A couple of music festivals are now behind us with the Folklife Festival and Northern Nights having just wrapped up. But with upcoming festivals on the horizon such as the Roll on the Mattole and the Reggae On the River festivals, we don't have too much time to relax and put our feet up before heading out to chase the music again.
Many of the summer music festivals that pull talent from out of the area reimburse artists for their performance (good luck trying to get a regional powerhouse of a band to trek all the way up to Humboldt for no guarantee of cash). But many of the more locally focused festivals — often put on as fundraisers for not-for-profits — can't afford to pay all/any of the musicians. It's generally not because they don't want to, it's just not in their budgets.
Newer local bands are often happy to play for a built-in crowd simply for the chance to debut their music, garner new fans or, sometimes, simply for free beer. More established local bands used to making some money from gigging — by "some," I mean just enough for gas — are often happy to support the nonprofit and the good work they do locally. Much like all the volunteers and board members who spend countless hours putting on a festival, local musicians and artists throw in for the cause as well.
What is nice to see, however, is that our community cares about our musicians. While at the All-Day Free Festival portion of the Folklife Festival this past Saturday, I was pleased to see volunteers at the entry points to the Rooney Amphitheater with donation/tip jars for the performing musicians. I can't recall if this was done in previous years, but I noticed it this time. As I wadded up a few bills and shoved them into the can, I couldn't help but see how many other bills were in there. I made a point throughout the day to see if folks coming into the event would avoid the tip collectors, as this was a "free" event. To my surprise/delight, a majority of people coming in seemed only too happy to throw some money into the pot to be spread out among all the musicians.
Now, I won't pretend that any of the performers over this week-long festival will be able to take their monies to the bank, or even buy new strings. But to see the acknowledgement from the audience that what these musicians (who weren't asking for a dime) were doing was worthwhile and valuable, that was another metaphorical feather in Humboldt's metaphorical cap. Are we perfect? Far from it. However, perhaps one of the many reasons Humboldt has such a concentration of artists is because, not only are they able to simply practice their art up here, but they are also well appreciated while doing it.
If you like bluegrass, and you like it on Thursday nights, well, tonight's your night. Fresh off of Bluegrass Night at the Folklife Festival — on a Thursday night I believe — Thursday Night Bluegrass will be performing at Six Rivers Brewery (top of the hill) in McKinleyville at 8:30 p.m. If you missed them at the Festival, or just want to catch 'em again, they're playing for free tonight so your excuses for missing them are limited. For those a bit more psychedelically inclined, head over to the Little Red Lion Cocktail Lounge in Eureka tonight for Crook & The Bluff, on tour and traveling from the high hot deserts of Utah. Their songs depict "lust, love, murder and malevolence" so, you know, rock. This quartet throws a bit of western and blues into their desert rock sound, which seems like a winning combo. Not exactly sure on the time or cost, but probably something close to 9 p.m. and $5, if I had to guess.
Former local Hazel Rickard of Hazel Ra is coming back to her hometown with her "four-piece dream-folk band," which now calls St. Louis home. Hazel's songs are given some extra polish by nice vocal harmonies, an electric guitar and a cello. Starting the show off around 8 p.m. at The Sanctuary tonight will be Ferndalian Johnny Houx with some of his original songs. It's a $5 sliding scale tonight, I believe, but feel free to share with the musicians. Long-time locals — and Muddy Waters stage sharers — Buddy Reed and th' Rip It Ups are making an appearance tonight at Six Rivers Brewery around 9 p.m. Expect some gutbucket and gut punchin' blues while at this free show and, as always, feel free to kick some extra cash the band's way. Blue Lake Casino hosts Dr. Squid tonight at 9 p.m. playing a smorgasbord of dance and rock hits for your movement pleasure. No cover charge for this one. Also bringing the rock and hits tonight are fellow locals Nighthawk, who will be playing at the same time (same price) at the Bear River Casino. Choose wisely.
I'm still embarrassed to say that, not only have I never been to a Roll on the Mattole, but in my 16 years here in Humboldt, I've still never made it out to "the Mattole," or Petrolia or Honeydew. I won't be able to make this year's Roll — the 27th — either, unfortunately, but that is more reason why you should. This festival kicks off around noon and benefits the Honeydew Volunteer Fire Company with local musical acts and vendors. Tickets are $25 (kids 12 and under are free) and will support a necessary local service. Farther North, you'll find Crested Hens at the Westhaven Center for the Arts at 7:30 p.m. Comprised of Seabury Gould on a couple different instruments and Liz Thompson on cello, you can expect Celtic tunes and "visionary songs" with some originals thrown in to boot. This one's got a $5 to $15 sliding scale. Listening to a bit of Ezza Rose online while writing this column, I was reminded of the rich vocals and reverb of Mazzy Starr with the delicate and sparse guitar work. These Portland-based rockers will be making an appearance tonight at The Miniplex in Arcata, and I'm hearing they'll be joined by ex-local [Big Play] Ray Johnson (The Cutters, The Lowlights, etc.) on the drums. They will be receiving local support from the "multi-media juggernaut" of The Comix Trip along with Leone. This show starts around 9 p.m. and has a $5 cover at the door. I can only admit to having seen Cold Blue Water once, but I was definitely impressed with the talent and overall sound of the band. I can't recall exactly all of the songs that comprised a pretty serious classic rock medley they pulled off — The Doors/Beatles/Zeppelin? — but it was really well done. Maybe they'll pull it out for you tonight at this free show at the Blue Lake Casino at 9 p.m.
If an early show today is your thing, Trinidad is the place to be. Vocal quartet The Love Notes will be performing to raise funds to restore the 143-year-old Holy Trinity Church in said hamlet by the sea. For a suggested $10 to $15 donation, you can expect to hear four-part harmonies from classic folk standards, classic standards and also some contemporary Catholic songs (fitting for the setting), starting at 3 p.m. Not far away, the Lighthouse Grill has music performed gratis by JD Jeffries and Devin Paine starting around 5 p.m. Back in Arcata, The Miniplex has Go Dark up from the East Bay (Oakland to be exact). Merrick tells me Go Dark is "the latest iteration from producer/poet/vocalist/Anticon, co-founder Doseone." He goes on to tell me it is uncompromising hip-hop, 8 Bit (?), and Synth Pop anthems. Now I'm feeling old. All this at 9 p.m. and for only $5. As of press time, the opener is TBA.
Full show listings in the Journal's Music and More grid, the Calendar and online. Bands and promoters, send your gig info, preferably with a high-res photo or two, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Andy Powell is a congenital music lover and hosts The Night Show on KWPT 100.3 FM weeknights at 6 p.m. Nothing don't mean nothing if it ain't free.