In my brief musical career, I've always been a part of the rhythm section, far from "frontman" status. Partly due to my lack of charisma and over-active sweat glands, I've never had a problem with this. Occasionally I'll feign that I'm giving the lead a run for his or her money, but that's just to remind people not to fuck with the bass and respect the rhythm section. I've been blessed with the sonic smooth sailing that comes of playing with frontpeople without real egos. In the end, unless you're backing up a solo musician, you're part of a band. If you're in essence a solo musician but want to give your red hot band marquee status, you can go the route of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band — "you're here for my songs but my band kicks ass." Neil Young and Crazy Horse. Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers.
You can start out with your name and add the band name later. Harder to pull off — and more douchey — is tacking your name onto your band name later for marketing/ego purposes, or to remind the band nobody cares about them. Start as Radiohead? Stick with it. Don't change to Thom Yorke and Radiohead midstream. It wouldn't have been fair to Beatles fans to have to adjust to either Paul and The Beatles or John and The Beatles, and it sure as shit wouldn't have been fair to Georgie or Ringo.
For those of you in the Eel River Valley who want to get your dance on, head over to the Bear River Casino and Hotel for a free show from hardworking local band Dr. Squid, working the hits from multiple decades for your pleasure around 9 p.m. Dancing and swaying is possible in Arcata with local bands Strix Vega and The Trouble at Humboldt Brews. The Trouble — barroom alt-country rockers — will hopefully pull off a few songs from their recent release of Love Rules the World ("Papermoon" is one of my favorites) while fellow locals and lunar dirge rockers Strix Vega (with me as its sweaty bassist) follow up with songs from its yet-to-be released third album. A 9:30 p.m. start time for this $5 local show.
It's Arts Alive! in Eureka tonight, which means lots of free music and wine at select Old Town businesses. In the event you missed Chris Parreira in The Trouble last night, you can catch him at The Morris Graves with No Pardon. This one kicks off around 6 p.m. and is free. Fresh off its exclusive Neil Young set at the Logger Bar recently, Wild Otis performs originals tonight, and if you beg — and perhaps tip — maybe a cover of Ol' Shakey. Show up at 8 p.m. to hear 'em start at Redwood Curtain Brewery for this free show. Also at 8 p.m., you'll find some Berklee College of Music grads at the Arcata Playhouse. David of the Playhouse sent a press release on Laura Cortese and the Dance Cards who "can start as a string band, and morph into a string quartet, female a cappella group, or indie band." Sounds pretty cool, and nice to hear about "post-folk that seriously rocks," isn't afraid to venture around and dip toes in different genres. Bay Area native Cortese headed out to Berklee (not Berkeley) to study violin and met some of the collaborators you'll hear tonight. She's shared the stage with Band of Horses (weren't they that MySpace band from a while back?), Pete Seeger and Michael Franti (more below). On a side note, I've always wondered what the difference is between a violin and a fiddle. Is it a style of playing? Can one go to Berklee to study the fiddle or just violin? Can you fiddle in an orchestra and play violin in a hillbilly jug band? Are you a fiddler if you have fewer than 32 teeth in your mouth? Why is violin not also a verb? I digress. Hear some excellent violin tonight for $15. According to Ian of the Alibi, tonight is the 13th Songwriter Circle of Death (a.k.a. Lucky 13), in which songwriters take turns hawking you their musical wares. At 11 p.m. hear from solo-punk bassist TheBoredAgain, corn-fed kombucha-swillin' bad ass Keil La Chinga (of Que La Chinga fame) and The Lucky Loser Show. Leave the circle of life to others; this circle of death is just $3.
You can hear from another former Chinga down in Redway at the eighth annual SoHum Beer Fest & Barbecue Smoke Off at The Mateel Community Center. No one's exactly sure what ever happened to Bret La Chinga but some say his spirit lives on in the physical form of the frontman of Cliff Dallas & The Death Valley Troubadours, who are heading up tonight's entertainment with Mojave-desert rock filtered through the coastal breeze and redwood trees. Also on tonight's bill are The Funnicators, who play some soul classics and keep it real with tunes from James Brown, Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett, to name a few. This event gets going around 4 p.m. and lasts until 8 p.m. with $15 getting you barbecue and music. Though I'm not too familiar with Michael Franti & Spearhead, I've heard the tunes around town and I know the band has a big following in Humboldt. I also know that their uplifting positivity and music imbued with hope has always made me feel like a cynical asshole. "I make music for one reason ... I care about people and I care about the planet," says Franti. I'll give him credit for wearing his heart on his sleeve and fighting the good fight using music to try to push the world in a more humane and positive direction. It sounds exhausting. They'll be in town tonight at the Van Duzer Theater on HSU's campus tonight in support of their recently released ninth album Soulrocker. The album debuted at No. 1 on the iTunes Alternative album chart, as well as No. 5 on Billboard's Rock Album chart, so it appears the message of unity is resonating. The album is lined with electronic music supporting Franti's guitar and songcraft. Having learned that he's a fan of Kraftwerk, I may need to go dust off Trans-Europe Express. Tickets are $66, $35 for HSU students, with an 8 p.m. show time.
Today is the 31st Annual I-Block Party on said street in Arcata (between 11th and 10th) celebrating the sisterhood of Arcata, U.S.A. and Camoapa, Nicaragua. The free musical jams being provided on the Los Bagels stage starting around noon today by The Latin Peppers, SambAmore, Lizzy and the Moonbeams, and Timbata. Bring the kids out and enjoy the good food, music and cultural solidarity, all while making Arcata great again!
I've always appreciated how metal bands make it pretty easy for us to recognize their genre just by looking at their names. If it has "crush," "death," "chaos," "infinite sorrow," "slaughter," "slay," "gnash," "doom," "destructo" or something in Latin and/or some depressing malady of the flesh, you know you're in for a teeth-gnashing good time. With that in mind, upsidedowncross presents a metal night at The Jam in Arcata around 10 p.m. with Dispirit (Oakland black/doom metal), Black Fucking Cancer (pure black metal aural hell from San Francisco) and Zelosis (black metal from Whitethorn). On a side note, I hope said bands take my observations with the humor they are offered in, as I get the feeling any member of any of these bands could brutally extinguish the milquetoast flame that is alight in my frail and child-like body. $10 tonight. Darkness, fear thee not.
Local songsmithstress Joanne Rand headlines an intimate concert as part of The Crib House Concert Series in Arcata around 7 p.m. Joining her tonight is frequent collaborator Rob Diggins on the violin (fiddle?) and they welcome Mare Wakefield and her piano-playing husband Nomad out from Nashville to share the bill tonight. Curious where this intimate and secret show is being held? Drop a line to firstname.lastname@example.org for info. I can tell you that there's a $10-25 sliding scale to get in, and I've got a feeling it'll be worth it.
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 email@example.com.
Andy Powell is a congenital music lover and hosts The Night Show on KWPT 100.3 FM weeknights at 6 p.m. His metal band name would be Rancid Flesh Lobotomy.