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Stranger in a Strange Band 

What was the first concert you ever went to? Which one was the best? These are questions I love asking people because not only are they interesting, but they show the lasting power of music. No matter how embarrassing we may now view our attendance at our first show, we can't help but smile and feel the warm rush of memories wash over us.

Our favorite show — even if it eventually gets replaced — is one that we'll never forget. Whether it was strictly on account of the band's performance, or coupled with the company we were in that night, it was an event that had a lasting impact.

I was reminded of all this while chatting with a good dude named Casey at a show this past weekend. He sweetly recounted all the amazing gigs he was lucky enough to see — and for cheap! — growing up around San Francisco in the '70s. He namedropped bands that would have made my jaw drop had it not been busy with a pint glass. Later I bumped into Jim, a biker out from Detroit who eagerly chatted about the numerous times he saw Pink Floyd live all over the country. The intensity of these memories shared was as relevant as if the shows took place just the night before. Needless to say, I had a goddamn blast, and all this before the round of whiskey Jim bought. Only with music can you talk to a complete stranger, someone who may have nothing else in common with you, and leave friends, knowing you'll never see them again.

Thursday

The 26th annual Redwood Coast Music Festival kicks off, and rather than list the numerous artists and set times they have running the next few days, I'll send you to check out the schedule at www.rcmfest.org.

An interesting take on some jam-band music is happening at Humboldt Brews in Arcata. After releasing an album of Phish music "reimagined for solo piano," Holly Bowling will be sharing some of those Vermonters' tunes along with a spoonful of The Grateful Dead getting equal solo piano treatment. Even your friends who don't quite get The Dead may find this show enjoyable. Bring $15 to get in at 9 p.m. show and let me know how long "Fire on the Mountain" turns out.

Across town at the Arcata Theatre Lounge, World Famous Productions presents the final Humboldt show of VibeSquaD. I was informed that the first World Famous Productions show way back when featured this "bass music producer/performer/innovator," so it seems fitting for this to be his farewell. Rounding out the electronic music will be Psy Fi & Rhizae around 9:30 p.m. Not sure on a cover charge, but I'm sure you'll find it worth it.

Friday

The Spring HSU Composers Concert takes place at Fulkerson Recital Hall on said campus at 8 p.m. You'll hear HSU student-composed pieces, one of them for a full orchestra "evoking" the lost Aztec city of Tenochtitlán and another entitled "Variations on a Theme by the Wu-Tang Clan." $8 for community members and free for the composers' student colleagues.

The Eureka Pizza Council will perform its blend of jazz and funk for free around 8:30 p.m. at the Speakeasy in Eureka.

Saturday

Speaking of Eureka, it's Arts Alive!, so wander around town soaking up the free local music (and wine) starting around 6 p.m. Back in Arcata, the Humboldt Homebrew Festival starts at 2 p.m., and not only will you find some of the tastiest small batch beers in our neck of the woods, but you'll also hear local "homemade" music courtesy of Object Heavy, Old Dog, Belles of the Levee, and Kingfoot. $40 gets you in.

After you've had your fill of homebrew, have your DD friend take you up to the Mad River Brewery to have some more local beer and catch locals The Yokels who will play for free at 6 p.m.

More student composers get the spotlight at HSU's Fulkerson Recital Hall with The HSU Guitar Ensemble at 8 p.m. The first half of this $8 show — free for you HSU students — will be devoted to works by Erik Satie and Claude Debussy. The second half of the show is devoted to works written by the students. Guitar Ensemble director Nicholas Lambson says many of the students "have not written for guitar before, or they had limited experience, and the guitar students had not worked with non-guitarist composers before. Working together this semester, we have five brand new, and very different, works for guitar."

At Humboldt Brews in Arcata you'll find the Grateful Dead Dance Party at 9 p.m. with live Dead footage and some trippy visuals by Marmalade Sky. Only $3 for this multimedia experience.

Sunday

As mentioned above, the 26th annual Redwood Coast Music Festival is underway, and there is a free Gospel morning at the Eureka Theater. The 70-voice Arcata Interfaith Gospel Choir takes the stage around 9 a.m. along with the Arcata Interfaith Youth Choir. With spirituals, classic and modern gospel, you'll be up dancing and singing along. Following the AIGC will be The Navy Band Southwest's 32nd Street New Orleans Brass Band (deep breath) around 10:30 a.m. and then The ArMack Jazz Band at 11:30 a.m.

At 5 p.m. you'll find singer/songwriter Josephine Johnson at The Lighthouse Grill in Trinidad for free, but always feel free to leave a tip for hard-working musicians.

Wednesday

Find Marco Benevento at Humboldt Brews around 9 p.m. supporting his latest album The Story of Fred Short which grooves on Side 1 and then tells the story of Fred Short in 7 chapters on Side 2. See what selections he'll pull out for this show at 9 p.m. With his rhythm section comprised of Dave Driewitz of Ween and Andy Borger (alum of Tom Waits, Norah Jones and Ani DiFranco), you'll be in good musical hands. Get there early to catch opener Mikaela Davis for this $15 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 music@northcoastjournal.com.

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 normally like talking to strangers.

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Andy Powell

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