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November 10, 2005

The Hum heading

The Crash heading. Photo of Mana "China" Nishiura, drummer from DMBQ
Above: Mana "China" Nishiura, drummer from DMBQ at a show in Arcata earlier this year.


We'll probably never know why the girl in the black Mitsubishi Eclipse lost control while tooling down the Jersey Turnpike Friday afternoon. Whatever the cause, the result was catastrophic. Swerving across three lanes, she clipped the rear end of a Ford Econoline van driven by Shinji Masuko, the dynamic lead singer of DMBQ, a Japanese whirlwind/rock band much beloved in these parts. Shinji was piloting the band on the way from a gig in Baltimore to another in Brooklyn, part of a long U.S. tour that was supposed to bring the band to Arcata for a show next week.

The collision sent the van careening wildly off the side of the road. New Jersey police figure it rolled several times before coming to rest in a clearing by the side of I-95. I imagine the moment of chaos as akin to the peak of one of DMBQ's full throttle rock 'n' roll crescendos. The band's drummer Mana "China" Nishiura, who had been sleeping in the back of the van, was thrown from the vehicle as it rolled. She died by the side of the highway from her injuries. "Tragic" is the word used in a flurry of e-mails and Net postings from all over -- it's way beyond that.

The band's tour manager, former Eureka resident Michelle Cable -- also much beloved locally -- was riding shotgun. Like the three surviving members of DMBQ, she ended up in the hospital. Shinji, guitarist Toru Matsui and bassist Ryuichi Watanabe were all released after treatment for relatively minor injuries. Michelle is still in the hospital. Forty stitches took care of various head lacerations; Monday she went in for spinal fusion surgery to deal with a back injury, which fortunately does not seem to include damage to her spinal cord. Word is, it went really well, better than expected. According to her friend Jen Shagawat from the band Shellshag (who were supposed to play with DMBQ Saturday), all things considered, Michelle is in "really good spirits."

Many here in Humboldt are sending her good vibrations and wishes for a speedy recovery. Saturday at The Shanty in Eureka, a couple of dozen people, members of bands and music fans alike, spent the day planning ways to help. (As you might guess, Michelle has no health insurance.) At least a couple of benefits are in the works, but as we went to press Tuesday, nothing was firm. Elsewhere, the members of Genghis Tron, a band Michelle worked with, have set up a PayPal account to help with Michelle and DMBQ's travel and medical expenses. Just go to PayPal and transfer funds to

To understand why so many people here and elsewhere are concerned about her, you have to know something of Michelle's back-story. When I met her six or so years ago she was a high school student expressing her passion for alt. rock via a Xeroxed zine she called Panache. It eventually grew into a full-fledged magazine with Michelle serving as publisher/editor/layout person/ad sales person/main contributing writer.

Meanwhile, not content with cajoling club owners to bring the musicians she wanted to hear to town, she began booking and promoting her own shows, pairing touring bands (among them The White Stripes, then on the verge of stardom) with local bands. She seldom made any money from her shows or from the magazine and supported her music habit with jobs at the mall, first selling Orange Juliuses, then shoes.

In the summer of '03 she packed her Panache operation up and moved to San Francisco, where the magazine grew and flourished (circulation for the last edition was at 20,000). Her concert promotion evolved into Panache Booking, essentially a one-woman operation that handled national tours for a dozen acts including DMBQ and a couple of other Japanese bands. She still wasn't getting rich, but she was living the rock 'n' roll dream she had envisioned, giving her all tirelessly so that people could hear music from outside the mainstream.

Her dream job took her around the country and to Japan traveling with DMBQ -- she was right where she wanted to be when that van rolled, and I'm sure she will be back living her dream before you know it. Watch this spot for news about upcoming benefits. In the meantime, send psychic healing vibes or clog her e-mail inbox with get well wishes to

As mentioned last week in my food column, there's a Katrina benefit coming up: Ain't No Funk Like New Orleans Funk takes place at the Mateel Friday, Nov. 11, a presentation of S.H.U.R.E. (Southern Humboldt United Relief Effort) in association with WHOOAT and People Productions raising funds for various Louisiana causes.

"The money from the benefit goes to New Orleans musicians' charities and the United Houma Nation," explained Michael Kohn from Cecil's in Garberville, where S.H.U.R.E. has been meeting a couple of nights a week. "Some of our members went down to Louisiana and hooked up with the Houma. It's a Native American tribal community south of New Orleans in a little town called Golden Meadows. The Veterans for Peace sent a bus down there that we loaded up with supplies. The ties that bind this community are helping keep together another great community in the United Houma Nation and at the same time helping keep the heartbeat of New Orleans, the music, alive."

The A.N.F.L.N.O.F. lineup includes The 504-ever Band, a group that emerged post-Katrina in Nashville featuring the amazing Anders Osborne, Tom Fitzpatrick, from Walter Wolfman Washington's band, Joe Crown, from the late Gatemouth Brown's band, Big Chief Smiley Ricks, from Dr. John's band and David Jordan and Aron Lambert from New Orleans Juice. (N.O. Juice also plays Saturday night at Cecil's.) Another N.O. band, Chris Mule and the Unmentionables, fills out the funky bill. Music starts at 8, but show up early for some fine Creole fare from the crew at Cecil's. Laissez les bon temps roulez and help the cause.

Incidentally, the band called Juice playing Saturday, Nov. 12, at Humboldt Brews is the local reggae/funk outfit, not the guys from N. O.

Also in SoHum Friday night, Guitar Shorty keeps the blues alive at that roadhouse blues spot, the Riverwood Inn.

Coming to Muddy Waters on Thursday are the first of two multi-media extravaganzas by Dan Stockwell and Zack Rouse aka Fusiq, including the "Virtual Astroturf Band" bringing video samples of musicians like Eddie Van Halen, Ella Fitzgerald, and Tom Waits to the stage to "sit in" with Dan and Zack. They do it again at the Logger next weekend.

Monday Nov. 14 at Muddy's it's The Tillers/Taarka, a Gypsy jazz jam associated with ThaMuseMeant.

Then on Tuesday, Nov. 15, at Muddy Waters it's Dooley vs. Shuler II, a "Poetry & Music Tag-team Event" with self-described "controversial writer" John Dooley providing slam poetry and ace chef Brett "The Truck" Schuler offering what he terms "foot stomping folk rock or folk stomping foot rock." New poems and songs are promised including Schuler's latest, "The Blanket Rider" about his blanket-humping cat, who shall remain nameless to protect his cat pride.

Mazzotti's has the reggae beat every Thursday with dancehall DJs. This weekend, they also have a ska band from Utah called 2 1/2 White Guys on Friday night, and on Saturday, roots reggae master Clinton Fearon and the Boogie Brown Band, fronted by C. Fearon, a former member of The Gladiators. Local reggae jammers Mobile Chiefing Unit open the show.

Also in a reggae vein: a show next Wednesday, Nov. 16 at Indigo Nightclub (the place formerly known as Club West) featuring dancehall reggae sensation Anthony B and the Santa Cruz-based Soul Majestic. Anthony has collaborated with Soul Majestic in the past on tours and records, but this time he's bringing his own band from Jamaica, in fact part of his band will replace the S.M. riddim section on the tour.

Also on Wednesday, Nov. 16, is a show at Cher Ae Heights that is sure to appeal to a much different crowd featuring Loretta Lynn's little sister, Crystal Gayle. One of the biggest country stars from the mid-'70s on into the '80s, Crystal has recorded infrequently since the '90s, but still hits the road on occasion. When she's not playing music, she runs a jewelry shop in Nashville that also features, you guessed it, crystals.


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