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March 9, 2006

Heading: The Hum - Opening Up. Photo of Sons of Champlin


Back in the '60s and the early '70s, long before the age of CDs, the record album was your basic music delivery unit. In heavy rotation on my turntable was one titled Loosen Up Naturally by a band from Marin County, Sons of Champlin. I particularly liked use of horns and the fact that one whole side of the two-record set was devoted to one long-ass song, "Freedom," a topic near to my heart then and now.

"That was back when we were all too young to know what we were doing," said bandleader Bill Champlin, a guy who is still making music 30-some odd years down the road. He's moved from Marin to Nashville, and spends less time leading The Sons than he does as a member of Chicago (he joined in 1981), but his old band is still close to his heart. He's bringing them to Mazzotti's this Saturday, March 11, with much of the original lineup intact.

While the Sons formed in the S.F. Bay Area at the beginnings of the hippie era, he doesn't exactly see himself as part of that musical movement. "Lyrically I think we were going there, but musically we were in a way different spot than the Airplane and the Dead, Quicksilver and Big Brother. We were probably closer to what Janis wanted to do with Big Brother [with] the sort of R&B roots that we had."

He has mixed feelings about the band's rep as jammers. "We definitely open up, but we're not a jamband. We write songs, we don't do 45-minute jams. We have a lot of places where we let it fly, but there's a lot of places where we really rehearse it, shed it up so the audience is right in with us. We don't really play that often, and there's a small kind of select crowd that might not know us that well, but they know when they come home from a Sons' gig they're gonna come home just groovin'." (I'm sure I will.)

This Thursday, March 9, at the Blue Lake Casino (for free), catch an awesome acoustic outfit outta Austin, the notorious Asylum Street Spankers, who have been playing a sort of neo-old time music, typically sans amplification, for over ten years now, mixing classics from the jazz/country/blues past with their own songs telling wild tales of drink, drugs, debauchery and Lee Harvey Oswald.

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Meanwhile, same night at Indigo, Andre Nickatina (aka Dre Dog) addresses similar topics, but to a hip hop beat.

The Kate Buchanan Room rocks Thursday with a Sustainable Living Arts and Music (SLAM) Fest benefit, featuring some fine local rock: Trash and Roll (who are about to release a slew of material including a cool blue 45), Eureka Garbage Co. (also trashy), the semi-Irish Smashed Glass, Greg Padula and A Car A Man A Maraca, led by Ink Peeps Prez/Placebo founder Abe Ray.

A Car A Man A Maraca also plays the next night, Friday, March 10, at Brogi's Boiler Room, along with Misfits cover band Children in Heat and, at the top of the bill, Strix Vega, a "local folk/indie/rock band," some members of which used to play with my old buddies Andrew and Max in The Crums (for more on Strix see my new blog:

Tough competition that night -- DMBQ is back with a new drummer, having lost the amazing China on their last U.S. tour. As Shinji put it, "We think China hopes DMBQ keeps rockin' even if she cannot play with us. So we decided we never stop DMBQ." This time they're invading Six Rivers Brewery with zZz, an organ/drums duo, "Amsterdam, born and raised." What does zZz do? "We create mix of violent trance, psychedelic electro wave, garage soul and dirty rock & roll," explained drummer Björn.

Friday at Humboldt Brews metalheads Force Fed Trauma celebrate the release of a new CD with their friends PHIST and Mind Over Madder.

Across town at Mazzotti's that night, DJ Red spins old-school hip hop. He apologizes to anyone who came there last weekend, when he arrived with his turntables to find that Mazzotti's sound man had taken the club's P.A. to the JGB show. He promises, "It's really going to happen this time."

Friday night at the Riverwood Inn it's Johnny Dilks and his Country Soul Brothers (formerly the Visitacion Valley Boys) out of San Fran, playing classic country and honky tonk swing. I heard Johnny a few years back; he's the real deal.

Also on Friday, at First Presbyterian Church in Eureka, violinist Linda Wang plays music by Bach, Martinu, Franck and Elgar.

Did Kyana mention that March is Women's Herstory Month? I don't know if it relates, but the Pearl has a show featuring (unidentified) jazz vocalists they call The Luscious Ladies on Thursday, March 9.

Then there's Humboldt Folklife's "Women of Word and Song" Saturday, March 11, at Humboldt Artworks in Arcata with spoken word by Maia Cheli-Colando, Jennifer Savage and her daughter Kaylee, and songs by Andrea Zvaleko, Margaret Branch, Eileen Hemphill-Haley and Lila Nelson.

Later that night at The Alibi, rock with a different sort of women, The Monster Women, playing sci-fi garage songs, plus The Invasions, a space/surf/punk duo (guys) derived from the old Los Muertos Banditos.

Pick your favorite jazz style Saturday: Swing with 24/7 Jazz Quintet at Kelly O'Brien's; get cool with The Michael Curran Quartet, back at the Pearl, this time with Bill Allison on vocals and horn; or absorb the mix of jazz and poetry by Speakeasy at Sacred Grounds.

And coming next Tuesday, March 14, to Empire Squared, a tres cool show with ecstatic, eclectic music by Oneida, a rock band straight outta Brooklyn, plus S.F. psyche rockers Parchman Farm and our own EKA Garbage Co. Be there.

It may seem a bit early to be making summer plans, but it's not. At last Thursday's HumCo Planning Comm. meeting the organizers of Reggae on the River got the go-ahead for the expansion of the festival, which will be pretty much as predicted (see Journal story, "Reggae Moves Upriver," Aug. 4, 2005), with the concert bowl moving next door to Dimmick Ranch, leaving the Arthur's French's Camp property as a parking/camping area.

With the permit in place, 12,000 tickets went on sale this week, (up from 8,500 last year). There are a few new twists: There's camping at Dimmick Ranch starting Thursday, Aug. 3 ($80 for 4 days), and reserved group camping in the former French's concert bowl ($175 for 3 days/2 cars). That's in addition to the $165 per person admission or, if you feel important (and flush) for $250, for the first time you can purchase a VIP laminate allowing access to an exclusive "VIP Lounge" with "complimentary snacks and refreshments, plus full beverage service and video monitors showing the performance in progress and private restrooms." BTW, $250 is just what scalpers were asking for VIP lammies last year.

The music? So far the acts announced tend toward the dancehall demographic, with Sizzla and Anthony B at the top of the bill, and for world music fans a couple of African hip hop acts: K'naan from Somalia and Gidi Gidi Maji Maji from Kenya. There's more to come. Will it include any roots reggae? We'll see.

A few weeks earlier (June 23-25) and down the highway, it's the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival, moved out of the mountains to a new site in Boonville. It's a little cheaper ($110 for a ticket/$35 for camping) and they have a dynamite start to their lineup, including Baaba Maal, Amadou & Mariam, Culture, Don Carlos and Mad Professor with The Robotics Band.

SNWMF also changed weekends, which adds yet another twist to the fest competition: It's the same weekend as the folky Kate Wolf Festival (with Steve Earle, Bruce Cockburn, Greg Brown, Arlo Guthrie, etc.), which puts a crunch on the volunteer pool since many of those folks you see directing traffic go from one fest to another, working for free admission. For tix, info, etc. check the requisite websites: www.whatever.

Can't get enough of the Hum? Want more of that Bill Champlin interview? Go to See you there.

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