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April 13, 2006

Heading: The Hum, by BOB DORAN, The Diddy Wah Diddy, photo of Blackfire

RAN INTO A MUSIC FAN AT LAST SATURDAY'S Farmers' Market. He asked what the "big show" coming up this weekend was. In truth, there are a number of cool shows, particularly on Saturday night, but the one that came to mind was the benefit at the Bayside Grange featuring Blackfire. "What kind of music do they play?" he asked. And I had to stop and think how to describe this band, which I saw on their first local visit, about a year ago. I think at the time I called their style "indigenous punk," although that doesn't quite do it justice. They play with punk passion and drive, and they even cover a Ramones song, but their sound is far from two- and three-chord progressions and shouted lyrics. (And they also cover Woody Guthrie songs.)

They define their style as comprising "traditional Native American, punk-rock and `alter-Native'" with "strong sociopolitical messages."

The three-piece family band includes Janela Benally and her brothers Clayson and Klee, the latter of whom serves as the principal songwriter penning strong songs about "government oppression, relocation of indigenous people, eco-cide, genocide, domestic violence and human rights."

"We utilize our music to carry a message, a message reflected in everything we do," said Klee, when I called the Benallys at their home in the Southwest. "We are calling for people to stand with us, to try to make positive change in their communities, to think about what's going on, to take action when you see injustice happening."

Janela has a slightly different view, pointing out the healing nature of music. "Music is emotion. When I hear a song that moves me, I feel an emotional connection to it, or an emotional release. Music is part of that release, part of the healing."

As they point out on their website ( the band only plays all-ages venues, which makes the Grange a perfect place to see them. Humboldt's own Seventh Generation Rise opens the show at 7 p.m., with Julian Lang and Marlon Sherman offering contributions. Proceeds benefit the Sustainable Nations Development Fund.

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Meanwhile, same night, at Blue Lake Casino's Sapphire Palace, it's Porter Batiste Stoltz, aka PBS, which is basically 3/4 of the New Orleans funk quartet The Funky Meters, with only Art Neville missing. For those who don't have a degree in N.O. musicology, I should explain that George Porter Jr. played bass (with Art on keys) in the original Meters, who, incidentally, have recently reformed. The Funky Meters that played Blues by the Bay a couple of years back were a later aggregation formed in 1989 with guitarist Brian Stoltz from the Neville Brothers Band and Russell Batiste, from another long-time N.O. musical family, on drums. Since I spoke backstage with Art Neville at BbtB, I know Art has been suffering from severe back problems in recent years (not that he let it show onstage), which, I'm guessing, is why he doesn't get around much anymore. Even without the keys, this is a truly funky band with great chemistry. Should be a good one.

Then there's the Miles Ahead Tribute to the Music of Miles Davis, also on Saturday night at the Pearl Lounge. I've seen keyboardist Mike Kapitan and this ad hoc band -- Michel Navedo on trumpet, Rich Bradley on saxes, bass clarinet and guitar, Anna Pfiefer on bass and Mike LaBolle on drums -- twice now, and they are really good exploring a range of Mr. Davis' music, from the Kind of Blue beboppy era up until the psychedelic Bitches Brew days. Not that anyone but me and the band probably remembers, but their last show was supposed to be at Muddy Waters -- they pulled the music plug a day before.

Elsewhere in Arcata, at Mazzotti's (and we're still talking Saturday night) it's the return of folky bluesman Jackie Greene, touring in support of his recently released album American Myth, his first recording for Verve (which BTW was produced by Steve Berlin from Los Lobos). It's a damn fine collection of songs, showing the young artist maturing, finding his own way, becoming his own man. With no offense to the club, I'm guessing we won't see Jackie playing places like Mazzotti's much longer. A like-minded bluesy songwriter, LeRoy Bell, opens the show.

Another Saturday choice (also playing Friday, if you prefer): A jazz duo called Lady Fingers, consisting of saxophonist Susie Laraine and stand-up bassist Marla Joy, playing at Cin Cin Wine Bar.

Saturday at Cecil's and Sunday at Sacred Grounds, it's Irina Rivkin from Rose Street House of Music in Berkeley, on tour with her friend Anne Carol, playing folk tunes, many with lesbian themes.

Looking for something more indie than the above? L.A.-based poptronica band The Spores is at the Alibi late Saturday, with The Ian Fays sharing the bill.

Earlier that day, at the Arcata Farmers' Market, catch breathy, bouncy music of the Andes by Huayllipacha. They also play at Chapala Thursday, and on Friday and Saturday night they're at Carmela's Restaurant in McKinleyville.

Are you a high-rolling ecologically-minded fan of land conservancy? This Thursday, April 13, you should be at Avalon for the Rites of Spring Celebration, the benefit for Greg King's Siskiyou Land Conservancy, enjoying fine food and wine and music by Greg's talented wife Joanne Rand and their friend Rex Richardson, a great flamenco guitarist.

And if you can't get enough of NPR, you already have tickets to the local recording session for the news/comedy/quiz show Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me with the usual crew, plus that down-home Motel 6 pitchman, Tom Bodett.

Old fans of Airhead will want to see Secret Club playing Friday at the Metro during Arts Arcata! but you probably already know about it.

For the New Age crowd, we have the Synergy Fair on Easter Sunday, April 16, at the Arcata Community Center, with healers, crystals, dancers, etc., plus African drummers, world music by WoMama and, closing the show at 10:30 p.m., roots reggae from Prezident Brown.

Also on Easter Sunday, the flute students at HSU have a free show at Fulkerson Hall featuring Claude Bolling's "Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano Trio," as recorded years ago by flautist Jean-Pierre Rampal with Bolling on piano. Here, John Chernoff takes the piano part, bassist Tami Pallingston and drummer Michael LaBolle handle the rhythm section, with various members of the flute class taking turns on Rampal's parts. Other classical pieces for woodwinds fill out the program.

Also in a classical mode, Avalon String Quartet, another excellent chamber group, winners of all those prizes chamber groups win, performs Wednesday, April 19, at Calvary Lutheran Church in Eureka as part of the Eureka Chamber Music Series.

And who could resist an Easter show with a new, local "adventure metal" band called The Lord's Burning Rain, plus more metal from Orick. That one's at the Alibi.

Tired of bands that dress like you? Monday at the Alibi, see Ninja Academy from L.A., who tell me they're a "bass and drums instrumental duo. No, there is no singer and yes, we do dress like ninjas when we play." They're touring with The Mormons, and no, they're not from Utah. According to the Ninjas, "Yes, they dress like Mormons. Check them out and be converted." I've heard them -- they're cool in a pop-punk sort of way, and I can confirm that they wear Mormon-esque white shirts and ties.

Also on the spiritual tip, another evening of Indian Kirtan, Tuesday, April 18, featuring Shantala with Benjy and Heather Wertheimer plus special guest Steve Gorn, a master bansuri flute player. This one's at the Community Yoga Center above the Outdoor Store on the Arcata Plaza.

Same Tuesday night, different crowd: Insurgent bluegrass at Six Rivers by Victor Barnes, a five-piece string band from Northern Colorado that does not include anyone by the name of Victor Barnes.

And don't forget, next Thursday (4/20) is Four-Twenty, and you know what that means don't you? You don't? Well as Mr. Natural said when a woman asked him what diddy wah diddy means, "If you don't know by now, lady, don't mess with it!" I'll have to tell you about the big shows that night (Yonder Mtn. at the Mateel, hip hop at Indigo) next week.

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