Chris Pureka writes strong, sometimes chilling songs that get to the point. "So, go, get the fuck out of this house, just hurry along now. There's work to be done," she wails in "Damage Control," a song on her recently released fifth album, How I Learned To See In The Dark.
Pureka says she mostly writes "from personal experience." She has a degree in microbiology and was doing research on antibiotics when she decided to instead devote herself to touring and songwriting, which she sees as equally important. "Music definitely affects people's lives a lot, helps them through things," she said, calling from Colorado midway on a cross-country tour. "I get e-mail from people thanking me for helping them through rough spots, thanking me for doing what I'm doing -- so it seems important. There are all kinds of way music helps people -- it's therapeutic."
Wikipedia notes that "Pureka identifies as genderqueer," but you wouldn't really know it from her songs. "I don't think it enters into the songwriting process," she says. "Most songs are gender neutral -- the English language allows us that luxury; there's a lot of wiggle room. The songs are meant to be universal, to speak to everybody. I write for myself mostly and put them out there for other people to digest. When I'm going through something difficult I write a song about it and that gets it out of my system. The process helps me, then it can exist on its own as a piece of music."
Ready for some therapy? Chris Pureka and her band play at Humboldt Brews Sunday, May 16. Berel Alexander opens.
It's graduation weekend for HSU, finals are ending, so it's party time -- and there are many choices of where to party. Jambalaya has the rhythm Thursday with the steely Humboldt Calypso Band, New Orleans jazz combo Slippery Society and HSU Samba Club.
There's a big reggae show at Mazzotti's that night with Iration, a band from Hawaii via Santa Barbara, touring behind a new album. Time Bomb, with more Cali reggae by Top Shelf, Through The Roots and Pacific Dub.
Fleet-fingered French fiddler Fabrice Martinez and his wild gypsy jazz outfit Fishtank Ensemble are back for a Humboldt Folklife show Thursday at Arcata Playhouse. The latest Fishtank disc, Woman in Sin, kicks off with a title track featuring Fabrice trading Hot Club-esque licks with equally fleet guitarist Doug Smolens while vocalist Ursula Knudson applies sexy operatics. Hot stuff!
Same night in Eureka, another hot swingin' combo, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, struts at the Arkley Center, making up for a January gig postponed due to damages the Ark sustained in the earthquake.
Meanwhile at the Red Fox, Hammond-B jammer Melvin Seals and JGB, self-described "keepers of the flame" (presumably Jerry's), share a bill with Moo-Got-2, fresh from NOLA.
Contrary to what is says in the print version of this column, Moo-Got-2 is not playing its psychedelic funktronica Saturday at the Arcata Theatre Lounge (sorry, bad intel). The ATL show with Clan Dyken, The Devil's Boots and Bajuana Tea is billed as a "benefit show for Jack Herer," which seems weird since Jack the ganja guru died a month ago. He'd been incuring health care bills, so that may explain it.
Red Fox shifts from Thursday's jams into a full electro weekend with Heyoka, Selector Science and Psy-Fi on Friday and Rebel Bass Collective presenting electo-violinist Govinda, DOV and DatGirl on Saturday.
Jazz guitar wizard Charlie Hunter plays the Jambalaya Saturday in trio mode with Ron Miles on trumpet and Eric Kalb on drums. Of course with Hunter handling lead and bass, it's more like a quartet.
Jeffrey Halford and The Healers bring quality Americana/swamp rock to the Riverwood Saturday night. Judging from the songs on his latest, Broken Chord, his songwriting's damn good too. A number of songs were written not long after Katrina -- "Ninth Ward" and "Louisiana Man" serve as rebukes expressing Halford's disgust with the government response.
Saturday at the Lil' Red Lion, a triple bill with locals The Monster Women and Splinter Cell, and from Olympia, Western Hymn with guitarist Craig Extine (Old Haunts), Sarah Utter (Bangs) on bass and former local Kris Cunningham on drums. Jimmy from Splinter Cell tells me Kris was once in Couch of Eureka, among other bands. "He always brings his bands through: Nudity, Natural Ass, I'm A Gun, Horse Thieves... ."
Arcata should be swamped Saturday between families in town for graduation, the Farmers' Market (with Compost Mountain Boys) and day one of the first ever Humboldt Arts Festival (see Calendar for full details on both days).
First on the HAF stage at noon Saturday is resilient blues singer Courtney Weaver, playing her first official gig since a near-fatal shooting in January. "This will be my first and last show for a while," she told me, calling from Seattle where she had surgery done on her shattered jaw (more to come). "I'll be doing four new songs I wrote in the hospital and some old blues," she says, noting that harp player Sandy Flippin helped assemble a band for her with Jim Lahman on guitar, Bentley Harder on bass and drummer Rob Anderson.
"Life is finally getting back to normal," says Courtney before mentioning that NBC is jetting her to New York soon to tape a segment of The Maury Povich Show. She'll speak as a survivor of domestic violence. She's not sure what to expect, but knows what she wants to say: "Women are usually portrayed as a victim, or as someone deserving of hateful violence. I'm trying to break that idea and do away with the stigma. You have to figure out a way to make things positive -- even negative things."
As the California budget teeters on the brink, cutting money for schools has become de rigueur and, sadly, art and music programs are often first on the chopping block. That's one of the reasons for Saturday night's Bandwagon For the Arts at the Mateel, a revival of the KMUD Bandwagon fundraisers organized by music man Andy Barnett and his wife Beth Wells, this time with local schools in mind.
Andy is doing a workshop on live radio variety shows earlier that day as part of the KMUD-hosted Community Radio Conference. Friday's show is variety in action, mixing radio theater with everything from polka to free jazz in sets by Brass Menagerie, Garberville Town Band, South Fork High Band and Mad Jazz Singers plus special guests Randy Ruland, Gregg Moore and Steve and Lorna Brown. The Browns offer Brazilian choro, which Andy describes as "the precursor to samba and bossa nova," with Lorna on accordion, Steve on guitar, Andy on tuba and Redway School music instructor Hal Lepoff on fiddle.
Redway School and South Fork High both have music programs in jeopardy. "We'll contribute to the ongoing efforts of other organizations the Rotary and Save our Schools who have been working on this for years," said Andy. "It's conceivable that there may be no public funding for the arts and all the money will have to come from the community. Admission to the event's free, but we'll be accepting donations."
Around the same time Saturday in NoHum, Jeff DeMark "and friends" are throwing a benefit for the Pacific Union School Music Program at Wallace and Hinz in Blue Lake. Friends include Blue Lotus Jazz, Josephine Johnson and Seven-O-Heaven and saxophonist Susie Laraine playing with Jeff's son Jesse. Jeff will be backed by The LaPatina Band with his bro Paul on drums, Dave Wilson and Andrew Goff on guitars, Jackie Dandeneau on vocals and Pacific Union music teacher Jim Hachimonji on fiddle. "Jim has been teaching there 24 years," said Jeff, "and the program needs money to keep functioning." He aims to raise some.
Also on tap out in Blue Lake this weekend, a pair of benefits in the casino's Sapphire Palace for the Blue Lake Education Foundation: Friday it's Fog City Wrestling (see Calendar for details). Saturday catch rising country star Sean Patrick McGraw, who, says Wikipedia, describes his music as "something like Lyle Lovett singing Springsteen songs while wearing Dwight Yoakam's hat." That sounds pretty good to me -- all this effort for music and arts education sounds even better.