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click to enlarge Absynth Quintet at Sting Thing 1 - PHOTO BY BOB DORAN
  • photo by Bob Doran
  • Absynth Quintet at Sting Thing 1

When the players from Absynth Quintet announced their first "String Thing" concert about a year ago, they called it "the First Annual." Informed that the term "annual" did not apply until the even was established primary organizer (and AQ guitarist) Ryan Roberts was certain they'd be back. He wasn't kidding. The Second Annual Sting Thing takes place Friday night, returning to the Arcata Theatre Lounge.

Once again, it's string band extravaganza with AQ joined by some of Humboldt's top pickers. Last year's Thing was an all-local affair aside from Angela Rose and Kate Stone from The Blushin' Roulettes (out of Mendo). The ladies are back, this time with the whole band. Of course AQ's bud's The Bucky Walters are returning. New additions include The No Good Redwood Ramblers, The Morgan Corviday Trio and a band from farther afield.

"We expanded a little bit, added a regional headliner," says Roberts. "Our closer, Poor Man's Whiskey is from Marin. I think it should be a good fit. They're more rock than we are as a band -- they have a drum kit and do sort of newgrass. We didn't want someone who's mellower than us for the last act.

"They've gotten some accolades," Roberts continues. "They played High Sierra, Strawberry, Hardly Strictly; they played Kate Wolf. They were in the finals at Telluride, that's something."

PMW's latest release, Darkside of the Moonshine, is a string-ified take on Pink Floyd's classic using instrumentation including lap steel, keyboards and even Theremin alongside the more traditional guitar, mandolin, banjo and stand-up bass. Poor Man's indeed qualifies as "hardly strictly" bluegrass.

But, says Roberts, "If you have a banjo in your band, you're something-grass. That's part of it, no matter what you do." AQ is rolling with a genre name we used in the Journal to describe the first String Thing: "humgrass." "We're going on tour in November with The Bucky Walters and that's how we're billing it. It's the Humgrass Tour from Humboldt."

Unfortunately the upcoming tour will not be a celebration of the long- awaited AQ album, now titled Iota. There's still more than an iota of work to be done on it, and since they're mixing it in the Bay Area, logistics are complicated.  "We'll definitely be playing tunes from it," says Roberts." A good half our set is now stuff from that album. Ian (Davidson, banjo player) has a song we'll do, something that used to be a Lazybones tune. We revised and rewrote that as an AQ tune for the new album. Now we have a couple of tunes that will be on the album after that. We're planning on opening on Friday with a new one called 'Boomerang.' It's one of those Bird (Jowaisas, mandolin) tunes that I haven't figured out yet lyrically. I know it's about what's going on in our lives. They all are."

The lineup? "No Good Redwood Ramblers start it off playing at 7:30 as people are showing up. Bucky plays at 8:30, the Blushin' Roulettes at 9:30. Morgan and her trio will do a tweener between Bucky and the Blushin's. We play at 10:30; Poor Man's starts at 11:30 and closes. Should be fun." Fun indeed.

The Second Annual String Thing takes place Friday at the Arcata Theatre Lounge with doors at 7 p.m. Admission is $15. Call 822-1220 for further details.

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Bob Doran

Bob Doran

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