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The Hum by Bob Doran

May 6, 2004


FIDDLER JESSIE MODIC SAYS IT'S "KINDA like a Southern Humboldt invasion." She's coming with a small army from the southland this weekend, the Band of Brigands, "our crazy raucous Elizabethan dance band," to play for the Humboldt Folklife Society's Contra Dance Saturday, May 8, at the Arcata Veterans Hall.

"You could call us rambunctious pagans," she added when I tracked her down in the wilds of Whitethorn. "We do early English country dances and pre-Christian pagan circle dances, things we learned at folk camps like Lark in the Morning."

I saw the Brigands at last summer's Folklife Festival and they were wild. Dressed in motley outfits decorated with bells and bits of bright-colored rag, the dancers performed elaborate maneuvers with long sticks, somehow reminiscent of martial arts. "That was Morris Dancing," Modic explained, "It's an agricultural dance with steps that are like bean setting, where you pound the stick on the ground like setting beans. Another step is the `squash beetle' where you grind your foot like you're squashing a bug." The SoHum group will probably teach at least one Morris dance, but will focus more on the British Isles version of Contra dancing. "No experience necessary and you don't need a partner," said Modic.

There's more to the SoHum invasion: Those psychedelic warriors, the Non Prophets, hit Six Rivers McKinleyville Saturday night, fresh from last Friday's Gallegos victory dance.

Speaking of SoHum bands, Black Sand celebrates the release of their new CD, Man in the Desert, with a party at the Riverwood Inn Saturday night. I've been hearing a track from the disc, "The Candidate," on KMUD lately, a sharp, clever political thing with a sound that reminds me of Steppenwolf or some other '60s band. Bass player Del Penny concedes that rock from that era is "a major influence. Maybe a bit of Jim Morrison, and Ken [Hollis, lead singer] can't help putting little Elvis riffs between his vocal lines."

By the way, how often do we get Elvis impersonators here in Humboldt? See Mike Albert as Elvis on Monday, May 10, at Cher-ae Heights Casino with an extra bonus, Joni Morris as Patsy Cline. Or maybe Grateful Dead impersonators are more your style -- the best of them, the Dark Star Orchestra, offer their rendition of some very specific Dead show Monday night at 535 Fifth Street, the venue formerly known as Club West.

Got a note from Jake Stratton, singer for the Seattle band BloodHag. "We are coming to Arcata to tear the Alibi down and erect a shiny library in its place," he warned me. Now BloodHag is a rock hard metal band, and Jake's vocals have that voice of Satan sound, so what's this about a library? Well, it seems the bespectacled foursome loves books, in particular sci-fi. BloodHag is a metal band with a mission: "Live to Read, Read to Live On," as Jake puts it. With them at the Alibi Thursday, May 6: doom metal masters Graves At Sea.

Remember I mentioned Thursday's dueling reggae shows with Toots and the Maytals at the Mateel and the Itals' Keith Porter at Mazzotti's? Add another: Kala Kenyatte and the Sounds of Truth join Vegetable Stew at the Bayside Grange, May 6, a benefit for activists fighting globalization in Honduras.

CenterArts concludes its season with a performance by the incomparable David Grisman Quintet Friday, May 7, at the Van Duzer. The annual visit by the legendary mandolinist has traditionally sold out far in advance, but this year, as of press time, there are still tickets left. I missed the show at the Duzer last spring, but the following day, the paper got a call from semi-millionaire forest activist Darryl Cherney inviting me to hear Grisman and company serenading treesitters perched high on platforms along Greenwood Heights Road. Sure enough, the "Dawg" and friends showed up for an unplugged concert. Their rendition of "Nature Boy" at the base of the tree known as Jerry was positively transcendent.

Stopped by the Works in Arcata last week after seeing Kill Bill Vol. II, to check the fliers, and Charlotte, the clerk, was playing a mellow yet rockin' track by her "favorite band in the world," Mr. Airplaneman, a cool-sounding, kind of bluesy female duo from Boston, who incidentally are named for a song by Howlin' Wolf. Guitarist Margaret Garrett and drummer Tara McManus shift easily from garage grit to sweet harmony on their Sympathy for the Record Industry disc, C'mon DJ. Charlotte wanted me to know that she has arranged for the band to come up this weekend: Catch them Friday night at the top secret 330 Club along with Lowlights, the Ian Fays and Monster Women, which may or may not include Charlotte herself.

Elsewhere Friday, the Eureka Chamber Concert series concludes its season with the San Francisco Opera Center Singers performing grand opera and Broadway classics at Calvary Lutheran Church.

The soundtrack for this Saturday's Arcata Farmers' Market will be provided by the award-winning, always wonderful Clarridge Family Fiddlers.

Starting at noon at the Placebo, it's the annual Punk Rock BBQ with food, a Nintendo tournament, bad haircuts, sack races and music by Talent Show, Burke and the Rubberneckers, unplugged.

Rubberneckers guitarist Clay tells me the band will also play "our electric rock set" that night at the Logger Bar in Blue Lake. "We're playing with a new band called the Jade Stems," he continued. "They're from Blue Lake [as are the Neckers] and they play funny songs about UFOs and Chinese medicine. Unfortunately we won't have Kelly with us anymore because she quit the band, saying that we are a bunch of ego-maniacs, and also she's moving to New York City to start a noise band with the drummer of the Strokes -- go figure." Funny thing is, I ran into Kelly the other night and she told me the Rubberneckers were breaking up since she's leaving to attend cooking school. Whom shall I believe?

You might want to stop by the Arcata Kinetic Lab Saturday afternoon for their now-annual open house/rent party. Once again Dee-Wayne, Ken, June and co. offer food, drink, kinetic golf and big fun including dancing to Cubist rockers Spudgun and the Art Band, who I believe may be Fauvists.

Get in the groove Saturday night at the Eureka Theater with Melvin Seals, the keyboard player from the Jerry Garcia Band, Bobby Vega, the bass player from Zero and KVHW, and Humboldt guitar master Ruben Diaz. Should be a blast.

Meanwhile at North Coast Rep it's "A Night of Nationals" with Delta bluesman Don Haupt and Mike Selfridge playing various National instruments, "those funky guitars with the hubcaps on them," Haupt explains.

At Rumours it's a reunion of the "3 Melancholy Gypsies" aka Eligh, Murs and Scarub of the Living Legends crew. "This is a group that the three of them started over 10 years ago, before joining up with the Living Legends," explains Levi of Allegory fame. "It will be a rare treat to see this unparalleled trio of MCs in such an intimate venue."

In Arcata that night, Vinyl deftly mixes jazz, funk, ska and Latin sounds at Mazzotti's, while Rasta Survival (formerly John Grizzly) brings the reggae vibe forward at Humboldt Brews.

Jeff DeMark performs his one-man show, Writing My Way out of Adolescence, at Big Blue Café benefiting the family of HSU professor and writer Dick Stull, whose daughter Camilla is undergoing leukemia treatments. The following Thursday, May 13, at the Red Radish, Dick Stull himself offers The Existential Professor: In Search of the Suburban Tao, a spoken-word performance inspired by existential musings, jazz, boxing and blues with jazz accompaniment by Tim Randles, Geoff Daugherty and Mike LaBolle.

A couple of alerts for the bluesaholics out there: The May 20 John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers show has been moved to the Eureka Theater, which means it is no longer sold out. Tickets are also on sale right now for a two-night-stand by John Lee Hooker Jr. returning to the Riverwood next weekend.


Bob Doran



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