The bass player from the opening act was drinking whiskey from a flask backstage as The Devil Makes Three rocked the house at a packed warehouse show somewhere in Arcata. "That's not real old time music," he complained, asserting that his old time band was actually more authentic. "It's the beat," he explained, getting more adamant and technical as the whiskey kicked in. Despite the presence of a banjo in the DM3 arsenal, they were not emphasizing the off-beat as he felt they should, and thus, he said damningly, "It's really just rock 'n' roll."
"That's exactly right," said Absynthe Quintet guitarist Ryan Roberts when I told him the story of my old time encounter. "And that's why Devil filled the house -- and headlined the show. They rock." Need we point out that the Santa Cruz trio does it without a drummer? Guitarist/frontman Pete Bernhard, stand-up bassist Lucia Turino and banjoman/guitarist Cooper McBean rock it semi-acoustic, pulling in touches of country, bluegrass and rockabilly, all with punk rock attitude.
They're headlining shows up and down the West Coast right now with a stop at the Pozo Saloon at the end of the April, opening for Dwight Yoakam before a special two-night run at the Mystic Theater in Petaluma, where they're recording a live album. But first they play another Arcata show, this time at a bigger venue, the Arcata Community Center.
The Humboldt Baykeeper's Earth Day Bash benefit begins with a dinner catered by Brett Schuler, which, BTW, you can skip if you're on a tight budget and/or just want to hear the bands. The music portion starts with relatively authentic old time tunes by Kenny Ray and the Mighty Rovers (stalwarts at Baykeeper for Arts Alive!), followed by DM3, and to close, a rollicking set by the above-mentioned Absynthe Quintet.
My chat with AQ Ryan re: DM3 and rock happened when he dropped off a copy of the brand new (long-awaited) AQ CD Iota, which was recorded last year but took until now for mixing, mastering, etc. I paid for one in advance via Kickstarter and ended up with two (drummer Tofu came by later). Iota starts with their classic instrumental, "The Flight Of The Green Fairy," and gets better and better. They're working on a release party for sometime in May (more on the whole project then), but they should have some CDs at the show Friday if you want to pick one up.
For a couple of different flavors of country music try the first ever Country Hoedown Saturday night at the Blue Lake Casino's Sapphire Palace. Relatively straight-ahead country singer Tom Drinnon and Deuces Wild are up from Manteca; Reno's kick-ass "scumbag country" combo Hellbound Glory shares the bill (they also play Friday night at the Jambalaya). The Hoedown also includes bull riding on a mechanical bull, a "Best Dressed Couple" contest and something they call a "Honkeytonk Podonkydonk Competition" that apparently involves tight jeans. They promise, "We'll do a few more Hoedowns if this first one goes OK." And if the twang gets to be too much you can always slip over to the Wave for the tribute band du jour, Purple Haze. (Doesn't Jimi Jeff already own the local Hendrix homage? He's at Six Rivers with The Gypsy Band that night.)
Yet another take on country (and/or rock): The White Woods, a three-piece combo from Portland, playing what guitarist John Jenne describes as " a rougher gothic style of '60s country, mixed with a Twin Peaks soundtrack feel, along with some Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds." The band's roots are in "cerebral, artistic and moody" post-punk that Jenne says "retains the visceral angst and rebellious attitude of punk."
It takes a few minutes listening to the new disc Always Be Happy, But Stay Evil from jazzy/jammy supergroup Garage A Trois for it to sink in: Since Charlie Hunter was replaced by keysman Marco Benevento, there's no stringed instrument -- proof positive that guitars are not required for rock. Punk vibes rocker Mike Dillon (of Hairy Apes BMX etc.) and wild saxophonics/efx monster Skerik move things forward and sideways. New Orleans drummer/funkmeister Stanton Moore (from Galactic) does more than keep the beat, constantly shifting in unexpected rhythmic directions on tunes he describes as "highly flammable, rock-driven, avant pop." Check them out when the Always Be Happy, But Stay Evil Tour comes to Humboldt Brews Friday night. And leave your expectations at home.
In a reggae mood? The oh-so-fine Jamaican singer Barrington Levy is at the Arcata Theatre Lounge Friday, backed by The Detour Posse, with opening sets by dancehall sensation Million Stylez and Beatnok. Dub Cowboy and Rude Lion spin the latest one-drop before and between sets.
Then on Saturday night choose between hard-edged dancehall by Galaxy P and Tony Curtis at the Red Fox and the rootsier Jr. Toots, son of Toots Hibbert, at the Jambalaya along with Jahwaiian reggae artist Teomon backed by the 7th Street Band, plus Universoul Messenjah, DJ Livingearth and Ivier of Jah Warrior Shelter (and KPFA). Earlier Saturday the Jam has "Reggae Inna the Afternoon" (starting at 1) with The Mighty Redwood Ambassadors backing rootzman Madi Simmons.
HSU's downsized SLAM Festival 2011 kicks off Friday in the Depot with a Battle of the Bands (bands unnamed by the way), followed by the skintillating ska sounds of Gabe's **Pressure Beat Soundsystem (also heard Mondays at the Jambalaya).
Along similar battle-ish lines, a Talent Show Fundraiser at Blondie's Saturday in which the "audience votes to decide the winner (prizes vary)." This one supports summer plans for two HSU students, Irene Kerber and Aubrey Costa. Irene is bicycling cross-country for Habitat for Humanity, building houses along the way; Aubrey is heading to Kenya to intern with HEART (Health Education Africa Resource Team), running medical clinics for AIDS orphans. Impressive. How are you spending your summer vay-cay?
As you may recall from last Hum, we're still in Green Week, the collab between NHS, World Famous and a bunch of other folks to celebrate Earth Day (technically April 23) and various other types of green-ness. If you picked up this paper on Wednesday, April 20, well, it's 4/20. Show plans have changed a bit since last week: You already know that Gogol Bordello canceled their tour, so that big show's off. The G-Love and Special Sauce show at the Eureka Theatre was downsized and moved to the Red Fox. That bumps the Moo-Got-2 afterparty, but Berel Alexander Ensemble is still opening the show.
Thursday night Passion Presents has Steve Watts and the Humboldt All-Stars at the Red Fox with Melvin Seals (who plays with his band 4/20 at Humboldt Brews), soul survivor Courtney Weaver and Mike Lee. Mobile Chiefing Unit (with Passions' Matthew Beck) opens. Admission is free with any NHS Green Week event ticket stub.
The Friday DM3 Baykeeper and Garage A Trois shows mentioned above are also part of Green Week. Same with Jr. Toots on Saturday.
Also on Saturday, World Famous has a huge Green electro-bass show at Arcata Theatre Lounge with VibeSquaD, aka Aaron Holstein, a big bass dude out of Colorado, plus "global slut psy-hop" queen Ana Sia, the futuristic duo Lazer Sword, and West Coast grime master EPCOT (no relation to the Disney theme-park), all from S.F.
I think that brings our big Green week to a close, but that's no reason to stop being green.