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The Hum by Bob Doran

Nov. 4, 2004

Photo and headline -- Hope

AND AS EVERYONE I TALK to says, it's "the-most-important-election EVER." I'm listening to a dubwise tune by a band from New Zealand called Fat Freddy's Drop, "Hope," a positive affirmation kind of thing with a chant: "Hope for a generation, just beyond my reach, not beyond my sight" And part of that hope is music, "the thing I do to get me through," as the song puts it.

Music? There's lots of it coming our way as always. Let's start with Thursday, Nov. 4, when Steel Pulse hits HSU's Kate Buchanan Room. Formed in 1975 in Handsworth, the poor part of Birmingham, England, the British Rastafarian reggae giants were extremely influential as they mingled with the burgeoning punk scene playing angry, politically charged songs alongside The Clash, The Police and others who absorbed some of the reggae vibe and the impulse toward protest. Anyone who saw them at Reggae this summer knows that even though they're older and wiser they haven't lost their edge.

Coming to Rumours Friday, Nov. 5, another one of those amazing Female Fun hip-hop reviews, "Northern Cali Invasion Pt. 1," featuring Thes One and Double K , the L.A. underground duo better known as People Under the Stairs , playing old school all turntable hip-hop (the kind of stuff the tape traders mentioned in our "Preview" this week were trading), along with Female Fun recording artist Dooley-O , a master producer from New Haven, Conn., and Shapeshifters affiliate Tommy V., plus the return of Vs. Stiles, DJ Red and, of course, Thanksgiving Brown . Wait, there's more: live graf artists onstage, Forest Stearns of E2 and Sonny Wong of Fortuna's Dirty Rats.

Saturday night, pick your benefit: At the Freshwater Grange it's a "Freshwater Rock-Folk-Funk-Reggae Bonanza" raising funds for forest defenders with music by SuperHelix, Aporia and Madi Simmons and Ensemble, plus Mojo's Magical Puppet Troupe .

Meanwhile at the Placebo, it's an evening of indie rock to benefit the Mobile Medical Office featuring hard rockin' local bands Winston Smith and The Swallows , and imports: Wives , Mika Miko and The Sharp Ease .

The Sharp Ease , an all-girl quintet out of L.A., play twice that night, early in Manila, then late at the Alibi. The ladies claim dual citizenship in Spain and the U.S. and, according to their Web site, "They all like to sew, make tea, make love not war, read about Big Foot, play in the snow, take naps, sip beer through straws, hang in a buffalo stance, and go to a club and get tipsy," which they can do at the Alibi, but not the Placebo. Joining them for the Alibi show, The Ravens , garage-aholics who rocked seriously alongside The Cutters at last Saturday's jam-packed show. Big fun.

Multi-instrumentalist Carolyn Cruso is on her way home to Orcas Island, Wash., after zipping down the coast playing Celtic-tinged music on her hammered dulcimer, flute and guitar. She's at Beginnings Octagon, in Briceland, Friday, Nov. 5, although I have no further details. (Carolyn says ask Nancie Fourwaters.) Saturday, Nov. 6, Carolyn visits the Westhaven Center for the Arts.

Saturday night at the Van Duzer (and Sunday) Australian dance troupe Tap Dogs offer Rebooted , their hit off-Broadway show featuring Aussie-style tap dancing updated with an urban beat.

Saturday is another Arts Alive! night in Eureka. I'm guessing that the old timey buskers might not be out in the same numbers, what with the dark and cold and all, but you can see Slackjaw back in place at Old Town Coffee, and across town at Downtown Express Café ordinary supergirl Tamaras rocks acoustic. The Eureka Theater has blues by the Clint Warner Band, who are getting primed for an opening slot for Tommy Castro (next Friday, Nov. 12 at Six Rivers).

I got a note from Clint today announcing something called " The Blue Collar Jam " at the 535 Nightclub (formerly Club West) every Wednesday, starting Nov. 10. The thing is, it starts at 7 p.m. and only runs until 11, a dream for working guys (like Clint) who can't stay out until 1 a.m. on a weeknight. "The total advantage of this is going to be that musicians will have an opportunity to get up on a big stage playing through a great sound system and get home at a decent hour," says Clint.

Speaking of the blues, bluesy singer Earl Thomas is back in town Sunday night laying down some acoustic soul at Muddy Waters.

Coming up next Wednesday, Nov. 10, another weeknight with too many choices: Jackstraw , from Portland, Ore., plays rippin' bluegrass at Muddy Waters, while the Snake Oil Medicine Show mixes bluegrass with early jazz, reggae, post-newgrass instrumental expression, zydeco and warped psychedelia at Six Rivers up in McKinleyville. And at Mazzotti's it's an evening of post-jam band music with two bands: Animal Liberation Orchestra (aka ALO) from SoCal, and, from Seattle, Flowmotion . Both come out of the jam scene but say they want to move beyond simply jamming.

Flowmotion guitarist/lead vocalist Josh Clauson tells me his band has been exploring soul. "It's timeless, the stuff that comes out when you're singing soul music, or the feeling you get. It's ancient, but totally current," says Clauson, who recently discovered soul legend Curtis Mayfield. "The stuff he was talking about in 1971, politics and social issues, is the same thing happening today. It's stuff that never stopped happening, but people stopped talking about it and singing about it."

Clauson says he's feeling an obligation to return to the same sort of content in his lyrics, and the crowds he's been playing in front of appreciate it. "The interaction with the crowd is key. It's exciting to show up at some place you've never been and have a good show, have people see what you've been spending your time on and get something out of it. That makes all the struggles involved with life playing on the road seem worthwhile."

So you say you're not into alt. hip-hop etc. and will skip the big Placebo show with Subtle et al, well, if mandolin music is your preference, head for the Red Radish, where Czech mandolin master Radim Zenkl is holding court Monday night. Semi-local flamenco guitarist Rex Richardson opens the show, which BTW starts early probably early enough so that you could swing by the Blue Lake Casino after it's over to catch a horny New Orleans funk outfit called the ReBirth Brass Band .

As I sit at my desk, the sun is sinking on election eve, and I'm hoping for rebirth on another level: nationally. By the time you read this we will probably know which direction our country is heading in the next few years. For my part, whichever way it goes, I will hold out hope.

Bob Doran



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