In an attempt to better understand the ancient world (which, for the purpose of this article, I will define as any period before my brain came online in the late 1980s), I have been reading about the philosophy of the Cynics of Greece. So far as I can tell, their prime character, Diogenes of Sinope, mostly trafficked in contrarian takes in the form of vulgar aphorisms and rude attitudes toward the ruling class of his time. In that respect, the shallow anecdotes about his philosophical crapulence resembles my own attitude toward writing this column, and much of my unfortunate social media presence. Crude and vulgar asceticism does seem attractive in a world built by wealthy psychopaths on a teetering pile of exploitation and murder. Looking deeper, though, and there is a deep humanity and blind longing within the lives of these contrarian shitheads, perhaps no better on display than in Lucian's work on the life of Peregrinus Proteus, a man who threw himself on an Olympic funeral pyre in a successful bid to permanently rid himself of the madding crowd. And while I might have preferred to remain among the early Christian communities of the second-century Roman Empire, his expulsion from those groups does make sense in light of his self-destructive, anti-authoritarian heresies. I'm certainly no saint but neither am I a Cynic, despite my pleasure at Diogenes' reported rudeness toward Alexander the Great and Plato, the latter of whose Socratic dialogues I prefer to the caperings of this man from Sinope, on balance. Still, I have a fondness for the rebels, misfits and assholes of history. And anyone who is remembered for public masturbation ("If only rubbing the stomach could relieve hunger pains so easily") and farting (the last pagan emperor of Rome, Julian, considered Diogenes' behavior in this regard as an act designed to contrast his natural humanity with the truly disgusting actions of the ruling classes) is worth paying attention to, in my opinion. What does any of this have to do with live music? Nothing really, or perhaps everything, as while I do keep my onanism and flatulence private (as much as is possible), I am required to travel among a variety of shows and settings with different social expectations, all the while maintaining my own personal consistency. Listening to the works of over a thousand artists a year without losing a sense of one's self requires some of the piercing clarity found all over the lives of these weirdos. That's my takeaway for the week. You can always pick up a copy of the Penguin Classics book on the Cynics and figure it out for yourself. Have a good week.
I guess his inaugural gig must have gone well because Oryan Peterson-Jones is back at the Humboldt Bay Social Club for a free set of acoustic Americana primitivism at 6 p.m. tonight. Seems like a good spot for his music; hopefully this becomes a regular gig.
An all-ages Goth Night at Synapsis, put on by DJ DastBunny, is on the ledger for tonight's entertainment. DJ Zero One of Radio Clash fame is also onboard for this event, which is an outfit and costume-encouraged affair in an environment that is perfectly suited for the dark theatricality of goth culture. The dance starts at 7 p.m., 17 and under get in free, all adults pay a mere $5. Viva.
Singer-songwriter Will Sheff, the central figure and sole original member of Austin's Okkervil River, brings his baroque folk and pop act to the Arcata Theatre Lounge tonight, presumably with a new(ish) cast of backing musicians on deck. Also on the bill is New York City's mmeadows, featuring Kristin Slipp from Dirty Projectors and Cole Kamen-Green, who cut his teeth collaborating with the likes of Beyoncé and Taylor Swift. This will be the week's Big Gig, so if that is of interest to you, plan your evening accordingly starting at 7 p.m. ($24, $20 advance).
Sunday, Chinese Lunar New Year
Two 3 p.m. matinee gigs are happening today, both which more or less fall under the banner of "high" art. If you missed the main concert yesterday evening at Calvary Lutheran in Eureka, fear not, you still have a chance to catch a concert and conversation with Trio Duende, a world class chamber music group, at the Lutheran Church of Arcata ($20, $5 students). Meanwhile, over that the Morris Graves Museum of Art, Paula Jones and Friends are presenting an afternoon of jazz music. The suggested donation prices are $5 for the general population, $2 for students, seniors and museum members. Free for youngsters and those on EBT.
Another quiet night on the oceanside prairie, as I am told the next installment of Savage Henry's Metal Monday isn't hitting until mid-February. My advice? Curl up with a sweetie. For those of you without one of the human variety, I have in the past enjoyed the company of cats, books, old movies (I just watched Casablanca last night) and even my memories. I have a particularly good one involving a juvenile alligator and a hookless fishing bob in Bayou St. John.
The timing couldn't be better for tonight's performance at the Van Duzer Theater by the Peking Acrobats featuring the Shanghai Circus, as we have just this Sunday passed the torch from the Year of the Tiger to the Year of the Rabbit. 7 p.m. ($39, $20 children). The heady mix of gravity-defying acts, complemented by beautiful costumes and live music, will allow the audience to enjoy a space outside of time and the drab prevailing cultural norms of Northern California.
Singer, songwriter and mandolin player AJ Lee fronts (what else?) AJ Lee & Blue Summit, a bluegrass band that has spent the time since its inception in 2015 building up a fanbase, first in Santa Cruz and the Bay Area, and onto the world of international touring. I can certainly see why the group has been growing its profile so successfully, as the sound is accessible, with well-crafted songs that are not bogged down by the less desirable (for casual listeners) of bluegrass: There is very little in the way of fiery twang and fingerpicking excess. Melody, harmony and songcraft are the main engines here. See for yourself tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Old Steeple, my favorite cemetery-adjacent venue since I left New Orleans ($30, $25 advance).
Collin Yeo (he/him) would like to mention that when faced with possible prosecution for his crimes, the former president of Brazil fled to America, an even better country than his homeland if you’re a fascist hoping to die of old age. He lives in Arcata.