Back in the mid-1980s, a couple of Georgia boys, Chris Robinson and his younger brother Rich, started a high school rock band called Mr. Crowe's Garden. By the end of the decade they'd changed that name to The Black Crowes and hit the big time playing solid southern-tinged blues rock and winning fans in the Deadhead/jamband world. A couple of hiatuses found the brothers pursuing solo careers, each with his own band. Most recently, in 2011, Chris assembled The Chris Robinson Brotherhood, aka CRB, with Black Crowes bandmate Adam MacDougall on keys and guitarist Neal Casal from Ryan Adams' band The Cardinals among the players. In June of this year CRB released its first album, Big Moon Ritual, on the fan-supported label ArtistDirect (see this week's cover story), following in September with a companion piece, The Magic Door. In an interview with ArtistDirect, Robinson said his mission with CRB was to create a "farm-to-table psychedelic band," an apt description for a jamming organic rock 'n' soul combo drawing on '60s S.F./L.A. psychedelia.
"What are we trying to do? Are we trying to have a hit record? Are we trying to be on the radio?" asked Robinson rhetorically, answering, "I don't think that's anything in our collective consciousness."
He continued, "In this day and age, the music business is talent shows featuring people who have fucking incredibly white teeth telling other people who desperately want to be famous they're good or bad. Let people be interested in that, while the rest of us live on the outskirts of town in artist communes doing things everyone else only dreams about. The wild frontier is in the nether regions. That's where we find ourselves and where our inspiration and drive come from."
You can get a glimpse of that wild frontier up close and personal when CRB stops off in Arcata for a Thursday show at Humboldt Brews.
You'll find a noisier sort of psyche rock from even deeper in the nether regions that Thursday night at The Works, where White Manna plays host to Rose Windows from Seattle, San Francisco's Buzzmutt and a new local outfit called Chong fronted by guitarist Anthony Taibi (from White Manna).
Meanwhile that Thursday at Nocturnum, legendary British producers Dominic Butler and Mark Yardley, aka Stanton Warriors, headline an EDM bash with S.F. basshead Noah D and Humboldt's own Touch and Andreas.
More EDM Friday night as Arcata's Far North Climbing Gym turns into party central with sets by Wrye, DAT-1, OnHell, Abel and Datablend celebrating the release of This Is Grindhouse, a dark electro 12-inch by Wrye including remixes by DAT-1 and OnHell.
It's a pretty good weekend for jam fans: Friday David Nelson and New Riders of the Purple Sage return to HumBrews for another round of stony country-rock. The Fickle Hill Billies open with some psychedelic jams.
Then on Saturday, the semi-related jamband Moonalice (including players from the David Nelson Band) plays an all ages fundraiser for the Bridgeville VFD at the Van Duzen River Grange in Carlotta. Showtime is early (7:30 p.m.); dinner is available for an extra $10. Can't make it out Highway 36? Not to worry, the tech-savvy Moonalice streams all its shows live online at www.moonalice.com.
For pure, authentic, unadulterated soul you have Charles Bradley returning to The Depot Monday night with Menahan Street Band. After a hard knock life growing up in Florida and Brooklyn, Bradley bounced around the country working as a cook while pursuing a musical dream, doing James Brown covers under the name Black Velvet. He eventually made his way back to Brooklyn. That's where he met Gabriel Roth of Daptone Records, who put him together with guitarist Thomas Brenneck, leader of the retro-soul/funk combo Dirt Rifle and The Bullets. Daptone released a couple of singles by Charles Bradley and The Bullets before most of the band shifted toward Latin/Afrofunk as Budos Band. Brenneck pulled together friends from Antibalas, El Michels Affair and Daptone house band The Dap-Kings to form Menahan Street Band. Bradley started pouring his heart and soul into songs like "The World (Is Going Up In Flames)," and at the age of 62 he was soon on his way with a full-length album, No Time For Dreaming. A documentary about his life, Soul of America, is making waves on the festival circuit -- we'll undoubtedly have to wait until it's on video to see it. In the meantime, go see Bradley sing -- he's the real deal.
On the reggae front, East Humboldt rootsmen Woven Roots play at Jambalaya Friday night to mark the release of a new CD, Respect All Things, a collection of original songs drawing inspiration "from living close to the earth in the beautiful woodlands of the Pacific Northwest." Same Friday at the Red Fox Tavern, The Highlife Band from Seattle explores similar roots reggae regions, adding jazz elements.
Up on campus Saturday, at the Van Duzer, the panoramic Humboldt State Calypso Band has a joint show with the HSU Percussion Ensemble, a program that shifts from the classic Balinese "Monkey Chant" to music by John Cage and, of course, steel drums.
"Siberian surf rock" combo Igor and The Red Elvises returns to the Riverwood Inn for a Saturday dance party. (Warning, it might be sold out.)
Also on Saturday, Polecat, a red-hot Americana/stomp-grass/world music band from Bellingham plays at Humboldt Brews.
Portland band-o-the-week: Bison Bison, which offers "brain-crushing, sludge-trudging, diesel-driven rock and roll" at the Alibi Saturday night with like-minded locals Indianola opening.
Get in the Christmas spirit Saturday at the Red Fox at the second annual "Music For Kids Toys For Tots Toy Drive," an eclectic, multi-faceted night with music by Hella Kinetic, Children Of The Sun, Vidagua, Hiway, Dirty Rats, Area Sound, C Baker, Kiki, Dot Smith, The Hip Hop Lounge and "special guests." The lovely and talented Sherae O'Shaughnessy serves as emcee. Sonny Wong and Sheik will have a live graffiti duel, then auction off the results. Admission is a new unwrapped toy and/or a $5 donation "to help the kids of Humboldt County have a good holiday." (Lest there be any confusion we should note that this is in a tavern, so it's a 21 and over event.)
Saturday's Arts Alive earlier in the evening means all sorts of music in Old Town. The Vance Hotel has a Christmas tree lighting party with jazzy music by Bob Ebenstein plus the swinging sounds of Lizzie and The Moonbeams and the very soulful True Gospel Singers.
The Eureka Inn is reviving its Xmas tree tradition that night with a party featuring Santa and barbershop harmonies by The Humboldt Harmonaires.
The night before in the Inn's Palm Lounge (as in Friday), it's perhaps the polar opposite as Charlotte from The Lost Luvs and Merrick from La Dolce Video and Starving Weirdos celebrate their birthdays with a swanky "Eurotrash Bash," featuring retro music by The Luvs and trashy DJ sets. "Eurotrash attire is required (unless you want to be glared at and forced to buy us drinks)," demands Merrick.
Boise's self-described "new-timey, post-retro, pre-apocalyptic, southern Appalachian, gypsy porch swing" quartet Jonathan Warren and The Billy Goats hits the Red Fox Tuesday.
Wednesday at Humboldt Brews it's the "Farmageddon Tour 2012" with Boulder-based country-disco meets rootsy jamgrass combo Grant Farm on the road with Huckle, a NorCal trio led by a guy named Huckle who plays slide guitar and sings kinda like Jack Johnson. The bands are collecting non-perishable food for local food banks; donate a couple of items and Huckle will give you a CD in trade.
Earlier that night at Mad River Brewing Company UKEsperience plays a Pints For Nonprofits thing with proceeds going to Food for People. You could hit both events and be double sure some hungry person gets a meal.