Independence and Connections

The Fourth of July and beyond, here and there

| July 02, 2009
File Photo
  • File Photo

It was July 4th, 2001, a typical New York summer day, hot, muggy and sticky. I was working at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, just south of Delancy Street, during the week. On my days off, I sometimes went down to the heart of the Financial District in the lower depths of Manhattan. Wall Street workers were gone for the Fourth, and the area seemed abandoned. I met some friends at Battersea Park, located on the southeast part of the island, to see Emmylou Harris with her bandleader, Buddy Miller, an instrumentalist and singer/songwriter who also opened the show. The event was low-key and pleasant with the rest of Manhattan, it seemed, off at a beach somewhere to cool off.

At the end of Emmylou's set with her tight band, I checked my watch. I had to run to the World Trade Center to catch The Continental Drifters, an all-star New Orleans-based alt-country band featuring Susan Cowsill (from the famed pre-Partridge Family pop group, The Cowsills), Vicki Peterson from The Bangles, Dream Syndicate bassist Mark Walton, Peter Holsapple (co-founder of the dB's) and guitarist Robert Mache. The guitarist's partner (now wife), Candace, was an old friend from my Memphis days. I wound up getting there a little early and sat on one of the folding chairs in front of a stage set beneath the looming towers of the World Trade Center. As I started to read a magazine, a lanky guy walked by. Though we'd never met, I knew his face from band photos. "Robert?" I said, "Are you Robert Mache?" He turned around, and in a thick Louisiana accent, declared, "You must be Mark Shikuma!"

I was a little shocked. "I thought you were just a figment of Candace's imagination. You know how she makes up stories," he continued. This was true. "Would you like a beer?" he kindly asked, and escorted me to a makeshift green room "backstage" in one of the first-floor conference rooms, introducing me to the rest of the band.

Later that afternoon The Continental Drifters tore it up, playing with a grit they lacked on their studio releases, especially during an unannounced rainstorm. Upon leaving, I looked back up at those epic towers, commenting how strange it was to be dwarfed by architecture, walking away, wet, hot, tired and content. It's somewhat a mystery how these connections constantly occur.

I wish I could say The Continental Drifters are playing nearby soon. They're not. But this Friday, the Britt Festival in Jacksonville, Ore. presents "Three Girls and Their Buddy," with Emmylou Harris and her "Buddy" (the aforementioned Buddy Miller) along with two more notable women singer/songwriters, Patti Griffin and Shawn Colvin, all of them fresh from playing the Kate Wolf Folk Festival. This will be a rare performance, featuring four talented voices, stories and songs ... and Jacksonville is near Medford, not that far from here. The forceful singer/songwriter/folk singer (and recent mother) Ani DiFranco plays there Thursday night.

Also fresh from playing Kate Wolf, the precocious singer/songwriter Lila Nelson, who serves as this weekend's special musical guest for the Dell'Arte House Band's pre-show set before the internationally-acclaimed Dell'Arte Players head into their second week of Intrigue at Ah-Pah at this year's Mad River Festival. The show runs Thursday, Friday and Sunday, skipping the Fourth of July. Jackie Dandeneau is the pre-show guest for Ah-Pah's July 9-12 shows.

After Friday night's Intrigue performance, Blue Lake gets the Red Light, so to speak. Dell'Arte's Red Light in Blue Lake, an adults-only cabaret at Dell'Arte's Carlo Theatre, should make you feel like it's truly summer (or at least they'll attempt to get you, um, "hot"). Expect saucy fun, frolic, song and entertainers baring their all, literally. The show starts at 10:30 p.m. Advance tickets are suggested.

The Red Fox Tavern features Chicago-based Latino band Majestad de la Sierra, playing its own brand of norteño and other regional Mexican music on Friday. They're on the road promoting their new release, Nueva Ilusión.

Jazz guitar virtuoso and co-founder of Garaj Majal, Fareed Haque brings his new group, The Flat Earth Ensemble, to the Red Fox Tavern Thursday, July 3. On the new album, Flat Planet, Haque and company fuse jazz, East Indian (Hindustani) folk and funk grooves. "Hindustani music swings!" said Haque, in a recent jazzpolice.com interview. "Punjabi folk music is to India what gospel is to America -- funky, fun, danceable and spiritual."

There are plenty of celebrations in store on Saturday, the Fourth of July, Independence Day: Arcata hosts its Fourth of July Jubilee on the Plaza starting at 10 a.m. with a string of local performers, including Jenni Simpson, Bandemonium, UKEsperience, The Bayou Swamis and DJ Dub Cowboy, to name of few. Consult the Arcata Chamber website for details and time schedules. Not to mention ... there will be a Humboldt Crabs doubleheader (vs. the Nevada Bighorns). The first game starts at 12:30 p.m., with the first pitch of the second game thrown at 7 p.m. What's a Fourth of July celebration without a hot/tofu dog, soda (or beer), shelled peanuts, philosophical announcers and two good baseball games?

Eureka's Arts Alive! intersects with its Fourth of July festivities, including a street fair in Old Town. Expect bustling activity all day and all of the night. And in the midst of this bustle, between 2nd and C streets (near the Eagle House), KSLG-FM will be presenting a live broadcast, hosted by Syd Reagan and Jen Savage, with performances by three notable local rock outfits, The Malone, Strix Vega and, headlining, the notorious Magnum. "When I imagine how the show will go," commented Magnum's lead wrangler and vocalist T. McNally, "I have a running picture of the crowd consisting of an 8-year old licking an ice cream cone while his frowning mother cups his ears." With tender songs such as "I'm Gonna Kill You" and "Beautiful Things," one might predict an epic extravaganza of mayhem, loud guitars and primal rhythms, perhaps a perfect soundtrack compliment to the rockets' multicolored glare. "We intend to explore our freedom and First Amendment rights as much as possible," concluded McNally.

The evening of the Fourth, Diamonds on Fire, nom de plume for LA-based singer/songwriter Vanessa Silberman, delivers burning folk/rock songs (with patriotic fervor, no doubt) at Muddy's Hot Cup. The Red Fox Tavern hosts a dub-heavy 4th of July reggae hootenanny with Rude Lion Sound and special guests.

On Tuesday, July 7, soul jazz grooves dig heavy and deep at the Red Fox Tavern with the touring quartet McTuff, led by saxophonist extraordinaire Skerik. The band also features Joe Doria on Hammond organ, guitarist Andy Coe and drummer D'Vonne Lewis. McTuff was inspired by two legendary jazz organists, Jimmy Smith and "Brother" Jack McDuff, known as organist pioneers of hard bop and "soul jazz." This show should run the gambit of genres within a jazz framework.

Snoop Dogg, with his Old School, West Coast, understated deliveries, will be kicking it at Redwood Acres on Wednesday, July 8, touring with Stephen Marley. Reggae, rap and rhythms, right? And judging from Mr. Dogg's recent Humboldt performance, there should be a booty of buds, blunts and beats bouncing, if you get my drift. Gates open at 5 p.m. See our Calendar section for more details. For serious partiers, there's a VIP DJ after party at Nocturnum starting at 11 and running into the wee, wee hours.

I always contend that it's not "a small world," as the popular adage goes. Instead, you make your own "world" larger by going out into it. It is how connections occur. So do yourself a favor: participate in some of these entertainment events planned for the week, and get yourself connected. Safely. Special thanks to Bob, who will be back next week, and to Emily for her assistance.

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