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February 9, 2006

Red & Black - The Hum

Next Tuesday is Valentine's Day, that day of the year set aside to celebrate romantic love. In the window of The Metro, a music store on the Arcata Plaza, you'll find a Valentine tableaux with a table split down the middle: one side has flowers and wine glasses and a traditional red color scheme; on the other, the tablecloth is black, the flowers dead, the wine glasses replaced with spilt whiskey.

The schizoid scene illustrates a simple fact: One of the prime topics addressed by songwriters is romantic love, lost and found, the light side and the dark.

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Events this weekend and next week reflect the split view of Valentine's Day, often with a generational aspect. You have your annual collection of Valentine's dances (not all of them next Tuesday) -- there's a Friendship Circle dance Friday at the Moose Lodge Eureka for the older set to swing and sway to music from the `30s and `40s; a Saturday Valentine's Dance at the Rohner Grange with music by the College of the Redwoods Big Band and foxtrot lessons; a Valentine's Day benefit for the Arcata Volunteer Fire Dept. at the Arcata Community Center that same night with The Delta Nationals playing love songs from the rock, R&B and country roots traditions.

On Valentine's Day proper (Feb. 14) my favorite Gypsy jazz sextet, Cuckoo's Nest, plays swing tunes, tangos, polkas and other romantic dance numbers at Trinidad Town Hall with Darius Brotman sitting in on piano.

Then you have the younger generation, the 20- and 30-somethings, who see the holiday from an ironic, somewhat jaded point of view. "The only time I've heard people say they love Valentine's Day was when I was in elementary school," said Greg Lojko of The Rubberneckers, who are having an "Anti-Valentine's Day Ball" at the Red Radish on Saturday, Feb. 11. "Everyone I know hates Valentine's Day," he added, explaining the anti- attitude. He noted that the band has no specifically anti-romantic music arranged -- "We're just gonna play Rubberneckers' tunes." The one semi-romantic angle is an invitation to "come dressed to impress," since it is a "ball." Incidentally, Lojko has another gig that night: He's part of the band playing across the street with vocalist Jodi Gilbert at Dell'Arte (see story in Calendar for details), but since the local nu-grass band Bucky Walters is opening the Red Radish show with a set at 8, he figures (he hopes) he'll be done at Dell'Arte just in time for the 'Neckers' set.

Then on Tuesday you have a pair of Black Heart Valentine shows: one at Six Rivers with the nu-grass trio Moses Lincoln Johnson, and a dance party at The Alibi with DJ Red behind the turntables. Red notes, "It's a Valentine's party for people who hate Valentine's. The lovelorn. The heartbroken. The black hearted. You know the type. I'll be playing '80s new wave-type stuff -- but no love songs."

Call me romantic, but I like Valentine's Day. So I appreciate the fact that the "holiday" show at the Alibi Saturday, Feb. 11, is billed as a "Pre-Lincoln's Birthday Bash" by self-described "stone cold Eureka thugs," Que La Chinga and Jay Dirt, the leader of Slewfoot who's playing that night with members of the Dirtnap Band.

That same night at Ramone's Old Town, Widdershins play their "karmically-correct eclectic uplifting and soulful" music.

The following night, Sunday, Feb. 12, at the Alibi, local experimental rockers The Signals share a bill with The Transmissions, a band Alibi booker Ian describes as "indie-experimental-punk." I'd concur with "punk," but in the broad way the word was applied in the '80s to refer to bands like Television, Talking Heads and Blondie. who were quite different from the Sex Pistols or The Ramones. The Transmissions have that same jangly edginess. They also have a bass player, Josh Solberg, who once attended HSU. "I went to school there for a year, then transferred away. I was kind of worried about the future of my education if I stayed. I was having too much fun. I guess it was a classic Humboldt experience."

He didn't have to worry about his education: He ended up passing the California bar exams and now he's a lawyer, or as he puts it, "I like to think of myself as a musician/lawyer."

Josh was once a punk rocker -- at least, he says, "as much as was possible coming from a two-bit hick town." He met The Transmissions when he was in law school in 2003. "When I played with them, me and Denise, the drummer, were instantly in the groove. She was the best drummer I'd ever played with. And Chris was doing some really interesting stuff on guitar, and he writes some crazy lyrics, so that was it."

Adding to the ongoing series of reggae shows tied loosely to Bob Marley's b-day, we have a two-night Humboldt run by Bob's old band, The Wailers, playing Friday at Blue Lake Casino's Sapphire Palace, then again on Saturday night at the Mateel. My contention is that the bass line is the heartbeat of reggae; that said, The Wailers beat lives on, since Aston "Familyman" Barrett still leads the band.

In an unfortunate parallel booking, the classic Jamaican vocal group The Meditations play at Mazzotti's Friday night.

Friday night at the Riverwood, catch Maria Muldaur singing Sweet Lovin' Ol' Soul tunes, assuming that she's drawing on her latest album, a salute to women blues singers like Memphis Minnie, Bessie Smith and Lucille Bogan.

I don't know about you, but my introduction to the instruments of the orchestra was through Prokofiev's classic, Peter and the Wolf. It's among several pieces performed by the Eureka Symphony this weekend at the First Assembly of God Church in Eureka, Friday night and as a matinee Saturday. Joining the symphony are several youth competition winners in a program that also includes the Lord of the Rings Symphonic Suite.

Wednesday, Feb. 15, a day when you'll be nursing that champagne and chocolate hangover, you have a wide range of musical choices, including a pair of really big shows.

On the stage at Indigo Nightclub you have The Derek Trucks Band, led by the young slide guitarist who grew up in rock `n' roll: His uncle, Butch Trucks, was drummer for the Allman Brothers, and Derek plays with that band when he's not on the road with his own outfit, playing a blend of rock, jazz and blues with Latin, East Indian, Tuvan, Australian and other world musics.

Meanwhile in the Blue Lake Casino's Sapphire Palace, it's classic Southern-style rock from the always-eclectic Little Feat. I'm guessing more than one rock fan will be torn between these two shows.

Same night in McKinleyville at Six Rivers, The Sweatshop Band from Idaho play a jammy alt. Americana mix merging bluegrass, jazz, folk, funk and rock. And at Humboldt Brews it's Pnuma Trio, a synth/drums/bass outfit in the neo-electronic jam vein.

And last but not least, at Sacred Grounds it's an all-ages Placebo show featuring a very cool indie rock band from Olympia, Wash., Kickball, that shares members from another band I like, The Strangers. On the band's MySpace page they describe the music as "indie/big beat/folk" that sounds like: "Sheep jumping over a fence in a land of pineapples and cheeseburgers," which is about as accurate of a picture as I could paint. They share the bill with a couple of local bands, a car, a man, a maraca and Love and Silly. As it says on the flyer, "Don't miss it."


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