They call KMUD-FM "Redwood Community Radio" for a reason. All public radio stations are community stations in some sense, but KMUD is different -- it's grassroots, independent public radio in its purest "people-powered" form, with well over 100 volunteers ranging from teenaged deejays to silver-haired hipsters in their 70s who have been on the air since the beginning in 1987.
When Simon Frech heard about the station being formed, he volunteered to help, at first just typing address labels. When he attended a meeting with some deejays he figured, "if they can do it, I can," and asked if he could do a show. Eventually, he said, "I got a postcard from the station manager, Deerhawk, saying I had a show at some ungodly hour." That was 25 years ago this fall. Originally called "Trans-Europe Express" (named for the Kraftwerk record he once used for his theme song), it evolved into "EuroBureau," a Wednesday afternoon slice of modern European music.
"Community is important," said Frech, who is now KMUD's technical director. "I think the station makes a big difference with all the talk shows and the news. We help the community communicate."
Over time Frech learned the technical side of broadcasting and helped the station grow. "We've expanded a lot," he noted, with the station now up to four transmitters covering from Willits to Orick. A recent upgrade of KMUE, a repeater based in Eureka, moved its signal two notches down the dial to 88.1 FM. As Ken Jorgenson (host of "Bluegrass Country," Tuesday on KMUD) put it, "It may not seem possible, but we've moved even further to the left -- on the dial." (Quick aside: Ken plays Thursday night at Shamus T Bones with his country band.)
Somewhere in the middle of our conversation, Frech was called off to an impromptu meeting. The station is once again "in flux" he explained, as the station manager resigned her position two weeks ago. Frech did not seem to be too concerned. "We'll find another," he said. The station has done it before; it'll do it again. The KMUD community always perseveres.
Since the station is celebrating its silver anniversary, Saturday's annual KMUD Block Party out front of its Redway studios will be a biggie, with a giant CD sale, food vendors, KMUD T-shirts and other merch and a champagne birthday toast with cake (made by dedicated volunteer Carolina) at 4:20 p.m. Live music runs from noon "until 8-ish, aka dusk," according to show coordinator, occasional substitute deejay and "trouble-making volunteer" Julia Minton.
"In rough order of appearance," it includes Mendocino folksinger/astrologer Antonia Lamb (who does a "Cosmic Weather" report on KMUD's "Women on Wednesday"), SoHum songwriter/activist Bud Roger (host of "Edge of the Herd" one Sunday a month), Out of the Blue, The Spring Canyon Band, the Quebecois band Mon Petit Chou (which includes Sue Moon, host of "Hot Potatoes," a Celtic show on alternate Mondays), Whitethorn-based Orphan in the Afterlife, the twangy SoHum country band Twango Macallan, SoHum soca band Ambush and out-o-town ringers (from Medford) 100 Watt Mind. Party on KMUD! Happy anniversary!
Incidentally, Orphan in the Afterlife is at the end of its "Summer Independence Tour," which also includes a Friday night show at the Lil Red Lion with 100 Watt Mind and Rycootermelontramp from Austin. Orphan in the Afterlife's self-described "fairytale funk" is totally cool with electric uke, sax, accordion and upright bass, "loosely inspired by the lamentations of Orpheus." (The band won me over by listing Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band among its influences.) Tour mates 100 Watt Mind have a raunchier neo-psychedelic sound and a lead singer who seems to be channeling Janis Joplin, at least at times. Rycootermelontramp does not sound anything like Ry Cooder, John Cougar or Supertramp, more along the lines of Beck in explorations of alt. who-knows-what.
The very cleverly named Vanishing Pints call what they play "exuberant folk music of mostly Irish origins," which means semi-Celtic drinking songs, sea shanties, working class laments and more drinking songs, some original, some borrowed from the trad and non-trad Irish bands such as The Pogues, The Clancy Brothers, Flogging Molly and Christie Moore. They'll be making pints vanish at the Mad River Brewery Taproom Friday night. The band slogan: "Drink me hearties and be merry."
Saturday at Mad River Brewery, it's the return of Texas singer/songwriter/12-string slinger Danny Fast Fingers, a former Humboldter now living in Austin playing an eclectic mix of rock/folk/blues/country/funk genres.
Local alt. country/Americana kings Rooster McClintock play a benefit Friday night at the Arcata Playhouse for a good cause, the Humboldt Swim Club, pretty much the only local swim team around.
While they're calling Saturday's country show at the Sapphire Palace "The Humboldt Hoedown," the featured artist, Buck Ford, is not local; he's a young singer from Vacaville who briefly relocated to Nashville to cut a record. Citing artists like George Strait, Merle Haggard and George Jones as influences, Ford and his Pure Country Band strive to "bring back to life the sound and feel of old country," at least so they say. Meanwhile in the Wave Lounge, it's tribute time with Mojo Child, a band from the S.F. Bay Area playing the music of The Doors.
Seabury Gould is one of those multi-faceted multi-instrumentalists who can play all sorts of music. He was in the now-defunct Celtic outfit Scatter the Mud and hosts regular open Irish sessions playing bouzouki, guitar and flute (the next is Sunday afternoon at Mosgo's). I was surprised to see that he's now putting his keyboard skills to work playing blues and rock with St. John and the Sinners. Gould also has a passion for the Sufi mystic Rumi, and recorded a CD, Let The Musician Finish This Poem, based around his writings. Gould had help on that album from his old friend from Ojai, Eddie Guthman, who plays cittern, mandolin and jazz bass. In fact they've made six albums of "folk, rock and 'Eastern-flavored' music" together over the course of a couple of decades. Gould and Guthman get together once again Saturday at the Morris Graves Museum for "a variety of world music with folk and Celtic songs" during Arts Alive!
Also along international lines, Saturday night's show at Synapsis (next door to the Ink Annex) with Sweet Moments of Confusion, an instrumental duo with cellist Myra Joy and accordionist Diana Strong playing original compositions inspired by traditions from all over the world, particularly Northern and Eastern Europe.
Something different? How about the double bill at the Works Thursday night with the hot new girl garage group The Lost Luvs opening for Cyclops from Cyclops Island, a garage-punk "inside joke that's gone too far."
The sexy Va Va Voom Burlesque Vixens want you to know, "If your fireworks fizzle this July Fourth, don't fret. We've got something for you that's sparkly and hot enough to make you say 'ooh!' and 'aaaaah!'" That would be the "celebration of red, white and boobs" they're calling "Go 'Merica!" Saturday night at Six Rivers Brewery. Basically it's a collection of burlesque routines set to classic American rock and country tunes played by DJ Gabe Pressure with stand-up comic John McClurg acting as emcee and doing shtick in between. Gabe will hang around for a post-show dance party where "the girls of Va Va Voom really let their hair down and show y'all how to party."
There's more burlesque that night in Blue Lake at Dell'Arte's Mad River Festival: the "saucy, late-night cabaret for adults only," Red Light in Blue Lake, is back with special guests Bada Bling! Burlesque from SoHum. Do you have a ticket? If not, forget it; it's totally sold out. You may still be able to get seats for this summer's big hit Mary Jane: The Musical, but don't wait for those either -- this is the final weekend and the new evolution of the show has been getting rave reviews. Even if you saw it last year, go again. That's what I'm doing. Maybe I'll see you there.