Anyone out there ever eat at O-H's Townhouse? It was a classic old-school steak house, a place where you could pick out your meat from a glass-fronted case, then hit the bar for a shot of straight whiskey to be sipped while sitting in a cushy red Naugahyde booth.
The cushy booths are still in the neon lit bar, but that's about the only thing recognizable since dreadlocked hip hopper Gil Miracle bought the place and set about transforming it into a nightclub called Nocturnum, a name derived from the Latin -- carpe nocturnum, seize the night.
"I don't really want to be the face of Nocturnum," said the humble Miracle (and yes, he was born with the name). "It's not about me. I've been throwing shows for five years and it's always been about the music, about the vibe."
Miracle moved to Humboldt in 1996 straight out of high school, coming from Oklahoma to go to HSU, and, like many, stuck around. He went by the name Pendragn when he worked with J the Sarge in Optimystic Populists, aka Opti-Pop, creating a Humboldt take on underground hip hop. That underground vibe will likely carry through to the club's style.
"My own music was coming from a much more conscious and aware perspective," he said. "We weren't trying to promulgate the stereotypical imagery and concepts you hear in most rap music. We were trying to bring something different to it. And you know there's an inherent underground nature to being a hip hopper in Humboldt. Of course a white middle-class kid in the hills of Northern Cali is a little bit removed from the source of the art form."
Thursday, March 26, opening night, Nocturnum starts strong, bringing in none other than the legendary Brooklyn-born rapper KRS-One, co-founder of Boogie Down Productions way back in the day. Known as "The Philosopher," KRS-One was one of the first to integrate Jamaican-style toasting into rap. As the late Bradley Nowell noted, his conscious lyrics "brought hip hop to a higher level."
Friday Nocturnum becomes Rockturnum, with harder-than-steel Arcata band Magnum, instrumetalists 33 & 1/3 and Nipplepotamus.
Saturday's show features cutting edge turntablist DJ Z-Trip, a mash-up pioneer who played Coachella and Bonnaroo and opened for the Rolling Stones. More recently he's known for a pair of polit-mash-ups, "The Obama Mix Pts. 1 & 2," commissioned by Moveon.org.
And coming Wednesday, April 1, more hip hop: the More Bars in More Places Tour with Knobody, Poeticali Disherbd, Germane and DJ Soultwist, plus locals L.C.A. and DWI. Noc on!
Another big week at the Red Fox: Friday starts a Zappa-esque weekend with Pojama People (whose name comes from one of Frank's songs) offering a Frank Zappa tribute with special guest Ike Willis, who played guitar and sang in Zappa's band. Saturday, another Zappa band alum, guitarist Ray White, plays the Fox with his bassman campadre Bobby Vega (think KVHW) plus local funkateers Brian Swizlo (on keys) and the ever-saxy Chris Noonan.
Coming Monday to the Fox, a very special DJ night with local scenester/dubstepper Dub Cowboy plus Thomas Wesley Pentz aka Diplo, a red hot re-mixmaster/producer/songwriter originally from Tallahassee, now based in Philly. He's probably best known for his co-labs with Brit/Sri Lankan superstar M.I.A., cuts like "Paper Planes" (used on the mega-hit Slumdog Millionaire OST, also see their Piracy Funds Terrorism Vol. 1), but he's also remixed everyone from Kanye and Radiohead to Britney and Santogold (check Santogold vs Diplo Mixtape 2) and he's helped bring the hard-edged Brazilian hip hop baile funk to the forefront.
Then on Tuesday at the Fox, it's Steve Kimock Crazy Engine, a new project from the Garcia-esque guitarist featuring JGB Hammond-B3 player Melvin Seals. Kimock is said to be exploring "the boundaries of rock ’n' roll, rhythm & blues, gospel and soul," with a band that includes his son, John Morgan Kimock, on drums and vocals by Cheryl Rucker and Shirley Starks, aka "The Girls" from JGB.
Mando-man David Tiller of the self-described "solar-powered gypsy circus troubadours" known as Taarka sent along a copy of the band's latest, Seed Gathering For a Winter Garden. It's another great collection of tunes in the neo-stringband mode with David and his fiddling wife Enion Pelta-Tiller out front, drawing from just about any string style you can imagine to create songs that glitter like shimmering jewels. Good stuff. They're on the road with Elephant Revival, a likeminded combo from Nederland, Colo. Watch out for E.R.'s Bonnie Paine, who sings as she switches between washboard, djembe and musical saw. After playing with Taarka Friday, E.R. sticks around for a Saturday show at Muddy's Hot Cup.
Pete C. from The Nucleus checked in with a nuclear update: "The next album is underway! We're in Weed, Calif., working in the old Weed Palace Theater, which has been turned into a state-of-the-art mega-recording studio, RadioStar Studios. Since we've been working on new material, we'll have pretty much all new stuff when we come back Saturday for a show at HumBrews with NPK." Coming soon: The Nucleus joins Moo-Got-2, WoMama and Afromassive for Inferknow's 2nd Annual Green Day on April 18, at the Arcata Theatre Lounge.
The Ink People's annual fundraiser, Artware Affair 2009, takes place at the Wharfinger Saturday evening. Ya Habibi Dance Company, Samba Na Chuva, Humboldt Capoeira and Melody Walker provide entertainment, and there are arty auctions, plus a "Dessert as Art" competition. Guess who gets to be judge? (Me.)
Speaking of judges, most of the Journal's editorial staff will be out at the Wave at Blue Lake Casino this Thursday night to adjudicate the Kamakazi Karaoke Kontest. DJ Leonard mans the k-machine; we'll be sipping kamis (well, I will). The Wave folks tell us, "The songs will be in the theme of dance party songs, so feel free to dress up or wear funny hats. The Point DJs did that when they judged." We'll probably pass on the hat idea. We're more low-key than the Point, and I don't know that I own a funny hat. Heidi promises she'll wear "funny shoes" though. And speaking of the Wave, Scandi-Celtic mando-shredder Lief Sorbye and Tempest are back for a show there Saturday night.
More blues and soul at the Riverwood this Friday, this time a band featuring Gina Sicilia from Philadelphia, a truly fine singer in the retro-R&B vein.
Tuesday, March 31, in CR's Forum Theatre, Academy of the Redwoods kicks off a new speaker series on "Exploration of Passions" with a talk by the passionate blues/soul/gospel singer Earl Thomas.
This just in from guitarist Wolf Navarro re: his neo-prog band, Silent Giants playing at Humboldt Brews April Fool's Day (Wednesday, April 1) with The Bucky Walters. "We are totally excited to be playing at Humbrews again!!! Especially with such an awesome band as Bucky Walters. We will be recording for the local TV show HumTunes!!!" Added bonus: All HumTunes show are free of charge. No foolin'!!!
Also on April 1, an afternoon (4 p.m.) visit to Greenhouse Boardshop by Mattson 2, a jazzy duo with Jared Mattson on guitar and loops and his twin bro Jonathan on drums. This in connection with a screening of Thomas Campbell's surf flick The Present, that evening at the Minor. (M-2 did the soundtrack.)
Latest news on the Reggae front comes in the form of an oblique press release announcing that: "Carol Bruno of People Productions LLC and the Dimmick Ranch have reached a mutually agreeable arrangement to transfer the principle assets and liabilities of the Reggae Rising Music Festival to the Dimmick Ranch." Translation: Tom bought Carol out. (This actually happened some time ago.) "While no longer involved with Reggae Rising, Carol Bruno and People Productions LLC will continue to promote and produce other music events." Translation: Bruno is not booking the show this year for the first time in Reggae history, but she's still in the game. She's doing a Collie Budz thing at Nocturnum 4/20. And finally, "Within the next week Reggae Rising 2009 will be announcing tickets on sale." There's also a revamped website (reggaerising.com) but as we go to press, there's no news on who's playing.