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Music for a Cold Winter Night 

Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band, Starving Weirdos and friends, an abundance of classical concerts

They don’t call themselves Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band because they have a lot of members, it’s just a trio, but the sound they make — raw, bold blues played on acoustic instruments — is big and loud as can be. It’s also a true family band: The right Reverend (a big man, by the way) is out front with his guitar and dobro, keeping time stomping his foot; his brother Jayme adds to the beat on a small drum kit, the Rev’s wife Breezy fills in even more rhythm with her washboard. “I’ve been playing with my brother since we were little kids, you know. Then I met Breezy and she was into the same kind of stuff, so we just put this thing together,” explained the Rev, who seems to have no other name.

Why the blues? “I don’t know. I remember playing with this guy; he was older than me by about four years. He said, ‘Whatever you play sounds like blues.’ I guess maybe I was playing blues before I knew what that meant.”

The Big Damn Band is based in Indianapolis, but they’ve been on the road almost constantly for about three years. Along the way they’ve put out three albums on Family Owned Records, which is just what it sounds like, their own label. (For more on how that works go to the North Coast Journal Blogthing,, for the rest of our interview.)

The photo above shows the trio on a warm spring day. When the Rev called they were trying to get out of chilly Colorado on the way west. The band’s van was stuck in three feet of snow. By next week they’ll be in Arcata for a show at Humboldt Brews Wednesday, Jan. 16. Wear your dancing shoes.

The self-described “wild and desperate” music of Humboldt’s finest outsider band, Starving Weirdos, is an acquired taste. They generally play just one long-ass song, and it’s music that does not stick to your typical melody and rhythm — instead they offer one filigreed chord, a building and receding drone that washes over you like a single wave in slow motion. The band is highly respected in certain circles (Aquarius Records in S.F. and British music mag The Wire come to mind) and because of that, they’ve drawn like-minded musicians to Humboldt. Guitarist David Danielle is one such artist. He’ll be at the Jambalaya Monday, Jan. 14, with the Weirdos and Michael Fles’ world music/shadow play projectSahaja.

Says Danielle, “My solo guitar work is lately focusing on layers of textures and drones with references to the blues and the legacy of guitarists such as Sandy Bull, John Fahey, Sonny Sharrock. My live music is almost entirely improvised (though I’ve also written large ensemble pieces for acoustic instruments, minimalist work in the Terry Riley sense of the word); my solo recordings are through-composed, but using improvised elements as building blocks.” Check his MySpace (/davidwdaniell) for a taste. For more of my interview check the North Coast Journal Blogthing.

For the jamband crowd we have On The One, playing Thursday, Jan. 10, at Humboldt Brews. Longtime Hum readers will recall the various “sidecar projects” that grew out of San Diego’s funky Greyboy Allstars. This is a sidebar to the sidecars with drummer John Staten from Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe and Giant People joining forces with saxophonist Jesse Molloy and bassist Andy Irvine (both also from Giant People) and guitarist Aaron Bleiweiss, who provides the requisite chicken scratch and occasional solos. Overall, expect an emphasis on improv funk and, as per the name, the downbeat.

Keyboard wiz Mike Kapitan had planned another Miles Ahead gig for The Pearl Friday, Jan. 11, but a family emergency drew their sax player out of town. Instead they’re calling the night of “jazz/funk/trance music” Anything Goes. It’s mostly the same band — Brad Werren on trumpet, Mike LaBolle drums, Anna Pfiefer bass, Mike on keys of course — what’s new is the addition of Tim Randles with a second set of keyboards. As I’ve said before, Tim can play anything and play the hell out of it, and the same goes for the others in this super-band, so the name should fit.

I may have explained this before, but the local band known as Grass (jamming Friday at the Red Fox) does not play bluegrass or new-grass or gypsy-grass or any other kind of -grass music. According to bandleader “Harmonica” Joe O’Connell, he and his friends “take unabashedly from their influences, and have ‘Grassified’ every thing they touch, creating a sound that is uniquely them.” Translation: They’re a smokin’ funky bluesy jamband.

I have not yet heard No Not Yet, described by band vocalist Peggy Martinez as a “new indie/postprog/experimental rock” band. They’re first up at the Jambalaya Friday night with alt. rockers Laden Swallow following. Saturday at Old Town Coffee and Chocolate Peggy goes Stone Age with the folkier Fred and Wilma featuring guitarist Jeff Kelley.

Blues guitar ripper Clint Warner’s back in town again with “the usual suspects” as he puts it (Rob Anderson, Chris Matheos and Rick Nelson). As you may recall, Clint was subbing in NightHawk recently; when Clint and co. play Blue Lake Casino Saturday they’re bringing in Marcia Mendels and Bridgette Brannon from NightHawk for at least a few songs. (NightHawk plays B.L. the night before.)

Reggae-wise you have a couple of touring bands coming to Humboldt: Saturday Pato Banton brings his “Never Give In” positive vibe to the Mateel backed by Mystic Roots, a Cali-reggae band originally out of Chico who are now Pato’s full-time band. Then Tuesday at Red Fox Tavern it’s another California transplant, the long, tall Eek-A-Mouse, who broke out in the ’80s with a series of bouncy, often comic dancehall hits. In the mid-’90s he put out a disc called Black Cowboy, and he seems to have stuck with that persona since, usually performing in a cowboy hat.

Add one more artist,Anthony B, to the mini reggae fest mentioned here last week with Alpha Blondy and Gentleman playing at the Arcata Community Center Feb. 24, a People Productions show. Speaking of People Productions, it seems like the two sides in the SoHum Reggae clash may be near to settling out of court. As we go to press the Mateel Board of Directors is meeting with the membership to get input on various proposals. It remains to be seen exactly how it will shake down and what any resolution might mean to the future of Reggae-whatever, the festival held every year on the first weekend in August. That said, P.P. has already announced the 2nd Annual Reggae Rising for Aug. 1-3.

The weekend storm that knocked out power in Eureka did in last weekend’s Humboldt Free Radio Alliance benefit at the Vista. (I guess they decided against having metal bands play unplugged by candlelight.) HFRA is having another one Saturday at the Vista, again with three local bands: Fire Demons, a duo with Jeff Langdon of The Hitch (and Henpecker) on drums and Robert Tripp on guitars, plus Arcata alt. psyche rockers Nipplepotamus and Eureka punks The Baby Arms.

Seattle rockers Iceage Cobra have worked out the missing bassist problem and are back on the road, playing the Vista Sunday night with The Common Vice (now presumably in the post-Victorian mode) and James Harkins’ surf/space/garage combo, The Invasions.

It’s a pretty good weekend for classical music fans. Pacific Quartet plays Friday at Calvary Lutheran for the Eureka Chamber Music Series mixing string quartets by Beethoven with a few by the 20th century neoclassical composer Elliot Carter.

On Saturday, choose between three concerts. Young Ryan MacEvoy McCulloughplays Bach, Haydn, Debussy and Magin on a grand piano at the Arkley Center. Nicholas Lambson plays classical guitar at the Fortuna Monday Club. Meanwhile at the Westhaven Center for the Arts, it’s something called “Songs From Green Mountain: The music of 17th Century Mantua” with Italian Baroque music played by violinists Rob Diggins and Jolianne von Einem (perhaps better known locally as half of the Gypsy jazz combo Cuckoo’s Nest) joined by harpsichordist Katherine Heater, a friend from one of their other groups, Magnificat.

The “Green Mountain” title is a Baroque joke: They’re focusing on music by Claudio Monteverdi (green mountain in Italian), specifically things written for Francesco Gonzaga, son of the Duke of Mantua, a generous patron of the arts. In between tunes Rob will read from Monteverdi’s letters on deep topics like “the purpose of music.” What does Rob see as the purpose of music? “I think it’s to provide comfort and consolation in times of sorrow, and inspiration for courageous action, and at the very least casual entertainment.”

Ready for just a little more Bess Dove 2007 biz-nez? Check this week’s review section for a Top 10 classical albums list from a writer in Philly. Then tune in to KHUM this Saturday from noon until 2 p.m. for Michael “Melodious” Moore Jr.’s round-table discussion with allegedly in-the-know music buffs including yours truly and Jay Herzog (whose Top 10 books of 2007 can be found elsewhere in this edition) along with Russ Cole and Mark Shikuma, who share a couple of things in common: Both have deejay slots on KHSU (Russ is Gus Mozart, Mondays at 10 p.m.; Mark follows at midnight as The Boy Wonder) and both have taken over the Hum when I’ve gone on vacation.

“The reason I approached the panel is because they all listen to a lot of music and are constantly searching for new and interesting music via mp3 blogs, reading magazines, etc.,” said Moore in what passed for a press release. I’m figuring the discussion will be all over the map. Moore’s list includes North African desert blues by Tinariwen, Minnesota hip hop by Brother Ali, Argentine trip hop/dub by Federico Aubele and alt. post-folk by Bright Eyes. Jay, Mark and Russ all have equally eclectic taste. So, see you on the radio?

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Bob Doran

Bob Doran

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

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