Bob Marley was born on February 6, 1945 at Nine Miles, Saint Ann, Jamaica. Legend that he is in the world of reggae, his birthday is still commemorated long after his death, and most years the Bob Marley celebrations stretch through the entire month. The Ragga Muffins Tour is one such Marley-esque congregation, a string of shows by top reggae bands from Jamaica and elsewhere that worked its way up the coast last week with stops in Long Beach, Santa Cruz and San Francisco. Among the headliners were two bands, Steel Pulseand Morgan Heritage, who play Friday night at the Mateel in Redway.
Originally formed at a boy's school in Birmingham (the one in England, not Alabama) Steel Pulse has long been led by the dreadlocked David Hinds, with Basil Gabbidon on lead guitar and Ronnie McQueen on bass. At the end of the '70s they were part of the "Rock Against Racism" movement, playing alongside British punk and ska bands with a political bent. However, Hinds asserts, "We're not here to start a physical revolution, we're just here to open everybody's eyes and let them check themselves and continue in a very educational mode to change things on that tip. Too many of our youths have been lost to drugs, or by the gun, or not having the education needed to persevere and move in an upward direction."
Then you have Morgan Heritage, another reggae outfit with a difference. They're a family band consisting of five children of Jamaican reggae legend Denroy Morgan, who left JA for New York City and raised his kids there, but still following the Rasta way. Their West Coast swing is part of something they call Another Rockas Moment Tour, promoting their latest disc, Full Circle - a mash-up of reggae, dancehall, hip hop, pop and punk. Humboldt's DJ Selecta Prime spins before and between.
I suppose it's worth noting that this Bob Marley birthday show, which comes in the midst of the SoHum Reggae war, is put on by People Productions at the Mateel. I suspect the reggae fans who will fill the hall could care less. Warning: As we go to press, tickets are scarce in NoHum. I would not advise driving down to Redway without one.
That same Ragga Muffins tour also brings The Gladiators to the West Coast for a series of dates, including a Passion Presents show next Tuesday, Feb. 27, at the Red Fox. Like Morgan Heritage, The Gladiators are something of a second-generation band. The original combo was led by Al Griffiths, who now sits on the sidelines (or stays home in JA) while one son, Al Jr., assumes the lead vocalist role and another, Anthony, plays drums. I'm told (by an admittedly biased source) that Al Jr. sounds just like his dad. Guitarists Gallimore Sutherland and Clinton Rufus still remain from the original lineup, part of a nine-piece band with horns and a big sound. Another reggae artist, Zema, opens. She also sings a number with Al Jr., an appropriately titled duet: "Son and Daughter of Jah."
Also in the reggae vein: A show on Thursday, Feb 22, at the Red Fox with San Francisco-based Amha Baraka and the We An Dem Band. Amha grew up in the American South listening to Bob, Steel Pulse and others. Humboldt's own Ishi Dube is slated as a special guest. Ishialso plays Saturday, Feb. 24, at Humboldt Brews with his band, Massagana.
Steel Toed Slippersare young, but they're serious about their rock `n' roll. At least that's what the drummer's dad assures me.*I accepted their invite and became their MySpace friends, so I've heard a song or two and they're not bad at all. They wrote to tell me, "Hey! How's it going? We are starting a YouTube account and loading as much footage up as possible! Keep checking back for new vids and spread the word to everyone about this!" I haven't had time to check it out, but consider the word spread. Friday evening, while Steel Pulse is down at the Mateel, the Steel Toed youngsters play a benefit at*Fieldbrook School, an all-ages thing with money going to the booster club and the 7th/8th grade class. Saturday they take it down to Out of the Sun in Fortuna, another all-ages venue, where several other bands will join the fun.
New York-based singer/songwriter Kaydi Johnson, who has a legion of fans locally, is back in town. First up: An out-of-town two-night run at the Lost Whale Inn, which concludes tonight, Thursday, Feb. 22. On Friday she's at the Jambalaya opening for her friends Kulica, who are back in action after a maternity/paternity break, celebrating the release of a live CD recorded last August right there at the Jambalaya. (I was supposed to get an advance copy from Julie for a review, but my busy weekend got in the way.) There's also something on Kaydi's webpage about a house concert Friday at Carlo's place (wherever that might be), but I'm guessing the Jam gig replaced it. (Ask Carlo.) Tuesday she's at Mosgo's; Wednesday, Feb. 28, you can hear her at Humboldt Brews. I'm thinking she might be on KHUM some time too, not sure when.
Wednesday is also the first night of the two-nighter at the Lost Whale by jazz/folk duo Allison Scull and Victor Martin from Dunsmuir, with Allison's songs accompanied by her guitar and Victor's bass, guitar and sax.
Prepare for some serious heaviness at the Alibi Saturday night with locals Dragged by Horses joined by stellar San Fran-based stoner rockers Floating Goat.
Rooster McClintock slipped me a copy of their demo a while back, mainly to demonstrate that despite what club owners might say, they are not a bluegrass band. I'll confirm that; they play swingin' honky tonk country, darn good stuff I might add. They're at Muddy's Hot Cup Thursday, identified as a "country/bluebrass band" (Lila, was that a typo?) then on Friday they hit the lucrative casino circuit playing at Cher-Ae Heights' Firewater Lounge. Saturday at the Firewater, it's blues etc. by Mojo Brown.
Also in the swing mode: Phil Berkowitz and the High Rollers, a band led by blues harpist Berkowitz, who offers his tribute to Louie Jordan at the Riverwood Friday night.
My good buddy Ross, bassman/vocalist for that swingin' rock combo The Delta Nationals, writes to say: "And how about those fine Delta Nationals playing an extremely rare club gig. If you are making the rounds on Saturday night, the band invites you to stop in at the Jambalaya - past the 10 o'clock hour, mind you. Again, a rare late night for the D-Nats," who are getting spoiled playing all those cushy gigs at the Elks Lodge, and various Grange halls.
If you're a Hum regular, you know all about the brouhaha surrounding the Synapsis performance space in Old Town. I'm not going to review that business right now, but I wanted to let you know that Rumblepeg has marshaled on, running a series of dance workshops and performances. I caught this very cool (underpublicized) thing they did at the Arcata Playhouse with books, chairs and music by the Starving Weirdos a couple of weeks back. This weekend the Rumblepeg Dance Intensive presents a full evening of post-modern dance, Mongrel: The History of Awkwardness and the Survival of Grace, first on Saturday at the Dancenter in Arcata's Old Creamery; Sunday, Feb. 25, they move it to Runeberg Hall at Wabash and Union streets in Eureka. Fair warning for the prudish - some of the dances feature people with no clothes on. For those who read that and think that's why you might go, I'll add another alert: This will not be anything like what you might see at the Tip Top or the Schooner.