Continuing our discussion last week about the viability of record stores, well, this Saturday, April 18, is officially Record Store Day. As RSD co-founder Michael Kurtz explains, "Record Store Day is an excuse for record stores to have a party with the artists who love them and who want to celebrate their art with us. And there are a lot of these of artists: Tom Waits. Wilco. Dylan. Iron & Wine. Beck. Talib Kweli. Leonard Cohen. Paul McCartney. My Morning Jacket. And on and on." Record labels big and small are producing special edition records and CDs for the occasion; 700 plus independent stores in 17 countries have signed up (including Missing Link, in Arcata).
S.F.-based indie folk-rock band Vetiver is among the bands offering limited-run 7-inch records produced just for Record Store Day, specifically, a baby blue record with "Wishing Well" on one side, "Pay No Mind" on the flip.
Andy Cabic basically is Vetiver. He writes and sings the songs and assembles musicians to play them, drawing together ad hoc combos for recording and touring. Cabic says he wasn't much involved in the decision to participate in RSD; that was by Sub Pop, the label that released his latest disc, Tight Knit. But he is very much involved in the record business.
"There's a record label that I do A&R for; it's called Gnomonsong. It's the label that released the record I did prior to Tight Knit. I help them choose what artists they record. We have a record coming out in April by a San Francisco band, The Papercuts; [Band leader] Jason Quever is from up there." (Note: Quever's bio says he was "raised on a commune in Humboldt County.")
So, I asked, is the MP3 killing the record business? "I think because of the medium of the iPod and music on the Internet, more people are listening to more music than ever before," said Cabic. "Does that translate to people buying records? Not really, but they're listening, and they're attending more live concerts than in previous years. It's all relative. You can have modest success; small labels like Gnomonsong are doing all right. When it comes to major labels, you're seeing a lot of consolidation into companies run by people who aren't into music; they're business people. They're trying to market music to people who don't even buy records. But on the level I'm dealing with -- fans of my music -- they're good listeners. [The musicians] who are selling records are the ones who have fans who listen and actually buy records."
It's not likely you'll be able to buy that special 7-inch when Vetiver plays at The Depot (at HSU) Thursday, April 16, but don't let that stop you from listening. Richard Swift opens (his new record is reviewed elsewhere in this issue). Tickets are dirt-cheap: two bucks for civilians, free for HSU students.
Ben Kaufman, stand-up bassist for the phenomenally successful bluegrassish-jamband Yonder Mountain String Band was at home somewhere in Colorado when I called him last week. We talked about the first time I saw YMSB, opening for Leftover Salmon in Arcata 9 years ago, near the start of their career. A short set saw them offer a couple of Dead covers and raggedy versions of bluegrass standards. "We were still learning about ourselves and trying to be a bluegrass band, the best we could," said Kaufman. "As we went on, we realized, two of us are from Boston and two of us are from Chicago, so what do we know about bluegrass really? Is it in our blood? Not really. It was more second or third generation bluegrass, and newgrass we connected with. I don't think we're a bluegrass band any more. Are we the best musicians now? Nah. We're good, but you're not coming to the show to hear hot licks."
So how did they develop an audience to become one of the best known string bands around? Not by selling records. "People started trading tapes online. We've encouraged taping and every show is recorded. We said, 'trade ’em, give ’em to your friends.' Next thing we know everyone knows who were are. We are a live band; we're a touring band. Selling records is secondary."
If you want to see what YMSB is all about, you'll have to skip Vetiver. They play the same Thursday night at the Eureka Theater with special guest Sam Bush, a master of hot licks they revere.
As noted last week, while Vetiver is playing in The Depot Thursday, the Joshua Redman Trio will be upstairs in the Kate Buchanan Room. The acclaimed sax player, who has visited Arcata with many bands, just released a new album, Compass, and is touring with bassist Matt Penman and drummer Greg Hutchinson, who was part of the Compass combo. Said Redman regarding the direction-finding CD, "I feel like we may have discovered something in our musical travels, perhaps even arrived somewhere: We placed ourselves in an unfamiliar, untested musical context, and relied on our instincts, camaraderie and shared aesthetic values to create music which we hope feels honest, heartfelt and spontaneous." Knowing Redman's work, that's also what you'll find if you go hear him Thursday.
Regarding the Green Day 2009 show Saturday at the Arcata Theatre Lounge: First, for those who may be confused, this is not a show by the punk-pop band Green Day. The event name was coined by the InferKnow folks last year for a show held around St. Patrick's Day; they flipped the meaning of the word "green" by making it a fundraiser for local enviro orgs, as well as a bennie for their outdoor venue, Area 74. This time out, it's past St. Pat's, but still eco-green: funds go to the NEC and the Arcata Recycling Center (and the still-in-progress Area 74). "Green Day brings together some of Humboldt's best danceable bands in support of our local eco-based nonprofits," says key InferKnow-ite Tisha Sloan. "So you can dance local to support global!" To be specific, we're talkin' four of Arcata's top bands: WoMama, AfroMassive, Moo-Got-2 and The Nucleus with Vj/lighting design collective Humboldt Visualize providing "cerebral stimulation of the highest order" on the big screen behind the bands. Added bonus: Shea FreeLove of the Freelove Circus will "perform mind-blowing feats that defy common sense," between sets. Pounding a nail up his nose is one of his specialties.
As you are probably aware, April 20, aka 4/20, is a big deal here in the heart of the Emerald Triangle. So, even though 4/20 falls on a Monday this year, there are beaucoup shows happening -- but first Diamondback has a pair of hip hop events April 17 and 18 they're calling "Pre-420 Humboldt Parties." Featured artist is Houston underground rapper Devin the Dude on his "High as an Eagle" tour, with support from local faves Potluck plus RBL Posse and LCA, and on Friday (when the party is act Nocturnum) THIC Family, then on Saturday (when it moves to Mazzotti's) Hiway.
Four-twenty proper brings Bermudan dancehall star Collie Buddz to Nocturnum with The New Kingston Band and DJ Pee-Wee. Also on the bill: Pep Love of the Hieroglyphics, Ishi Dube and Massagana, and DJ Selecta Prime spinning in the "reggae room." Hard to beat a 4/20 show headlined by someone who calls himself Collie Buddz.
Meanwhile, that night at the Eureka Theater, Dark Star Orchestra "recreates Grateful Dead shows, song for song, live on stage," as they put it, drawing on specific setlists from the Dead's touring days. Which is not to say DSO aims to replicate songs exactly. It's more like they're an improv band jamming on songs they revere. Greensky Bluegrass plays for an associated after-party with a late set at the Red Fox. At Six Rivers that night, guitarist Greg Camphuis of Bump Foundation debuts a new jazz combo he's calling Fire it Up!
This just in from Zac of The Zac Institute: His band and "a new band called Taped Machines (with Chris Colland and Kris Swan of the Eureka Garbage Co. and Tommy Chase and Jesse Pearson of Arrogant Hare) are going to be opening for an awesome band from Seattle called The Intelligence at the Accident Gallery in Eureka next week (Thursday the 16th). It is my last show until next year, so I would like to promote this. I am a local archaeologist at CR and Humboldt and I would love to do some kind of interview to promote the show. I know it is late (possibly too late...)"
Yes, too late, as I'm heading off on vacation to Vegas and Death Valley in the morning. Juli B sits in next week. See you when I return.