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We’ve Got Blues Again 

This week's guide to things that are better than Humboldt coastal summer weather

Duh nuh ... duh nuh ... I glanced at my calendar...
Duh nuh ... duh nuh ... It said August was done...
Duh nuh ... duh nuh ... But I live here in Eureka...
Duh nuh ... duh nuh ... So I still ain’t seen no sun... No, baby! Nooooo!

I’d argue that, in this instance, that’s correct usage of a double negative in that last line. Feel free to disagree and debate. My point is, the blues is easy. Another time-tested American musical style that leans more on guttural passion and truth than complexity. You got a grievance? Do you know your I-IV-V chords? Then let ‘er rip, brother.

But while the tools of the trade are wielded sufficiently by many, it’s nice to appreciate a master craftsman from time to time. Or how ‘bout a bunch of ‘em? Back to back? Over two days? Sittin’ on a blanket by the bay in the (potentially) warm sunshine? You see where I’m goin’ here?

Blues by the Bay returns to Eureka’s Halverson Park for its sweet 16th year on Saturday and Sunday for two pentatonic-scale-drenched days.

So who’s workin’? Saturday -- heavy on female-fronted acts -- is headlined by husky-voiced, sassy and captivating Dana Fuchs. Why might you already know her? She played an aspiring singer named (sexy!) Sadie in the often-loved, Beatles song-filled Across the Universe. Remember? She’s the one who belts out “Helter Skelter” through Janis-ish pipes and Robert Plant locks -- in fact, you can see her and her band do a less visually psychedelic version of the White Album classic on the Blues by the Bay website (bluesbythebay.org). Girl’s got force.

Also on day one, flashy, jazzy pianist, soulful singer and saxophonist Deanna Bogart and band transition from high-energy blues swing to more restrained singer/songwriter territory. Singer Janiva Magness brings a more straight-ahead blues sensibility. Blues guitar shredder Chris Cain brings exaggerated licks/facial expressions. Kicking off the fest, guitarist Laurie Morvan brings fast licks that seem more than able to wake people up.

Sunday’s main event? Mississippi-born, 77-year-old harmonica virtuoso James Cotton. Over the years, Cotton has toured with giants such as Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and even briefly with Janis Joplin before forming his own band in the late ‘60s. Also on the day two bill, acoustic bluesman Eric Bibb, slide guitar one-man-rock band David Jacobs-Strain and “rasta blues” from … wait, really? Huh, yup … Corey Harris (it’s actually pretty interesting to listen to some of the ways Harris fuses the two styles. Check him out). If you haven’t already secured your BBTB ticket you can get ‘em presale for both days for a whopping $85 (it goes up to $95 the day of the event). But, man, Redwood Coast Music Festivals is really making an appeal to that young crowd: tickets for blues lovers 13 all the way to 23 are only $35 for both days. Maybe some of the rest of you should look into a reverse fake ID.

HumBrews Hotness

Not into blues? How ‘bout skin? Humboldt’s ambitious, overachieving burlesque peddlers continue to make sure that y’all rarely have to endure a pasty-less week. This week’s temptation? The Va Va Voom Burlesque Vixens are rolling out Hot Topless Nights, a 1950s automobile culture-themed soiree Friday night at Humbrews in Arcata. It’s sure to (uh oh, unavoidable cliche imminent) get your motor runnin’! (Sigh.)

The night will be bittersweet in that it marks the final performance of Va Va Voomer “Nina Betina,” who’ll be moving abroad since her German citizenship allows her free, socialized education. Sounds nice. (In case you’re wondering, she’s trading in her corset to pursue a degree in alternative technology.) For her final performance, she has promised a special duet performance with a live singer. No iPods, folks. Hold her to it.

In addition to boobs, expect danceable beats supplied by DJs Gabe Pressure and Anya and yuks from stand-up funny dude John McClurg, a newer voice to Humboldt’s comedy scene who’s been pickin’ up a few votes in the highly contentious “Best Comedian” category of the Journal’s annual Best Of Humboldt poll (non-subtle nudge, have you voted? One week left, suckas!)

The Other Soul Night

Speakin’ of “hot” and “HumBrews,” is there any hotter recurring event in Humboldt right now than Missing Link’s monthly all-vinyl Soul Night? I will answer for you, in case you thought I just wanted you to keep reading: no, there is not. Due to high levels of awesomeness, thing sells out every damn time. But, man, it gets hot and crowded in that room, amirite? Solution: Soul Night fans can find a similar, less crowded scene this Saturday at the less regular, lunar-dependant Funky Full Moon III at Ocean Grove in Trinidad with DJs Jaymorg, Mantease, Rickshaw, King Maxwell and Knutz bringing you classic soul, R&B and disco records. Too hot inside? Too crowded? Take a breather on OG’s spacious back deck. Just make sure to carpool. Trinidad is a trek. Gas is expensive.

In Your Vest Interest

And finally, school sucks! But since a lot of you are in the slog again, the fine folks at Blondies noticed that “vest” rhymed with “fest” and as such are staging their first ever free Back to School VESTival on Saturday. That means you wear a vest to it, if that wasn’t apparent. And there will be prizes! “Best Overall!” “Most Cringe Worthy!” “Flashiest!” Plus, beer, tug-of-war, beer, music and beer. But most importantly, rock that vest, kids. Just because your nose is back in the books doesn’t mean your arms have to go back in the sleeves.

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Andrew Goff

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