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History Lesson

Everything old is new again

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Hey, folks! I know we're in the thick of summer and Barry Evans' Field Notes is probably about as academic as you want to get, but this week's music highlights call for a little history review, beginning with a particularly epic year in the late 1970s ...

The year punk exploded

1977: EMI fires the Sex Pistols, Fleetwood Mac releases Rumours, The Clash releases The Clash, 76,229 people attend a Led Zeppelin concert, Elvis Presley dies, so does Marc Bolan, so do three members of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Virgin Records releases Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols, a group of guys in Los Angeles form a band they call Black Flag (a band that will eventually be remembered as the definitive LA hardcore band) and 1977 goes down in history as the year punk exploded.

Now, 36 years later, a version of Black Flag is resurrected and performing at the Mateel Community Center on Wednesday, July 17. The band features guitarist Greg Ginn, the one and only constant member of the group, known for both his drama-plagued venture SST Records (see: The Minutemen, Hüsker Dü, the Meat Puppets, Sonic Youth, et al.) and for engineering Black Flag's heaving, furious sound.

Black Flag also features Ron Reyes on vocals — he held the same duty in 1979 and 1980 before quitting the band and eventually being replaced by Henry Rollins.

Reyes additionally performs as Piggy, one of the opening acts, and Ginn and Mike Valley have an opening gig as Good For You, proving that age is no match for passion. Ponykiller rounds out the show. Tickets are $30 in advance, everything starts around 7 p.m., and the show is all ages. Full details at www.mateel.org.

Cowpunk goes alt-country, a road trip

So 1977 was the year punk exploded, but 1991 was the year that punk broke — and broke musical options wide open. Whether or not the grunge explosion changed the course of musical history is a debate to have over drinks on the Shanty patio or maybe in Humboldt State's Mass Media and Popular Culture class, but what cannot be denied is that the various strains of "alternative music" included Uncle Tupelo, a band who not only paved the way, but laid down multiple lanes, built overpasses and tunnels, wove through mountains and cities, all the while leaving behind multiple signs reading "This Way" into the world that would become known as alt-country. Uncle Tupelo ultimately split into Wilco and Son Volt, but the legacy of the band's influence reverberates today every time you hear some DJ put Johnny Cash and The Decemberists back-to-back — or when you head out to Humboldt Brews on Thursday night. Portland-based Blitzen Trapper invokes the melancholic 1990s Americana soundtrack and then some — think Dylan, Neil Young, Beck — but pulls off that fine feat of distilling influences into something purely the band's own. Each of Blitzen Trapper's six albums calls to mind the genre's history, which then serves as a launch pad for song after beautiful song. From frontman Eric Earley's own description of his work: "I'm seeking to invoke the unseen, the spirit that beckons you to saddle up that old 1980 Honda Goldwing, or your uncle's beat up Ford Bronco, or that Jeep you somehow, and only barely, keep running and leave this lonely town behind ... head for someplace better ... where the 'company of strangers/and the close and the present dangers' are all that really matters."

Give a listen to Wild Mountain Nation, American Goldwing and Furr, then catch Blitzen Trapper at Humboldt Brews, Thursday, July 11 at 9:30 p.m. The Quiet Ones open. Cover is $15, show is 21-and-over, and more info is at www.humboldtbrews.com.

Meanwhile, back in Humboldt...

Backtrack to the 1970s. While the punks were losing their minds in Los Angeles and the rest of the country, up here in Humboldt County, 1978 marked the first of what would become the annual Humboldt Folklife Festival. This year's homage to traditional folk music kicks off Saturday at 5 p.m. with Chris Parreira (of The Trouble) and the Pilot Rock Ramblers filling Mad River Brewery's Tasting Room. Free! Parreira taps into the road-weariness of a traveling musician with his tales of loneliness and sparks of joy, and the Ramblers play a mix of Celtic music, country, bluegrass, original tunes and what the band's members refer to as "hurtin' cheatin' songs." Local fisherman Pete Needham aces the dobro and is joined by Bryce Kenny on bass and vocals, local media mogul Patrick Cleary on mandolin, the sweet Irish tenor voice of Tim Harkins and Jim Adams on guitar and vocals. For more on the Folklife Fest, see the Calendar in this week's Journal.

Girl power

Despite all the efforts of suffragettes and riot grrrls over the past century and a half, we still don't see and hear women playing music at the same rates as men — they're more often stuck with the cliché of being the near-naked ladies draped over clothed male musicians in promo shots and music videos, a tiresome and problematic double-standard. You can help nudge society in the right direction on Saturday night when the Alibi hosts a benefit for North Star Quest Camp for Girls. For $5, you'll bounce around to the decidedly fun and girly beat of Eureka's The Lost Luvs plus the garage rock of Arcata's Shores Galore.

Cool show on a Tuesday night

Finally, jam bands remain firmly entrenched in Humboldt's past, present and future. Therefore, a quick note about a show happening on Tuesday, July 16. PC Productions presents The Mike Dillon Band with Bloodkin — especially notable for being one of Widespread Panic's oft-cited influences — at The Jambalaya. Things get rolling at 9 p.m., show is 21-and-over.

Do we know you?

Hey, bands and talent bookers! Don't forget to send your show info and high-res photos to The Hum via music@northcoastjournal.com.

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