A memory from the 20th century recently found its way back into my mind. During my somewhat unremarkable final two years in high school, I was able to leave campus for lunch. This was a big deal for us upperclassmen. It was also a prime time for many students to get in their cars and crank up their music.
Apparently, this was a near universal urge among us teenagers. As we'd be waiting to leave the parking lot, you'd hear the latest rock hits (STP, Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Blind Melon, Crash Test Dummies, Live, etc.), the current pop, "punk" and rap tracks (nothing comes to mind), and of course a fair share of Zeppelin, Floyd, Van Halen, AC/DC, Stones, Sabbath and, occasionally, the first movement of Ludwig van's 5th from my retro outcast comrades. With all this different music cranking out of our cars, the parking lot quickly became a messy melange of different tempos, beats and sounds. But that wasn't the point.
The point was to show off what you listened to, to tell the world — or at least the few hundred students idling in their cars — what "good music" really was. It was a high volume artistic declaration, and a sonic value judgment. Turn up Zep's "Achilles' Last Stand" and drown out the inferior pop crap coming out of the homecoming king/mouth-breathing quarterback's much nicer car. But that was high school right?
This memory came rushing back to me as I was lucky enough to be sitting out on the banks of Bass Lake by Yosemite last week. It was probably around 7:30 a.m. — about three hours before I'd wanted to awake — but due to some Jabroni's need to blast some rap from his speedboat, I was already halfway through my first cup of coffee watching the formerly still waters of the lake.
As cranky as I usually am, this didn't completely bother me, as I had a full day of nothing in my plans. I was more interested in catching a glimpse of this nautical-rhyme lover. Although I couldn't tell exactly from the distance, it appeared to be a male (isn't it always?) in his mid-30s, with a tank top and sunglasses. Nothing too surprising there. I imagined he was sipping some Cristal and there may or may not have been bikini-clad admirers fawning over his badassery, but then again, this was still my first cup of coffee.
While looking at this baller's boat, my mind's eye saw a sun baked parking lot with teens in four-wheeled mobile stereos forcing their music on the world. We get older, and some of us are able to turn our high school diplomas into jobs that earn us enough money to buy a boat. But outside of that, perhaps, not much changes.
The Humboldt Folklife Society's Folklife Festival has been in full swing this week, but you still have a few days left to catch the remaining shows and, for you bluegrass fans, tonight's a good night to get up to Blue Lake. Bluegrass Night starts around 6 p.m. at Dell'Arte with the aptly titled Thursday Night Bluegrass Band along with the Striped Pig String Band. It's also a special night as The Compost Mountain Boys are celebrating their Silver Anniversary (25 years pickin') so make sure you celebrate with them tonight. It's a $10 cover tonight, but bring some extra cash for beer.
Blue Lake's still swingin' tonight and not only can you make some pints disappear, but while doing so you'll have a soundtrack provided by locals The Vanishing Pints, who'll be playing some inspired Irish tunes for your imbibing. They'll be on close to 6 p.m. and this one's free (not the beer, however). Up from Stockton, Hardly Deadly will be at The Jam in Arcata tonight around 9 p.m. As you can probably tell by the name, they're a Grateful Dead tribute band, and are smartly stopping by Humboldt tonight. Just $6 to get your Dead on. Another tribute band will be playing for you, but it's not your usual tribute to a specific band but, rather, to the Back to the Future film trilogy. The Flux Capacitors, named after that crucial gadget in Doc Brown's DeLorean DMC-12, are not only from "Hill Valley, CA" — trivia note: Petaluma was originally considered to be the Hill Valley in the films — but they have the costumes down. The band is comprised of Marty McFly on vocals, his father George on keyboards, the abovementioned Doc on guitar, Griff Tannen on bass, and Marty's girlfriend Jennifer on drums. Expect to hear "The Power of Love" and other smash hits from the '80s. Will the band arrive in a DeLorean? It's possible. They've done it before for previous gigs. Start time is 9 p.m. and it's a free show to catch this "official Back to the Future-themed '80s band" at the Blue Lake Casino and Hotel. At the same time, you'll find Mighty Quinn & The Oakland Rnin bringing the punk rock at the Little Red Lion Cocktail Lounge in Eureka tonight. From what I can tell from chatting with Mighty Quinn, these guys will play originals but will also slip in some classic punk songs. So for you Iggy & the Stooges fans, this is the place to be tonight. Not sure if this is a free show or not, but it'll be worth it.
Today is the finale for the Folklife Festival and they close things out with the All-Day Free Festival in and around Dell'Arte, starting around 10:45 a.m. on two stages and going late into the evening. Wander around and bounce between the stage in the amphitheater and the street stage for a plethora of local artists giving you what they got for free. Wear sunscreen and pace yourself on the day drinking, folks. There are kids around so keep it classy. Tired of acoustic based folk music? Well, a rare three-band bill hits the Alibi tonight at a rare time of 10 p.m. with an equally rare cover of $7. From San Francisco comes Golden Void with rockers from Visalia, Slow Season and from farther down South, Monarch, out of Encinitas. Get ready to rock Judases, and have some caffeine ahead of time.
The Lighthouse Bar and Grill hosts local musician Tony Roach this evening at 5 p.m. for a free show. A little later in Arcata, it's Jazz Night at Blondie's Food and Drink at 7 p.m., so tonight gives you two good mellow options.
Continue your jazz fix tonight at Six Rivers Brewery in McKinleyville at 8 p.m. with Sunny Brae Jazz for free. Leave a tip, show your appreciation. Bluegrass banshee Billy Strings will be at Humboldt Brews tonight at 9 p.m. A fast pickin' Michagander who brings a bit of punk energy to the Americana sound, he isn't afraid to write mountain songs about meth ("Dust in a Baggie") which may be why he's coming through Humboldt County. There's a $10 cover charge for this show, which should be enough to keep the meth heads away.
I've never been cool enough to know where The Bat Cave is, although I've heard from a few friends who have checked out some good shows there in the past. So with that said, if you're in the know, you'll find "Brooklyn-based experimental/ classically-influenced art pop trio" Half Waif at the Cave, joined by Pinegrove and Sports. I'm not sure when the show starts or how much it costs but, by this point, you probably aren't surprised.
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 also used to crank Miles Davis and Dave Brubeck in the '90s.