Somewhere and some time ago, I remember hearing the idea posited that music had the power, if we'd only let it, to stop war and aggression. It was phrased a bit more eloquently than that and perhaps not as naively, but the thinking went something like this: Imagine that soldiers on two different sides of a battle were entrenched and in their respective foxholes or whatever, waiting for the orders to give it another go. While the soldiers on side A are waiting to leap into action and potentially end the life of the faceless, nameless, family-less soldiers on side B, they start to hear music being played from the loudspeakers coming from side B. As the sounds of "Tired of Being Alone" reach their ears, some of the soldiers from side A realize the enemy is cranking out some Al Green. Amazed, the soldiers, now groovin', return the favor by blasting some of John Coltrane's A Love Supreme. Much like how football brought a ceasefire during the Christmas Truce of World War I by humanizing the soldiers on both sides, music could do the same thing and make it just a little bit easier to see another being as a fully vital human embedded in the same struggles, joys and beingness in this same crazy world.
Leaving the literal battlefield behind, we'd be forgiven for mistaking our current political landscape for a figurative battlefield with minds, not bodies, as the casualties. A lot of reaching out needs to happen between the two main entrenched "sides" here in our country as there are forces that are too good at convincing us we need to be separated. I heard music this past weekend at the Women's March in Eureka that brought perhaps "a million and a half" like-minded people together. Can music help us connect and see what we have in common with the "other?" I think it can. Now I'm not saying that Toby Keith's "Red Solo Cup" or Genesis' "The Knife" are the best starting points, but it's harder to distrust and/or despise someone across the political aisle when you find yourself singing along together to "Hey Jude" or "Wish You Were Here" at a bar while the band plays. If music can potentially stop bullets, it definitely has the power to encourage the better angels of our nature and remind us that we're all passengers on spaceship Earth. We just need to let it. Because if music can't do this, then I'm at a real loss as to what else can.
Swing into the weekend a bit early tonight with some swingin' jazz up at the Mad River Brewery Tasting Room in Blue Lake. Fred and Junior (Fred & Jr.?) will be starting it up around 6 p.m. for free and no, they're not related. Merrick at The Miniplex — inside Richard's Goat Tavern and Tea Room — informs me that former local Caitlin Jemma is returning to town to play her tunes for us. She's got a bit of that alt-country singer songwriter sound from what I can recall from seeing her at a Folklife Festival a few years back. She's now based out of Eugene, so welcome her back to her old digs. The show will be starting off around 9:30 p.m. with the Oddjob Ensemble out of San Francisco who "live up to their name with arrangements for a trap kit and accordion." It's $5 for this show.
For classic country cover songs, the place to be tonight is the Mad River Brewery Tasting Room at 6 p.m. Heading down South on the wet and wild 101 from Orick are the Redwood Ramblers (not to be confused with other similarly named bands around our parts). Grab some beer, wet your whistle and pretend you're a cowpoke for a few hours with this free music. Back at the Miniplex tonight you'll find some American roots music courtesy of Ohtis, all the way out from Detroit and joined by Levi Thomas, who's up from Oakland. Local man/musician of mystery Mister Moonbeam will be the hometown hero on this bill. He likes to play in his socks — for reasons you'll understand at the show — but you'll need shoes to get into this $5 gig.
Although it seems I'm only receiving press releases from two venues so far, please keep reading for soon-to-be updates on some other spots around town. With that said, the Annual Chili Cook-Off for the North Coast Big Brothers Big Sisters is happening at 1 p.m. this afternoon at the Mad River Brewery Tasting room. What goes better with chili than live music? An outdoor and well-ventilated tasting area you say? OK, good call. Well, you'll find that along with free music from The Undercovers who'll be vibrating the air for free. For some international tunes, check out The Last-Minute Men who will be playing an all-ages, free gig around 8 p.m. over at Cafe Mokka in Arcata. Reggae's on the bill tonight at the Mateel in Redway: Out of San Diego, The Tribal Seeds are "known for their spiritually driven, refreshing rock vibe that's infused with the roots style reggae." They also tend to do very well when here in Humboldt. Aussie musician and record producer Nattali Rize shares the bill along with Jamaican five-piece band Raging Fyah who put a modern flavor into their island's famous roots rock reggae sound. Music starts around 9 p.m. with a pretty reasonable $20 ticket price. At The Jam in Arcata, World Famous Productions is bringing in funky electronic sound from our nation's capital with DJ Steve Raskin of Fort Knox Five. While listening to the song "Don't Go," I couldn't help but feel it would be fitting for the soundtrack to a modern day remake of Shaft's Big Score! shot in the style of The Beastie Boys' "Sabotage" music video. There's a reason no one pays me to direct. Get your funk on at 9:30 p.m. here for $20. Around the same time, local alt-melancholy-lunar-dirge-rockers (myself included) Strix Vega are joined again by fellow locals and high-altitude-peyote-desert-rock band, Opposum Sun Trail at the Logger Bar in Blue Lake for a free show.
I feel it wasn't that long ago that Rolling Stones saxophonist Karl Denson was in town. I'm sure a quick online search could backup my feeling but we know that facts don't matter anymore right? So, returning to Humboldt is Karl Denson's Tiny Universe on its "Running With The Diesel" tour. If you've ever seen KDTU (to abbreviate), you know to wear your dancing shoes and something you don't mind soaking with sweat. Opening up this show is The Main Squeeze and doors open at 8 p.m. with music probably closer to 9 p.m. if I had to guess. $25 will get you into this sweatfest.
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 Album of the Week Show on KWPT 100.3 FM Tuesdays at 6 p.m. He thinks this is the only spaceship we've got.