Summertime is here, and we're all hoping the living will be easy. To make that possibility that much less certain, my wife and I decided to cut our children off from all electronic devices for the summer. While this may sound like a great idea on paper, it's a pretty insane 21st century move when the rubber hits the road. I've mentioned my Luddite-inspired tendencies before in this column, and have perhaps also mentioned that nothing would make my children happier than to drift away painlessly into the absorbing flickering light of a phone or computer screen while the hours melt seamlessly into days and weeks. So when we broke this news to the kids, it was not received well. When told they would have to sober up for the summer, the panic began to set in. Voices were raised and doors were slammed.
As I pondered their pain, I recalled the last time I was denied something I cared so deeply about. It wasn't a phone or a video game, but rather music. And it wasn't denied to by anyone, but due to circumstances. Back in the 20th century, we didn't have phones that you could put music on. In my high school days, we were in the transition between cassette-playing Walkmans and Discmans. With the reliable — but uncool — Walkmans disappearing and the skip-prone Discmans making a move on the market, listening to music outside of your house or car, was not easy. So after graduating high school and backpacking across Europe with friends, I found myself unable listen to music on demand for the three full weeks we hostel-hopping teenagers traipsed around foreign lands. It wasn't a big deal for the first day or two because we had our own challenges in front of us. Once we got the survival thing down, more luxurious "needs" became present. Where was music? I had Pink Floyd's "On the Turning Away" and Led Zeppelin's "Trampled Under Foot" burrowed into my head and the longer I couldn't actually hear the songs, the more my frustration grew. We went to a jazz club in Haarlem outside of Amsterdam just to hear melody. We went to discotheques just to hear a beat (and try to meet ladies, of course). That all helped, but I was going mad not having "my music" at my fingertips.
We had a slight reprieve when we found a jukebox at hostel in Bern, Switzerland. We sat around and listened to Guns n' Roses and The Rolling Stones while other travelers passed us by. We got a temporary fix. However, we hit the jackpot a few nights later when we stayed at my friend Ryan's aunt's flat in Prague. She was unfortunately in the hospital at the time, but that gave us full run of her place, and her records. I couldn't believe my eyes. Pink Floyd. Stones. Zeppelin. Beatles. Genesis. Lou Reed. Bowie. It was all there. The mirage had materialized in our sonic desert. We spent half of the next day — albeit hungover — sitting on the floor listening to records. It was our heavenly halfway house. That fortified us for the remainder of our trip and when we were on the plane flying back to the good ol' US of A, I'll never forget the synchronicity of putting on the cheap airline headphones, plugging them into the armrest, surfing around the music channels and finding a rock station that played "On the Turning Away."
Not that you ever need an excuse to catch some sunshine and sea air up at the Mad River Brewery Tap Room in Blue Lake, but you've got plenty of good options this weekend. Start off by catching locals Blase Bonpane and the Stellar Jays who'll be starting around 6 p.m. and playing for free. Help 'em out if their pint glasses are looking dry.
If you want to return to MRB this evening, some funky blues is on the bill courtesy of Jenni & David and the Sweet Soul Band, who will also be on at 6 p.m. and for free. Bring the kids along and get them something from the half-pint menu. Left Coast blues musician and guitar slinger Brad Wilson returns to town with his Rollin' Blues Thunder Band and is playing two sets at the Redwood Acres Fair starting at 6 p.m. in Eureka. Brad's been gigging and on the road for a while now and has stopped by the Eureka Concert Series in the past. He and the band will get their second set in closer to 8 p.m. and $12 gets adults into the fair ($5 for the kiddos). More in the Celtic vein, Fingal returns to Cafe Mokka tonight at 8 p.m. for a free show that you can also bring the kids to. I've heard nothing but good things about Portland's outlaw country band Jenny Don't & the Spurs from Ian of the Alibi. He must have had a hand in booking them at the Logger Bar in Blue Lake tonight and they'll be joined by Blue Lakers Gabe & Turtle who will be opening up the show as a guitar and mandolin duo around 9 p.m. It's a free show but feel free to leave a tip for the bands.
Eel River Brewing Company in Fortuna has a bit of a party going on today with live music starting around 1 p.m. and featuring local bands Lone Star Junction, Kindred Spirits and The Kent Stephenson Band. Music goes until about 7 p.m., I believe, and it (the music) is all free. Vintage Americana fans the Delta Nationals make a stop at the Mad River Brewery Tap Room at 6 p.m. this evening to help you empty your pint glasses and get you out on the dance floor. They won't ask for any of your money, nor are they likely to refuse it. Over at The Space in Bayside, James Gadd, Steve Russin and Dale Winget are performing acoustic-based folk and rock covers along with originals thrown in for good measure. Show starts around 7:30 p.m. and I'm not sure what the cover charge is, but it's a fundraiser for The Space (and Humboldt Light Opera Company) so your ticket goes to a good cause.
Rock is on tap tonight at The Alibi in Arcata from two out-of-town bands. Some '70s-inspired hard rock will be delivered by Banquet out of San Francisco. They're joined at around 11 p.m. by Love Gang, who are out from Denver and play psychedelic rock. It's a $5 cover charge for this rare Sunday Alibi show.
Spaghetti western fans should catch Portland's Roselit Bone. The band is on the road supporting its newest album Blister Steel, which just came out earlier this month. American Standard Time describes their sound as something "like Marty Robbins meets The Cramps, or a Goblin soundtrack to a spaghetti western, ranchero fantasy meets greased up country in a magical reality." I'm not sure I could do any better, so I leave it right there. They're joined at the Siren's Song Tavern at 8 p.m. with the debut performance of locals Mojave Green which features former members of Cliff Dallas & the Death Valley Troubadours and Rooster McClintock, so you'll find hints of Bakersfield Country, rock and some honk thrown in. I think it's a free show, so have a blast.
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.
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 remembers buying a portable MiniDisc player.