April 20, 2006
A CD came in the mail the other day, which is not an unusual thing. This one was Desert Ocean, an instrumental album on the Badman label by a "band" called Lanterna, which I eventually learned was basically one guy, Henry Frayne, a guitarist who works in the studio with a drummer crafting waves of music that seem to glow with an inner light.
When I connected with Henry at work on a Friday, he excused himself momentarily while he did "a switch-off." It turns out he was at WILL radio, an NPR affiliate at the University of Illinois in Champaign/Urbana that, he noted, "covers most of the state of Illinois." When I called, The World was running in the background. As technical director his job is to make sure shows like The World and All Things Considered run when they're supposed to.
We began with talk about how he made the music on the album, creating an almost orchestral sound suggesting a chorus of guitars. He explained that he records a basic drum/guitar track live, "Then I go in and add more guitar parts, play bass and just sort of layer the sound until it finally seems like, `Hey, that's right.' It's really organic. I play my guitar with a bunch of echo and delay and I get this sound I like to hear. Somehow I'm able to create it, and that will be Lanterna."
How does he envision people using his music? "That's hard to say. It's something that makes you feel good, or feel sad if you want to, or makes you remember things. Or it can just be a background or something that fills in the spaces, like on All Things Considered. They use this bed music all the time to get you between one piece and another. Because it doesn't have vocals, it's useful for that. The people I hear from say it's wonderful driving music, or they can work to it. I guess people use music how they want to."
In fact, NPR has licensed his music. They even used a track on the first All Songs Considered CD. "ATC uses it and also Morning Edition and Weekend Edition. The funny thing is, sometimes I'm just here doing my job and all of a sudden a story will end, music will come up, and I'll just be like, `Hmm, why does that sound familiar? That sounds like something I heard in the studio, a thousand times."
When Lanterna plays Sunday, April 23, at The Alibi, Henry will be backed by The Guitar Defamation League a guitar-less duo from Seattle who once lived in Champaign. Also on the bill: Campo Brava, an alt. folk band from the Southwest who often play with Dameon Lee's Lowlights. Campo Brava also plays Saturday at Sacred Grounds (where Dameon used to work), with Strix Vega opening.
Thursday being April 20 (aka 4/20), there are more shows than usual for a weeknight. Among them: Yonder Mountain String Band, out from Colorado for a show at the Mateel, playing their ever-evolving style of yondergrass. I have to say, they've come a long way since I saw them a few years ago playing raggedy-ass bluegrass opening for their friends Leftover Salmon. They spent much of last year bouncing in and out of L.A. between tours, working with (formerly local) production wizard Tom Rothrock on a soon-to-be-released eponymous album, which I'm predicting will take them to the next level.
Also on 4/20, the underground 330 Club celebrates a grand reopening with "rock, rock and more rock!" To be specific, it's rock on the heavy/metallic side with Dixie Witch from Texas, Golden Gods from S.F. and Humboldt's own Dragged By Horses, who are about to drop an album for Arcata's newest label, South Spit Records. Regarding the event Thursday, organizers promise: "You will be glad you weren't getting high in Redwood Park with the hippies."
That night in downtown Arcata, Nucleus celebrates the day with a show at Humboldt Brews that also features WoMama, winners of the Judge's Award at the recent "Battle of the Bands" up at HSU.
At the swanky Indigo Nightclub in Eureka, it's hardcore hip hop by Keak Da Sneak, aka Kunta Kinte Bowens, a rapper out of Oakland whose photo recently graced the cover of Murder Dog magazine. He's rolling with B Legit (aka The Savage), originally from Vallejo, and a crew that includes Scrapaz, Laila, Parly, ADT and some "super special" guest.
Along somewhat similar lines, a show Saturday, April 22, at the Mateel: Homegrown Hip Hop assembles a number of local hip hoppers on the conscious side, including Vinlawdin & The Cali Band, Subliminal Sabotage (with Elision and Mikasun) and The Dirty Rats. Bring your ID: It's all ages downstairs but there's a bar upstairs for the adults.
Still more hip hop coming next Tuesday, April 25, to Humboldt Brews, as "The Great Divide Tour" hits town, bringing Louis Logic from NYC (formerly of Demigodz) traveling with his longtime producer, JJ Brown and special guest Z-Man, who will surely make me long for the days when Thanksgiving Brown was hanging around Arcata. Filling out the evening: locals Opti Pop and the Humboldt Rockers breakdance troupe.
Mandolinist extraordinaire John Reischman is down from Canada Friday, April 21, for a Humboldt Folklife show at Humboldt Artworks in Arcata. While he's best known as a bluegrass master playing with his band The Jaybirds, this tour finds him exploring Latin and jazz tunes accompanied by guitarist John Miller.
Also on Friday in Arcata, Thicker Than Thieves return from their (relatively) new digs in San Diego for a night of dub/rock/funk/reggae at Mazzotti's.
At Kelly O'Brien's Saturday night, it's The Siskiyou County Homewreckers, who are coming down from a remote mountain community alongside the Salmon River where, they tell me, "No one is on the grid. We rely totally on alternative sources of energy (solar/water). We practice in a pole shed." Says guitarist Chief, "Our shows are high-energy, with music [in the blues/rock vein] geared towards those who like to dance and have a good time." Joining them on the trip west, Slap Shoe Fly, a Siskiyou-based "hillbilly duo" that also plays "high-energy" music, but more acoustic. (For a bit more on SCH see humblogger.blogspot.com.)
The Sustainable Living Arts and Music Fest runs from noon-8 p.m. Saturday at HSU in the Events Field. The solar/bio-diesel-powered day in the sun (they hope) features all things eco-groovy, plus some pretty good music: Top of the bill is The Motet, a rhythm-centric instrumental band from Colorado (at 6:30 p.m.) Leader/drummer Dave Watts lays down African, Afro-Cuban, Latin and N'Arlins funk beats while his band, including organist Greg Raymond, spin out solid funky jazz with the unmistakable Colorado jam vibe. Pick up a copy of their latest, Music For Life, at the merch table. It's a keeper.
For the hip hop fans there's Zion-I, a fresh two-man crew outta Oakland, with Amp Live making beats and Zion on the mike (4:50 p.m.). (Despite the name, don't expect reggae.)
From here in Humboldt we have the solid steel sounds of the Humboldt State Calypso Band (noon) led by Eugene Novotney, recent winner of the prestigious California State University Wang Family Excellence Award, celebrating CSU faculty "who, through extraordinary commitment and dedication, have distinguished themselves by exemplary contributions and achievements in their academic disciplines and areas of assignment."
Rounding out the day's entertainment, the two winners of the recent "Battle of the Bands," world music jammers WoMama (3:30) and audience favorites, alt. rockers Stereo Chromatic (2:10).
Meanwhile, in a very different city, Eureka celebrates its 150th birthday with a bash at the Adorni with cake and ice cream and brass music by the Humboldt Bay Brass Band, bluegrass by Bucky Walters, swing by Twilight Time, jazz by Rhumboogie Sax Quartet, soulful gospel by Arcata Interfaith Gospel Choir and some sort of rock "for the kids," as the organizer put it.
The obvious choice might have been a band that screams Eureka!: Eureka Garbage Co. Then again, maybe not. You can see them that night, however, playing at Humboldt Brews with Blue Lake's country punks The Rubberneckers. Raise a glass and toast their hometown, or your own, whatever.
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