The music of Jonathan Richman and/or The Modern Lovers showed up on my radar when he started playing shows in Humboldt semi-recently. He has an earned status and a cult following of those in the know about his place in rock 'n' roll history. As the frontman and driving force behind The Modern Lovers in the early '70s, he had an outsized influence on the burgeoning punk movement and what would be called new wave. Former Modern Lovers member Jerry Harrison would go on to later join The Talking Heads, and David Robinson would provide the beat for The Cars. How has a musician this influential escaped my musical attention this long? It could be partly due to what might be called his quirky nature or his truly punkish embrace of radical self-determination. Although the commercial route seems to have been available to him, he chose to follow his quieter, more insightful instincts than to deliver more of what could have made him millions. Perhaps. With idiosyncratic observations on common life and daily struggles of the ordinary, Richman has been able to peel back layers of American existence with humor, absurdities and unique insight. His music is consistently youthful, playful and inquisitive. Read on below for information on where you can catch Richman this weekend.
The weekend starts early with a funky good time of a jam tonight at The Jam in Arcata around 9:30 p.m. Get ready to groove with the Humboldt Jam Collective, which has a bedrock of local talent, while others jam along. No word on a ticket price for this one. Could be free, or maybe something in the $5 ballpark. Check it out.
Cafe Mokka hosts some "Gypsy jazz" tonight, courtesy of Skyline Swing, who'll be doing their thing around 8 p.m. and for free. Bring the kiddos along for this one. It's a jam-packed bill at The Miniplex down the street as there's a four-band lineup for you starting around 9 p.m., when local high-altitude peyote-rockers Opossum Sun Trail start the show. Joining them from the City of Angels are pysch rockers Levitation Room who had their recent album described in Spin Magazine as "the LSD-laced cream of this year's crop, a delirious six-track mélange of paisley and malaise." Sounds like an EP and sounds like a cool delivery of trippy pop. Portland's Abronia mixes spaghetti-western tunes (ala Ennio Morricone) with "Syd-Barret-era Pink Floyd psychedelia," which sounds like a pretty awesome combo to me. I'm trying to imagine the part in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly when Tuco is hauling the man with no name around the desert with either "Flaming" or "Chapter 24" as the internal soundtrack to Clint Eastwood's character's sun-ravaged mind. Anyway, Post Animal rounds out this bill, coming all the way out from Chicago with some mellow and dynamic sounds that hint of psychedelia as well. For those of you for whom this means something, this band has Steve from the show Stranger Things. Bring $10 to get into this psych-fest. At the top of the hill in McKinleyville you'll find local funksters Claire Bent & Citizen Funk laying it down at Six Rivers Brewery at 9 p.m. and for free. At the same time, local classic rockers Triple Junction will be cranking it out in the Wave Lounge in the Blue Lake Casino also for free. They'll be playing until 1 a.m., so you've got plenty of time to catch them, but please, don't ever underestimate a local band who can entertain for a four-hour show.
I'm embarrassed to say that I've never made it out to a Roll on the Mattole (or the Mattole Valley for that matter) in the 17 years I've lived up here but I've heard legends about the festival from many of my musician friends — nothing but glowing tales about the splendors of this event. It'll be kicking off at noon at the Mattole Grange and for $25 you'll be able to hear from Poor Man's Whiskey, Wild Otis, Stevie Culture, Vanishing Pints, Bluff Creek Boys, The John David Young Trio and more artists as well. Have a blast and enjoy the scenery. Six hours later, you'll find the Mojo Rockers playing some blues-influenced rock and funk at the Mad River Brewery Tap Room in sunny Blue Lake. The show's free but never feel bad about tipping the bad. At 6:30 p.m. at the Outer Space in Arcata (11th and M streets) there's an all-ages show featuring Nana Grizol (pop punk) from the Big Easy, Your Heart Breaks (queer pop) from Seattle and locals Roman Candles (folk punk) all doing their thing. Music ends around 10 p.m. and you'll only need $6 to get in. Willow Creek's Gallery 299 hosts locals Inscrutable Rabbit, comprised of Jeff DeMark and Mark Jeffares to celebrate the opening of their new kitchen with a dinner and party on the lawn starting around 7:30 p.m. Music's free, I believe, but you'll feel like you spent a million bucks. Also at 7:30 p.m. is a show celebrating Billie Holiday featuring Copenhagen-born singer deSTINA — hope I got the capitalization right — with local RLA Trio up at the Westhaven Center for the Arts. It's a $5-20 sliding scale tonight. Quirky pre-proto new wave/punk legend Jonathan Richman returns to Humboldt at the Arcata Playhouse at 8 p.m. Of Richman, The Village Voice declares, "There's a simplicity and ease to Jonathan Richman — Modern Lovers founder and frontman and overall pop-rock purveyor — that borders on enigmatic. This applies not only to his quirky, whimsical musical worldview, but also to the man himself. Even at 64, Richman exudes an air of boyish wonderment that cannot be fatigued." I thank the Voice for that and for helping me hit my word count. With that said, Mr. Richman is a cult-legend that deserves at least one of your ears tonight. He's joined by long-time collaborator and drummer Tommy Larkins and you can hear both for only $20.
The always-all-ages Outer Space in Arcata brings feminist-punk rockers Chastity Belt down from Seattle tonight, touring with their new album, I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone, so go help 'em out with that. They're joined by Oakland pop rocker Stephen Steinbrink and local heroes The Monster Women. Show starts at 7 p.m. and is $8.
I remember when Miss Lana Rebel was a part of The Juanita Family and Friends back in the early 'aughts when they'd cruise down from Portland and play house shows and The Alibi. Them were some hazy days for me in my early twenties but I always remember having a great time. I think. Miss Rebel does occasionally return to our fair neck of the woods and I'm glad tonight's one of those nights. She'll be at The Logger Bar in Blue Lake with compatriot Kevin Michael Mayfield playing their brand of Americana; fellow former Portlandista Gabe Rozzell starts off the show. As with most Logger Bar shows, it's a soft 9 p.m. start and a free show. Throw some money in the tip jar as these folks are on the road.
Mad River Brewery welcomes acoustic guitar duo Apple Juice Jones around 6 p.m. It's a free show and feel free to imbibe some non-apple juice liquids. It's Jerome John Garcia's birthday today — which should be a holiday here in Humboldt — and you know folks will be celebrating down at Humboldt Brews in Arcata. At 9:30 p.m. Miracle Show will be taking the stage to keep Jerry's memory alive. A $10 bill gets you into the celebration.
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. Pablo Picasso was an asshole.