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No Country Music for Old Men



Now that much of the controversy surrounding Jason Aldean's latest single has been supplanted by another meaningless and obnoxious salvo in the seemingly endless, mind-crushing American culture war — thank you, Lizzo — I wanted to share something that occurred to me during all the hubbub. While I'm not interested at all in the "Try That in a Small Town" song, (which I am certain he didn't even write, the modern "Trashville" money-making machine being what it is), I am interested in a song that Aldean, or his production company, can't write. On October 1, 2017, the dude was right in the middle of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, performing onstage while bullets rained down on the Las Vegas crowd from a hotel window, something he hasn't seemed to address as an artist. Nationally, the event has been completely memory-holed, nothing changed or learned. I can't imagine a real, functioning country responding that way to such an extreme tragedy, just as I can't imagine a real country songwriter — Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash or even David Allen Coe — being in the center of that horror and not producing something in response.

But that's exactly the point of our current mass cultural moment: Everything is flat and dead, devoid of nuance or introspection. We lack the tools, attention and will to talk about difficult, horrific realities. Nothing but stupid and generic agitation and grievance porn, aimed at pissing off one of our two completely indefensible mainstream political factions. If good jazz is defined by the notes they don't play, then our lousy mainstream culture is condemned by the things it can't say, the dull palette of its colors washed out into dogshit brown and digested glitter. I'm only mentioning this because it's bad enough living in the brutal reality of 2023 America, seeing people comment earnestly on the meaning and importance of these idiot tunes on our wretched, ambient national soundtrack feels like a cosmic penance. Particularly since mainstream American music used to be good, even occasionally brilliant. I'm not saying that we've backslid into open fascism, but one of the cultural qualities of fascism is dum-dum music for boneheads, and there's definitely room in the market for some great reactionary flattening that replaces meaning with heroic fantasies and revenge.

The good news is, there's still plenty of fantastic stuff happening under the smothering iron dome of corporate schlock. See below for more information about that.


The Sanctuary is a place that deserves a bit more attention from the public, as it has a good reputation for putting on shows that really don't happen anywhere else. Take this evening's entertainment at 6 p.m.: Hernan Rostan is an Argentine tango pianist who has been playing music since early childhood and will be presenting his repertoire in the main room. However, the ticket, which is $15-$50 sliding scale and requires advance purchase, comes with a pre-performance vegetarian meal, provided by the good folks at this living, communal artist venue. What a neat spot.


Johnny and the Corsants is a young band that emerged victorious in the latest iteration of Arcata High School's Battle of the Bands. Tonight, the group will be taking a victory lap in the form of a live, all-ages show at Humbrews. I can't find a ticket price for this 7 p.m. gig, so I'm going to assume that it's likely free at the door.

Speaking of free at the door, two hours later and a few klicks upriver, Jacki and the Jollies will be gracing the Logger Bar with its highly danceable, jangly and pleasing pop rock tunes.


There's a good one going on at the Miniplex tonight for all you lovers of '70s groove-rock and root folk ensembles — basically the sounds from Scorsese's The Last Waltz. Family Worship Center is a Portland collective that sounds as though the vinyl era never ended and The Band didn't break up after its last Thanksgiving at the Winterland. Joining this crew of misfit toys at 9 p.m. are local analog UFO act Control Voltage (aka CV), who have been setting the phasers to phun this summer with lots of swell live shows ($10).


The local Grateful Dead reenactment enthusiasts in Rosewater will be complementing last night's jam out with an all-ages, matinee return lap around the Humbrews stage. Three p.m. is the hour of power and $20 is the fee for anyone over the age of 13. Anyone younger is free as a bird.


Okie dokie, another installment of Metal Monday over at Savage Henry Comedy Club and this one is crammed with bands. I am told by promoter Eric that there will be a "vs." quality to the 7 p.m. show, which seems to boil down to alternating bands setting up and performing on either the stage or the floor, a format that really takes me back to my younger punk and metal days. The groups in question are Image Pit, Psyborg, Grug, Human Soup Hot Tub, Gorganizer, Echoes of Ruination, Sarcophilus Satanicus and Racket ($2-$5 sliding scale). Try saying that three times with a mouthful of the name of the fourth band! Now pardon me, I have to go brush my teeth for an afternoon.


Speaking of Savage Henry Comedy Club, tonight at 9 p.m. the club is presenting one of its signature themed shows. Hosted by creator Rebekah Perry, Smutty Buddies is a series of live readings by various comedians of fan-fiction found in the far wastelands of the internet. A panel of judges will preside over the frivolity ($5).


Assuming that you are not screening a series of works by the great and recently late auteur William Friedkin, I suggest you head over to the Speakeasy at 7 p.m. to enjoy the funky electro stylings of Fernstock 2023 alums September Rain. The gig is free and I might just be sipping something in the darkness if I'm not at home rewatching Sorcerer, the score of which is very sympathetic with the sounds of this band, with its jazz fusion tunes welded to the Krautrock prog of Tangerine Dream.

Collin Yeo (he/him) took a DNA test and found out that while he is mostly English and French, he is also 0.3 percent Zodiac Killer. He lives in Arcata.

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