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July 13, 2006

The p.r. e-mail for the coming West Coast jaunt by The Motet calls it "The Resolve to Evolve Tour," a catchy phrase undoubtedly thought up by a publicist. What does it mean? "That's a good question," said percussionist Scott Messersmith, who has been with drummer Dave Watts since the band was founded in 1998. The Boulder-based band certainly has evolved since then, incorporating Cuban rhythms, African rhythms, funk and recently a touch of electronica.

"We've always had an emphasis on percussion," said Messersmith. The tracks I've heard from their soon-to-be-released disc, Instrumental Dissent, are just as funky as ever, but with new elements — triggered samples and multi-tracking — added to the mix. "It really is an evolution for the band. It's given us some open sections to deal with in the music, places where anything can happen. The album was recorded differently than anything we've done before. Only the drums and bass were recorded together. Everyone overdubbed, and we hadn't really done that before. It allowed us to hone in on our parts a little more. We've come to a new place with a focus on other things."

One of the things they'll be focusing on during the tour that brings them to Humboldt Brews Tuesday, July 18, is a vocalist. As you might guess from the album title, The Motet is typically an instrumental band, but the coastal run includes Reggie Watts (no relation), vocalist from Soulive (and a stand-up comic). "He's never worked with The Motet before," Messersmith told me, not that it worries him. "He's actually a great improviser, so we're hoping to incorporate him into the improvisational process. We worked with him in the Everyone Orchestra in the past, so we know him, but it will certainly bring in an element of surprise, for the audience and us. Not to say that nothing's planned, but we like to leave doors open. That's the idea."

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I sent off a few questions to the Scottish rock band Marshan, a trio with Graeme Duff on guitar and vocals, Kevin Burges, bass and Malcolm Thomson on drums. "We're from Glasgow, Scotland," Duff told me. "Not too much to say about Glasgow other than it has the highest murder rate in western Europe, poorest health record in Europe and lowest life expectancy in Europe. Consequently, it has one of the most rocking night lifes in the world."

What is it you do? "We play proper rock `n' roll. None of that whiny emo nonsense that the kids are buying, more like the old honest good-time music that hasn't been selling since 1976."

What's new? "We've got a new album coming out (Brought to You By the Goodtime Girls on Beard of Stars Records from Italy). Other than that, we're touring the West Coast of the US in July. Then it's another record and another tour of the dive bars around the world. Stadium tours and platinum records are for those who compromised."

Why do you do what you do? "The power of rock compels us."

Marshan hits Arcata Saturday, July 15, for a show at the Alibi with Rock Shop, a new local band that includes Reba "the other crimson dago" on vocals, Dusty, "the riff factory" on guitar, Kervyn from Turbo 400 on bass and Steve from The Hitch (and South Spit Records) on drums. BTW, they're looking for a new name. Got one?

Catch some alt. hip hop across the Plaza that same night at Mazzotti's with One Block Radius, a cool Cali outfit that includes singer/beatmeister Marty James, MDA on the turntables and rapper Z-Man (a familiar character in these parts due to numerous Female Fun appearances).

Andy Combs and the Moth would probably have slipped right by me if it weren't for, where I found a link to a site for his record company, Tingle Music, and stumbled across an EP of Andy's shambling, quirky songs, The Spaceship and the Bathyscaphe. It's music that seems to come from some other era, although whether from the past or the future it's hard to say. Andy makes it all by himself, recording all the parts on his computer, perhaps with a moth circling his head. How he will reproduce it this Saturday at Old Town Coffee using a banjo, guitar and harmonica remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, in another coffeeshop, they have back-to-back shows at Sacred Grounds: First, on Friday, July 14, Portland's Emily Brownlowe, aka emBROWNLOWe, from the indie duo Swallows but traveling solo, and from S.F., a sexy rocktronic duo called Kiss the Girl. Saturday, July 15, it's a pair of mellow folk/rock outfits from the Southwest: Campo Bravo, musical home of Mark Matos, a guy from Tucson who, like many folks in Arcata, is a child of Portuguese-speaking parents from the Azores. According to the Campo MySpace page, the band's music is reminiscent of "far off trains, rooftop city sunrises, rows and rows of peach trees, muddy rivers and littered roadsides." Then it's Campo's MySpace friends, The Lowlights, led by former Arcata resident Dameon Lee, who now declares, "the road is my home." (Those who've seen the Rural Rock movie will recall it shows him leaving town.) Dameon has assembled a new band (one that includes former members of Smog, The Mekons and Will Oldham associates) to play his exquisite sad, dusty tales of love and loss.

Saturday at Blue Lake Casino it's another evening of high-powered Latin music played by men with horns and cowboy hats, specifically Banda Los Lagos, a hot band out of Mexico whose latest disc, Reggaeton Y Cumbia, gives an indication of the current direction of Latin music.

Sunday afternoon, July 16, at the Graves Museum, it's the debut of Coconino Trio, with three bass players: Shao Way Wu, Geoff Daugherty and Tami Pallingston, who tells me, "What we have planned are three mini sets: Duke Ellington, Thelonius Monk and originals, one by each of us. But who knows what will happen, really... Bass players don't get to play WITH each other in traditional settings (jazz, rock, pop)."

I asked if there's much music written for bass trios. "No, there really isn't an established repertoire for bass trios. That's the beauty of it. We get to do what we ever want in the moment, instead of being so dang responsible for the ensemble. We can screw up the form, make lots of mistakes, play REALLY SOFTLY, and have a blast doing it."

Later on Sunday at the Jambalaya, it's The WIYOS, a "vaudevillian ragtime-blues and hillbilly swing" outfit from Brooklyn. Among the FAQs on their website is something I wondered: What does the name mean? "The WIYOS (originally spelled `Whyos') were an Irish street gang that prowled the Lower East Side of Manhattan from the 1870's through the turn of the century. They were a small, elite group, with a notorious reputation for being the most brutal and business-minded of all NYC gangs. They were known to offer protection to Tammany Hall politicians for a price, as well as `doing the big job' (if you wanted somebody to disappear) for as cheap as $100. We simply liked the sound of the name; we weren't trying to draw any parallels between our music and those violent characters, except that we both formed and worked in the Lower East Side of NYC."

A note came in Tuesday afternoon announcing that the 23rd annual Reggae on the River is SOLD OUT. `Nuff said.

How about some reggae without the beat? The Midnite Spoken Word Tour hits Sacred Palace Bikram Yoga Studio in Eureka Monday, July 17, with Vaughn Benjamin, lead singer for the St. Croix reggae band Midnite, reading verses from his book, Koll Pekude.

Steve from Starving Weirdos called to tell me about a show this coming Wednesday, July 19, at the Arcata Bike Library featuring The Sea Donkeys from Seattle, who record on the Sun City Girls' label, Abduction Records. Like the Weirdos, the Donkeys play music "somewhere between jazz and rock, using unconventional instrumentation and noise elements." Added bonus: "Anyone on a bike gets free admission." He's still looking for a local opener for the 8 p.m. show. The Weirdos opted out since they're part of a big Placebo event the following night, a six band thing with The Pasties, Night Wounds (with Placebo ex-leader Ryan C.), Hot Girls, Cool Guys from Sacto, Cranium Command, Caveman and the infamous Weirdos.

And speaking of Placebo, they found a winner for their name-this-year's-Bummerfest contest and it's (drumroll please) yours truly, who offered the title, Bummer Olympics. That's Sept. 2 & 3 in the basement of the Eureka Vet's Hall. My reward: free tickets. See you there.

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