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November 2, 2006

Heading: On the wild side, The Hum by Bob Doran, photo of Lou Reed

Born in Brooklyn, raised on Long Island, Lou Reed has been an avant-garde force inX2 rock music for four decades. Lou was punk before punk was invented, a seminal glam rocker, a guitar noise artist when the form was commercial suicide, but mostly he's been a straight-ahead no apologies rock 'n' roller, one whose lyrics have touched on once taboo topics like the glamour and grit of sex and drugs.

After playing in R&B bands in high school and taking a stab at college, Lou headed back to NYC in 1963 to try his hand at Tin Pan Alley-type songwriting for Pickwick Records. In '64, he wrote a parody of dance records like "The Twist," titled "The Ostrich." To promote the song, his employers put together a band called The Primitives with Reed as front man. The classically trained John Cale was recruited and when the two decided to work more together, The Velvet Underground was born -- you could say alt. rock was born with it.

In songs like "Heroin," "Sweet Jane," "All Tomorrow's Parties," "Sister Ray," and "Venus in Furs," Reed and the VU offered snapshots of life on the street, a window into a dark world of drug addicts, party people and hustlers. Lou would go on to a solo career that blazed new trails: With 1972's Transformer, an album produced by David Bowie, he crafted a gender-bent glamrock character and wrote his biggest hit, "Walk on the Wild Side." The next year he followed with Berlin, an unsentimental song cycle about sex and drugs in the German city, then a couple of years later he created Metal Machine Music, a two-record set of feedback-laden guitar noise that sold few copies, but is still influencing alt. rock bands like My Bloody Valentine.

What's Lou been up to lately? 2007 will see the release of the martial arts DVD, Chen Taijiquan Master Ren GuangYi and Lou Reed, with Lou's teacher offering demonstrations of Chen-style Taijiquan (Tai Chi) with narration and ambient electronic background music by Reed.

This December, Lou heads to the land down under for the premiere of a staged version of Berlin, playing the music he wrote in the early '70s (and never before performed publicly), under the direction of New York artist/filmmaker Julian Schnabel. Among the musicians joining him there are two bass players: Rob Wasserman and Fernando Saunders. Prior to the Australian shows, the bassmen are accompanying Reed on a short tour of colleges on the West Coast, among them HSU, where Lou Reed, Songs and Noise hits the stage of the Van Duzer Theatre, Saturday, Nov. 4. Perhaps I'll see you there.

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For a taste of cross-cultural dance, make a reservation for one of three performances by the New World Ballet when they bring together West African dance with ballet at the Dancenter in Arcata Nov. 3, 4 and 5 (Sunday's show is a matinee). Guest artist Alseny Soumah from the National Ballet of Guinea joined forces with NWB Artistic Director Victor Temple and the West African Dance Seminar, an NWB dance workshop, to craft a Cinderella-type dance piece. The ballet dancers will also perform some of Temple's recent choreography including the classic "Swan Lake."

You might also want to stop by Muddy's Hot Cup Thursday, where the NWB hosts a benefit featuring jazz by Auntie Em and wines from local vintner Robert Goodman.

As you may recall, Auntie Em first came together as a series of Thursday night jazz sessions at Muddy's led by bassist Shao Way Wu. Shao Way called me last week to say, "We're trying to get the jazz thing off the ground there" again, and that aside from Thursday's benefit, they're playing on Tuesdays at Muddy's. "Big Pete's is doing jazz on Thursdays, so we changed nights. It's pretty much straight ahead; basically me and Susie [Laraine] and whoever else is available. We try to bring in different players each week. We'd like to invite more people, but not really for a jam."

Friday at the Hot Cup, an intriguing sounding show: The Whale Shark, which is the nom de musique of Eric Pietsch, a whaling captain from Lahaina, Maui, who sings satirical drunken pirate songs. Yo ho!

Speaking of Susie Laraine, she plays at the Graves Saturday during Arts Alive! with her Rhumboogie Sax Quartet. Also playing for Arts Alive!, the gospel/bluegrass band Huckleberry Flint in the tent in front of the Arkley Center. (I think they have space heaters there.)

More cross-culti business Saturday at the D St. Neighborhood Center, a Mattole Salmon Group fundraiser featuring the local drum/dance troupe, Dun Dun Fare and Afrissippi, a band from North Mississippi formed by Senegalese songwriter Guelel Kumba and Eric Deaton, a Mississippi bluesman who was an apprentice to the late R.L. Burnside. Yes, it's true, the blues has roots in Africa, and the music they made on an album called Fulani Journey proves it.

Same night across town at the Arcata Presbyterian Church it's the annual Harvest Concert by the Arcata Interfaith Gospel Choir, singing with the A.I.G. Youth and Teen Choirs.

How 'bout some hip hop? Friday, Nov. 3, Reba of That's How We Roll presents "Keep The Feel 707," an underground hip hop party at Mazzotti's with Abstract Rude and Tribe Unique up from the Bay along with DJ Artistic and Deep Rooted 619, plus locals, DJ Itchie Fingaz and the samba troupe Bloco Firmeza. Says Reba, "We're bringing back that feel you've been missing: that feel good roots and kulcha vibe with a b-boy twist -- spinning dope hip hop, reggae and groovy sh!t all nite in an event much like a house party where the DJs keep you dancing until closing time."

The Mateel plays host to Homegrown Hip Hop Vol. 2 Saturday night, an all ages show with local or semi-local luminaries like Subliminal Sabotage, North Coast Underground, L.C.A., Pyro A-Go-Go, MC 2-Son, Lil Cyc, and DJs including Selecta Prime, Dj Jiggawatt and Dj Assasin. Yo, be there with your hands in the air.

For a different take on hip hop, check the show at the Kate Buchanan Room Saturday night featuring Bay Area Native American hip hoppers One Struggle fronted by Ras K'dee, whose mom is from the Pomo Nation while his dad is black. The show is a benefit for the local organization Sustainable Nations; Trinidad Goodshield and 7th Generation Rise will open, and, says organizer PennElys Goodshield, "We're doing the full Indian taco thing, as well as pies, sweets, etc." (Showtime 7 p.m.)

Back at Mazzotti's Saturday night, a "Welcome Home Show" for local reggae stalwarts Massagana back from a West Coast tour, featuring Ishi Dube, Jah Sun and Ras Attitude all backed by Massagana.

Looking for some metal? The Boiler Room heats up Thursday, Nov. 2, with Eldemur Krimm from Portland, Ore., and Devil to Play from Indianapolis, Ind. Friday is just as metallic, but local, with Embryonic Devourment, Locust Furnace and Truculance banging heads.

Coming up Wednesday, Nov. 8, at the Van Duzer, the Portland-based 12-piece neo-lounge outfit, Pink Martini, who describe themselves as "somewhere between a 1930s Cuban dance orchestra, a classical chamber music ensemble, a Brazilian marching street band and Japanese film noir." Says P.M. founder/pianist Thomas M. Lauderdale, "We're kind of like musical archaeologists, bringing melodies and rhythms from different parts of the world together to create something which is modern."

Same night at The Jambalaya, it's an alt. rock evening featuring Vetiver, led by Andy Cabic, who also often plays with Devendra Banhart (and vice versa). Fresh from a Euro-tour, the band is making its way up and down the West Coast with Sub Pop's Eric Johnson (from The Fruitbats); local alties Strix Vega complete the bill.

And also on Wednesday, Santa Cruz singer/songwriter Amy Obenski has another go at Humboldt. As you probably do not recall, Amy had the bad fortune of being booked at Kelly O'Brien's Pub a few days after they turned the place over to the folks who turned it into The Red Fox Tavern. "Sorry, show cancelled."

For the literary set we have dueling book signing events. At Northtown Books, former Arcata poet laureate John Ross reads from his latest journalistic masterwork, Zapatistas, which one can safely assume is about the Mexican revolutionaries John's been hanging out with for the last few years.

Same night at The Booklegger, Paul Chasman appears with local raconteur Jeff DeMark, who will offer a snippet from his latest show, They Ate Everything But Their Boots. (See this week's Stage Matters for more on DeMark and TAEBTB.) Paul Chasman is an Oregonian author/guitarist bringing his one-man show Helluva Deal, and signing copies of his latest, Book of Bob, as revealed to Paul Chasman, which I was slightly disappointed to learn, has nothing to do with "Bob," of the Church of the Subgenius. Chasman's claim to fame is a series of letters written to President Bush following the invasion of Iraq under the pen name "Carl Estrada," offering advice on everything from The Dixie Chicks to proper use of his flag lapel pin. Curious? You can find them on the web at

And since we're talking politics, I'll offer a reminder: Don't forget to vote on Tuesday. And please, only vote for people you think I might like. OK? We'll celebrate next week.

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