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Seen and Unseen 

Trevor Hall, plus Haiti benefits, Jeff DeMark, Maria Muldaur and genrefication

When Trevor Hall first started writing songs he was still in junior high and was emulating punk/skater bands like Rancid and NoFX. "But I liked all kinds of music," he said, calling from his home in Laguna Beach. "From there I kind of went into a reggae era -- I got into Bob Marley, Burning Spear, roots reggae -- and that stuck with me."

You can hear the reggae vibe in the songs on his eponymous album (Matisyahu shows up as a guest), but there's also influence from artists like Michael Franti (Hall opened for one of his tours) and the laid-back SoCal lyrical style of Jack Johnson.

Songs like "Unity" seem laden with deep meaning: "Whatever path you follow, push on ’til tomorrow. Love all, serve all and create no sorrow. So many rivers, but they all reach the sea... Love is the glorious and everyone shall reach it; whoever seeks it, seen and unseen."

Hall says he doesn't think about the lyrics too much. "The music comes first, then the words just come naturally. I try not to reason too much or think, like, 'what's this about?' Not until afterwards do I think, 'what does that mean?' The lyrics don't always represent where I am in my life -- they may represent where I want to be or the path I want to follow. I think I learn from the songs."

Who knows, maybe you can learn something from his songs too. Give him a listen on Thursday, Jan. 28, when he and his band play at Humboldt Brews along with L.A. reggae-rockers Tomorrows Bad Seeds, who bring to mind a kinder/gentler Sublime.

The devastating earthquake in Haiti certainly made our big shake seem relatively minor. There are still some repairs to be done, but it seems that even the Old Town Bar & Grill building will survive. (Kudos to Kurt Kramer for stepping up.) Shortly after the news from Haiti hit the newswire, I got a Facebook message from local scenester/promoter Pam Johnson saying she was working on a Haitian relief fundraiser. With the Red Fox Tavern's Every1 Productions on board, a benefit show was arranged for this Thursday, Jan 28, at the Red Fox (of course) with reggae luminaries Ishi Dube, Jah Sun, Jah Tory, Elhadji, AkaBoom Sound and Madi Simmons (Madi also plays Friday at Mosgo's with his new group, The Solar Riddim Band). Bonus: West African drums and dancing by Dun Dun Fare.

No cover charge, but donations are strongly encouraged, and there's a Dutch raffle for goodies from local businesses. The focus is on the local outfit World Shelters, who is supplying much-needed shelter to folks whose homes have turned to rubble, along with something called a "Field Hospital in a Box." Need a ride? Lost Coast Limousine service is offering free transport (in style) from the Arcata Plaza with pick-ups starting at 7:30 p.m. and drop-offs until 2:30 a.m. Call 530-227-4737 for reservations, or if you want them to come by your place. (That would definitely require a donation.)

Meanwhile Taffy Stockton is spearheading something called Humboldt Helps Haiti to support sending a team of doctors to Port-au-Prince (including her dad and her sister). Go to www.humboldthelpshaiti.com for details on what they're doing and how to donate.

And, coming up next Friday, Feb. 5, "From Humboldt to Haiti," an earthquake relief benefit at the Bayside Grange with music by Kulica, Lila Nelson, Greg Lojko, UKEsperience and Mon Petit Chou (who also play their French-Canadian tunes this Saturday at Café Mokka). More on that benny next week.

Storyteller extraordinaire Jeff DeMark has been trying something different lately, foregoing the long, interlocking tales for something more like a variety show with songs and stories on various subjects and backing by different musicians. After doing a show with UKEsperience, he's now working with his twin brother Paul on drums (actually just a single snare). The performance Saturday at the Arcata Playhouse is billed as Jeff DeMark and the LaPatinas, with guitarist Damon Brooks (from Trifecta) and bass man Ross Rowley (Paul's bandmate from The Delta Nationals) filling out the band named for Rocky La Patina, a clarinet player from Jeff and Paul's hometown Racine, Wisc. (He's the subject of one of Jeff's songs.) Special guests include Playhouse playgirl Jackie Dandeneau, guitarist Jim Silva and Jeff's son, Jesse, on trumpet. Bonus: Paul sings one on his own, Kieran Kane's "In a Town This Size."

If you just know Maria Muldaur from her 1974 hit, "Midnight at the Oasis," you're missing a lot. I discovered her in the ’60s when she was singing old blues and jazz tunes in the Jim Kweskin Jug Band. She's been exploring the many shades of blues and jazz since then, lately with an emphasis on New Orleans R&B, something she calls "bluesiana." That's what she'll be playing Saturday night when she hits SoHum's home of the blues, the Riverwood Inn.

A new SoHum dance troupe, Blushing Barefoot Burlesque, performs Saturday at the Mateel. Their "All That Jazz" evening promises "cards, cash and corsets, inspired by the 1920s Jazz-era speakeasy," which is to say there's a poker tournament and girls dancing in semi-racy outfits along with a no-host bar.

Meanwhile up north at the Arcata Vet's Hall, Humboldt Folklife Society presents a different sort of dancing, more or less square, a "Barn Dance" hoedown with old time music by Striped Pig Stringband.

Tempest returns to the Wave Lounge Saturday for another night of electrified semi-metallic Scandi-Celtic-folk-rock.

Blue Turtle Seduction's p.r. team describes them as a "five-piece rock/bluegrass/reggae/hip-hop hybrid [that] creates music that defies classification." Apparently in this case defiance means spanning multiple genres, something BTS does well. (But shouldn't they add the word jam in there somewhere?) BTS is escaping the snows of South Lake Tahoe for a coastal tour that brings them to Humboldt Brews Saturday with support from a relatively new local blues/rock/jamband, Blue Street Junction.

Speaking of genrefication, you might recall Strix Vega's "sound description" contest. The results are in. The winner: "cougar aphrodisiac rock," which I suppose the fans chose for its ironic, sexist/ageist bent. I thought most of the contest submissions were pretty weak, although I liked "superfolkandrocknrollemoaltandlonely" and the vague phrase I've used to describe Strix before, "alt. something." Anyway, the Vegans are playing their cougar aphrodisiac rock Saturday at the Jambalaya with The Common Vice sharing the bill. What kind of music do they play? You tell me.

With the ever-expanding world of dance music in many forms -- house, hip hop, drum 'n' bass, dubstep, electrojam, IDM, etc. -- genre mutation sometimes makes pigeonholing difficult (as it should be).

Among the shows coming up in that general vein: A Rebel Bass Collective thing at the Arcata Theatre Lounge Friday with Heyoka, Siren and Mike D. Dubstep? Probably.

Friday at the Red Fox Serpent Says presents DJ Babu and Rakaa Iriscience from Dilated Peoples, a "conscious hip hop" crew from L.A. plus Kahlee, and locals The Fantastic Fam.

More hip hop Saturday at Mazzotti's: a Diamondback show featuring Mystic, a Grammy-nominated soul singer/rapper plus politically-charged rap by Sabac Red

Or you could hear some Christian rap that night at Mantova's Two Street Music where T.O.C. throws down born-again rhymes like "Got the Holy Spirit?"

Back to the bass and electro: Earth Pulse  Presents: The Flying Skulls, DJ Touch and Psy Fi Saturday at Red Fox. Then on Wednesday, Feb. 3, Colorado-based DJ/producer Bassnectar brings his "omnitempo maximalism" to the Arcata Theatre Lounge with Emancipator and Danny Corn down from Portland.

Same Wednesday at the Red Fox, funk/soul/AfroBeat band Monophonics is up from the Bay Area. Give a listen at monophonics.bandcamp.com. MastaShredda is spinning or laptopping or whatever beforehand.

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Bob Doran

Bob Doran

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