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December 1, 2005

The Hum heading
Monkey God or Van Halen Backwards heading


The multi-culti band from Los Angeles known as Ozomatli has come a long way since they came together as a loose congregation 10 years ago. As bassist Wil-Dog explained the first time I met the band, the band's roots lie in a youth center he helped establish in downtown L.A. when he was in the Calif. Conservation Corps. When Sacramento pulled the center's funding and tried to pull the plug, those involved morphed the space into something called the Peace and Justice Center. A series of make-shift benefit jams to pay the rent brought the initial Ozo line-up together, and with surprisingly few changes, the band has been together ever since laying down a Latin-tinged amalgam of hip hop, funk and rock that manages to please audiences ranging from the Warped Tour to Reggae on the River.

Along the way they're recorded four albums (not enough IMHO). The most recent came out just last month: Live at the Fillmore, a lively CD/DVD package, was recorded about a year ago at the fabled SF venue with material spanning their decade-long career.

Buried in the extras on the DVD is a clip from a visit to the studios of "world class rock" station KFOG. A woman off-camera innocently asks about the meaning of their name, and guitarist Raul Pacheco starts to form an answer, but before he can explain about the Aztec monkey god, trumpeter/vocalist Asdru Sierra quips, "It's Van Halen backwards," and the whole band cracks up, at least until the deejay asks, "Can you do another tune for us?"

Those who'd like to hear another tune from Ozomatli should head for HSU's Kate Buchanan Room Monday, Dec. 5, where they share the bill with the Salvador Santana Band. According to Asdru, "Sal is an amazing pianist with some extraordinary musicians in his band. I love it when he gets up and spits some rhymes as well. Sometimes I hear Miles Davis/On The Corner styles with some vocals in the mix, or some of the old school Herbie Hancock and the Headhunters sounds. Very spiritual sounding stuff."

It's not exactly a rent party; in fact it's a celebration of four years of rabble rousing by our own Redwood Peace and Justice Center aka RPJC. Come out to the Bayside Grange Friday, Dec. 2, for an organic dinner including, as the redoubtable Dave Meserve describes it, "wild, line-caught Alaskan salmon." There's also the inevitable silent auction for what I'm sure will be lots of groovy stuff, and music: wild, line-caught gypsy jams by Absynth Quintet.

There are two benefits coming up to help out Michelle Cable of Panache. Friday night at Kelly O'Brien's it's a local indie extravaganza organized by Chris Colland of Eureka Garbage Co. with his band plus a new, improved, expanded The Buffy Swayze, homegrown Irish punks The Smashed Glass (now including Monica from K-SLUG), and those neo-psychedelic rockers The Great Salvation. Be there!

Then on Sunday, Dec. 4, it's a benefit at the Alibi with Israeli garage rock duo The Mother's Anger plus Arcata's indie pop goddesses The Ian Fays.

I talked with Michelle Tuesday and she is doing really well, all things considered. She has just three more weeks in her neck brace, but months of work to get her back back in shape. She seemed almost overwhelmed by all the help she has received: benefits all over the country and PayPal donations from friends she didn't know she had. It was clear it has really helped, both emotionally and financially (her medical bills so far are over $100,000). In her typical understated fashion, she says to tell everyone hi -- and thanks.

First my apologies to anyone who missed modern troubadour Jim Page on KHUM Wednesday because I told you he was in studio on Thursday, Dec. 1. That is in fact the date for Page's show at the Red Radish; he also sings at the Garberville Civic Club Friday, Dec. 2, a benefit for KMUD preceded by the proverbial (organic) dinner. Given that self-described "longtime admirer" Bonnie Raitt sees Page as a singer, "in the tradition of Woody Guthrie and Dylan," it's no surprise that the last time Jim was in town it was with the Spirit of Woody Guthrie Tour with Vince Herman and Rob Wasserman. What I remember most about the unfortunately under-attended show was Page's update on Woody's "This Land Is Your Land." He flipped the classic on its head, bent it into "This Land Ain't Your Land," a reversal that built on the political bite of the original.

Blues? You got 'em. It doesn't get much better than Sacramento's ace jump swing blues boys Little Charlie and the Nightcats, who play Friday Dec. 2, at Humboldt's roadhouse of the blues, the Riverwood Inn. Smooth-talking frontman Rick Estrin and multi-faceted guitarist Little Charlie Baty have been together for 30-some-odd years and are now on album No. 9, appropriately titled, Nine Lives.

Meanwhile, Friday night in NoHum, you've got Mojo Daddy out at Blue Lake Casino and The Gypsy Band at Bear Creek.

Saturday, Buddy Reed rips it up at Bear Creek, while Stevie Harris, a guy from Oakland, plays his neo-blues at Sacred Grounds. Then again, blues is just part of the formula for Harris who fronts what he calls a "hard soul" band, playing music that at times reminds me of Stevie Wonder and/or Prince.

Humboldt Hip Hop Community celebrates its first birthday Friday, Dec. 2, in HSU's Kate Buchanan Room with turntable sets by DJ's ADP and Itchy Fingaz, raps by EQ, a rising star in the underground, and a screening of Hooked: The Legend of Demetrius "Hook" Mitchell, a cautionary tale about a street-basketball star who wound up in prison instead of the NBA.

And while we're talking hip hop, Tuesday, Dec. 6, at Humboldt Brews it's the 4th annual MC Battle Royale, pitting rapper vs. rapper, rhyme for rhyme, and there's no panel of judges involved: The crowd makes the ultimate choice. (Better bring your posse.)

Saturday Dec. 3, at the Westhaven Center for the Arts it's Les Conversations Galantes - Intimate Dialogues for Two Violins: Part II: "Around the Campfire," a program mixing stories from the cross-country Lewis and Clarke Expedition told by Dan O'Gara and Carol Larsen with music from the times played by violinists/fiddlers Rob Diggins and Jolianne Von Einem.

The inspiration came from the fact that fiddlers were included in the Lewis and Clarke party according to Diggins, who explained that "the music served as a tool for diplomacy," often entrancing the Native American people they encountered. A musicologist researched the period to come up with appropriate fiddle music. Diggins and Von Einem drew from their classical background to find Baroque tunes they think Thomas Jefferson, sponsor of the expedition, might have played on his own violin at his Monticello home. "We want to connect those two things. And even though they didn't have a guitar on the expedition, I'm going to play guitar behind Jolianne on some tunes," said Diggins. "Then we'll have two fiddles, percussion, buffalo drums, things like that."

Tuesday, Dec. 6, catch the first ever music/dance event from Mosaic Productions, a nonprofit put together by the bellydancer known as Shoshanna. She's bringing in Karim Nagi Mohammed, an Egyptian/Bostonian musician/dancer/DJ from the faculty of the New England Conservatory of Music, expert in Arabic, Turkish and Andalusian hand percussion including the Egyptian tabla, riqq (tambourine) and segat (brass castanets), for Turbo Tabla Tuesday at the Common Ground Community Center in Arcata's Westwood Shopping Center, with lessons in the use of finger cymbals followed by an "Arabic Techno Dance Party" in which Karim dances while playing some sort of electro-tabla-synth machine backed by self-produced techno/hip hop tracks. Exotic or what?


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