Music » The Hum

Hippie/Punk Mumbo Jumbo

Kimya Dawson loves you. Plus: Starship history and MMW keeping it real



Anti-folk singer Kimya Dawson seems an unlikely superstar. I'm sure she'd blanch at the suggestion that she's a star of any sort, but the truth is her sweet little lo-fi love songs set the tone for the movie Juno, filling it with a simple honesty that helped turn it into a surprise hit, thus thrusting Kimya into the spotlight. If not for the fact that the songs were pulled from previously recorded work and not written just for the film, she probably would have received a "Best Song" Oscar. The Juno soundtrack album, which mixes Kimya's work with indie rock classics, shot up the Billboard Top 200 chart when it was released earlier this year, hitting No. 1 and going gold.

Did all this go to her head? No. She was busy up in Olympia raising her baby daughter Panda, who's going on 2 1/2 at this point. Appropriately, the latest album from Kimya the Mom is a collection of cute (but rude) kids songs titled Alphabutt. (Note: Not all the songs are strictly for kids. "Sunbeams And Some Beans" addresses serious issues, like food politics.)

Check the artist's LiveJournal, "Kimya Loves You," and you'll find her thoughts on corporate culture and bringing about change. "We need to work from the ground up. All the time," she writes. "We need to take the power away from the big corporations by refusing to support them, and give power back to communities by supporting local business and eating and shopping locally. We need to fight for social justice and fight for environmental protection and fight for health care reform and fight for tax reform. But we also need to just live ... There is the potential for living an extremely rich life when we stop believing the lies that we have to have tons of money and tons of crap to do so." After railing against the corporations that feed us "tons of crap," she suggests shopping at the farmers' market as at least a partial alternative.

"It's about community and supporting and creating the societies we want to live in," she continues. "And not just waiting around for someone to make life better. We can take care of each other and help make life better. Another good thing about pulling back from that [corporate] world is not getting caught up on how you should look and feel and be. You can just like yourself. Hippie/punk mumbo jumbo? Perhaps, but it's my mumbo jumbo and I love my community and I have known other good communities and I have seen it work. The whole people knowing each other and taking care of each other stuff. It's pretty magical."

Did I mention that on Kimya's most recent tour, earlier this year, her Arcata show was in someone's living room? This time around she's gone big time, playing Saturday night at the Van Duzer Theatre. Expect something pretty magical.

Go global Thursday at Humboldt Brews with Humboldt Afro-rock/funk/hip-hoppers WoMama and Antioquia, a worldbeat band from S.F. that adds AfroColombian rhythms and reggae to the mix. Even more global: Opa Cupa, a Gypsy/Balkan band from Italy on tour with Fishtank Ensemble fiddler Fabrice Martinez and Slavic Soul Party vocalist Eva Primack, playing at Muddy's Hot Cup Thursday evening.

At the Boiler Room Thursday: Bumtech, the latest Portland band to hit Humboldt. This one's a duo with Jonn Walterscheid on guitar and Sharon Schloss on bass and keys; beats come from a laptop. The music? "A combination of classic rock-type harmonies and guitar and bass, mixed with New Wave-inspired drum machine and keyboards," says Jonn. The name? "The initial idea was it's a consulting firm for slacking off. Sometimes I think of the 'Bum' as the human-slacker side of us, mixed with 'Tech,' the electronic, maybe more motivated side."

Jammin' jazz guitarist Will Bernard is at the Red Fox that night (Thursday) with his band. Friday the Fox has a mess of hip hop including Oh No (Madlib's little brother) and Sub/Sab. Saturday, get seriously funky with Bernie Worrell and the WOO Warriors, led by the Parliament-Funkadelic keyboard wiz who also played with Talking Heads.

Fishbone is at Mazzotti's Friday for a blast of ska/punk/funk/etc. Bone-heads, you know the drill: "Party at Ground Zero." Opening is Dogwood Speaks, a band from S.F. who claim they're "beyond boundaries."

Mosgo's hosts a CD release thing Friday for The P-Town Chronicles: Vol. 1: A Farewell Device. The device is mainly Justin Vanegas formerly of Laden Swallow, who explains, "What started as an off-hand attempt at a solo EP quickly turned into an 11-song rock opera written and recorded with the help of numerous guest musicians," among them: Maia Wiitala acting as female lead in Justin's story-songs, guitarist Wolf Navarro and drummer Micah Crossley.

Phil Berkowitz and The Dirty Cats are up from the Bay for a couple of gigs, playing Friday at the Riverwood Inn and Saturday at Blue Lake Casino. Berkowitz is a blues harp player who favors swingin' jump blues, particularly those of the late great Louis Jordan.

Last time I checked my MySpace page I found a "Friend Request" from Jefferson Starship and learned that Paul Kantner has pulled some of the old crew together and released an album of protest-type songs titled Jefferson's Tree of Liberty. I knew Starship was coming to play at Cher-Ae Heights Casino, and assumed they were touring behind the new disc. I assumed wrong -- totally different band. How's that? A bit of history may explain: Jefferson Airplane was founded in San Francisco in 1965 by Kantner, Marty Balin and friends. By 1967's Summer of Love, the Airplane was firmly established at one of the premier psychedelic rock bands. From the ’60s into the ’70s, members came and went; by 1974, Balin was out of the picture, and with Kantner at the controls, the name was changed to Jefferson Starship, in part to mark the band's evolution. In 1984, Kantner, last of the original crew, left the band and took the Jefferson part of the name with him. What remained was a much different band called merely Starship, with Mickey Thomas as lead singer. Recruited in 1979 from the Elvin Bishop Band (he sang lead on "Fooled Around and Fell in Love"), Thomas brought a poppier sound to the band -- and renewed success: The 1985 single "We Built This City" was a No. 1 Billboard hit, and Starship tracks landed on soundtracks for cheesy ’80s flicks like Mannequin and Cocktail. In 1992, Kantner reappeared with a revamped Jefferson Starship and Thomas started billing his act as "Starship featuring Mickey Thomas." That's the Starship playing the casino Saturday night, so don't go expecting "White Rabbit" or "Somebody to Love."

Improv trio Medeski Martin and Wood returns to the Van Duzer Sunday for a show that's part of an experiment they call The Radiolarian Series. "The problem with us," explains keyboardist John Medeski, "is that when we record an album, by the time a record company gets it out, we've already been playing the music for six or eight months, and we're ready to move on." The experiment, begun earlier this year, has the trio assembling for brief writing retreats to work out new material for a short tour; they then record the songs and release the set on their own Indirecto label. Radiolarians 1, completed earlier this year, is already out. This summer's R-2 is in the works. Sunday's show will be part of Radiolarians 3, which will be released with the others as a box set. Is this the future of jazz recording? MMW aren't worried about that. "We're just trying to keep it honest, keep it true, and keep the real purpose of music alive for ourselves and for the people who like to hear us play," says Medeski.


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