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The Return 

Bob Weir back at the Muni, plus Play Dead, POMO, The Motet and a harmonious convergence


Bob Weir was a teenager hanging around at the local music store in Palo Alto when he met Jerry Garcia. The two guitar players ended up forming a folk/blues combo with Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, and they called it Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions. That band would eventually add new players and change its name to The Warlocks, then to the Grateful Dead, among the most successful touring rock bands in history.

The first time Weir played at the Eureka Municipal Auditorium it was January 1968. The Quick and the Dead Tour with the Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service was on its way north. A recording of the show archived at shows that the Dead were in extra fine form. Apparently the place was packed. "We had people all over the outside and so many inside the fire marshal was getting the hiccups," recalled the late Arnie Millsap, who was a Eureka police officer at the time and later became chief of police. "We had people selling and using marijuana that night. I caught one guy selling LSD tabs. After that we wouldn't allow the Grateful Dead to come back to Eureka."

Millsap offered that bit of history when I spoke with him three decades later, in 1998, when Weir was among those scheduled to play a "Forest Aid" benefit concert at the Muni to mark the first anniversary of Julia "Butterfly" Hill's ascent into the tree she called Luna. The Bill Graham Presents organizers ended up moving that show to the Mateel when Millsap insisted they hire nine Eureka officers (at a cost of $3,000-$4,000) to bolster security.

Weir played acoustic at the Mateel (joined by guitarist Mark Karan) on classics from his repertoire including "Cassidy," "West L.A. Fadeaway" and "El Paso," along with a Dylan cover and a Beatles tune. That's along the lines of what he's doing on the current solo tour that brings him back to the Muni Saturday night. His setlist for a recent show at the Wiltern Theater in L.A. included "Fadeaway" and "Cassidy" as well as Dead classics like "Playin' in the Band," "Franklin's Tower" and "Ripple" (and a couple of Dylan covers). Opening the show (and probably closing with some duets) is Jackie Greene, a 30-something songwriter/guitarist following in the footsteps of Dylan and the Dead. Should be a good one, although it may be hard to match the level of that epic 1968 gig.

To get you in the mood, there's a Thursday gathering at Humboldt Brews with Play Dead, who do just that, and do it well. The lineup: Donald Barry and Doug Shernock on guitars, Gary Davidson bass, Tofu on drums and, back in town for the occasion, keyboardist Mike Emerson. Tofu claims they're working up a version of "Gangnam Style," but don't hold your breath.

Thursday at Six Rivers Peace of Mind Orchestra, a local duo with an expansive name and sound, lays down some funky jams. POMO offers a "lyrical forum of psycho-analytical pop rock" with Ari Leopold handling guitar and percussion and Matt Engel laying down bass lines etc. with a Moog and what he describes as "digital replicas of vintage analog keyboards." The band also plays late Saturday at the Red Fox for what's billed as a Bob Weir after-party.

Friday at Six Rivers, the (much larger) local jam/Afrofunk combo Motherlode brings the serious funk.

I have to say, it's unfortunate timing for an Afrobeat show considering who's at Arcata Theatre Lounge that Friday night: The Motet plus AfroMassive. Boulder-based drummer/bandleader Dave Watts has been working under the Motet moniker for a decade, exploring improvisation in various configurations ("motet" does not indicate a number of players). Watts has reached an apex of sorts lately. His latest album Dig Deep (available for free < here or at digs deep into African rhythms, mixing in electronics and working with saxophonist Dominic Lalli among others. It expands on the Fela sound on covers of "Expensive Shit" and "Roforofo Fight," while taking Watts' trippy electrojams into new territory. Added bonus: a local visit by AfroMassive, whose name says a lot. The massive band playing Afrobeat started in Arcata five years ago then moved to the Bay Area, pulling in members from Albino and other bands along the way. Good stuff all around.

Also on Friday, a double bill at the Arcata Playhouse with your favorite band (according to our readers' poll) Huckleberry Flint, plus Matt the Electrician, who calls Austin home but once lived in Arcata. As he details in his song "College" (aka "Dean's List"), HSU dropout Matt still owes $35 to the university library. "I never paid it and I'm still not gonna," he admits, suggesting that ultimately, "college is a waste of time."

The Mad River Brewing Tasting Room gets a bit heavy Thursday with a visit from Merkin, a metalish power trio from Reno with hints of prog.

Also on Thursday, around the corner in Blue Lake's beautifully renovated Logger Bar, The Lonesome Roses do their folky thing. A swing trio called King Foot plays there Friday. A call to new Logger proprietor Kate Martin found her in the midst of making popcorn for the Monday night football crowd. She said she has a few bands lined up for coming weeks but would like more. Got a band? Looking for a place to play? Give her a call or stop by the bar.

Speaking of newness, The Siren's Song, a craft beer bar in the refurbished Old Town Bar and Grill building, celebrates its grand opening Saturday with food, art and music (and beer). Aimee Taylor, Christine Walden, Gabrielle Zeitlin, Rhianna Gallagher, Shemaia Skywater, Lorenza and Lee will be making music. Photographer Lisken Rossi has a display of portraits of local sirens. Cool.

Gunsafe and The Plumb Uglies host a "Holiday Happening" Friday night at the Eureka Inn. Christmas music? Probably not. More like wild and crazy takes on country, blues, folk and punk classics with some originals thrown in.

Have you seen Chuck Johnson's Humboldt Live Sessions? The growing collection of consistently awesome YouTubage features local bands (including Gunsafe). Chuck is also the stand-up bass player for The Bamboozlers, a folky trio with Beverly Twist on guitar, Cynthia Brando on harmonica and both ladies on vocals. Catch them at Global Village Gallery during Friday's Arts Arcata festivities.

A note from our folky friend Josephine Johnson alerts us to a harmonic convergence she's hosting Saturday at Robert Goodman Wines. She'll be joined by her songwriter friend Sam Whitlach (friend him on Facebook), along with Mike and Julie Robinson and Mo Hollis and Morgan Corviday, all of them sharing "original tunes and harmonies." Josephine notes, "Mike and Julie have been writing and playing together for many years -- they traveled around India with their two boys sharing gospel and bluegrass music a couple years ago. Mo and Morgan have been working at this a while, and their harmonies are luscious. Though we are primarily solo artists, Sam and I collaborate on five or six tunes together. We sure do have a blast."

Same Saturday at Old Town Coffee and Chocolates, it's Jan Bramlett "and friends." She's also one third of Trillium, a trio with Mo and Morgan, but I guess they won't be joining her that night. 

This week's Pressure Anya Dirty Thursday at the Alibi bids a "final farewell" to DJ Knutz, who already said goodbye with a funkathon last weekend at Humbrews. Since he hasn't left town yet, why not spin a few more discs? Friday Pressure Anya takes the party to the Jambalaya, a special Arts Arcata '80s Night "Tribute To Synth." Expect Kraftwerk, etc. Then on Saturday the beat goes on as the relentless disc-duo spins "world wide beats" at the Pearl Lounge: Balkan, Bhangra, Brazilian, reggae, reggaeton and so on. Joy to the world!

If you're looking for carols and angels and all that, the Arcata Interfaith Gospel Choir has a pair of holiday concerts this weekend: Friday at the First Presbyterian Church of Eureka, Saturday at Arcata Presbyterian, both with the McKinleyville Community Choir and the AIGC Youth Choir. They promise Christmas classics like "Away in a Manger" and yes, "Joy to the World." 

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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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