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Then & Now 

How the Humboldt club scene evolved this decade

That's it. The year's over, along with the Aughts (or whatever you want to call the last decade). It's not as dramatic as the end of the millennium, but it's another turning point. Do you remember what was happening on the local music scene 10 years ago? Looking back you'll see that much has changed, but some things remain the same. My examination started with club and café listings from January 2000. Here's what I found:

Muddy's Hot Cup was not much different, except it was called Muddy Waters and was much more vibrant. Old Town Coffee and Chocolates was called Humboldt Bay Coffee Company; music-wise it was pretty much the same. Cafe Mokka had international folk music weekends, same as now. The Playroom in Fortuna is virtually unchanged. The Riverwood Inn was a roadhouse booking great touring blues and honky tonk bands, same as now. The Tumbleweeds were playing cowboy tunes at Chapala Café, same as it ever was.

The Vista was going strong in 2000. After turning into Go Fish (and losing the music), it closed. The now moribund Sacred Grounds was mostly a folk music joint. Plans for a revival of that space have reportedly fizzled and it will likely return to its original function as a bank. There was jazz at the Eureka Inn, which keeps threatening to reopen.

We had Cafe Tomo on the Arcata Plaza where Mazzotti's is now. It was central to the scene, but was struggling. Before the year was over, it would close. Mazzotti's rents its space out for shows (including one NYE), but it's not really a music venue.

Café Tomo's music booker, Lincoln Wachtel, had a plan to revamp the then dormant Arcata Theater and turn it into a music venue. He found an investor, but resistance from the city shot the project down. It wasn't until earlier this year that something akin to his plan would resurrect the Arcata. Brian and Laura Cox's Arcata Theatre Lounge project polished the moldering building into a jewel. Kudos to them.

By the end of 1999 the Jambalaya had lost its role as a cultural hub with music every night to become an upscale restaurant with no music at all. It would be years before it was revived. Today, with a working musician at the helm, they've upgraded the sound system and shifted emphasis back to where it once was. Another successful revival accomplished.

In January 2000, the Humboldt Brewing Company was out of business. Former employees would eventually revive it as Humboldt Brews. This year they expanded, turning part of the former bowling alley next door into a brand new state-of-the-art music room. Nice!

In 2000 a club called Rumours at 326 5th St., Eureka, featured rock, karaoke, etc. The building was razed and replaced by Starbucks. Rumours moved across the street, sold to new owners, sold again and eventually became the Red Fox Tavern. The current owners recently upgraded the sound system -- another success story.

Club West was mostly a DJ club with a Sunday "Club Triangle" LGBT night (they used the term "alternative lifestyles"). A new owner would take over in 2005. He dropped a half mil on fixing the place up, changed the name to Indigo, drove the gays out and went out of business. Justin Ladd, who has owned The Alibi since 1998, bought the building a couple of years ago and the club has returned to its gay roots as Aunty Mo's. We should note that through the Aughts, The Alibi became a cool rock club/hipster hangout. It will close some time this year to allow for long-awaited expansion into the empty lot next door.

What else? Gil Miracle gutted OH's Townhouse and turned it into Nocturnum. Sidelines (formerly The Office) added DJs to its sports bar persona. Three casinos opened, all with thriving music venues. Other places have come and gone (The Iguana, Angelina Inn, etc.). Any faves I've forgotten? Is my memory bad? Drop me a line.

So, what are you doing New Year's Eve? Here's a fairly comprehensive list of options (forgive the partial rehash from last week).

The Arcata Playhouse offers roots and Americana by The Delta Nationals and Rooster McClintock. The Arkley Center has the upscale Oh, What A Night tribute to the music of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons followed by DJ dancing. The Roadmasters twang in NYE at Loleta Fireman's Pavilion.

The Jambalaya has a funky NY party with Bump Foundation.  It's reggae time in Arcata with Ishi Dube and Massagana at Humboldt Brews plus guests Vidagua and Winstrong. Across town, Mazzotti's has dancehall with Turbulence (from JA) and Jah Tory (local) plus hip hop from Abstract Rude, Hiway and Kyz-J. A show at Arcata's Portuguese Hall features Freq Nasty, Propa Tingz, OSC and many more.

Earlier in the evening, Libation has a New Year's Eve Wine Bar (6-9) accompanied by Zu-Zu's Petals Jazz Trio. If you're more into beer and rock, The Resonators are out at the Mad River Brewery tasting room, also from 6-9. And 3 Foods Cafe is celebrating its third anniversary with The Bucky Walters (playing 6:30-8:30).

Six Rivers in McKinleyville has Piano Ben ticking the ivories. Saint John and the Sinners play a free show at Central Station.

Back In The Daze plays rock classics at the Riverwood Inn (bonus: Loreen's midnight buffet). Tony Jo and the Stoners are at Simon Legree's.

Seabury Gould plays Irish/Celtic music at Gallagher's. Marcus is "wondering if everyone got the update for the Boiler Room's New Year party?" (I guess we did.) Karaoke 7 ’til 10, DJ 10 to 2, raffles for t-shirts and trips to Vegas, etc.

Casino action? Blue Lake has NightHawk in the Sapphire with a special KJ Leonard karaoke party in the Wave. Bear River Casino has country rock by The Michael Paul Band inside; DJ Khem outside. And Cher-Ae Heights celebrates the just-completed refurbishing of Firewater Lounge with music by Humboldt rock vet Merv George.

Looking for a Christian alcohol-free celebration? Worship Live Band and Sound Doctrine Band play gospel for free at the Eureka Woman's Club.

For the teens there's Accurate Productions' High School Collective at the Arcata Community Center with DJ MuziqLement plus "paparazzi photography" and prize giveaways.

Think you'll have recovered from the holidays by Saturday? Jan. 2 is the first Saturday in the month, thus, Arts Alive!  Yes, there's music. Kenny Ray and the Mighty Rovers get old timey at Humboldt Baykeeper. Karas Lusca gets folky next door at Ramone's. The Andean group Huayllipacha and the Scotia Brass Quintet are at the Graves, where they're having a big party to celebrate the museum's 10th anniversary.

Later that night you'll find St. John Hunt's new band, Bossa Nova Baby, at the Red Fox with John Ridella on sax and Marla Joy on flute and congas. St. John tells me the combo "plays some classic Brazilian-style jazz a la Getz/Gilberto and some very smooth originals." Meanwhile the hard-working Dr. Squid plays rock music for dancers at Steve and Dave's Bar (where BC's used to be).

Monday Night Budget Rock Night on Jan. 4 at the Jambalaya features Hub City Hillbillys.  According to their MySpace, the band "formed in Hub City (currently referred to as Centralia, WA). We rehearse at The Ace of Spades motorcycle, custom and speed shop, and we play punk-a-billy-farm-metal, with a few crooner-influenced tunes in there to mix it up a bit. It may not be for everyone, but we like the hell out of it."

Bad Kitty Norm is bringing The Sawyer Family from Eugene for an all ages show at Empire Squared on Wednesday, Jan. 6, with Eureka's Vigilante Death Squad opening. "Punk rockers Vigilante Death Squad mix a little ska and thrash into their sound... with a sense of humor," says Norm, adding, "While The Sawyer Family may loosely be described as psychobilly, I call them the perfect band for a soundtrack to a spaghetti western horror film -- imagine a tender yet disturbing story that ends in tragedy. Come out and support these fellas as they embark on a cross-country tour."

You'll recall Empire Squared is in the building at 47 W. Third St. in Eureka that also housed the Placebo and Synapsis. There's another Aughts tale there, but no space to tell it now. Happy New Year! Have a good decade. Peace.

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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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