Humboldt County residents are lucky for countless reasons. One of those is that, due to our rather small population, we have a real opportunity to get to know our elected officials and public servants. As with many in the "public sphere," it's easy for us to think we know who a person is by glancing over the local news headlines. Sit down with them over coffee and chat music, however, and you'll get to know them better than any anonymous blog commenter could dream of.
I was recently lucky enough to do just that with Humboldt County Interim Planning Director Rob Wall recently. Wall has a lot on his plate. Not exactly a politician — as he's not elected — Wall finds himself in the middle of a lot of local politics, but he's able to leave that aside once and a while and focus on music. This guy's a rocker, and he knows his stuff.
Wall grew up in England, found his way to the Merced area, and then, after a stint in the U.S. Coast Guard, he made it up to Kneeland here in Humboldt County. He grew up listening to his dad's record collection, which included the Chicago Transit Authority and Elton John, among others. By about the eighth grade, Wall started nurturing his own musical taste in the likes of early Van Halen, The Scorpions, Tesla and Blue Oyster Cult. He started to play guitar but didn't get too far. (He may not have realized that most great bassists are, in their own right, failed guitarists.) It wasn't until many years later that Wall picked up an electric bass and started rocking.
Wall's able to sit by a radio and pick up bass lines coming through the airwaves, and cites Paul McCartney and Geddy Lee as two bass players (of many) who blew his mind. He does like to keep it local, though. When I asked him which, if any, band he could join, he quickly answered "Faith No More." Mr. Bungle also came up and it became clear that after hard day's work at the county offices, there's not much better to lighten Wall's mood than Bungle's "Travolta."
Wall's first concert was The Scorpions in Fresno back in '81, but if he could re-attend any of the many concerts he's been to, he says it would be Primus' recent Eureka stop on the Chocolate Factory Tour. Icing on the cake: Wall jams out to Iron Maiden's "Aces High" with his son on drums. It's hard for me to think of anything cooler than that. So next time you see Humboldt County's planning director around town, throw up the horns and shout "Plan On!"
At the Arcata Playhouse you'll find a woman who has the rare bragging rights that her songs have been performed by the likes of Joan Baez, Bob Geldof, Tom Rush and Rosanne Cash. At 8 p.m. Eliza Gilkyson will play songs off of her new album The Nocturne Diaries, recorded in her home town of Austin, Texas. Joining her will be Kate Wolf collaborator and Sebastopol native Nina Gerber, all for $20.
Up from Santa Fe, conscientious hip-hop from Raashan Ahmad can be found at The Jam in Arcata. Owner Pete Ciotti tells me that Raashan's music is not your everyday hip-hop and that he's a down-to-earth fellow. Down-to-earth enough that he's recording an EP with locals Object Heavy (who will be backing Raashan). Get into this sweet groove for $12 at 9 p.m.
The Jam's keeping it going as it welcomes a combo of hyper-talented musicians to the stage. Wil Blades (keys), Andy Coe (guitar), Simon Lott (drums) and Dark Lord of the Saxophone Skerik will be tearing it up at 9 p.m. They're phenoms of their craft, so keep your jaw off the floor as some folks will end up dancing on it. Seattle-ite and former member of the Flying Frog Brigade, Skerik will also be joining aforementioned Object Heavy in the studio for some recordings. $10 to check this show out.
Local boys Money ask for none of yours while they give Pink Floyd the four-piece treatment at the Wave Lounge in the Blue Lake Casino and Hotel at 9 p.m. Full disclosure, the bass player is a shameless self-promoter.
Like "bass-driven, electronic HIP-HOP?" Well then, head over to the Arcata Theatre Lounge at 9:30 p.m. for Luckyiam and Lana Shea with DJ Nikon and "support" provided by Apaulo8. $15 for this booty-shakin' experience.
Kingfoot returns to the Redwood Curtain Brewery at 8 p.m. for free. Enjoy a pint and the tunes.
Over in Eureka, you can catch local legend/enigma Cliff Dallas & The Death Valley Troubadours at the Siren's Song Tavern around 9 p.m for free. Imagine if Merle Haggard lived in Eureka and was a huge Denver Broncos fan, and you'll be ready for this show. Opening is Electro Saloon, my favorite band comprised of both my bandmate and my lifemate (the latter is the better looking of the two).
Bay Area blue-eyed soul/R&B band The California Honeydrops return to Humboldt Brews. Although hailing from Oakland, the band could fit in pretty well in The Big Easy or in other sunny spots way down South, but they also bring a certain West-Coast charm. They'll be making you feel good at 9:30 p.m., so bring $15 to repay 'em for the favor.
Some folks who've been jammin' at the Jam the past few night will be at the Blue Lake Casino and Hotel at 9 p.m. This free show finds members of Object Heavy seeing where the tunes take 'em while joined by above-mentioned Skerik.
Ian of Humboldt Free Radio Presents tells me that Imperial Destructro (skate rock from McKinleyville) will be joining Pisscat (garage punk from Sacramento) and Dead Drift (surf punk from Arcata) at The Jam around 10 p.m. $5 for this three-band bill.
Three HSU ensembles bring the sound of African drums and marimbas to campus along with "gongs, tin cans and random radio music" in a percussion showcase in Fulkerson Recital Hall. The HSU Percussion Ensemble performs John Cage's "Credo in US" which features a doorbell and other unexpected sounds. The showcase moves from the futuristic directly to the deeply traditional with the next two ensembles, the HSU Marimba Band and West African Drumming Ensemble. Two works inspired by Ghanaian music and one influenced by Zimbabwean music will be performed by the Marimba Band. Using only indigenous instruments, the West African Drumming Ensemble will be led by HSU alum Joe Bishop and will showcase some music from said region. Free for HSU students, but $8 for the rest of us, expand your horizons starting at 8 p.m.
Upsidedowncross presents S.F. death metal band Acephalix at the Alibi with Humboldt County noise band Golden Raven. Bring flesh-colored earplugs and $5 for this 11 p.m. show.
Former Yonder Mountain String Bander Jeff Austin stops by Humboldt Brews at 9 p.m. A proficient musician many of you know, Jeff's "incandescent string-forward" new project features himself on mandolin and vocals, and you know he'll bring his usual exuberant energy to the stage. $15 for this mando-focused show.
Full show listings in the Journal's Music and More grid, the Calendar and online. Bands and promoters, send your gig info, preferably with a high-res photo or two, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Andy Powell is a congenital music lover and hosts The Night Show on KWPT 100.3 FM weeknights at 6 p.m. He doesn't like reggae or old-time music, but is glad you do.