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Bowled Over 

January has come and gone, and now midwinter has truly set in. With it comes the shortest month and, for many, the biggest sports event of the year as well: the Super Bowl. I used to enjoy watching football but the commercialization and hyper-militarized nationalism of the culture coupled with the extreme reactionary response from many of the fans and owners to some athletes making a quiet protest against the state-sanctioned murder of people of color by the police has largely turned me away from the NFL this year. Everything is politics, as Gore Vidal noted, and American politics are truly ugly in these dying days of the empire.

Anyway, here's a couple of hot takes while the issue is fresh and I have some ink left.

1) I don't gamble — largely because gambling disagreeably chafes against my numerous other vices — but if I did my money would be on the Pats taking this one, no matter how satisfying it would be to root for the underdog team with arguably the most notoriously loathsome fanbase on the East Coast. (Philly fans once attacked Santa Claus. Look it up if you don't believe me.)

2) Don't be one of those people who makes smug Facebook posts or public declarations of feigned surprise that there is apparently some big sports-ball event happening, or at least that is what you have surmised from the gesticulations and grunts of your less enlightened fellow citizens. We get it, you probably don't own a TV and are immeasurably better than the rest of us. Instead of being that insufferable, how about you throw down and go out and support the local music scene? Lots of good shows are happening this week, and some of them are free.

3) If you see a guy who looks like me hanging out in an off-track betting bar on Super Bowl Sunday, maybe buy him a drink. Something tells me he'll need one and likely won't have the money for it after losing his shirt on the Eagles. Have a great week.

Thursday

Olympia's DIY-born and bred K Records is one of those phenomena in the history of American music that make the most sense looking backward through the trajectory of pop culture. The early home of indie groups like Built To Spill and Bikini Kill began at a time when punk rock was undergoing an identity crises between the machismo of hardcore and the nuance of a new generation of musicians defined by their introversion, wry humor and far-left sexual and identity politics, and who would end up dominating the indie scene by the 1990s. K Records served as a sort of foil to the louder/heavier dynamic found in neighboring label Kill Rock Stars' releases. One of its flagship bands was the quietly coy and inscrutable Beat Happening, whose frontman is K Records label founder Calvin Johnson, who plays the Outer Space tonight at 7 p.m. with locals Monster Women and Slop opening ($8). Expect deep monotone vocals and clever lyrics over a twee pop wash of tone.

Friday

Fieldbrook Market and Eatery presents a free show tonight at 7:30 p.m. with country artist Bradley Dean.

Local reggae artists get together at Humbrews tonight under the moniker of The Marley Project to play the music of — wait for it — Bob Marley and the Wailers. The show gets cracking at 9:30 p.m. and for $10 it's a pretty good deal to hear the Bobster's tunes done live and done right by some of our county's finest musicians.

Saturday

For more than five decades Canadian national treasure Bruce Cockburn has been writing and performing music marked by complex and sometimes percussive acoustic guitar, intricate and tender arrangements, and lyrics that harken to themes of ecological threats, social justice and the good sort of Christian spirituality. A favorite rainy-day song of mine is the instrumental "Water Into Wine," a song that manages to be at once evocative of old Spanish tunes and American piano rags, while sitting in a nest of contemporary tones and modern motifs. He plays the Van Duzer tonight at 8 p.m. and if you can get a ticket ($49) I suggest you go because the man ain't getting any younger.

Meanwhile at The Jam, Jamaica's dancehall deejay extraordinaire Delly Ranx shares the stage at 9 p.m. with some luminaries of the local reggae and dancehall scene, including Stevie Culture, Lacy Redhead, One Wise Sound and others ($7).

Sunday

For more than a century, Minnesota's world-renowned St. Olaf Choir has been performing deftly arranged versions of spirituals and songs of worship as well as some of the heavy-hitters from the secular classical canon like "Lacrimosa" from Mozart's Requiem. Expect a night of exactly that sort of thing when conductor Anton Armstrong and his cohort of purple-robed wonders take the stage at the Van Duzer Theatre today for a Sunday matinee at 3 p.m. ($49).

Monday

Bill Frisell might be my favorite modern guitar player. His 2000 album Ghost Town is certainly among my favorite albums of all time, with its blend of haunting and heart-worn cinema-scapes drifting through a tracklist full of stringed instruments that ring out more often than just pluck their plaintive and perfect notes. It's something I return to again and again. In fact, I am listening to the title track right now. Anyway, tonight 7:30 p.m. the Minor Theatre is showing a documentary about the man's life and works called Bill Frisell: A Portrait (price TBA). The show will be accompanied by a live performance of his work arranged and played by Frisell collaborator Jenny Scheinman, with help from John Wood. I'm not gonna lie, this will probably sell out. In which case you should perhaps stay in and explore Bill's back catalogue of music. He's really worth it.

Tuesday

Another sort of instrumental experience awaits you tonight at Blondies as Cabbagehead plays a free show at 7 p.m. A collective of jazz punk aficionados from the Bay Area, Cabbagehead bills itself as "spazz jazz," with a claim of equal inspiration being drawn from the likes of Frank Zappa and Duke Ellington. Having a hard time squaring that circle? Me too. Maybe come down to the bottom of the hill tonight to figure it all out.

Wednesday

Crescent City's Tom Boylan, aka Holus Bolus, has been spending the last decade bringing his one-man band to as many places as he can to play a wild and loopy mix of jammy acoustic groove rock. Armed with a small drum kit, a guitar and a few pedals, Holus Bolus builds songs out of loops and grooves like a sewing machine and LP record lathe hybrid. That simile might not make any sense — I'm on the last fumes of my evening presently — but what does make sense is heading over to the Clam Beach Tavern tonight at 6 p.m. for a free show of dedicated psychedelic grooves played by a neighbor from the North.

Full show listings in the Journal's Music and More grid, the Calendar and online. Bands and promoters, send your gig info, preferably with a high-res photo or two, to music@northcoastjournal.com.

Collin Yeo is now a sensible man, by and by a fool, and presently a beast. He lives in Arcata.

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Collin Yeo

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