Music » The Hum

Not from here


3 Leg Torso.
  • 3 Leg Torso.

It may be obvious if you follow this music column, I'm a sucker for Gypsy-ish violins, accordions, café music, retro-Euro stuff and for mixers and mergers who leapfrog genres.That said, I love Portland's who touch all of the above to craft a sound that defies categorization.

From the title of the band's most recent album, Astor in Paris , I'd initially guessed that the concept might be something like tangonuevo master Astor Piazzolla teaming with the Hot Club of Paris.

Not exactly, according to accordionist Courtney Von Drehle, who explained that the album was named for a tune on the record. " For that tune, I imagined what it would be like if Astor Piazzolla were born in France, and played nuevo musette or something like that."

In the beginning the band was a trio with Courtney on accordion, violinist/trumpeter Béla Balogh, and a cellist. Courtney and Béla had been playing together in Lobe, an "art rock" band, up until 1996. "We had learned some Eastern European tunes," said Courtney, "and I convinced Béla we should go out busking."

Truth is, if 3 Leg Torso reminded me of any bands I've heard, it would be the street bands that played for tips at various points on our Italian vacation. (The guys were relieved that I was not reminded of Borat.)

"I didn't really want to force our music on strangers," said Béla, but in a moment of weakness he agreed. For some reason while arranging the gigs, the guys would adopt faux accents in imitation of Béla's Hungarian grandmother.

"I'd call and say, 'Hello, meester,' and we'd go out. We'd dress in hokey clothing..." said Béla.

"And we'd use those accents whenever we'd talk with people," interjected Courtney.

"So we called it meestering," Béla noted.

Courtney continued, "It did have some Borat elements although this was way before Borat, and sometimes people would press us, asking, 'Where are you from?'"

"Ve are not from here," concluded Béla.

They may not be from here, but 3 Leg Torso is coming here -- for a show at the Jambalaya on Tuesday, June 12. Be there. I will.

It's a grey drippy morning, doesn't really feel like summer (and technically it's still spring), but for nightclubs that rely on the college crowd, the post-graduation summer lull is kicking in. Humboldt Brews is closed until August, using the slow time for a remodel. Others are curtailing their hours. The Red Fox Tavern, for example, is only open weekends except for special occasions. (There's one this week and we'll get to it.) It may not be summer-related, but Sacred Grounds is closing for good after one more week. Having said all that, there's plenty going on this week.

We'll start with Sacred Grounds, but first a correction: When I mentioned the pending closure in a recent column, I suggested that former barista Deric Mendes (the talented musician who starred in the Hedwig thing) might be looking for other employment. Well, the day that Hum hit the street, I bought some books from Deric at Northtown Books, where he'd just started working. Without really complaining, he let me know that he has not worked at Sacred Grounds since last year.

Sacred Grounds has at least one more show, an all ages Placebo thing on Friday (early) with a couple of cool out-of-town bands. I caught Kickball last time they played Sacred Grounds and loved them. They're a bouncy alt. pop combo from Olympia with that Olympian kind of sound (and a great drummer) who suggest, "be your own fucking rainbow." They recently toured Europe with a French band, clara clara , now over here touring with them. That one's a trio: keys/drums/bass, with a semi-crunchy dance-friendly sound, or as they put it, " Une basse, une batterie et un bontempi leur suffisent à distiller une noise bordélique et ma foi étonnamment dansante ."

As noted above, the Red Fox Tavern is closed most of the week this summer (Sundays through Wednesdays) except for special occasions, and this Monday's show is truly special. Anyone who pays attention to country music has heard of The Tennessee Three , typically used as a suffix, as in: Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Three. Actually, in the very beginning it was the Tennessee Two, which was guitarist Luther Perkins and bassman Marshall Grant. Drummer W.S. Holland joined in 1960, making Three. Luther died in a fire in 1968, just before Johnny got his own network TV show and hit his second wind. Guitarist Bob Wootton took Luther's place, and that was the Cash band until Marshall left in 1980. Bob and W.S. were with Johnny until he died in 2003 (not long before they were supposed to play Arcata BTW). Today's "Three" still includes W.S. Holland on drums and Bob Wootton on guitar -- with help from Bob's wife Vicky Wootton on rhythm guitar and vocals, their daughter Scarlett on vocals, and Lisa Horngren on upright bass and vocals. The five of them play Johnny's material and some of their own including a song, "You Walked Tall," which has gotten some airplay of late. Guess who it's about. The Rubberneckers open the show, and I imagine they're jazzed about it.

Despite the student exodus, the café closest to campus, Muddy's Hot Cup, has an almost full schedule. This week it's improv comedy benefiting the Shakespeare company Shake the Bard on Thursday, Feminasti DJ Blancatron spinning house Friday (she's also at the Alibi Sunday), Rooster McClintock getting all twangy and shit on Saturday with Jay Dirt opening, Scatter the Mud 's Celtic session Sunday, the usual Wandering Menstruals Monday and a songwriter night on Wednesday with Gregory Alan Isakov , Reed Foehl and Curtis Thompson from Kulica. Wait, what about the Tuesday jazz thing with Susie and Shao Way? That's moving to Thursdays.

What local musician do you suppose has had the most national (and international) press in recent months? My educated guess says it's Saint John Hunt, leader of the blues/rock outfit St. John and the Sinners , who play Friday at the Red Fox, and twice Saturday: at the veteran's North Coast Stand Down and at Blue Lake Casino. And no, he's not in the papers because of the band. It's because he knows who killed JFK, or at least he knows what his dad told him -- his dad being E. Howard Hunt, "a 27-year career CIA executive officer and covert operative most well-known for his role in the Watergate affair," as St. John puts it on his website,, where you can buy his book, Bond of Secrecy , and a DVD interview revealing some big secrets. Not having heard the Sinners yet, I'm not sure what secrets are concealed or revealed in their music.

The Redwood Run is the ticket for power-packed rock/blues this weekend with Gregg Allman , Joe Bonamassa , Joan Jett and Molly Hatchet among those playing for bikers and just plain music fans down in Piercy.

You may have heard that young blues guitar ripper Corby Yates has taken up residency somewhere east of here out Highway 299. He's on the coast Friday and Saturday shredding at Cher-Ae Heights. (On second thought, is he still considered young?)

My favorite local shredders Dragged by Horses get heavy at the Alibi Saturday, joined by Santa Cruz psyche rockers, El Sonido , who describe their crashing sound as "liquid."

Jazzy/jammy guitarist Will Bernard plays that same night (Saturday) at the Red Fox. I signed up for Will's e-list at some show long ago and since have followed his rise in the jam world gigging with the heavies, Stanton Moore, Robert Walter, Lonnie Smith, John Medeski, guys like that. For this show he's fronting his own band, Motherbug . Should be good.

You'd think the Reggae biz would calm down, but it hasn't. I ran into Mateel board member Bob Stern at the Summer Arts Fest Saturday and asked him what's up with Reggae on the River vs. Reggae Rising. "They're going to try to put on a festival; we're going to try to stop them," is how he put it. Next salvos will be heard at the Planning Commish this Thursday.

The latest: Mateel supporters calling for boycotts of any nonprofit planning on having a booth at Reggae Rising. And how do you boycott a nonprofit anyway? Maybe when your house is on fire you don't call the local VFD? Sorry if this sounds like a broken record, but how about a little peace in the neighborhood?


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