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June 15, 2006

Heading: The Hum, New Options, by BOB DORAN; photo of Cex

The sound of Cex is hard to describe, in part because it's amorphous one song a herky-jerky electro-dance, another an ethereal mix of synth violins, folk guitar and blip-rhythms, yet another a blast of indie rock. Cex is sometimes a solo thing, tunes handcrafted on a laptop, other times, as on the latest Cex CD, Actual Fucking, it's a rock band with duel vocalists.

When I caught up with Rjyan Kidwell, better known as Cex, at the home in Baltimore he shares with his musical partner Roby Newton, we started out talking about something I'd read in the Baltimore City Paper that suggested that Cex, the band and the persona, was coming to and end.

Not true, said Cex, although he'd momentarily toyed with the idea. "But since then, since I moved back to Baltimore, I realize that the need for Cex is greater than it's ever been, so it can't end now."

Why do people need Cex? "I think there's a big problem right now, an evident problem: People don't like themselves. I think people are encouraged not to like themselves from so many sources, that they need an outside-the-box, off-the-fucking-payroll force in this country, and in this world in general, that can show people that not only are they capable of liking themselves, but that it's going to be very beneficial to everyone around them if they do so rather than remaining in this position that the government and those who want to sell them something want them to be in. Those powers want people who feel unqualified and incapable of creating their own story, creating heir own product, creating their own identity."

Creating a unique yet fluid identity has been a specialty of Cex, who has constantly reinvented himself over the years, shifting from 19-year-old computer whizkid/laptop blip-hop genius, to self-accompanied wild hip-hop rapper and on to indie rocker.

"Being who I am, and where I come from, I feel like I've had an advantage. I come from a weird town that's not New York or D.C. or L.A., but it's not the middle of nowhere."

Who is he? "I'm part computer geek, a record and music obsessive as I'm sure you are. I'm from out in the country, the suburbs, not from a big city, not a distinguished place to come from."

He also describes himself as "a con man," and a snake oil salesman because, he says, "The thing I'm selling is not a band; it's not music you put on in the background and let it be the soundtrack for your summer. I'm more interested in propagating ideas and hopefully infecting people with new options about how to live their lives."

Need a life lesson? Cex plays Friday at The Pearl Lounge with Chicago indie rockers Love Of Everything and locals The Ian Fays.

That's right, those sweet little rock `n' rollers The Ian Fays are back in town. The twins just celebrated their birthday and they have two gigs this weekend: the show with Cex and another on Saturday at The Alibi (their favorite bar), with The Blue Dot from Mendo.

The Fays spent a good part of spring, five weeks anyway, in Italy, where, among other things, they played the massive Rocker Fest in Bologna. "We opened for the Babyshambles," said Sara Fay, noting that The Violent Femmes and Dinosaur Jr. were among the other bands at the fest. The gig and associated tour were arranged by their Italian record company, Homesleep "a little indie rock label," as Sara put it. The Fays ended up on the label after opening a show in Eureka for a band called Fuck, whose name Sara would only spell out.

The bad news: Having turned 22, The Fays are ready to move on. "It's one of those things. Our lease is up, we've done our four years in Arcata. We love it but we're ready to go," said Sara. "It's scary to leave Humboldt; We've never been a band anywhere else. We're going to be really sad. We'll miss The Alibi."

Plans? "We're going to float along for a couple of months, spend some time in Idaho with the fam, then do a tour. Ian Fay, the real Ian from our hometown, booked us a show in Santa Maria, and we'll play in L.A. and San Diego, play as many places as we can, before we go back to Europe in November. We're going back to Italy and to Germany, Belgium, even England, for a formal tour, all arranged by Homesleep."

BTW, one of the guys from The Blue Dot slipped me a copy of that band's brand new CD, Diamond Lite, and it sounds real good, with shifting styles and colors. Aaron Stauffer writes excellent songs and I especially like the trumpet parts.

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Sunday at The Alibi it's los olvidados and an associated band, Polar State, up from Moorpark in SoCal. Since I took way too many film history classes in college, I know that the band's name comes from a classic film by Luis Buñuel. Guitarist Alex explains, "Rey (our drummer) and I are film students and really liked the idea of taking the name from Buñuel's film, maybe in small part because we knew it was a challenge for most people we know. I really love that film; the character relationships and reality of it are unlike almost any other film. It just moved me, I guess. The film title [translates as] `the young and the damned,' and that seemed just as a good a starting point as any for this band."

George Ziminsky writes saying there's very special music at Café Mokka Friday, June 16: Chuck Corman and Becky Ashenden, "a duo from Massachusetts playing music from Bulgaria, Serbia and Croatia on accordion and tambura. Chuck lived in Arcata in the `80s and `90s and used to play at Café Mokka as a member of several groups we're happy to have him back!"

Friday evening at Brogi's it's a "Bud Party" featuring the Bud Girls, followed by a rockin' night with The Rubberneckers, Kids 4 Sale and Social Ills. And for those who are thinking "only in Humboldt," "Bud" is in reference to the brand of beer, not that other kind.

This just in from my friend Greg King: "Dear Friends, You won't want to miss Joanne Rand and her excellent Sonoma County band, Rhythm of the Open Hearts, this Friday, June 16, 8 p.m. at Sacred Grounds in Arcata for the incredibly low suggested donation of $3 to $5. Guitarist Robert Franklin (of the local R&B band ShinBone) will make a guest appearance." Couldn't have put it better myself.

Another fine local folky, Lila Nelson, performs Sunday, Father's Day, at Humboldt Artworks in Arcata along with her friend Brian Joseph, a former actor from L.A. who writes good songs and delivers them with an assured, casual air. It's a safe bet that you'll hear something from Brian on KHUM that morning when Lila hosts "Meet Me in the Morning."

This Thursday, June 15, Jalisco Café in Eureka celebrates its 25th anniversary with una fiesta grande in a tent outside featuring Andean musicians Huayllipacha, plus Ramon Reynoso presenting "The Sombras" show. The action moves inside at 9 p.m. with Tierra Del Sureste band.

Elsewhere this Thursday, neo-folk/rockers Yer Dog play at Humboldt Brews, along with the ever-funky Moo-Got-2.

Tuesday, June 20, at Brogi's, O.C. punks The Politicians share a bill with local zombie/surf duo The Invasions. Meanwhile at Synapsis Gallery, Bay Area duo Ramon and Jessica play bittersweet, surrealist, vaudeville folk and soul with Michael Musika opening.

Same night in Blue Lake at the Red Radish, it's Balfa Toujours, a "next Cajun generation" band led by guitar picker/vocalist Christine Balfa (daughter of the famed Dewey Balfa), her husband Dirk Powell on accordion and fiddle, her young cousin Courtney Granger, also on fiddle, and Creole fiddler Kevin Wimmer. Yes, that's a lot of fiddling.

This is the last weekend for North Coast Open Studios and the first time that SoHum artists have participated in any significant numbers. Those who are thinking about driving south may also want to visit the Benbow Inn where it's the first weekend of a month-long jazz-athon called "Jazz in June." First up, Friday evening, a reunion of Equinox, of Jazz on the Lake fame, with Francis Vanek and Les Scher on saxes, Jimmy Durchslag on trombone, Jim Wilde (who works at Benbow) on guitar, Michael Curran on drums and Chris Amberger on bass. Sultry vocalist Mary Jo Casasanta plays out front of a four-piece combo on Saturday. Jazz pianist Eric Shiftin from San Francisco is up for a show Sunday, and the jazz goes on and on through the rest of the week. More on the rest of the series next time.

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