A few years back, guitarist Jonah Lipsky dropped out of the jamband he'd been playing with, patched together a mess of effects pedals, looping devices, keyboards and electronic drums and became J Wail, solo electrojammer. Born in NYC and now based out of Denver, Mr. Wail has been coming through these parts since around 2005 -- but don't expect the same old jams when he returns Friday.
"It's different now, probably the most different it's ever been," said Wail when I caught up with him somewhere in the wilds of Oregon. "I have a live drummer now, aNdu, so that's mixed in with my looped synthesizers and guitar. It's added a whole new dimension ..." He hesitates, trying to describe this new thing. "It really just gets people going, gets them dancing. It's that extra beat. I'm still kicking the electronic beat and he's kicking the live side. Together it just soars."
Wail's roots are firmly in the jamband world. "I've gone to over 100 Phish shows," he noted, "and I've always been influenced by improv music. When I started touring solo, it was pretty jammy with a groove box for the beats. But it's not like I'd hit 'play' on a drum machine. I would create and manipulate the beats as I go."
It was just three weeks ago when he took the step that launched a new path. While playing Boston, he posted a "drummer wanted" ad on Craigslist. "I only got a few responses, aNdu was one of them. I invited him to the sound check at a show in Portland, Maine. He ended up playing the whole show, then came to my next show -- we've been jamming together since. It's amazing. I'm in awe and bliss. What's cool is, he doesn't have much of an electronic music influence, or jam for that matter, so he's learning new things and so am I. There's so much potential for growing.
"We just went to see Phish at the Gorge this weekend. We rented a sound system to play late night in the campground. We had the whole place filled, with fire dancers and all this excitement in the air. Now the energy is beyond just me. It's really something."
You can hear the new J Wail/aNdu duo Friday at the Red Fox. Local electro-DJ Jason Butler opens.
Santa Rosa-based funkster Patrick Malone (aka DJ Malarkey) joins forces with like-minded locals for something called Genesis Funk Saturday night at Arcata Theater Lounge. The locals include Jsun, Justin B and sax-man Chris Noonan's Simian Project, which I imagine is some of the usual funk suspects. You'll also find Noonan on the Arcata Plaza Sunday afternoon when Moo-Got-2 plays for MainStreet's next Concerts on the Plaza show.
Still more funk Monday, Aug. 17, when Humboldt Brews plays host to Papa Grows Funk, a congregation from New Orleans fronted by Hammond-B3 organist John Gros with June Yamagishi (from Wild Magnolias) on guitar and Jason Mingledorff (from Galactic) on saxophone. Expect dirty N.O. grooves a la Meters and Neville Brothers.
On the alt. side there's the Thursday (Aug. 13) show at Arcata Theater Lounge with local noisemongers Nipplepotamus, plus former local Ryan Peterson of Datura Blues, gone solo as Die Geister Beschworen ("Summon the Spirits") and touring with his Portland D.B. friends *Andrew Miller** (aka** Firs of Prey**)** **and** *Lane Barrington (aka The Ocean Floor).
Looking for stand-up comedy? You have a choice: Where's Queer Bill presents a show Friday at Aunty Mo's with San Fran-lesbian comics Julia Jackson and Janine Brito. On Saturday Blue Lake Casino's Sapphire Palace has John Caponera, a relatively mainstream guy who's been on Leno and once had his own sitcom, plus Huck Flynn, a rock ~~~n' roll comedian with a guitar who parodies The Boss, and imagines: What if Johnny Cash did an ad for an erectile dysfunction drug?
For those who did not get enough Rasta-style reggae at Reggae Rising last weekend, there's a big show Friday at the Mateel featuring Jah Mason backed by The 007 Band plus *Lutan Fyah**,** *Chezidek and Humboldt's African rootsman Elhadji, all backed by the We A Dem Band. The turban-like headgear wrapped around their dreads suggest that Jah Mason and Lutan Fyah are aligned with the Bobo Shanti house of Rastafari. The bobodreads are typically serious purveyors of righteousness, akin to fundamentalist preachers, calling down burning hellfire (fyah) ~~~pon various sinners. Am I the only one who finds it strange that their Bible-thumping to a one-drop beat has become the favored soundtrack for hedonistic young American dreadies?
There was definitely more righteous reggae than I would have preferred at Reggae Rising. I was disappointed when I learned that Toots and the Maytals, originally scheduled for Saturday early evening, had insisted on a closing set. That meant waiting through Capleton's self-righteous yelling. Fortunately I found a comfy couch backstage and took a nap until Toots' soulful wee wee hours blast. It was worth the wait. And I enjoyed Reggae, even if the music on stage didn't always interest me. I go for the festival experience -- to party with old friends and make new ones.
Speaking of festivals, while I was typing this, an email arrived reminding me that Aug. 15-17 "marks the 40th anniversary of the Woodstock Music and Art Festival, a three-day concert event known for its 'free love' and rock music..." (It came from a publicist; I'll skip the details on the book I won't read.) I haven't heard it mentioned, but this weekend's Woofstock actually takes place right on Woodstock's anniversary. The soulful young rocker Jackie Greene headlining Woofstock wasn't born in time, but he would have fit right in with Woodstock's peace and love crowd; same with our own Kulica.
Woodstock nostalgia will reign at West Fest, the Woodstock 40th anniversary celebration in Golden Gate Park on Oct. 25, with a flock of psychedelic relics supplying the music (for free).
The music biz has been going through strange times of late, and with the record biz collapsing festivals have become more and more important as a way to turn people on to new sounds. A good example is a modern three-day bash: the Outside Lands Music and Art Festival coming to Golden Gate Park at the end of August. With a couple of dozen acts each day, the range of music is ultra-eclectic, from mega-headliners like Pearl Jam, Dave Matthews Band, M.I.A., Tom Jones, Jason Mraz, Ween and Black Eyed Peas to garage rock bands (The Dirtbombs, for example), soul singers (Raphael Saadiq and Bettye LaVette), reggae (Midnite and Groundation), jambands (Tea Leaf Green, etc.) and world music acts (Zap Mama, Dengue Fever, etc.).
A side effect is that a fair number of Outside Lands bands are coming up to Humboldt too. Built To Spill, The Avett Brothers, Black Joe Lewis and The Honeybears, Matt and Kim and Extra Golden are all scheduled for HSU shows in coming weeks. The (instantly) sold-out Ween show in Eureka, a Midnite gig at Nocturnum and a Sept. 1 Mateel appearance by Brazilian psyche-rock pioneers Os Mutantes, are also O.L.-related.
Almost all of those shows are at the end of August, same as the Organic Planet Festival (with bluegrass legend Del McCoury and reggae star Tanya Stephens), the reggae-centric Humboldt Music and Arts Summit in Willow Creek and the Dimmick Ranch's country fest, Live on the County Line, all of them competing for your music dollar. The Dimmick show on Saturday, Aug. 29, features Dwight Yoakam, Kelly Willis, Wanda Jackson, John Doe and The Sadies and I See Hawks in LA, an impressive array of SoCal alt. country talent.
It all adds up to too much music, but there are worse things.