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It's Political 

Casey Neill and the Norway Rats, KSLG's b-day and music for mothers

Casey Neill and the Norway Rats are on the road. I found Casey in Los Angeles getting ready to depart for San Francisco on a tour with a few more stops, including one in Arcata for a Saturday night show at the Jambalaya. Then its back to home base in Portland.

Neill explains that the Norway Rats name comes from a breed of urban rats in America allegedly brought over by the Norwegians in the rough and tumble days of immigration depicted in movies like Gangs of New York. He figures the band has been together for about 10 years.

"We've been in like 15 bands together, that's kind of a Portland thing," he said, noting that the current tour is with a slightly stripped down version of the band, including keyboard player/accordionist Jennie Conlee from* one of Portland's hot indie bands *du jour*(Decemberists),* ex-Decemberist Ezra Holbrook on drums and bassist Adam East. All but East also play in a Neill-led Pogues cover band called KMRIA.

"It stands for Kiss My Royal Irish Ass," Neill explained. "It's originally a reference from James Joyce's Ulysses, but then was used in a Pogues song. That band has definitely influenced my writing — there's a lot of Pogues in there, along with Joe Strummer and others in and around that world."

The songs on Neill's latest album, Brooklyn Bridge, are certainly less folky than the Celtic-inspired political eco-anthems that were once the core of his work. But he says the new songs are no less political.

"If you're singing about the real world at all, it's political. It's more that my standards for what makes a good political song have gotten much higher. There's definitely less of the anthemic political cheerleading. I'm trying to focus more on storytelling, where the narrative draws people into the story, which has inherent politics to it. I want to let the listeners come to their own conclusions without being a bully about it. Of course we still play some of the old songs because, well, people won't let us stop."

So don't fear, you'll still be able to sing out "Hooray for the Riff Raff" when Casey Neil and the Norway Rats* play* at the Jam. Also on the bill that night: Thunderbird Motel , a bluesy garage rock band from Seattle.

"The truth is here," saysBrother Ali, headliner for Thursday's Hip Hop 101 confab in HSU's Kate Buchanan Room. The politically-aware albino rapper from Madison, Wisc., is joined by Scarub , LuckyIam and Eligh from L.A.'s Living Legends crew, and Northern State , a rockin' trio of female rappers from NYC, who reminds me of an updated Tom Tom Club.

For hip hop more on the funkadelic side, check the Red Fox Saturday as the West Coast leg of the "Illside Tour " hits town with Metaphysical , Dr. Lecter , Money B and Element from Digital Underground, plus Tampa and Mass & Dove .

KSLG radio marks its seventh birthday Thursday at Humboldt Brews with the explosive sounds of Dynamite Sweater , plus the somewhat quieter (yet equally rockin') Monster Women . Says Slug deejay Jen Savage , "I hope people come out to celebrate with us because having a station that gets to promote local music and be involved in the community, all while serving as Humboldt County's only modern rock station, is a rare and wondrous thing. We appreciate the support from our listeners and look forward to telling them so in person. (Except the only drawback of radio is people are inevitably disappointed when the real life version of the DJ fails to live up to the image in their heads. Oh, well. Hopefully they'll still like me.)" Not to worry, Jen, they will love you.

Meanwhile, Thursday at the Boiler Room it's modern rock from The Little Penguins and Tea Cozies , a pair of melodic alt. pop bands on their way home to Seattle. Locals Hey Eleanor open.

Friday is Arts! Arcata night, which once again means music all over town, including at photographer Kyana Taillon's studio in the Cooper Building (on Samoa Boulevard) where The Bucky Walters play for an art show/auction benefit to help save mountain gorillas. "When there's only 700 left in the world, it's a big deal," said anthropology student Kat Fountain, president of the Primate Club and one of The Bucky Walters. "Mountain gorillas are so similar to us. They deserve to live on this planet as much as we do."

Aaron Bortz from Afromassive writes with the sad news that the massive Afrobeat band's show Friday at Humboldt Brews will probably be its last — well, at least with the current configuration."We're working on a recording project utilizing all original material with various bandmembers and local musicians that have played with us since our inception," he notes. "We anticipate finishing this summer and releasing something next fall. Hopefully a few gigs in support of the album will prevail with a slightly different lineup and new material — but for now, the AfroMassive that we know will be closing up shop for the summer and most likely the future to come."

SF-based Mind Orchestra, aka MO2 , is another in the growing jamband meets drum 'n' bass electronica school. They're here in their eco-groovy used fryer oil biodiesel van for a Friday show at the Red Fox joined by Deep Groover DJ Touch .

The jammin'Fickle Hill Billies play Friday at Fieldbrook Market. Expect them to be even hipper than ever, in-as-much-as guitarist John C. is sporting a new hip.

The Sublime-ish reggae/funk trio Indubious splits its time between San Fran and Southern Oregon, which makes Humboldt a logical stopover. They're here on a tour for their herb-infused debut CD, Fresh Leaves, playing Friday at Pearl Lounge (or if you pick this paper up early, they're at Jambalaya Wednesday, May 7).

You may have read about the fire in Northtown Arcata a few weeks back that wiped out a safe house for battered women. To raise funds to replace the shelter contents, Humboldt Domestic Violence Services presentsRising Out of the Ashes ,* a dinner/dance benefit* Saturday* at the* Wharfinger Building with food from Avalon, Hurricane Kate's, Curley's, Bless My Soul, Renata's, Ramone's and Two Mom's Party Planning, wine from Riverbend Winery, beer from Lost Coast Brewery, bellydancing by Ya Habibi Dance Company , and music by Boomsauii (an acoustic alt. rock trio consisting of three brothers, Mark, Dan and Joe Hays), the ever-soulful Karen Dumont and friends and Humboldt's best reggae band, Massagana . DJ Oracle fills in the gaps. Good cause, good music, good music — what else could you ask for?

DJ Danny and Zanapod join forces with JSun of Deep Groove Society Saturday at the Pearl to explore "various styles of music from beyond the U.S. border from electro-tinged cumbia to salsa and baile funk," according to Danny, who promises "a night filled with percussive intrigues."

At Humboldt Brews that night you can catch The Rubberneckers knocking back beers while singing about whisky and such.

Call it special guest week at Six Rivers: Saturday Jimi Jeff and the Gypsy Band bring young guitar ripper Corby Yates over from east of here. Then next Thursday, May 15, 6-Rivs regulars Soldiers of Shangri-La (guitarist Jimi Jeff , bassman Chris Wixson and drummer Angelo Dominck ) bring in the amazing jammer Ruben Diaz .

More music from Portland? Hillstomp brings its punky bucket and slide blues to Humboldt Brews Sunday. It's Mother's Day, so I suppose you could bring your mom.

The MySpace page for Leslie and the Badgers lists the band's hometown as "Pompadourous Angeles," which is lead singer Leslie Stevens ' view of Los Angeles. "It's a pretty brutal place with an endless parade of wackos and substance abusers," she tells me, calling from her L.A. home. "A lot of the music is like empty calories created by people who don't really care about the craft. That's what I find pompous."

The music of the Badgers, on the other hand, shows skilled craftsmanship, and you can tell in an instant that they care about what they're doing. Take their song, "Old Timers," a little short story about a relationship that takes a strange turn. Glenn Oyabe 's crying steel guitar and a slow gallop by the rhythm section set the tone. Leslie sings the tale sweetly, with Liz Buatti providing perfect harmony on the chorus. Everything fits together just right. The overall sound is something like an update on Gram Parsons-style California country.

"We actually played 'Old Timers' on a TV show called The Riches," said Leslie. "They go to this truck stop. We're the band in the bar." Leslie and the Badgers will be the band in the bar on Mom's Day at the Pearl Lounge. Humboldt's own Sarahfae (who recently started working for the Journal) opens the show with some of her sweet songs.

Despite the fearsome name, BlöödHag is at heart a nerdy band, as metal outfits go anyway. Now in their 13th year, the undisputed masters of the "edu-core" genre (which they invented) are on an "Adults Only All Ages Tour" with a mission. As BlöödHag's Alternative Tentacles press agent explains, "They realized that punk rock and heavy metal fans were largely unaware of the literary themes and references that many of their favorite bands utilized, and that most rock youth had an anti-intellectual, anti-reading stance. They rushed into action, and using their limited musical skills recorded really short heavy metal songs about science fiction authors ... Crowds at BlöödHag shows can expect to be pelted with classic sci-fi novels while their hearing is destroyed by the intellectually-intense attack that is uniquely edu-core." Are you ready to get schooled? The BlöödHag tour hits the Alibi Sunday with 33 1/3 opening. I would advise against bringing your mother.

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About The Author

Bob Doran

Bob Doran

Freelance photographer and writer, Arts and Entertainment editor from 1997 to 2013.

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