Oct. 27, 2007
Live at the Ocean Grove
Crunk music is the notorious southern brand of hip hop — dizzying repetitive beats crafted to make dancers ecstatic, often with the assistance of alcohol and drugs. A pre-Halloween evening with Humboldt honky tonk band Rooster McClintock at Trindad's Ocean Grove offers an easy comparison: honky crunk.
As Rooster McClintock began to play, the crowd at the Ocean Grove grew from a few tentative dancers to wall-to-wall in just a few songs. Casual observation saw the taciturn bartenders pouring a lot of cheap liquor and expensive beer to the patrons. The waft of cannabis flowed into the crowd from the nearby smoking lounge. The band kicked up a driving truck-driver boogie and it wasn't long 'til the audience was frenzied.
Rooster McClintock shared the floor with the dancers — the pool table had been pushed to the side — and exhorted themselves and the audience to get rowdy. "It's our job to drive drunk people crazy!" one of the band members yelled into the microphone between songs.
Six instruments: bass (Paul "C.W" Calovich), banjo (Graham Burke), lead guitar (Jake Wiegandt), rhythm guitar (Jereme Stinespring), drums (Nathan Benbow) and dobro (Chris Kennedy). All driven by boogie. Heartfelt and even desperate at times, the band lurches through some two-step nostalgia, mixes it with punk-rock aesthetic and arrives at something undeniably enjoyable.
Jerry Reed's classic "Amos Moses" gave the dobro player a chance to show his chops and the toe-tapping turned into thunderous stomping. The audience — a mix of graven Trinidad locals, Arcata free-spirits, a few punks, some travelers and some bearded California hillbillies — mixed it up, freewheeling on the dance floor.
Drinks got spilled, people got knocked over and the pace quickened (if that was possible). The subject matter of their songs is people's music — the real experiences of life. It certainly can be described as C & W: "Country" as in rural and free; "Western" as in rambling and expansive.
But it isn't corporate Nashville, and the band knows the difference. Strewn across tables were band stickers that read: "Save country music from itself — support your local honky tonk band." The members of Rooster McClintock are in love with authentic country, and they give every ounce to the audiences.
The unassuming Ocean Grove offered a nice context for the band. Under low-slung rafters the six musicians played, drank and danced with the crowd. It is obvious that Rooster McClintock can perform in the pubs and coffee houses of Arcata, but the band fits in nicely on the periphery of the North Coast. Next up is a Nov. 30 show at the Scotia Inn. Expect a dance-off between the imported hipsters who travel with the band and timber workers. My money is on the timber workers.
Rooster McClintock has a great combination of respect for the elders of country music and a passionate love of boogie. A dangerous combination on its own, but when mixed with a tipsy rural audience it is positively magical. Honky Crunk at its finest.
Maxwell Schnurer is an HSU communications professor