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No Place Like Home 

Sara Bareilles and Kray Van Kirk come home for the holidays, students leave

Kray Van Kirk
  • Kray Van Kirk

While the club scene will taper off for a few weeks, as it does every year around the holidays, those of you who had the foresight to snatch up tickets months ago will have the unique privilege of enjoying the sounds of Humboldt's most famous daughter. Yes, kids, Sara is coming home.

Since she last played here, Sara Bareilles has somehow managed to become even more of a superstar than she already was, by golly. She defeated the dreaded "sophomore slump" when her second major-label album, Kaleidoscope Heart, debuted at number freakin' one on Billboard's Top 200 album chart, posting sales of more than 90,000 copies in its first week of release. While leadoff single "King of Anything" may not feel as omnipresent as Little Voice's "Love Song" was three years ago, the track has performed well and was recently nominated for a Grammy in the category Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.

At this point it's probably safe to say it: Bareilles is a bigger deal in the industry than Faith No More and (gasp!) has probably stolen Mike Patton's "You know, they're from Humboldt" crown. As though that matters. But c'mon, FNM was never asked to play at the Annual White House Easter Egg Roll, as Bareilles was this year. Sorry, boys.

Sara will play two consecutive sold-out nights at HSU's Van Duzer Theater on Friday and Saturday. The second show was added due to demand for the first. As we alluded to earlier, both are sold out. Odds of a third show being added? Hey, let a girl enjoy Christmas with her family, would ya?

While she may be exponentially more successful, Sara is not the only music-maker coming home for the holidays. Saturday night at the Westhaven Center for the Arts, you can catch an intimate show with Alaskan singer/songwriter Kray Van Kirk. Though he may hang his hat in Sarah Palin's home state these days -- Juneau, specifically -- his roots are pure Humboldt. 

At age 3, after his father completed his Ph.D, Kray's family moved to the North Coast -- his father is still currently a professor at HSU -- and graduated from Arcata High in 1983 before setting out for academia. 

It doesn't always take the first time. After dabbling in and deciding against seminary at UC Berkeley, Kray moved home to collect his thoughts and got more seriously into music, honing his skills as a performer and songwriter by playing small local shows. One of his regular gigs was playing dinner music at Ottavio's in Arcata, a location that will soon open in its latest incarnation as a branch of Coast Central Credit Union. Things change.

Kray feels his approach to making music was greatly influenced by growing up in Humboldt County in the ~~~70s when the back-to-the-landers moved north from Berkeley. At some point, some good ol' hippie ethos rubbed off on him and as a result he no longer makes CDs, opting instead to make most of his music available for free download on his website, "There is nothing wrong with making money," Van Kirk believes, "but the last thing we need in the world is more ‘stuff.'"

More ~~~70s influence can be heard in Kray's songs. His clearly enunciated words, sung in a smooth tenor range over busily picked, often 12-string guitar backing, are easily identified as being reminiscent of John Denver or James Taylor. Lyrically he leans hopeless romantic, often employing allegorical content that sounds akin to British poetry, which may explain the motivation for his recent tour in Ireland and Great Britain. 

These days, a single dad and close to completing his own Ph.D, Kray is happy to be coming home for the holidays and is looking forward to his parents being able to see their grandaughter -- which, he admits, hasn't happened in a few years. I had the duty of informing Kray that he would be playing on the same night as Humboldt's somewhat more famous relocated musician, which amused the singer. "I'd like to see her show. My daughter will want tickets." Sorry, kid. Again, sold out. You'll have to hang out with your pop. 

Moving on. Bummer note: Rowdy Reno-based outlaw country band Hellbound Glory -- who get some honorary Humboldt privileges because they play here so damn much -- were gonna be troopers like Sara Bareilles and play two shows on the North Coast this week -- Friday at Six Rivers Brewery and Saturday at The Alibi in Arcata. You may still see their shows listed, but they've canceled. We wanted to hear some blaze-o'-glory story that ended in an alcohol-fueled shootout with authorities. The actual story? Apparently, band member Leroy Virgil can't make the trip because he's going to be a new daddy. Pff. Way to kill the mystique, dude. But congrats.

There's a couple local bands that are not having children and are following through on their two-night work weeks. Groupies for rock ~~~n' rollers Twango Macallan can catch them Friday night at the Riverwood Inn and then follow them to Bear River Casino, where they'll be playing Saturday. Similarly, the unceasing juggernaut known as The Roadmasters punch the clock Friday at Blue Lake Casino, then again Saturday night at Cher-Ae Heights. That's how it's done, men.

Finally, a round of applause and a pat on the back for the warriors. Say it with me now: "College shmollege." Now, try your hardest to not be a jackass. It's gonna be hard. 

Inevitably, the young Arcata bar crowd -- those that allowed themselves only brief study breaks and fleeting glimpses of uninhibited freedom during the semester -- will be out in full force this weekend. Crushing responsibility has been lifted. ~~~Tis the week to test oneself. Don't wear your nice shoes. I know, you want to try and get all that partying out of your system before the dreaded Christmas week ahead, when you'll be stuck inside playing Yahtzee with the ~~~rents. Take it from this crusty, jaded curmudgeon, -- I turn 28 this week! -- don't push too hard. It ain't worth it.

But for those who'd like to push too hard: In addition to the allure of bar row, on Friday night, HumBrews is throwing an End of Semester Party with local DJs. But remember, it's a 21 and over venue, kids. So those fake IDs better be pretty convincing. Better yet, don't try that. 

Be safe. Get home. Merry Christmas.

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Andrew Goff

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