Music » The Hum

Cosmic Roadhouse Country



In my younger days I spent many happy hours in a dive bar on the Arcata Plaza called The Boot Club, where the No. 1 favorite on the jukebox was a tune by Freddy Fender, "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights." While the leader of Dave Gleason's Wasted Days was still in elementary school when the song hit the country charts in the mid-'70s, Dave borrowed the name.

"Midnight California," the title track from the latest Wasted Days album, speaks of "outlaws and angels who dance around that jukebox drinking all night long." It wouldn't be out of place on that jukebox or on a Flying Burritos album, and you could easily imagine Dwight Yoakam or even Freddy covering it.

Dave Gleason grew up in the Bay Area (he currently lives in Oakland) and was raised by a part-time country musician who probably played "Wasted Days" more than once. "My dad was part of a fairly thriving country music circuit from Sacramento down to San Jose, played lead guitar in several cover bands that would play weekends around town," Dave told me. "There were probably 20 different bars, honky tonk/country clubs - all of them are gone at this point."

As a result Dave absorbed a healthy dose of '70s and '80s country, "Anything with a guy playing Telecaster guitar on it," as he put it, both the Bakersfield school - Buck Owens, Merle Haggard and the like - and The Byrds/Burritos/Emmy Lou Harris brand of L.A. country/rock, which was something else entirely. "The Byrds and Gram Parsons stuff came from a completely different world, one that made Buck Owens and Merle seems pretty square. Gram was hanging out with the Stones and the Dead and doing gigs with them and came from a different place."

Of course, teens being teens, Dave did not start out playing twangy. "I went through my Grand Funk and Led Zeppelin phase, but when I got into my mid-20s, country was the only music that made sense to me - it was what I felt comfortable writing and singing. It took on a life of its own and took over. I put a B-bender on my Telly, and really got into anything country."

I had to stop Dave for an explanation of B-Bender. "It was this modification that Clarence White and Gene Parsons [from The Byrds] came up with. It's a mechanism attached to the B string on a Telecaster - your strap is attached to it and when you pull down on the neck, it's as if you're bending a note like on a pedal steel; it takes it up one full step. Gene still installs them in a shop in Mendocino." (

The B-bender comes in handy when Dave's on the road since the traveling Wasted Days are typically a stripped down unit. "It's basically me and our drummer John, and our bass player Mike, and whoever else I can get to go," Dave explained. "We have another guitar player, Pat Johnson, who goes out with us, but he's going to be at South by Southwest when we're up your way. I might bring a pedal steel player, but he hasn't confirmed yet."

Where does his band play now that much of the honky tonk circuit his dad worked is gone? "The last club in the East Bay that fit into that style just closed. The Ivy Room was on the corner of San Pablo and Solano. Someone new bought it and they still have music, but just DJ nights with expensive drinks. It's the way things seem to be leaning and it's a drag. Now we play a lot around Sacramento, Sonoma County, head down to L.A. We're getting a mix of people - folks my dad's age, but also younger kids who are into the whole Gram Parsons cosmic legacy. That's not exactly what we do, but there's some of it in there."

Wasted Days previously played locally at the Alibi. This trip north brings them to Six Rivers Friday, March 16, followed by a St. Patrick's Day gig Saturday at The Riverwood Inn, an authentic roadhouse that's just the sort of place Dave's dad might have played.

With St. Patrick's Day falling on a Saturday this year, the green beer will be flowing, and not just at the various places offering Irish music: the Mateel, the Arkley Center, and so on. (Check our calendar section for a run-down.) Other options that night?

Despite the name, don't expect any country from Portland's lo-fi garage rock duo Pure Country Gold, featuring former Arcatan Petey (formerly of Petey at the Associates) on guitar. Local garagistas The Ravens will be decked out in all-green "R" outfits for the occasion; openers Henpecker have rented leprechaun suits and are working on a punk version of "Danny Boy."

Café Mokka goes old timey with Striped Pig Stringband (I'll note one more time - they used to be called Devil's Dream). And you've got your reggae/rock with Mobile Chiefing Unit at Humboldt Brews.

Up at HSU the Film Fest folks are once again running Dark Side of the Rainbow, with Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon synched to Over the Rainbow. Trippy, man.

Are you still with me? Muddy's Hot Cup has an early show with Scott Miller, a rocker from Virginia. He used to have a band called The V-Roys, but more recently plays as Scott Miller and the Commonwealth, a band with a high profile gig as house band on Blue Collar TV. A full house is guaranteed - that's OK, KHUM is broadcasting live so you can tune in on your radio.

In Eureka at the Red Fox, NoHum/SoHum hip hop congregation Subliminal Sabotage and friends celebrate the release of Strategic Vision, the debut album by SubSab rapper MikaSun. The Jenifer Breeze Band has its own CD release party at Old Town Coffee and Chocolate. The Boiler Room brings on a blast of metal with Cycle of Violence, Anslinger, The Sound Surfers and American Superheroes.

And last but not least, Six Rivers Brewing celebrates their 3rd anniversary (under current management) with free music all day, including The Rubberneckers, Moo-Got-2, 6-Rivs Wednesday night house band Moses Lincoln Johnson and The Pine Box Boys.

No, not everything is happening Saturday. A couple of notable shows are on Friday, March 16, specifically a Diamondback hip hop thing at the Boiler Room with Celly Cel and the Hillside Stranglaz, Thic Family, North Bay Ridaz, DJ Assassin and Li'l Sic.

And Muddy's has a double bill: Scatter the Mudwith a St. Pat's preview early, then Myshkin's Ruby Warblers,a"gypsy torch punk chanteuse" duo from Portland.

The Wet Spots first formed in Vancouver. B.C. but now call Toronto home. "We came up in this crazy, low-brow burlesque and cabaret scene in Vancouver," said Wet Spots vocalist/kazoo player Cass King, calling from somewhere on the road. "John [Woods] and I met a few years ago at an open stage poetry night. He was performing his sort of moody singer-songwriter stuff and I was doing what John likes to call my lesbian love poetry."

A collaboration was suggested and, as Cass put it, "We got together as a couple. We started writing together, first doing a song called `Three Way Rendezvous' in the Ink Spots style [thus the name], then next Do You Take It in the Ass?' We thought,Ha ha' wouldn't it be funny to do these sexy songs for our friends at these crazy-ass cabarets we were attending."

The concept? "We wanted to write provocative, sexy, funny songs, beautiful songs about sex, treating forbidden topics in the way someone like Jobim might treat a love song. What if there were no boundaries around sexual material at all? What if it wasn't taboo? That's where The Wet Spots come from."

Kudos from the likes of Rusty Warren and Suzie Bright followed and the band took the show on the road. The latest American tour finds The Wet Spots in Arcata Sunday, March 18, for a show at Humboldt Brews as part of their weekly Club Confessions GLBT night.

Indigo features Unauthorized Sublime Tribute, formerly known as Sublime Remembered on Wednesday, March 21. The name change was apparently in response to threat of a lawsuit from the surviving members of Sublime, who are exactly not happy about the tribute. U.S.T. notes on its website, "Eric Wilson and Bud Gaugh are not performers in Unauthorized Sublime Tribute. We are Long Beach veterans, Q-Ball, Matt, and John... We do not perform LB Shortbus or Long Beach All-stars songs, and never will. So please keep us separated."

An online outfit called MelodyTrip recently announced the launch of a U.S. Music Festival contest, which will result in awards known as The Festies. (Am I the only one who thinks that's a dumb name?) The online balloting is underway and Humboldt County festivals show up in two categories.

Blues by the Bay, nominated for "Best Blues Fest," is up against tough competition from Chicago, San Francisco and Redwood Coast Music Festivals E.D. Glenn Maxon's former employer, Monterey Bay Blues Fest, among others. This summer's Blues By The Bay runs July 14 and 15, with Charlie Musselwhite, Elvin Bishop, Canned Heat, Big Brother and the Holding Company,Corey Harris, Guitar Shorty and Sista Monica among those booked so far.

As you might have guessed, Reggae on the River is the other local nominee, and it could well take the "Best Reggae Festival" Festy. Who might accept it? We may have to ask Judge Watson, who ruled against the Mateel's request for a temporary restraining order on Reggae Rising organizers last week, which means both festivals are still active: Both have announced line-ups, and both are selling tickets to brave fans. Next step: a hearing scheduled for March 26, where each side is asking for an injunction on the other. The parties could conceivably come to some compromise before that, although it does not seem likely. For further details tune in Hank's new talk show, "The Humboldt Review" on KHUM this Thursday at 6 p.m. I'll be on as a guest with a Reggae update. C-ya on the radio.


Add a comment