Cajun Boogie

The Pine Leaf Boys, plus Camper Van Cracker, weirdness on campus, Baths and jazz

| August 19, 2010
Pine Leaf Boys - PHOTO BY GABIE SAVOY
  • Photo by Gabie Savoy
  • Pine Leaf Boys

The young men who make up The Pine Leaf Boys all grew up in a region of southwest Louisiana steeped in Cajun culture. For example, the band's button accordionist, Wilson Savoy, is the son of Marc Savoy, an accordion builder who recorded several albums with fiddler Michael Doucet of BeauSoleil.

And, Wilson points out, "He has Cajun music jam sessions every Saturday morning at his shop. My mom is also a musician; she wrote a book about the history and culture of Cajun music and all that."

While he started out playing boogie-woogie piano a la Jerry Lee Lewis, Wilson caught the Cajun bug when he was 18 and picked up the accordion. He and a bunch of friends started learning the old tunes. "We had a house; we all loved Cajun music and decided to play it. We used to go play on the local university campus. One day we were playing and the cops came and told us to get off campus, that we couldn't play there anymore. The newspapers found out and wrote stories about it and we started getting gigs elsewhere. We started playing bars and parties. One thing led to another and we started doing it fulltime."

Three albums and a couple of world tours later, they're filling dancefloors playing semi-trad Cajun tunes. "It's traditional, but it's also a bit contemporary in that it's young guys playing it," says the 20-something Wilson. "Traditional in the sense that we're all from Louisiana and we sing mostly in Cajun French, but we have rock influence: heavier on the drums and heavier on the bass." 

You can hear them rock out when Humboldt Folklife brings the Pine Leaf Boys to Humboldt Brews Sunday night. Wear your dancing shoes.

When Camper Van Beethoven first formed in the Inland Empire in 1983, there wasn't any alt. rock per se. Their strange songs about aliens and such set to a mash of punk, ska, country, world beat and rock proved a bit much for SoCal punks, but when they moved to Santa Cruz (then S.F.) they found audiences in tune with their peculiarity. Songs like "Take the Skinheads Bowling" became modest hits, at least on college radio, and the alt. press loved them. The end of the ’80s saw them scoring a Billboard "Modern Rock" No. 1 with "Pictures of Matchstick Men," a semi-ironic cover of the Status Quo tune from a non-status quo band.

It was perhaps too good to last. By 1990 the band split relatively amicably, with lead singer David Lowery moving on to form to the rootsier (and more successful) Cracker, and others spinning off the darker Monks of Doom. Friendships were maintained and in 1999 CVB reassembled. Lately CVB and Cracker have been touring in tandem. Right now they're making their way down the West Coast -- they'll hit Arcata Monday night for a show at Humboldt Brews, appropriate in that the space once housed a bowling alley. Bring your skinhead friends. 

HSU is back in session starting next week. If you're new in town, welcome to Humboldt, and welcome back to those who were away. As the campus springs back to life, CenterArts and AS Presents kick off their respective 2010-'11 seasons with a bit of weirdness. It begins Monday when self-proclaimed weirdo "Weird Al" Yankovic brings his accordion, a full band and a multimedia stage show to HSU's Van Duzer Theatre for an evening of demented pop parodies.

ASP starts its season the following night, Tuesday, with a show at the Depot featuring wildass Brooklyn band Oneida, who just a few weeks ago played Central Park Summerstage with The Flaming Lips. Formed in 1997, Oneida are genre-destroyers playing psychedelic minimalist music with maximal rhythmic drive. Be prepared for very long songs. They're on tour with The Lights, a like-minded trio from Seattle. Opening the show: Humboldt's internationally-renowned floorcore darlings Starving Weirdos.

The ongoing reggae onslaught continues with the Roots of Culture Festival Friday at Arcata Theatre Lounge with mystical Jamaican chanter Niyorah, Tuff Lion from the Virgin Islands and locals Seed ’n Soil.

Less rootsy, but still with a reggae touch, Alex Greggs and Dennis "Dow Jones" Shaw, aka South Rakkas Crew, a pair of beatmeisters pumping blazing dancehall riddims mixed with hip hop and electronica. They'll fill the dancefloor at Humboldt Brews Saturday night.

You'll also hear hints of reggae and other tropical sounds when WoMama plays at the Red Fox Thursday. Jesse J. says they'll have a couple of pans players sitting in so the set will be particularly heavy on calypso influence. Bluesy "neuroplasticjazz" combo Children of the Sun opens.

For the Deadheads out there, Play Live Dead, a Dead tribute with Jim Walsh from Play Dead and members of Live Dead Band, Workingman's Ed, The Accidentals, etc. returns to the Red Fox Friday night playing what they call, "extreme Grateful Dead, with an edge." PLD is also part of Head To Head Festival No. 3, a "Grateful Gathering" on Saturday at Dean Creek Resort (just outside of Redway) that also includes Skunk Train, a Mendo band with Chrissy "Sister Soul" Colangelo backed by some sort of all-star combo. Cosmic Goo supplies a light show after dark.

Budget Rock Night at the Jambalaya moves to Thursday this week with The Anomalys, a garage rock band from Amsterdam on their way to this weekend's Total Trash Fest in S.F.

John Kinses, a former local who was in the zombie surf outfits Los Bandidos Muertos and The Invasions, moved to Santa Rosa and joined The Connies playing "punk rock for grown ups!" That band shares a bill Saturday night at the Alibi with the heavy, heavy monster sound of Magnum, who have decided to jump on the all covers bandwagon and become a tribute band. There's a twist: They'll be performing a tribute to the music of Magnum. Kinda circular ain't it?

Guitarist Glenn "Houston" Pomianek and stand-up bassist Chris Kee, both founding members of The Waybacks, have joined forces with vocalist/guitarist Travis Jones and Waybacks drummer Peter Tucker to form Houston Jones, an Americana band with roots in bluegrass, blues and gospel. Their Humboldt debut is Saturday night at Six Rivers Brewery.

When Renata of Renata's Crêperia heard the heavenly "fem-folk" duo MaMuse singing a cappella and playing strings and flutes at Kate Wolf Fest a couple of years back, well, she wanted to hear them again. Her place is not typically a music venue, but that did not stop her from inviting them to play there when the time came. That time is this Sunday as Sarah and Karisha (aka MaMuse) wheel into town on their Yes! Yes! Yes! Bicycles Northwest Tour. (Yes, they are on bicycles.)

Will Wiesenfeld, aka Baths (aka Geotic, aka Nephews), has been making waves of late with big props from Pitchfork, a "Song of the Day" on NPR and a growing circle of fans (3,000 on FB and counting) with his layered lo-fi laptop compositions that somehow fall under the chillwave tag. He plays for the first time locally next Wednesday, Aug. 25 at Humboldt Brews with Portland indie quartet The Joggers.

Benbow's Summer Jazz Series resumes Thursday with saxman Francis Vanek fronting a quintet that includes Sam Maez on trumpet (and the usual Jim Wilde/Tommy Lockett/Michael Curran rhythm section). Friday Maez takes the lead with his own quintet. Saturday it's vocalist Lisa Baney with Yolanda Nickels and her alto sax. Sunday it's Magenta with Vanek plus bassist Chris Amberger, Wilde on guitar, Curran on drums and guest vocalist Joani Rose.

Also jazzy: Young vocalist Rose Armin-Hoiland who is about to head off to Costa Rica. But first she has a Friday gig at Westhaven Center for the Arts backed by swing bop pianist Darius Brotman. Cool man.

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