Monday night's memorial for gone-too-soon musician Bryan Osper was at once heart-wrenching and life affirming, with hundreds of his bandmates, friends and family gathering to tell tales of his life, make music in his honor and share tears, laughter and hugs.
The musical tributes started with a tune strummed and picked on a ukulele by Evie, one of his young students, who explained that they'd written the song together, but since he was not there, she'd just play her part. It was a thing of beauty, just one of many that night as one performer after another played for a room full of people touched by Bryan's short but very full life.
For me, Bryan was the young musician who lived down the street for a time. When he moved into my neighborhood a few years back, it solved a mystery. Until then I thought there were two almost identical curly-headed kids making music in Humboldt, one the smiling guitarist who stood out in the crowded local string music scene, the other a drummer/world music explorer/pan player. Once I started hearing him practicing on his congas and picking on the front porch with The Bucky Walters, I realized my mistake. There was no doppelganger, just one Bryan, a player open to music of all sorts and a shining star no matter what style he was playing.
I was surprised to find a CD review he wrote for the Journal attached with a clothespin to the lattice that made up a portion of the altar at Monday's memorial at Humboldt Brews.
"The human voice is a most spiritual and mysterious force," he began in that piece. "The first instrument of expression in the history of our species has always been the means of our deepest forms of communication, be it with each other, between a human and the Earth, or through a song, which is sung as a message to the gods. On a musical level, the power of a beautifully realized harmony and the strength that lies in the manipulation of our most natural and unique instrument is undeniable. Always moving, it is at times overwhelming."
That last sentence describes Monday perfectly. It was at times overwhelming, with the music and love pouring forth all night, eventually spilling out into the street at closing time. No one wanted it to end. (For more on Osper's life, see page 9.)
You've seen the Toys For Tots bins around town, and maybe you saw the local bikers toy run rolling down the road over the weekend. The Humboldt Collective Holiday Showcase and Toy Drive Saturday at the Red Fox adds to the Xmas love. The multifaceted showcase includes The Luscious Ladies (with special guest Madi Simmons), the worldly harmonies of Vidagua, the mellowness that is Berel Alexander, Deep Groove DJ Touch and a ton of hip hop with local legends Potluck, Hiway, Fortuna's Dirty Rats, Area Sound and C Baker, all backed by B Swiz' Hip Hop Lounge. Sonny Wong and Julia Finkelstein provide live art; Marcus Matthews from KISS-FM serves as host. Admission price is a new unwrapped toy valued at $5 or more or a cash donation.
The Mateel's 35th annual Winter Arts Faire takes place Saturday and Sunday at the community center offering gifts galore, mostly handmade, plus music all weekend by Humboldt Time, SoHum Girls, Ambush, Garberville Town Band, Eric Cornforth and the Hicktown Homeboys, Frisky Brisket, Seabury Gould and Jefferson Parson, among others.
The Pretty Lights Music Tour is coming to the Arcata Theatre Lounge Thursday, Dec. 8. To be clear, this is not a show featuring the electronic artist Pretty Lights. Instead it's a collection of producers from his label including Polish DJ Michal Menert, who folds obscure vintage samples from Eastern European and Western vinyl into his mix, Slovenian producer Gramatik and DJ SuperVision, who, like Pretty Lights, comes from Fort Collins, Colo.
Also on Thursday, Children of the Sun lay down psychedelic blues, rock etc. at Six Rivers Brewery with special guest A.C. from the Fresh Coast Connection.
More electronica at Nocturnum Friday with Govinda, an Austin-based producer/composer who started as a violinist. While exploring his gypsy roots he began creating layered music drawing on exotic music from all over. He's joined by a top producer out of Colorado, Ben Samples, on the glitch hop/dubstep tip, with local DJs PsyFi and Mikey and dancers Susie Kidd, Erika Shepherd and Luna Moon.
Got a "to whom it may concern" note last week from Brian Box, a self-described "new guy in town," who is now handling booking and promo for Mosgo's. Noting, "We've changed some things, and some things have stayed the same," he detailed a minor shift in Sunday's open mic, which now starts at 6 p.m. Perhaps more important is that the Westwood coffeehouse is no longer called Mosgo's -- from now on it's Café Veritás, as in the truth. Incidentally, a Celtic session precedes the open mic this Sunday afternoon.
Mikal Cronin rolls out his lo-fi SoCal garage pop songs Saturday night at Lil' Red Lion with help from Ty Segall, who produced Mikal's latest disc for Trouble in Mind Records. Both of them are booked on Michelle "Panache" Cable's now annual Bruise Cruise, a weekend jaunt out of Miami into the Caribbean with more than a dozen alt. acts of various stripes including The Dirtbombs, Thee Oh Sees and comedian Neil Hamburger. (That's in February; cabins are still available.) Saturday's show also includes your favorite local boy band Eureka Garbage Company and the loopy keyboard stylings of Mr. Moonbeam.
Coming to Missing Link Records for a Monday instore (around 7 p.m.), Steve Schecter, aka Ghostwriter, a foot-stompin', guitar pickin' one-man-junk-folk-blues band who's able to raise a helluva ruckus all on his own.
David Bazan founded the alt. rock combo Pedro the Lion in the mid-‘90s in Seattle and had a decade-long run under that moniker writing and recording scores of deep, often enigmatic songs. In 2006, he switched to his given name while continuing on the same path. On the road with his latest band, he hits the Jambalaya Monday.
Drummer Billy Martin, best known as one third of the jazz/jam trio Medeski Martin and Woods, is currently on tour with the equally talented organist/keyboardist Wil Blades, a collaborator with Scott Amendola, Stanton Moore and Will Bernard among many others. The Martin/Blades Duo brings its jazz jams to the Jam on Tuesday.
For a different, sometimes outside take on jazz, you have The Tiptons playing a Redwood Jazz Alliance/Playhouse Arts show Monday at the Playhouse. Originally formed in Seattle in 1988 by alto saxophonist/clarinetist Amy Denio as The Billy Tipton Memorial Saxophone Quartet, the group takes its name from the late jazzband leader who lived as a man, but started life as a woman. Jessica Lurie (who also leads her own band) joined five years ago on alto and tenor sax, and the combo became The Tiptons Sax Quartet. The shifting lineup now includes Sue Orfield on tenor and Tina Richerson on bari-sax with John Ewing from The Reptet keeping the beat. "Jazz" is perhaps too limiting a word for their music, which ranges freely from New Orleans second line to discordant free jazz incorporating Afro-Cuban, Balkan and klezmer sounds along the way. Expect wild music like you've never heard before.