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September 15, 2005

The Hum


I don't know about you, but following the TV coverage of Hurricane Katrina has been a heart-wrenching experience. While I've never been to New Orleans, I feel close to the city from years of listening to the amazing range of music that emanates from there, from Satchmo's jazz to Fats' rock and funk by the Meters and the Neville Bros'.

photo of Bayou SwamisNancy Stephenson had the same feeling watching the Gulf Coast drown. "I knew I had to do something," she told me when I ran into her on Saturday. While the feds were still floundering, Nancy laid the groundwork for a concert to raise funds for relief efforts. Humboldt Sends Relief: Katrina Disaster Benefit takes place at the Bayside Grange on Friday, Sept. 16, from 6 p.m. to midnight. The event includes performances by Magnolia, The Rubberneckers and Humboldt's own Cajun-style band, The Bayou Swamis.

Right: Bayou Swamis.

"New Orleans is the basis for our music," said Swamis bassist Marla Joy. "That's our connection. How apropos for us to be able to give back just an inkling from what we've all gained from the culture there.

"You have to give from your heart, no matter if it's prayers or good thoughts and love, money, donations, going there, or just playing some music and giving people a little bit of the flavor."

The event at the Grange also includes swing dance lessons, dance demonstrations, the proverbial silent auction and great Southern dishes from Sweet Mama Janice's Bless My Soul Café.

Attendees are asked to bring bottled water, canned food, powdered milk and toiletries for an air cargo delivery coordinated by Eureka St. Vincent DePaul.

This is officially the last weekend before summer fades into fall, which means it's time once again for the North Country Fair on the Arcata Plaza. Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 17 and 18, the town square will fill with people perusing the wares of the artists, crafters and cooks whose booths ring and crisscross the plaza, or talking politics with those espousing assorted important causes. It's a place where you invariably run into friends you haven't seen all year, and where you can make new friends that you might not see until next year.

And there are entertainers everywhere: bellydancers and salsa dancers, puppet shows, jugglers and gymnasts; fun for kids and adults alike. There are parades both days: Samba Allegria on Saturday, the All Species Parade Sunday.

Then there's the music, a dozen bands or more each day spread across several stages. Among them: Musaic, starting things off Saturday with international sounds at 10 a.m. Folksinger Lisa Sharry, who plays at 10:45, tells me this is her tenth year performing at the fair. Other highlights Saturday: Compost Mountain Boys pickin' at 1:45; Old Man Clemens reunited at 2:15; Nucleus at 3:30; Djialy Kunda Kouyate at 4 p.m.; bluesman Buddy Reed at 4:45; the one non-local, guitar wizard Scott Huckabay at 4:15. And at 3 p.m., it's Matthew Cook, leader of the Same Old People, the folks who organize the fair. Matthew, who says he's retiring from the S.O.P. after this year, debuts songs from his new guitar/vocal CD, Another Piece Of Me.

Sunday's music begins at 10:30 a.m. with Steve Lloyd, a singer/songwriter who impressed me at the year's Folklife Festival. Vintage Soul plays what you would assume they play at 11 a.m. Angel Fargas aka El Nicoya plays at 11:15; guitar/banjo man Mike McLaren at 11:45; Andean musicians Huayllipacha are on at 1:45; the above mentioned Bayou Swamis at 2:15. At 3 p.m. catch Eileen Hemphill-Haley, and congratulate her for winning first place in the Dave Carter Memorial Songwriting Contest at the Sisters Folk Festival up in Oregon last Saturday. As things wind down you have Kulica at 4:15; and finally, the Clint Warner Band at 4:45. See you there.

In last week's Hum, I mentioned that Pato Banton and the Reggae Revolution are playing at Mazzotti's Thursday, Sept. 15 — that was not quite accurate. In fact, Pato is on a four-city tour with Sol Horizon, a roots reggae band from Sonoma County who open with a set on their own.

At the Riverwood Inn Saturday, Sept. 17, it's young bluesman Corby Yates, who, even though he's now 20-something, still has a boyish look and displays a youthful zeal while ripping into Jimi- and Stevie Ray-inspired guitar licks. Watch for more blues at the Riverwood in the weeks to come including gigs by Guitar Shorty, Mark Hummel, Little Charlie and John Lee Hooker Jr.

At the Eagle House Saturday night it's an evening with the phenomenal jazz bassist David Friesen and East German guitarist Uwe Kropinski, once described by Guitar Player magazine as "the Jimi Hendrix of the acoustic guitar." The pair first met in Berlin in 1987 where they were both playing solo sets; their intense musical conversations have continued off and on ever since.

Years before a journalist came up with the term jamband, the Allman Brothers were playing songs that stretched for 20 minutes and beyond. While the late great Duane Allman was the founder of the iconic Southern rock combo, there were two lead guitar players: Dickey Betts traded licks with Duane on the band's seminal records. After Duane died in a tragic motorcycle crash in 1971, Betts shared the leadership role with Gregg Allman. Betts wrote the Allman Bros' biggest hit, "Rambin' Man" along with "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" and many other key songs in the band's repertoire. In the mid-'70s Dickey and Gregg both went solo; Betts with a band he called Great Southern. He rejoined the Allman Bros later, but the band had a turbulent on-again/off-again history through the '80s and '90s, and in 2000, Betts left for the last time. The Ramblin' Man assembled a new version of Dickey Betts and Great Southern and he's been making a livin' doing the best he can ever since. Catch Betts and company Tuesday, Sept. 20, at Cher Ae Heights Casino.

Earthdance, the Global Festival for Peace started out in 1997 as a simultaneous international rave held in 18 cities. Since then the event has grown — this year there are around 180 participating cities spread across six continents.

For the last few years the central event has been at Black Oak Ranch here in Northern California where it has become a three day party uniting fans of world music, jambands, conscious lyricism, electronica, reggae and folk. The festival this weekend, Sept. 16-18, includes dozens of top flight bands — Zap Mama, Michael Franti and Spearhead, Sound Tribe Sector 9, Steve Kimock, Lyrics Born and Culture among them, but for event founder Chris Deckker the core of Earthdance is still the musical Prayer for Peace at 4 p.m. Saturday (Pacific time).

The Prayer is coordinated so that all the Earthdance parties around the world dance to the same tune at once. "The concept is to unite people across the world regardless of time zones, languages and geographic location," Deckker explained. "Everyone connects at one moment in time to dance for global peace and unity. It's a very profound thing.

"Esoterically we can sit here and think 'Oh yeah, it's great, it's all hippie New Age,' but the feedback we get from random people around the world is just amazing. We get e-mails from Kazakhstan to Clubland New York, from grandparents in Australia, all saying the same thing. They all feel the connection. It shows that if we focus our energy as a group we can feel a profound change.

"If you believe in peace, it can happen. Peace happens at home first of course — that's the concept behind Earthdance. We can provide that one spark that says, `Wow, the world is all one thing. We're actually all one tribe living on this planet and we should be looking after it.' It's more important than ever to share a sense of hope right now. There's so much stuff going on, so many disasters from war to natural disasters. We need to unite, to ignite that sense of global unity."


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