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December 28, 2006

photo collage with Earl Thomas

plus Top 5 Albums of the Year 2006


Tin Pan Alley songwriter Frank Loesser asked the musical question back in 1947: `What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?" As usual, there are many choices. Of course, that's providing we don't have a re-run of last year's catastrophic NYE storm and blackout. (Just tune in KHUM if we do.)

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Here are a few of your options:

Let's start with the hot ticket for the evening: Earl Thomas and his Blues Ambassadors at the Pearl Lounge. Earl is hugely popular hereabouts and rightfully so: He's a man full of soul who always throws himself into a performance totally. He just came out with a new album, Plantation Gospel, with his versions of old slave songs (at the top of the 2006 faves for Larry Glass) but that's something recorded, as Earl explains it, using instruments "one would have actually found on the plantation," and the Blues Ambassadors are a bit more electric than that. I'm sure he will rock those blues. The Pearl is not very big, so expect a full house and be prepared to sweat. Earl will, undoubtedly. (BTW, Saturday at the Pearl marks the last local appearance this year by young jazz saxophonist Anthony Diamond.)

It's a jammin' New Year across town at the Red Fox Tavern with the newly dubbed Humboldt Buds featuring guitar wizard Ruben Diaz, ace keyboardist Tim Stretton and friends.

More jam at the Accident Gallery in Old Town with members from Bump Foundation opening the show with a jazz set, followed by the entire funky Foundation.

Vintage Soul is at BC's playing soul classics. (What else would they play?) Dr. Squid gets down with some classic rock at Sal's. (Saturday night, too.)

Indigo has their usual hip hop etc.-style dance party with DJ MuziqElement plus a $2,007 balloon pop at midnight. (Note: That one's an 18-and-over event.) At the Boiler Room it's a dance party/contest with late night competitions for "booty shakin' pole dancing" and "hyphy krump" dancing (or is it "hyphy crunk?"). Expect some flames along the way, too. (Bonus: "Non-alcoholic champagne for designated drivers.")

Of course, the casinos are all jumping: Bear River has Country Fever indoors for hot country dancing and a tent set up in the parking lot with DJ Ray spinning for those who don't care for country. Cher-Ae Heights has woman-fronted rock from Calamity Jane. The party starts early at Blue Lake Casino with The Roadmasters at 4 p.m. in the Steelhead Lounge followed by NightHawk at 9 p.m. Same time across the gambling hall, the venerable Merv George rocks the Sapphire Palace.

Looking southward: Old school rocker Billy Allen plays his hometown bar, The Playroom (that's in Fortuna). Loreen at the Riverwood Inn is throwing another classic New Year's Eve Bash with Jimi Jeff and the Gypsy Band rockin' the night away, champagne, hats, horns and Loreen's famous midnight buffet.

If neo-string band music is your thing, Six Rivers has resident nu-grassers Moses Lincoln Johnson with special guests UKEsperience (the ukulele band).

Along similar lines but with a gypsyish flare: The Absynth Quintet is pickin' and grinnin' on New Year's Eve at the Jambalaya paired with The Bucky Walters. (Come early for a special prix fixe dinner.)

The Alibi is relatively quiet NYE (no live music) but the Plaza is always a hot spot and they have DJ Red spinning old school hip hop at Mazzotti's.

The boys from Nucleus wrote to say, "We will once again, for the 4th year in a row, be rockin' in NYE in Humboldt County -- our second time at HumBrews [properly known as Humboldt Brewery]. Our good friends Moo-Got-2 will be kicking the party off in style and we plan on handing out free live CDs to the first 100 folks in the door. Rain or shine this show will happen -- we have back-up generators if a repeat of last year should occur. So let's rock A-town into 2007!" A note of explanation: NYE 2005/2006 was pretty dark due to the power outage and all, and most places closed their doors, but the Nuke guys scored one of the rare generators and lit up H-Brews to keep the party going.


Got a note this afternoon from Madi Simmons who says he's still in shock from the news that the hardest working man in show business, Mr. James Brown, has passed on. "A major influence for me," says Madi, adding, "I have been seeking to get some of the North Coast funk players to get together and give him a send off." No venue or date yet. If you're interested drop Madi a line at

I keep waiting for James to return, shaking off the cape of death to sing one more chorus of "Please, Please, Please." I'm so glad I got to see him play at the Duzer, just one of many amazing shows courtesy of CenterArts and HSU -- who seem to be bringing us non-stop icons. (That solo set by Richard Thompson will be hard to top.)

2006 was not a bad year for the Humboldt music scene. While I still would not describe the club scene as absolutely vibrant, we had some notable additions: The Pearl completed its first year and stretched past being an upscale jazz and martinis joint to host some very alternative acts. (Does it get much more alt. than The Billy Nayer Show or Pleaseeasaur?)

While the transition from Rumours into Kelly O'Brien's Pub did not go so well, the next transformation -- into The Red Fox Tavern, seems to be much better.

In Arcata we had the addition of Mosgo's, an easy-going, jazz/folk/family-friendly place in Westwood. Then there was the turnover at Muddy Waters, which changed management to become Muddy's Hot Cup and underwent a transformation that included an enlargement of the performance area and the smart choice of local folky Lila Nelson as booker.

Another welcome addition (not totally new): the Passion Presents crew, who brought a fine assortment of jammish bands and more to a wide assortment of venues. It took guts to bring Trey to the Muni -- and I'm certain they lost money doing so -- but wasn't it a great show?

A major change came to the Jambalaya with new management striving to resurrect the Jam as the cultural center it once was. Expect more of the same in 2007 including a January two-night run with poet Jerry Martien and bluesman Thad Beckman back-to-back, backed by some of the musicians who made the Jam what it was back in the day.

While there's nothing now about rock at the Alibi, I have to say that Ian has kept the rock `n' roll flame burning bright, bringing in tons of heaviness and some kick-ass alt. country too. Keep rockin'!

In recent weeks I've been heaping praise on the folks who transformed an Old Town warehouse -- one in the industrial part of Eureka, mind you -- into a cultural oasis. The Empire Squared artists found the space on West 3rd and fixed up one side of the building for a gallery, then invited the kids from Placebo to share it for their all-ages drug- and alcohol-free dances and other events.

Last week I talked with James from The Invasions (and formerly Los Banditos Muertos) about something new planned for the Placebo. With help from some in the local counseling community (and Rob Reirdon's mom, Nancy), James is organizing something I'd describe as an alt. A.A. -- a safe haven where those seeking help with drug and alcohol problems can share their problems, but as James put it, "without all the `higher power" stuff that put me off in A.A. meetings." First meeting for the Harm Reduction Collective is set for this coming Tuesday, Jan. 2, tentatively at the Placebo. (Contact James at for specifics.)

Meanwhile a trapeze artist by the name of Leslie turned the other side of the building into Synapsis, a gallery/performance space that saw an impressive array of shows this year including music by Bonnie Price Billy (who shows up on many best-albums-of-2006 lists), a merger of music and theatre by Faun Fables, an awesome acoustic guitar night with Peter Walker and Jack Rose followed shortly by The Slits. The space was also home to multi-week runs by the acclaimed local production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch and the Synapsis' own Tsirkus Picaresque.

I ran into Leslie over the weekend at a birthday party for Willoughby, an active cat who has been part of the Placebo from the beginning and was also a member of the Tsirkus troupe. I was about to lavish praise on her operation, but before I could she gave me a look that told me something was wrong. "We're closed," she told me.

A recent e-mail tells more of the story: "In brief, last week we had a visit from the Fire Marshall and the Building Inspector," she began. As a result of the "visit" apparently prompted by a call from the same across-the-street tow yard owner who earlier called the cops on the Placebo, "Synapsis is hereby closed to the public until we make a slew of changes. It will involve a certain amount of public support. It is likely that we will want a group of supporters to show up and speak at a city council meeting sometime in January (probably the latter half)." Note: It looks like the same inspection has the Placebo and E-2 on hold, too.

Leslie continues with a further request: "I am also asking people to write letters of support ... Please write about your experience of Synapsis and why it is important that it continue. Please also include anything about yourself -- whatever you're involved in besides Synapsis -- that is applicable. Please include anything else that seems important for the city to know. We may also use these letters to apply for grants/funding to do the work that is necessary. Thanks so much, Leslie." (Cc: letters to

OK, here's my two bits: Hardworking folks like those behind E-2, the Placebo and Synapsis should receive praise for shining a light in a dark corner of the city; they should not be run out of town. Forgive me if I repeat myself, but, in the words of Pink Floyd: "Hey ... Leave those kids alone!" And show them some support in the weeks to come ... And hey, have a happy ....

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your comments to Bob Doran.

Top 5 Albums of the Year 2006

If you read the Hum last week you know about the invitation that went out from Metro proprietor Gini Noggle to name the top five CDs from the many released last year. Having published Bob's selections, we asked Gini if she might share lists from others who responded. We also asked Larry Glass from The Works and a few other musically-minded friends to contribute. So here you have it, some of Humboldt's favorite albums:

Gini Noggle: Metro co-owner

THOM YORKE: The Eraser. Hands down, my favorite CD this year. I had a very rough year and this entire CD really spoke to me. For me, it's all about "Black Swan." It is, as my brother best described it, "one motherfucker of a song."
AZAM ALI: Elysium for the Brave. Haunting is the word that best describes this CD, along with dark, mysterious and beautiful. It reminded me a lot of Dead Can Dance.
MEAT PURVEYORS: Someday Soon Things Will Be Much Worse. Alt-bluegrass with an electric flair. The songs are punchy, catchy and witty. And make you want to kick that no-good lover of yours right to the curb. Plus they do a mean cover of Foreigner's "Hot Blooded."
JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE: futuresex/lovesounds. I know I should be embarrassed by this one, but I'll be damned if this isn't the catchiest pop CD this year. "SexyBack"? Hot. My favorite track: "My Love," a Timbaland-produced groove that implores you to get up and dance.
HANK WILLIAMS III: Straight To Hell. Rockin' lowdown, good `n' dirty country with lots of attitude. And thank god for it. The title track is a fave, as well as "My Drinkin Problem."

Levi Land: Metro co-owner

BECK: The Information
THE ROOTS: Game Theory
TOM WAITS: Orphans

Rebbecca Caya: Metro "kick -ass employee"

CATIE CURTIS: Long Night Moon
THE DIXIE CHICKS: Taking the Long Way
INDIGO GIRLS: Despite Our Differences

Chris Grossman: (aka Itchie Fingaz) DJ and Metro clerk

THE BLACK KEYS: Magic Potion
VARIOUS ARTISTS: Frequent Flyer: Ipanema -- (Brazilian music sampler)
PITBULL: El Mariel

Larry Glass: Owner of The Works, new Eureka city councilman

EARL THOMAS: Plantation Gospel
NEIL YOUNG: Live at the Fillmore East
TOMMY CASTRO: Painkiller

Bandon Montague Taylor: Works clerk, drummer for The Ravens

THE GOSSIP: Standing In the Way of Control
NEKO CASE: Fox Confessor
HORSETHIEVES: Horsethieves

Michael Dronkers: KHUM/KSLG program/music director

SCOTT H. BIRAM: Graveyard Shift

Monica Topping: KSLG/KHUM traffic coordinator/CR poster girl

Locals: STRIX VEGA: Drunken Sky
THE RUBBERNECKERS: Live From the KHUM Back Porch
Non-local: MASON JENNINGS: Boneclouds
SUBLIME: Everything Under the Sun. The handy-dandy new box set ... I heart me some Sublime.
(It was tough to leave out Death Cab For Cutie's Plans album; I really became obsessed with it last January).

Jennifer Savage: Arcata Eye scene editor/ KSLUG DJ

STRIX VEGA: Drunken Sky. Melodic, expansive, gorgeous, intoxicating. Exponential bonus points for being local. I would hire them to write the soundtrack to my life if I could afford them.
THE BE GOOD TANYAS: Hello Love. How this band only gets better and better. I love everything they've done and this even more. Even their sad songs are uplifting, cleansing and purifying -- must be the intimate harmonies and deep folk history behind their sound.
MORELAND, ARBUCKLE AND FLOYD: Floyd's Market. Three guys from Kansas who sing some of the most raw, authentic, foot-stompin' blues I've ever head. Caught them live at the Alibi -- one of my favorite shows ever. Blew my mind and shook my soul.
THE BLACK KEYS: Magic Potion. More riff-heavy-blues-rock that slows down at all the right moments, this time from two guys out of Ohio who wield more power than a band twice their size. Sure to inspire great sex.
GNARLS BARKLEY: St. Elsewhere. Yeah, everyone loves Gnarls Barkley -- for good reason! "Crazy" is one of those songs that kept me trapped in the car, waiting outside a softball field in Eureka, too blown away to shut the car off and get out. The whole CD is a straightforward groovefest blast that makes even cleaning the house fun.

Dustin Green: (New OutDoor Store employee, singer for Entheogen)

TOOL: 10,000 Days
STONESOUR: Come What(ever) May
ISIS: In the Absence of Truth
MASTADON: Blood Mountain
WOLFMOTHER: Joker & The Thief

Mark Shikuma: Eureka Books clerk, poet (and one-time Hum sub).

TOM WAITS: Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers and Bastards. Mr. Waits delivers three incredible discs of b-sides, rarities and new material for this cornucopia from a true American musical maverick.
YO LA TENGO: I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass. This album is the strongest (and most eclectic) work in years from this prolific Hoboken, NJ trio, who also present the best album title of the year.
JUANA MOLINA: Son. Odd, innovative and ethereal collection of songs from Argentinean singer/songwriter Molina, who also deftly mimics animal (and other background) sounds. Truly unique.
CALIFONE: Roots and Crowns. Longtime Chicago native Tim Rutili, Califone's singer/songwriter, called it quits for the band, moved to LA, regrouped with his band and produced their strongest (and most accessible) effort to date.
BONNIE `PRINCE' BILLY: The Letting Go. Recorded in Reykjavik, Iceland, songwriter Will Oldham captures a haunting atmosphere with this dark collection of love songs highlighted by vocalist Faun Fables' Dawn McCarthy and an Icelandic string quartet.

Dante DiGenova: Owner of Northtown Books

JON BRUMIT: Vendetta Retreat. Not released this year, but it's the most exciting disc I've heard in the past five years. Not everyone will agree.
MAURIZIO BIANCHI: Bacterie. Neckache-inducing, but great if you're in the mood for that sort of thing.
SPARKS: Hello Young Lovers. A return to form for the greatest pop band ever. I dare anybody to stay still when "Waterproof" comes on.
CLOUDLAND CANYON: Requiems Der Natur 2002-2004. Noisy and cluttered, it seems like it should be very irritating but it's oh so soft and dreamy.
BIRCHVILLE CAT MOTEL: Curved Surface Destroyer. Three-disc set of live recordings from my favorite drone/soundscaper. Layer upon layer upon layer of sound that actually goes somewhere. Slow builds to awesome crescendos.

Gus Mozart: KHSU DJ and sound man

NEKO CASE: Fox Confessor Brings The Flood. Case manages the difficult task of incorporating a number of musical styles (rock, folk, alt-country, and subtle psychedelia) with a focus and maturity that eludes most of her contemporaries. Each song shimmers and shines, and repeated listenings do not dull their luster.
ELVIS COSTELLO/ALLEN TOUSSAINT: The River in Reverse. Unfortunately, it took a disaster like Katrina to reunite these two seemingly disparate talents. The result is a deeply soulful record that showcases the oft-overlooked genius of Toussaint, and Costello happily lets the funk wash over him.
TOM WAITS: Orphans. This triple CD set is a sprawling, stumbling, sacred, profane and absolutely brilliant collection of songs from one of music's greatest eccentrics.
SEAN LENNON: Friendly Fire. The son of John and Yoko releases an old school album -- 10 songs, 39 minutes and no filler. Wonderful melodies, clever arrangements and an inherited sense of pop aesthetics that delights and surprises.
CASSANDRA WILSON: Thunderbird. Wilson reinvents herself again with the help of producer T-Bone Burnett, with a thoroughly fresh approach to blues and roots material.

Spencer Doran: Musician (Five albums from five different countries)

TERJE ISUNGSET: Igloo. Swedish band constructs all their instruments from actual ice (marimbas, harps, mbiras, bass drums, etc.); beautifully textured free-floating folk hymns ensue.
OOIOO: Taiga. Yoshimi (of The Boredoms) and company extend pagan chant rituals into a sublimely electronic Japanese future.
JUANA MOLINA: Son. Former South American soap opera star conjures up ghostly Argentinean folk forms augmented by subtle laptop post-production.
D!O!D!O!D!: S/T. Chinese guitar/drums free noise duo make music that sounds like a baffling future archaeological find from 20 years after rock music exploded. Criminally unavailable in America due to governmental export restrictions.
MAGIK MARKERS: A Panegyric to Things I Do Not Understand. Young American rabble rousers birth a unique form of Neo-no-wave evoking everything from Patti Smith to Sonny Sharrock to Mars, as well as other bands whose names are too offensive to print.


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