calendar (which is a bit late this year), plus Va Va Voom and Blue Angel Burlesque, and music by Berel Alexander and local reggae band Mighty Redwood Ambassadors with Madi Simmons and Empress Kiki. They promise a "special fire show and samba at midnight," (maybe in the parking lot?). Then it's electronica into the wee hours with Psy-Fi, DJ Itchie Fingaz, DJ Reishi, and a ZerohouR/Johnny Crough tagteam, with the all-nighter allegedly ending at 5 a.m.

Also on the electronica front, a World Famous show Thursday at the Arcata Theatre Lounge leaning toward dubstep with burner Heyoka, Noah D and R/D, who mixes indie rock into his electro-hop. Deep Groove Society's Sundaze at Jambalaya features Dennis "D-Rakkas" Shaw and Alex Greggs, aka South Rakkas Crew, plus J Sun.

Friday at the Jambalaya, a double header with bluesy jammers Children of the Sun plus Area Sound, described by Sunchild bassist Drew as "a really fun live conscious hip-hop group" with two MCs, Steamer and Zach, backed by an "all-star band," that just happens to include Drew.

This week's tributes: Naive Melodies doing Talking Heads music "All Night Long" Friday night at Red Fox with special guests Bump Foundation; meanwhile Miracle Show plays Dead at HumBrews.

Tons of heaviness at the Alibi this weekend: Friday it's Arizona thrash metal band Vektor, plus Cerebrate, described (somewhat unpleasantly) by Francois of upsidedowncross as "crushing vomitus death metal from Arcata." Upsidedowncross returns to the Alibi Saturday with two heavy Portland bands, Fall the Giants and Hang the Old Year, plus the nightclub debut of El Yeti, with former members of Dragged by Horses, The Hitch and Grimace.

Italian reggae? Why not? International reggae star Alberto D'Ascola, better known as Alborosie, was raised in Sicily but caught the one-drop bug as a teen and now calls Kingston, Jamaica, home. Expect tunes from his soon-to-be-released album, Escape from Babylon, as he tours with The Shengen Clan. Locals Rude Lion and Akaboom Sound open Friday's show at the Arcata Theatre Lounge.

There's more reggae Saturday at the Jambalaya with British dub band Zion Train plus Brooklyn/SF Rasta Rocker T, AbbaRoots Hi-Fi and Tanasa Ras.

Wait, still more: Simple Creation, a four-piece reggae/rock band out of Roseville, plays Friday at Six Rivers and Saturday at BLC's Wave.

Humboldt's own New Orleans Mardi Gras Cajun combo The Bayou Swamis plays for a pre-Mardi Gras celebration Friday night at the Bear River Casino. "It's time to eat, drink and be merry for who knows, the next earthquake may rock our socks off," says Swamis' bassist Marla Joy.

There's lots going on for Fat Tuesday (Feb. 21), the real Mardi Gras. Six Rivers Brewery hosts its sixth annual Fat Tuesday Party, a carnival-esque evening of "beer and beads" with the Samba na Chuva dancers and drummers doing that Brazilian thing and special guests Steel Standing, a "relatively new" band. "We are a 10-piece pan band, almost entirely current or former members of the HSU Calypso Band,"  says Steel Standing member Tricia Baxter, giving props to mentor/Calypso Band founder Eugene Novotny. "Our intention is to stay true to our roots and push ourselves to new levels of discovery through this unique instrument," she continued. "Our repertoire includes some wonderful soca and panorama tunes from the island of Trinidad, as well as arrangements fused with samba, Afro-Cuban, funk and even ‘80s music. We are also working on a couple things dedicated to the memory of Bryan Osper, including a calypso version of his tune ‘Sweet and Low.' We feel that there's a deep purpose behind what we're doing and we want to inspire others through our music." Sounds good to me.

Meanwhile Jambalaya's Fat Tuesday Party features a different sort of rhythmic tropical music: the Afrofunk sounds of AfroMassive.

It's not particularly Mardi Gras-ish, but Brooklyn honky-tonk country swingers The Sweetback Sisters with Emily Miller on fiddle and Zara Bode on guitar (not sisters by blood) return to the Arcata Playhouse on Tuesday bringing sweet harmonies and a crack band. The Seattle-based neo old-time duo Cahalen Morrison and Eli West opens.

Psychedelic guitar rock lives on with Tuesday's double feature at Humboldt Brews pairing two bands with Humboldt connections: Howlin Rain and Radio Moscow. Former local Ethan Miller from Comets On Fire fronts Howlin Rain on guitar and vocals. His band is touring behind a just-released rockin' CD, The Russian Wilds, produced by non other than Rick Rubin. The power rock trio Radio Moscow, originally from Iowa, settled in Arcata for a while between tours, then moved on. The band you'll see next week will be different from the one you may remember. Guitarist/founder Parker Griggs parted ways with his rhythm section in January on the eve of a big tour after his now-ex-drummer threw a guitar at him onstage (a scene captured on video and posted on YouTube). Drummer Lonnie Blanton and bassist Billy Ellsworth were enlisted almost overnight and the tour continued. Now that's rock ‘n' roll.

As you may have heard, the old Empire Squared gallery on West Third in Old Town is now the Ink Annex, a performance space/gallery. An "Anti-Prezi Day Psych Noise Nite" there on Monday teams local alt. psyche band Golden Raven with the duo Darsombra, with guitarist and "future cult leader" Brian Daniloski and video artist Ann Everton taking you on "a mind-melting audio-visual experience that shreds your soul's armor and blasts you into outer space." OK. Let's go.

 

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Bob Doran

Bob Doran

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Freelance photographer and writer, Arts and Entertainment editor from 1997 to 2013.

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