It's cold and wet out. The days are getting shorter, the nights longer, as we head toward the solstice on Monday (Dec. 21, at 5:47 p.m.), and with it, the official beginning of winter. Hanukkah's almost over. Christmas is closing in; same with Kwanza (Dec. 26) and the New Year is not far behind.
The holidays' effect on the music scene goes beyond ubiquitous Xmas tunes and seasonal shows. With the college students headed home to see the ’rents, the club scene always retracts. Bad weather makes it harder for touring acts to travel (that was the excuse Tanya Stephens came up with when she cancelled a local appearance for the second time) so most of the shows this week are from local bands -- and that's a good thing. All too often local musicians get the short shrift in favor of touring bands -- I've certainly been guilty of it here in the Hum.
The fact is, there's a lot of high-level musicianship here.
"It's time for Humboldt music to be recognized on a much larger level," says Brian Swizlo, keyboard player for a long string of local bands. "Too much talent here to be stuck behind the curtain, in my opinion."
I'd contacted B-Swiz looking for details on Saturday's show at the Jambalaya by a band identified as Bumpgotuleus. The Jam's new headman, Pete Ciotti assembled what Swiz calls a "jam at the Jam," bringing together members of The Bump Foundation, Moo-Got-2 and Pete's band, The Nucleus.
When I noted that Swizlo has played with all three bands (he's currently just in Moo-Got-2), he denied being a "band slut" (his phrase, not mine). "Truth is, I believe in the success of Humboldt music so much, that I have found a way to sprinkle the love around." To that end he's founding The Humboldt Collective, "a musical cooperative making compilations of music of every type to move Humboldt music forward and give something back to our community." Given the state of the music business at large, it's hard to say what impact it might have, but I'd say he has a worthwhile goal.
If you've been paying attention to the local world/rhythm scene, you're familiar with bandleader Jesse Jonathan, another musician with big goals who fronts at least a couple of bands. Jesse got a call last week from the folks at Humboldt Brews asking if his band WoMama might want to be part of a Thursday (Dec. 17) show by self-described "boot-stomping sinner/songwriter" Raina Rose, a tattooed Americana-folk type who grew up in Los Angeles, moved to Portland, then relocated to Austin, Texas attracted by the campfires of the Kerrville Folk Festival. (She was a Kerrville "New Folk" finalist in 2007.)
Yes, he told them, he'd love to do the show, and he'd even add in a couple more bands. He says he "jumped at the chance to bring the Humboldt Calypso Band out into the club scene," in part to honor his mentor/former prof Eugene Novotny, the man responsible for much of the steel pan music in Humboldt. Since HCB's array of steel drums takes some time to break down, Jesse also added the SambaAmore drum/dance troupe to the package, making for a night of worldly rhythms that will probably overwhelm the visiting opening act. Incidentally, Jesse is just starting a new job, an AmeriCorps/VISTA position working for the Ink People facilitating youth arts programs. Of course he'll try to integrate music.
Across town that same Thursday, it's the monthly night of music for tango dancers with Yo Tango! playing early (7 p.m.). Later on saxman Chris Noonan's Liquid Lounge kicks in with yet-to-be-announced local musicians playing jazz etc.
Peace of Mind Orchestra is what you might call a neo-local band. The duo, Ari Leopold and Matt Engel, came here from New Orleans, and now calls Arcata home, at least when they're not on the road. Just returned from a jaunt up to Oregon, PoMO is getting ready to head east for a January run to Colorado, on to the Midwest, then down to the (warmer) South. But first the little orchestra plays a free local show: Catch them Friday at the Jambalaya.
Also on Friday, the longtime locals in the relatively new country rock band Cadillac Ranch play a show at Six Rivers up in McKinleyville.
The David Nelson Band is not from here -- the veteran psychedelic country rockers are out of Marin -- but they play here so often it almost feels like a local band. DNB returns for a show on Friday at Humboldt Brews.
Looking for thumping electro-dance music? Take your pick: At Arcata Theatre Lounge, Bay Area-based "dirty electro house" duo Helicopter Showdown plays Friday night with DJ Bitcrusher from Napa and AudioBomb "from LA to Sac-town, the Bay Area and back down!" Meanwhile at the Red Fox, SF dubstep DJ Antiserum is joined by Arcata's Miles Ross, aka Psy-Fi, Andrew Juarez, aka Dojo, and another SF beatmaker, Mykies McFilthy.
Earlier Friday at the Accident Gallery (7:30-10 p.m.) local faves Clean Girl and the Dirty Dishes play music for a food pairing event where chef Mary Tyson creates dishes to go with a couple of (not-at-all-local) Rogue Brewery ales (from Oregon). The press release notes that, "Local crafts will be available for great gifts."
Just about all bands have a tendency to reconfigure over time as members shift gears and move on for one reason or another. Such is the case with Eureka alt. roots band Scotch Wiggly and the related High Idols. They were planning on bidding a fond farewell to their drummer Tyler Smith with a final Wiggly/Idols show Saturday at Mosgo's before his departure for SoCal, but plans have changed. S.W.'s Frank Mancinelli tells me Tyler has to leave earlier than planned, so the band will play sans drummer "and we'll probably switch around," and, since Tyler was integral to High Idols, that band is done. The search is on for a new S.W. drummer.
Red Fox hosts a local/import Deadhead confab Saturday with a band calling itself Play Live Dead that brings together members of Humboldt Dead tribute band Play Dead with guys from like-minded Bay Area bands Jerry's Kids, Workingman's Ed and Live Dead.
The local jazz scene sometimes struggles. Not too many places have been booking straight-ahead and guitar jazz (not that that's a new thing), but there are still some strongholds. Libation, the wine bar on the Arcata Plaza, has jazz of one sort or another pretty much every Friday and Saturday. It's not really the ideal place to hear jazz -- it's a wine shop not a music venue, and the stools lined up at the bar face the plaza, not the music -- but they consistently book good players, there's usually no cover, and, face it, sometimes you have to take what you get. (Plus they have great wine and imported beers you won't find elsewhere.) This weekend they have Blue Lotus Trio on Friday with the first-rate guitarist Dave Wilson and his wife Nalini Cogswell plus bassist Shao Way Wu. Saturday it's the Ali Chaudhary Jazz Duo with another fine guitarist, and one local bassist or another.
The Morris Graves Museum, a space more conducive to contemplative listening, has something they call the Third Sunday Jazz Jam in the rotunda once a month. The shows typically start off with an hour or so with the host musicians on their own, then following a break, there's an open jam with a wide range of players including a few skilled regulars. I'll be there this Sunday when a couple of old friends are the hosts: Pianist Darius Brotman loves the baby grand at the Graves and his playing is extremely high level (I'll freely admit that I'm prejudiced). He's been playing with guitarist Duncan Burgess for decades and when they're on, they're truly simpatico. Great music, and it's local as can be.