When Jordan "Yogoman" Rain called last week, he was on campus at Fairhaven College, part of Western Wash. U. in Bellingham, where he was finishing up paperwork to graduate with an interdisciplinary degree in music and business. Diploma in hand, he's now ready to become a full-time musician, which is what he's been doing already as leader of Yogoman Burning Band.
Jordan started out 11 years ago as a reggae DJ, host of a regular Wednesday night session not unlike what we have locally at the Jambalaya. Coming out of the punk scene, he took the name Yogoman from a cartoon character created by a high school skateboarder friend. "Yogoman was like our mascot, something we'd tag around our school," he recalled. "He was kind of a symbol of embracing ridiculousness and wild abandon, not caring about what anyone thought of us, just having a good time. I took that spirit and brought it into my DJing, encouraging people to be a bit ridiculous and get out and dance. The Northwest has that sort of overly self-conscious thing going on -- people are scared to move around."
His mission was to break down that repression with a one-drop beat. Eventually he went from spinning records to singing. "I reached a point where I wanted to write my own material and kind of go on my own journey. I started writing my own songs and got involved with a group called the Alamo Social Club, which was a doo-wop rock group. I went from drumming to singing there, then started writing songs for the group."
Combining R&B with reggae and rock steady, he added another dimension as he developed a sound for his own band. Rock steady, a Jamaican style that came between ska and reggae, was especially important to the Burning Band sound. He says, "I can dance to rock steady all night long and never get sick of it, whereas the roots gets a little too heavy and preachy and dancehall gets too monotonous and repetitive."
The songs he wrote touch on the trouble with Seattle (he thinks it sucks), on themes of freedom and, of course, on dancing. "My whole modus operandi with this music and the band was not to become a rock star; it was to connect with people and to create a comfortable environment where people can cut loose and have a good time. One of the things I gained from being part of the do-it-yourself punk community was there was no separation between the players and the audience. That relationship is crucial. There's no us and them, it's a unity vibe -- that's what I bring."
Ready to climb aboard the Y-Burning Band bus? YBB is coming to Humboldt for two shows: Saturday they're at the Jambalaya as part of the weekly mission:Critical jamdown. Sunday they're at Six Rivers Brewery. Come prepared to dance.
Friday, March 20 marks the Vernal Equinox. That's right, winter will be over (not that it'll stop the rain). The season change means it's time for a few more chapters in The Future Is Unwritten, the psyche rock series created by Humboldt Free Radio's pirate deejays. As one nameless deejay/organizer explained, the festival is intended to draw a wide range of bands in the garage/psyche genre.
"It's a very loose definition of 'psyche'," he said. "The word psychedelic can describe so much: fuzzy guitar sounds, garage rock, all kind of spacey music fit in. It's more a mood than a sound. We basically invited bands we like." And sometimes with surprising results: Samsara Blues Experiment, a psyche/blues/metal outfit from Berlin, Germany took TFIU up on a gig offer made via MySpace and built an American tour around it. "It was cool that we were able to recruit an international band," said Deejay-X. "And Nudity is also playing that night (Sunday) and they've been great every time they've been here."
The fest begins Friday (appropriately) with TFIU Chapter 5, an all-ages show at Big Pete's featuring Plants, an "acoustic, dreamy experimental" band from Portland, and thelittlestillnotbigenough, who I finally heard at the recent Themselves show, where they laid down wild, spaced-out soundscapes with synths, drums, acoustic guitar, accordion and processed trumpet diverging and coming together. Very cool. The fest moves to the Alibi for Chap. 6 Saturday night with Arcata acid punkers Nipplepotamus joined by Seattle's Wah-Wah Exit Wound, who are described as having a "prog rock" sound, prog (as previously noted here) being another term used loosely. Sunday's festival closer at Aunty Mo's brings together the above-mentioned Berliners Samsara Blues Experiment with L.A.-based "space rock" band Farflung and the "kraut-inspired psychedelia" of Nudity, who have a local connection: Bass player Jon "Quitty" Quittner was in the legendary Humboldt punk band Brent's TV and Appliance.
Arcata Playhouse co-founder Jackie Dandeneau is featured in Out on the Town Saturday night at the Playhouse, which her partner (and true love) David Ferney describes as "a loungey evening" with tables set up cabaret-style. Jackie and friends will sing some of her favorite songs with particular focus on the late, great (yet relatively unknown) jazz singer Blossom Dearie. Her back-up band includes singers Barb Culbertson, Jean Stach and Halimah "the Dreamah" Collingwood, with Tim Randles on keys and the Playhouse's resident rhythm section Tim Gray and Marla Joy. Expect some special guests including Jaese Lecuyer and Lila Nelson, who just can't seem to stay away from Humboldt. (Not that we mind.) Incidentally, if you have arcataplayhouse.com book-marked, change it. After confusion regarding billing for the domain name, the Web address was hijacked by some Russian named Yuri who demanded $300 ransom to get it back. David's fairly simple solution: He switched to arcataplayhouse.org.
Thursday at the Red Fox, they're into day-two of a two-day run by Karl Denson's Tiny Universe, led by the very funky sax man from The Greyboy Allstars. Friday the all-female Zeppelin tribute Zepperella returns to the Fox for another climb up that "Stairway to Heaven."
Bonus has a couple of shows this week: Thursday, March 19, they're bringing Trinidadian reggae star Marlon Asher aka "The Ganja Farmer" to Humboldt Brews with a bunch of other reggae dudes. Sunday it's Too Short at the Arcata Community Center with hyphy DJ Traxamillion (read more on Too Short and company in Juli B's DVD review elsewhere in this paper). Also on the bill, Subliminal Sabotage and too many hip hop and reggae DJs to mention. The poster notes, "For Real This Time!" apparently in reference to Too Short's last gig here, which did not happen and was thus unreal.
Somehow it's suddenly hip to be square (dancing). Humboldt Folklifers host another Southern Squares Dance Saturday at the Arcata Vet's Hall, once again with Tara Stetz callings the do-se-dohs to old time music by The Striped Pig Stringband. Proceeds benefit Humboldt Baykeeper.
Also in the neo-old time vein (a Striped Pig tells me old timey is not a proper term), the Studpuppy Tour comes to Six Rivers Brewing Wednesday, March 25, with Portland's Whiskey Puppy and Tennessee Studs, who sound like they could be from Tennessee, but actually hail from Amsterdam. That's right Dutch bluegrass and "americana" with a lower case "a" (unamericana?). Judging from the lead song on the Studs' MySpace, they'll feel right at home in Humboldt. "Johnson Grass Farm" starts like this: "I'm gonna live on marijuana and I ain't gonna work at all. I'm gonna buy me a house in the country and grow that shit ’bout 10-feet tall."
Looking to hear some songwriters Saturday? Locals John Ludington, Andrea Zvaleko and Morgan Cordivay are all at Mosgo's. And Brooklyn-based Matty Charles brings his guitar, his rich, deep voice and some fine songs to Muddy's Hot Cup.
How ’bout an Afrobeat Monday? Stop by HSU's Kate Buchanan Room March 23, when Afromassive, WoMama and Dun Dun Fare help raise money for a technical school in Malawi.
A closing note: The beautiful, brilliant pianist and teacher Deborah Clasquin finally lost her battle with cancer last Tuesday. She will live on in the music played by those she taught, and we know she will rest in peace.