On May 5, 1862, the badly outnumbered Mexican army won an unlikely victory against the invading French during the Battle of Puebla. The significance of the short-lived victory took shape in the following year as the French established themselves as rulers with the capture of Mexico City. In a rallying sign of solidarity as far north as California, Mexicans celebrated their national pride and enmity toward their foreign invaders with a celebration of their win in the previous year. In the process, another thread was sewn into the dense and too-often tragic and politically bifurcated history of California and its eternal relationship with mother Mexico. Do most Californians even know the origin of the name of our state? Do many labor under the delusion that Cinco de Mayo is Mexican Independence Day? Luckily, in their purest forms, music and celebration are not only fascinating subjects for study, but instinctive evocations of our shared humanity that can be enjoyed in all stages of life and with good faith amongst all people. I am not suggesting co-opting another culture's artifacts as your own or living in ignorance of what your neighbors are celebrating and what that commemoration means to them. Rather, I am suggesting joining them, should they ask, and enjoying every chance you get to otherwise revel in the primacy of simple joy that music and celebration allow us. By all means, read the history, study up and know more about the complex world around us. But perhaps take the time to dance as well.
Have a lively week.
The bawdy musical comedy variety artform called burlesque has undergone many mutations over the years but the modern American format seems to be more or less a ribald song and dance striptease send-up of popular institutions. Tonight at Humbrews, the Rag Doll Revue presents Rag Doll High, a presumably blue and adult take on the traditional high school prom. There will be many performers with stage names full of puns and innuendos, it will be hosted by someone named Jamie Bondage, the show will kick off at 9:30 p.m. and the door price will be $13. Everything else about the night will have to be witnessed personally by those of you 21 and up. Huzzah.
There are many good local bands out tonight so your Friday is anything but bare this week, woven as it is with rich threads from our regional tapestry. At the Fieldbrook Market and Eatery at 7:30 p.m. you will find a free show by Jim Lahman. Roots and folk-informed trio Kingfoot plays a free one as well at 8 p.m. at Redwood Curtain Brewery and over in Blue Lake mamma-jammers Absynth Quartet follows suit an hour later and for the same price at The Logger Bar.
Back in Arcata at The Jam Object Heavy presides over a Star Wars-themed evening of costume-encouraged fun. Dubbed May the 4th Be With You, the fun starts at 9 p.m. galactic time with two sets by the band and in between spinning courtesy of DJ JOE-E. ($10).
Saturday (Cinco de Mayo!)
The Clarke Museum is putting on a Cinco de Mayo block party at 6 p.m. The free event is a child-friendly celebration of Mexican culture with refreshments for purchase and music by Angel Vargas as well as Wynsome Winds.
Later on, lots of old-timey sounds flood the town of Arcata tonight. At the Sanctuary, the pre-microphone Americana song stylings of guitarist and singer Meredith Axelrod will be available for your ears at 7:30 p.m. ($10-$25 sliding scale). Local folk duo Hannah Rosencrans and Alison Kinney open the show. Two hours later over at Humbrews, four-man folk-grass barn stompers Poor Man's Whiskey return to our fair land to preach the hootenanny gospel to the faithful ($15).
There's punk rock royalty rolling through our modest streets as hardcore innovators MDC hits the Outer Space tonight for a triumphant return to the 707 at 6:30 p.m. ($15, $12 advance). In tow from Saitama, Japan, will be punk/thrash crossover act FLiPOUT A.A. with local support by Unholy Orifice, Dead Drift and the inimitable SLOP.
Over at the Alibi, a rare Sunday show is going down. What's the occasion? Why, one-man band and hillbilly chicken-pickin' spaceman par excellence Bob Log III is back in town with his radical rhinestone antics and interstellar lonesome star-man sound. Opening up the night is Austin, Texas' similarly weird and talented man-solo Ghostwriter at 9 p.m. ($10).
The Miniplex hosts an aural circus of esoterica and electronics tonight at 9 p.m. Lucy and Lucille, the digital side project of K Records' Ruby Fray, blends dissonance and harmony into a looped sound that evokes a sort of smoky nostalgia which plays well to the soundtrack crowd, of which I count myself a citizen, while Baltimore's J$FUR is an act that plays with noise and vision to create a unique live bombast. Arcata's beloved dream weavers Persephone play one of their last shows before graduation and the escape of some lovely members to vernal green lands above our dreary underworld of ... OK, you get the Greek mythology thing ($5).
It's another Dancehall Night at The Jam at 10 p.m., where $5 will get you in the door for all of the groovy offbeat guitars and one drop rhythms your body desires. Sources suggest there will be melodic basslines as well.
Local guitar slinger and all-around ace Piet Dalmolen plays a free solo set at The Mad River Brewery's tasting room at 6 p.m. Do you enjoy drinking something refreshing whilst listening to a local master work the six-string magic better than almost anyone else here or abroad? Then fill in the blanks and park yourself at the watering hole next to the riverbank in the land of the mythical Blue Lake.
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 email@example.com.
Collin Yeo used to think that he could see the good in all music but that was befçore he discovered something called "electro-swing." Take his misery as a warning. He lives in Arcata.