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Nov. 25, 2004


The Hum



[map of Fresno]IN RECENT YEARS THE ONLY-IN-AMERICA HOLIDAY THANKSGIVING has come to herald the beginning of consumer frenzy for the holidays -- Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, take your pick -- the idea being for you to head out the Friday after and go shopping somewhere: at the mall, Old Town, one of several Main Street districts, your choice.

For a few years now, you've had another option: something called Craftsman's Days at that venerable Humboldt institution the Blue Ox Millworks, the historical park and school of traditional arts run by Eric and Viviana Hollenbeck. The event is not really a holiday gift fair, but you'll find artisans demonstrating blacksmithing, woodworking, glassblowing, weaving, spinning, ceramics, jewelry making, etc. and if you want, you could buy some locally made or made-right-there handcrafted this or that.

In addition they'll have storytellers and puppet shows for the kids and lots of music, generally leaning toward old timey and bluegrass, beginning at 10 a.m. with The Tumbleweeds (the singing cowboys who play at Chapala every weekend) with The 2nd Hand Band at noon and Empty Bottle Boys at 2 p.m. In between you can catch that barbershop quartet with a clever name, Mirth First , which, incidentally includes Eric Hollenbeck.

Working Friday? The event continues on Saturday with a few more old timey bands: Devils' Dream at 10 a.m., Hunchback Sally at noon, and Ridgeline at 2 p.m.

This year the whole event is a benefit for an upcoming Blue Ox project, KKDS-LP: Humboldt Bay Youth Radio, a low power station run by the high school students at the school, which if all goes according to plan should be on the air next summer.

For old time music in a blues vein, stop by the Metro Friday evening, Nov. 26, where Delta bluesman Don Haupt performs for what has become a weekly instore showcase. I ran into a friend the other day who told me Don was perfect playing his blues as "The Station Agent" down in Willits a few weeks back when the Skunk Train had a special old timey jaunt, one that featured mostly Humboldt County musicians.

Friday at the Placebo, a band from Washington, Le Ton Mite , here on a CD release tour for the album, we must grow to giant size, playing what they call "francophonic revolutionary hymns" with "landscapes [that] blend, fight and crescendo" although at first listen, the soundscape sample I downloaded seemed like random electronic blip-tones mixed with feedback -- not the guitar, vocals and keyboards "whirling you into a frenzy" promised on the new disc. Opening the show, Placebo's own massive noise orchestra, Pubic Zirconium .

Somewhere down in SoHum, Loreen of the Riverwood Inn ran into KMUD blues deejay Jomama, and talk turned to Turkey Day (or Tofuturkey Day if you prefer). When Loreen learned that soulful blues singer Earl Thomas was having Thanksgiving at Jomama's place, and remembering that she was mightily impressed by his set at Blues By the Bay, she gave Earl a call: Would he like to play a gig in Phillipsville while he's in town? He would. And he will, Saturday night, Nov. 27, at the Riverwood (of course). It's the latest in a string of blues show at the roadhouse; coming Dec. 11, Archie Hooker , nephew of John Lee; Dec. 18, it's guitar wizard Roy Rogers and the Delta Rhythm Kings . (BTW, you can hear Jomama's Blues Sundays at 9 p.m. on KMUD.)

Saturday night at Rumours , catch the debut of Kids For Sale , a new combo assembled by Mr. Hee , former bass player for Acts of Aggression, who describes his new thing as totally different from AoA, specifically, "old school punks mixin' with youngsters into funk."

Saturday night at Mazzotti's it's something a bit more organic and earthy: a double bill with the Sasha Butterfly Band and dreadlocked Shimshai and the Natural Mystiquensemble . Both groups played EarthDance; both follow the eco-groovin' natural mystic path.

Santa Monica-based guitarist/songwriter John Montgomery works the local coffeehouse circuit and beyond over the following week playing Saturday at Old Town Coffee and Chocolates, Sunday at Muddy Waters, and Wednesday, Dec. 1, in the Blue Lake Casino's Steelhead Lounge. A biologist by training with a bachelor's in genetics and a doctorate in neurobiology, Montgomery says, "For me, writing a song is very similar to doing scientific research. There's that same overpowering sense of excitement and release when you think you have something, when you think you've found or rendered some little piece of the truth."

Tuesday, Nov. 30, at the Clam Beach Inn, it's Play Dead , a band that does just that, as in playing covers of Grateful Dead songs (with tunes by Bob Dylan and Jerry Garcia for variety). On bass: Gary Davidson, formerly of the Joyce Hough Band (who I'm told celebrated his 50th with a star-studded bash over the weekend); Doug Shernock of the Tahoe band Dead cover band, U.S. Fools, plays rhythm guitar; Don Barry from NYC Dead cover band Broken Wheel plays lead guitar; drummer Mike LaBolle plays in countless local combos in many genres, but not any other Dead cover bands that I know of.

Coming Wednesday, Dec. 1, to Mazzotti's , some serious Jamaican roots reggae from Don Carlos , one of those old school dreadlock Rastas who traces his history back to the days when Bob Marley was on the rise. Back then, in 1974 to be exact, Carlos joined forces with Rudolph Dennis and Derrick "Duckie" Simpson, a couple of friends from the Waterhouse district of Kingston JA, to form Black Uhuru. Carlos quickly left for a solo career, but rejoined Simpson and Dennis in 1990 resurrecting Black Uhuru long enough for a couple of stellar albums before returning to the solo life. Carlos' latest release, Special Edition, mixes new material with old, digging back even before the B.U. days to when he was a teenager. His sweet strong voice hasn't changed that much in all those years.

As I mentioned at the start of this column, Thanksgiving is this Thursday. I'm heading off on a short vacation to exotic Fresno. Fresno? you might ask. Well, it has to do with taxes, library taxes to be specific. One of my close friends, who used to live here, is a librarian, and unless you pay no attention to the news whatsoever, you know what that means in Humboldt County: No work. Fresno however, recognizing the importance of books and such, passed a quarter cent sales tax a few years ago specifically to upgrade their library system -- and you know what? While the hell-no-on-Measure-L folks shot the local sales tax hike down in flames, on Election Day in Fresno they once again voted to support libraries. They even added another tenth cent for their zoo.

Speaking of libraries and books, Billy Collins , who was the official U.S. Poet Laureate from 2001-03, is coming to Arcata Tuesday, Nov. 30, to read his work at the Van Duzer. How does one become Poet Laureate? Well, Collins was appointed by the Librarian of Congress, James H. Billington, who I presume oversees the Library of Congress. According to Billington, "Billy Collins's poetry is widely accessible. He writes in an original way about all manner of ordinary things and situations with both humor and a surprising contemplative twist."

Since I will have this column on autopilot while I'm gone, here are a few advance suggestions: Two excellent bands, Karate and Roots of Orchis , play Saturday, Dec. 4, at the Placebo -- warning: these bands could fill a much bigger space, advance tickets are advised. Same night at Six Rivers Brewery, Short Bus , a Long Beach band that includes Eric and Ras from the Sublime/Dub All-stars crew.

Monday, Dec. 6, Ozomatli hits Mazzotti's with a major dose of Latin-tinged hip-hop and funk, while across the way at the Alibi, it's "Queercore Blitz" with the Brazilian lesbian band Dominatrix , Oregonian lesbians Jack Queen , and two gay bands from New York City, Triple Crème and The Dead Betties . Meanwhile down at Muddy Waters, Eric Park plays country-style Delta blues.

Then on Wednesday, Dec. 8, outside jazzy jammers Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey come to Six Rivers Brewery with cool folky Leslie Helpert opening.

One more thing: Thanks -- to all of you for reading this column, and thanks to all the musicians and artists who brighten up our lives.

Bob Doran



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