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The Name Game 

Wu-Tang Clan monikers, Keller, Kimya, funk, black metal and comedy Wu-Tang Clan monikers, Keller, Kimya, funk, black metal and comedy

click to enlarge Wu-Tang Clan
  • Wu-Tang Clan

What's in a name? All sorts of things when you're talking Wu-Tang Clan. The highly influential hip hop clan of Wu was founded in the early '90s by three cousins, Robert Diggs, aka RZA (short for Ruler Zig-Zag-Zig Allah, aka Bobby Digital, Prince Rakeem, The Abbot, Bobby Steels), Gary Grice, aka GZA (short for God Zig-Zag-Zig Allah, aka The Genius and Maximillion) and Russell Jones, aka Ol' Dirty Bastard (nicknames O.D.B., Dirt Dog, Dirt McGirt and many more) whose name, like Wu-Tang Clan, comes from an obscure martial arts film, Ol' Dirty and the Bastard. The Wu-Tang name and some of the group samples and mythology come from a Kung Fu movie, Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang (which incidentally is also the name of the latest record by Wu member Raekwon).  

Roll-call of those added to the crew over the years: Clifford Smith, aka Method Man (Meth, Methtical, Shakwon, etc.) who took his name from a character in the Kung Fu flick The Fearless Young Boxer; Dennis Coles, aka Ghostface Killah (nicknamed Ghostdini, Tony Starks, Ironman, Pretty Toney, Starky Love, The Wallabee Kingpin) who borrowed his name from another Kung Fu movie, Mystery Of Chessboxing; Corey Woods, aka Raekwon (Shallah Raekwon, Raekwon the Chef, Lex Diamonds, who uses his 5 Percent Nation [of Islam] name); Elgin Turnerm aka Masta Killa (Noodles, High Chief) who derived his from the film Shaolin Master Killer; Jason Hunter, aka Inspectah Deck (Rebel INS, Rollie Fingers) who uses his graf tag name; and Jamel Arief, aka U-God, who, well, he's named after God (and you).

All of the above, save for the late Ol' Dirty Bastard (dead from a drug OD in 2004) will be at the Mateel on Monday night to throw down rhymes and keep hip hop alive. (ODB will be there in spirit.) Humboldt-based rapper Never Die opens the show with backing from The Hip Hop Lounge.  

Looping one-man-jamband Keller Williams has a new album out, as usual with a one-word title. Bass puts the focus on the low-end (no, it's not dubstep), but he'll be playing tunes from all his records when he brings his guitars, his FX rig and his dog to Arcata Theatre Lounge Friday for a Passion Presents show.

Kimya Dawson is a funny, rough-around-the edges, lo-fi anti-folk songwriter from Olympia's K Records scene, not someone you'd expect to be on a high profile platinum-selling record. But that's what happened a few years ago when her music was featured on the soundtrack for the surprise hit movie Juno. She's on tour with a newish album Thunder Thighs, full of smart, funny sing-along-able songs like, "I Like My Bike" and, my fave, "The Library," a paean to libraries and a protest against cuts to their budgets. She sings her songs Saturday at The Depot with sweet uke picker Lyndsey Battle opening.

The Seventh annual Humboldt Council of the Blind benefit show on Saturday at the Alibi brings you two brand new local bands: The Go Aways, with HCB prez Lil' Jimmy Forbes on bass, Tommy Chase on guitar and Shawn Hobbs on drums; and Radios In Caves with Jesse Pearson from The Buffy Swayze on vocals, along with John and Jaquinn from The Great Salvation and Kris Swan. Jimmy notes that the HCB benefit comp Making Blindness Fashionable (with tracks by 20 local bands) is now sold out, so he's gathering music for another, Vision & Sound, due in March. If your band has something to contribute, send it to Jimmy at

Saturday is the 102nd anniversary of the birthday of gypsy guitar master Django Reinhardt, and to celebrate, local guitar wizard Tom Toohey, who specializes in Django-style lightning-fast picking, is throwing a party at Westhaven Center for the Arts with Bon Swing, a variable membership Hot Club-ish combo, this time including Tom's friends Jessie Elias (from Santa Cruz) and Alex Anaya (from SF) on guitars with Baron Wolfe on upright bass.

Ready for something really heavy? Ambient black metal monsters Wolves in the Throne Room are back in town for a Saturday show at Nocturnum behind a new disc, Celestial Lineage. Also on the bill, semi-local Ash Borer (one guitarist lives in Portland), which is making a name on the national black metal scene, and Speed of Darkness, a female-fronted outfit from Whale Gulch that mixes metal and folk influences.

Local salsa dancers and AfroCuban music aficionados will gather at the Arcata Playhouse that same Saturday for another night of hot tunes by Ponche!

Zydeco sweetheart Rosie Ledet plays bluesy Cajun tunes at SoHum's home of the blues, the Riverwood Inn, that Saturday.

This week's tributes: Naive Melodies, Saturday at the Jambalaya, playing, as they put it, "All Talking Heads, ‘all night long'!!" Or there's The Miracle Show doing the G-Dead thing at the Red Fox that same night.

Get your ska on Sunday at Humboldt Brews with ska-punk legends Voodoo Glow Skulls, Arizona ska/skate/punks Authority Zero and SoCal pop/punks Skyfox, with local ska stalwart DJ Gabe Pressure spinning before and between.

Electric guitars in an art gallery? Why not. Especially since John King, sculptor/lead guitarist for feral jazz combo Dogbone, has his work featured at the Sewell Gallery this month. He'll be set up in the corner this Thursday along with three Claasens: Tim (bass), Jon (drums) and Eliot (trumpet).

Bay Area singer/songwriter Jeff Campbell from the rock band Pine and Battery comes to the Jambalaya Thursday to show his solo acoustic side touring behind a new CD Stop and Go. He's on the road with San Fran-based songwriter Brad Brooks.

Things get funky Friday at the Jam, with Bump Foundation laying down grooves; Madi Simmons and Leah Crenshaw share vocal duties.

Coming to Humboldt Brews Tuesday, a double-shot of truly fine soul with The Pimps of Joytime, a funky quintet out of Brooklyn, along with one of my favorite Bay Area bands, The California Honeydrops, a soul powerhouse fronted by Polish trumpet player/guitarist/vocalist Lech Wierzynski. Don't miss this one!

Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr is a Detroit-based folk/hip hop/pop duo consisting of Josh Epstein and Daniel Zott, known for covering The Beach Boys ("God Only Knows") and, true to their name and their Motor City roots, wearing NASCAR fire suits while performing. Catch them DJing at The Depot next Wednesday.

Or, that same night, head to Humboldt Brews to hear Jill Sobule, a dryly witty songwriter who, for better or worse, is best know for the song "I Kissed a Girl," from her eponymous debut album, which was used on the soundtrack for the 1995 film Clueless. (Katy Perry copped the title, but missed the ironic humor.)

My colleague 7-O-Andrew G made the case for a local comedy resurgence while subbing for me. This week you can see it in spades. Thursday's Gabriel Iglesias Stand Up Revolution, a visit to the Arkley by a big time comic (you saw him on Comedy Central, Leno, etc.), sold out quickly. They added a second show and sold that out, too. If you didn't get a ticket you might settle for the local improv troupe Random Acts of Comedy, doing funny things that same night at the Arcata Theatre Lounge.

Tuesday's Savage Henry Comedy Night at the Jambalaya brings in San Francisco comics Alex Koll and Chris Garcia as headliners alongside the So You Think You Can Funny All-Stards. That's followed by a Wednesday Ba-Dum-Chh Comedy Night in the Firewater at Cher-Ae Heights. Warning that they tend toward the blue side, they request that the easily offended steer clear. I would add that a lot of stand up is about pushing boundaries. If that sort of thing upsets you, well, you can always stick to network sit-coms. 

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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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