Pessimism had a good year in 2016. With an unreal election finally behind us, one that throve on negativity and peddled as fact the idea that we were all living in utter squalor and shame, few of us would dare call 2016 The Best Year Ever. On the music front, we've lost some amazing artists who have added depth and meaning to many of our lives. The list includes Paul Kantner, David Bowie, Prince and Glenn Frey, among so many others. As I write this column on Sunday the 13th, I hear Leon Russell just passed away. Leonard Cohen just left us a few days ago, as well. This is, of course, sad news but it's been heartening to find out how many Leonard Cohen fans are out there. Although known by millions, Leonard — much like Leon — never quite had the commanding rock star press existence others had.
Like Bowie, Cohen left us with a brand new album right before he died. With a perhaps fitting title, You Want It Darker is an album I'm still unpacking. It is — after a few listens — beautiful and haunting with delicate darkness swirling around Leonard's baritone. As poetic, insightful, melancholy and minutely frightful as any of his other work, it's a wonderful reminder that musicians may leave the stage but their art never fades. They may leave us but they'll never leave us alone. As Cohen sings on this title track, "If you are the dealer, let me out of the game ... If you want it darker, we killed the flame."
Ease into your weekend tonight up in occasionally sunny Blue Lake at the Mad River Brewery and Tasting Room with local bluegrassers the Compost Mountain Boys. You've seen and heard them before, and you've probably gotten down and danced to 'em. Here's your chance again around 6 p.m. for free. Also in Blue Lake, a celebration of Kate Martin's fourth year of owning and running the world famous Logger Bar. I remember my first visit there more than a decade ago and outside of only sticking around for a few minutes, I recall not being able to find any James Brown on the jukebox. Come to think of it, the jukebox was pretty white and country and western exclusive. Fast forward to the bar's transformation into a hipper, cleaner, warmer community center of sorts. You can thank Kate for a fabulous facelift of the old joint and the community that came together to help make the Logger one of Humboldt's gems in the rough. To celebrate this anniversary, you'll be treated to free live music from The Living Rooms around 7 p.m. As mentioned in last week's column, The David Nelson Band (sans David Nelson) is jamming again with Vince Herman at Humboldt Brews at 8 p.m. It's a $30 ticket price for this one. Wear your nicest — or most introspective — shoes to The Jam tonight as you'll be treated to some shoegaze courtesy of Persephone and some garage pop from Al Gorgeous starting around 9 p.m. tonight all for only $5. "All black dress code is STRONGLY encouraged but not enforced" for this one. And hey, we're all mourning something, right? Or forget the black and pretend you're still at Burning Man in your best super-expensive, apocalyptic Mad Max rags to the Arcata Theatre Lounge for the first of two nights of Rising Appalachia. The band, comprised of songwriting sisters Leah and Chloe, return to Humboldt to share their songs, stories and "devotion" to world culture. Expect folk music roots with a sincere devotion to social justice and such in their songs. $28 at the door around 9 p.m.
Country rockers Cadillac Ranch kick off the evening at the Mad River Brewery Tasting Room tonight starting around 6 p.m. for free. Also free is the grand opening this evening of Fit Norcal at its new location at 1049 Samoa Blvd. in Arcata. There's an obvious focus on fitness and healthy living, but feel free to go for the booze and live music. Ribbon cutting is at 6:30 p.m. with music following by local cover band The Undercovers. A few blocks away, you'll find a Dead tribute at The Jam. Hardly Deadly brings the Dead to The Jam and the jam to the Dead, I hear. It's at 9 p.m. and $5 for these jams at The Jam. Out of Chicago, funksters The Main Squeeze are here to convince you that the juice is, in fact, worth the squeeze. Winners of an international battle of the bands in China, these folks have opened for The Roots and Jane's Addiction, so they know what they're doing. You'll find the Squeeze at Hum Brews tonight at 9:30 p.m. for $10. Welcome them to Humboldt.
In the event you thought Humboldt was done raising funds and showing support for the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, you've got another thing coming. At The Mateel in Redway at around 6 p.m., you'll find the Humboldt Stands with Standing Rock benefit featuring speakers who have been on the front lines of the protests. What's a benefit without music though, right? Recycled Youth is joined by Govinda, Marjo Lak, Cold Blue Water, Irie Rockers and the Altar Tones, all showing support. You can get in the door and add your support for $25. Around the same time, the Opera Alley Cats will be playing some jazz up at the Mad River Brewery Tasting room for free. Humboldt Brews hosts something far less jazzy tonight: Originally formed in Orange County back in 1979, punk rockers Agent Orange join us on the North Coast. Opening for these punk legends is Atom Age, starting the show off around 9:30 p.m., all for only $15.
Back to jazz. Many of you are no doubt familiar with local jazz heads the RLA Jazz Trio. Named after Tim Randles, Mike LaBolle and Bobby Amirkhanian, this trio is a powerhouse of talent and technical skill. Sadly, it sounds like after tonight's show, only the R and L will remain in the band for the time being. Bobby is starting a new chapter of life in Las Vegas, so this will be his last show with the trio. Make sure you check this final performance out and thank Bobby for ripping the bass these past 10-plus years here in Humboldt. The trio will start around 6 p.m. at the Mad River Brewery Tasting Room for free.
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. He's still searching for that secret chord.