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May 25, 2006

Heading: The Hum :Will I find love on this train? Photo of Dawn andNils of Faun Fables
Above: Dawn and Nils of Faun Fables, performing Tues., May 30 at Synapsis Gallery.

Dawn McCarthy and her band, Faun Fables, were in Salt Lake City Monday getting ready to roll home to Oakland in their Winnebago, Half-pint, at which point they'll pack the rig up again for a northward journey that includes a visit to Eureka to perform The Transit Rider: A Song Cycle, a multi-media show incorporating songs, costumes, sets and film projections.

The beginnings of Transit Rider can be traced back 14 years to New York City, where Dawn had moved to pursue a career as an illustrator. Riding the city's transit system, she wrote a series of songs that told a story of a girl who is born on the subway. "I was overwhelmed by the experience of the subway," she recalls. "I'd never had that sort of submerged urban transport experience. So I wrote these songs, little stories about this person who's kind of stuck on the train, wondering what would romance be like if you never got off the train, and 'Will I find a love on this train?' And that's where that began. I didn't do much with it for a long time."

The route from New York to Oakland and out onto the road with Faun Fables was long and winding. It included a stint in the Bindlestiff Family Circus where, among other things, Dawn was a yodeler. One year the circus brought her to Burning Man in the Nevada desert, and by chance she found an answer to that question about "love on this train" — or at least on "this playa."

"That was 10 years ago this summer," she said, recalling her dry-lake encounter with the Oakland-based band Idiot Flesh, a wild, theatrical group whom some will remember from a few extraordinary shows they performed at Brewin' Beats on the Arcata Plaza in the '90s. Dawn was hesitant to put it so simply, but she says "basically what happened was, me and Nils fell in love. I was ready to leave New York and Idiot Flesh was ending, so we were both at this turning point." She moved to California and didn't look back.

By that time she had begun performing her songs as Faun Fables, and she began collaborating with Nils Frykdahl, a guitarist/Renaissance Man who had gone on from Idiot Flesh to form Sleepytime Gorilla Museum with (among others) former Petrolia resident and former I.F. member Dan Rathbun. Eventually Dawn and Nils would flesh out the Transit Rider material creating a theater piece, and then an album (produced by Rathbun), which was released this year on Drag City Records. A stripped-down version was mounted, one that still has a set, projections to simulate life outside the train, and a costumed cast of four — Dawn, Nils, and the rock duo Fuzzy Cousins — who play the music, sing the songs, run the lights, the projector and so on.

Now you might think this is the sort of thing you'd see at Dell'Arte's Edge Fest, but that's not until summer. Instead Faun/Dawn and company bring The Transit Rider to Synapsis Warehouse in Eureka this coming Tuesday, May 30, for what I'm sure will be a most unique experience. Check the calendar for exact time, location and supporting acts.

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Looks like another Japanoise summer at the Alibi with Panache bringing back Green Milk From the Planet Orange June 14. But first, on Friday, May 26, it's raw Japanese garage rock straight outta Osaka from Watusi Zombie, a band I missed when they came through town last winter. Judging from the most recent comment on their MySpace page, they share some of DMBQ's theatricality. Saori, who saw them over the weekend at the Knitting Factory in L.A., notes, "Seriously, I haven't seen a more powerful show in a long while: Guitar player rockin' out on the top of the bar, drummer brought his kit down to the floor and played in the middle of the crowd — Sugokatta!" (Can somebody tell me what "sugokatta" means?) Opening for W. Zombie at the Alibi, a once-again drummerless (but still rockin') version of The Buffy Swayze. Who, as you know, have their own connection to zombies.

Saturday night at the Alibi (and also Thursday, May 25, at Humboldt Brews) catch The Dirt Nap Band, a self-described "country/acoustic /bluegrass" band (but kind of on the alt. side) that includes former and/or current members of Slewfoot String Band and Que La Chinga. I've heard the Nap may go on paternity hiatus after these shows since guitarist Jay's wife Amber is due any day. (Congrats in advance!) Dirt Nap's JJ Cady opens the Alibi show with a solo set.

Also in the country vein, Kenneth Brian, a singer/guitar player from Austin now residing in Nashville, who plays a free show Thursday, May 25, in the Blue Lake Casino's Sapphire Palace. I'll admit I'd never heard of Mr. Brian until I saw an ad in the paper. I paid a visit to his MySpace page (yes, everyone has one nowadays) and was pleasantly surprised to find that he plays, as he puts is, "real country music," which is to say old time-style with a fiddler (Avery Anderson), a stand-up bass player (Wes Davis), and a drummer who calls himself King Cotton. The coupla tunes I heard from his latest album, Brighter Days, sounded pretty darn good.

Saturday, May 27, at Six Rivers it's a "rock 'n' roll showdown" pitting Blue Lake's The Rubberneckers vs. The Riffbrokers, a like-minded, but less twangy (more poppy) three-piece out of Seattle who will be touring with The 'Neckers this summer.

The gig is also a CD release party for the 'Neckers' latest, Live From The Farmhouse on the KHUM Back Porch Show, a collection of tunes recorded out in Blue Lake whose title is pretty much self-explanatory. (Yes, they have chickens.) "Contrary to Humboldt tradition we'll have our new CDs available at the show," says vocalist/guitarist Clay. "Amazing isn't it?" He goes on to promise, "We'll try to play every song that we know until we can't think of any more or Six Rivers throws us out. I think we'll give away a few T-shirts and maybe Greg's hand in marriage to the lowest bidder. See you there."

Down in SoHum Saturday, it's the 8th Annual KMUD Block Party, outside the station's studios in Redway, celebrating another successful Fun Drive ($75,000 raised) with a big CD and record sale, a BBQ, arts and crafts, stuff for kids and music in the parking lot all day by, among others, BlueThorn, The NPK, 7th Generation Rise, Subconscious Revolt and the Garberville Town Band.

Are you ready for headbanger bowling? The E&O Bowl is the home of crashing pins and heavy metal guitars this week with back-to-back mayhem: First on Thursday, May 25, locals Cycle of Violence bring in Time is the Enemy from Hollywood and Abinitio from Denver. Three bands, three bucks. The next night, May 26, it's six bands for six bucks with Embryonic Devourment, Locust Furnace, Deeds of Flesh, Severed Savior, Putrifukation and Slaughterbox.

Sunday, May 28, at Six Rivers it's a blast of this and that from Santa Cruz with Naomi and The Courteous Rudeboys, a female-fronted pop/funk/reggae band, trading sets with Crazy Beard, an instrumental funk/old school reggae band with a damn fine organ player.

The infamous Starving Weirdos may have lost their digs at the Samoa Manor (soon to become a bed and breakfast), but that won't stop them from promulgating their noise visions. Tuesday, May 30, the Weirdos host experimental visionaries Jackie-O Motherfucker at the Arcata Bike Library in a show starting at sunset. Expect experiments involving the sounds made by banging bicycle wheels and other available objects.

Final days for "early bird" savings on your tickets for Blues by the Bay Vol. 10, something you may want to consider since the price has risen. Through June 1, it's $65 for both days; after that it goes up to $70; at the gate it's $75. Among those performing at the big bash on the waterfront July 8 and 9: Roomful of Blues, Coco Montoya, Eric Bibb and Rory Block on Saturday; Shemekia Copeland, Lydia Pense and Cold Blood and Tommy Castro on Sunday. What is this, BbtB No. 5 for Tommy? (I counted. It is.)

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