Can't say exactly when it was, maybe nine or 10 years ago, when I first saw JP Hasson performs as Pleaseeasaur. The made-up dinosaur was one of many personas he took on that night in the Plaza Grill View Room, singing and dancing to intentionally cheesy nightclub music in front of a portable back-drop that looked like something salvaged from an elementary school play. Pleaseeasaur went through multiple costume changes as he shifted from dinosaur to Yeti to faux lounge singer to baby eagle to pizza parlor crew -- the costume had cardboard pizza guys attached on either side -- and so on. It was a serious lesson in post-modern irony, and the hipster crowd ate it up.
Fast-forward a decade, and we find JP embarking on The Pleaseeasaur Farewell Tour, including a stop in Eureka. "Yes, the final Pleaseeasaur show in Eureka is on Thursday, May 21, at The Accident Gallery," wrote JP in an e-mail from his L.A. headquarters. He's retiring P-saur in part because of the character's success. After catching the eye of cable-TV's Adult Swim, Pleaseeasaur signed a multi-album deal with Comedy Central Records in 2006, launched with a CD/DVD combo The Amazing Adventures Of Pleaseeasaur. A couple of year later he wrote the theme song for The Xtacles, an animated superhero series spin-off from a show called Frisky Dingo. And yes, irony abounds in all this.
At this point, says JP, "I now have a new project for Comedy Central called JP Incorporated -- just finishing the album now -- and we begin production on the web series for ComedyCentral.com in June. JP Inc. is very similar to Pleaseeasaur. The live show will again rely heavily on multimedia (video) and feature many, many costumes. It is a solo performance I've been doing for the past year -- it felt like the next logical progression after 12 years of Pleaseeasaur."
The Accident show teams him with local boy band Eureka Garbage Company and some short films by no-budget filmmaker Jon Olsen and experimentalist Michel Sargent. Extra bonus: "The final P-Saur shows will include many old songs I have not done in years," says JP.
It's by no means as over-the-top, but there's a touch of irony in the music of Sex Mob, a quartet that emerged from New York's downtown jazz scene a few years back. Led by slide trumpeter Steven Bernstein, the band includes alto saxophonist Briggan Krauss and a killer rhythm section with Tony Scherr on bass and Kenny Wollesen on drums. The Mob's specialty is the unlikely juxtaposition of covers. Take their latest disc, for example: Sex Mob Meets Medeski (a collab with the MMW organist). It includes Mob takes on Count Basie's "Blue and Sentimental" and Duke Ellington's "Black and Tan Fantasy," alongside a couple of Prince tunes, excursions on music from James Bond movies and a wild romp on "Little Liza Jane," with all the music going way outside.
Sex Mob's show at the Red Fox Friday was originally scheduled for the Jambalaya, but a double booking moved it to Eureka. There was already a band booked at the Fox, too, so expect a bit of contrast that night: S.M. is preceded by San Francisco-based alt. country-rockers Acacia Collective, celebrating the release of a new disc, House of Cards.
Turns out there's a lot of jazz Friday night. Pianist Darius Brotman has a concert in HSU's Fulkerson Recital Hall where he's teaming up with bassist Richard Saunders, a former local who now resides in the Bay Area. What will they play? "We're jazz musicians; we never tell," said Brotman. He did let on that the repertoire will involve "exciting bebop and ballads."
Meanwhile, down SoHum way, drummer Michael Curran, who owns Persimmon Garden Gallery in Redway with his wife, Holly, holds forth with another version of the Michael Curran Trio, this time featuring stellar saxophonist Francis Vanek.
Then there's the show at Jambalaya that moved Sex Mob. "Progressive jazz" bassist Tommy Lockett recently relocated here from L.A. and has been playing with a variety of local musicians. For Friday's show he's lined up guitarist Ruben Diaz, Mike Kapitan on keys, trombonist Gregg Moore and drummer Justin Hooeps. So, what's this "progressive" jazz? "It's like Ornette Coleman meets Pat Metheny, that's the vibe, but kind of groove-oriented," says Lockett. He's also playing music in a somewhat different vein the night before at the Jam. Yo Tango! plays for dancers earlier Thursday, then it's "Jazz Night" with Lockett joined by the above-mentioned drummer Michael Curran and guitarist Dave Wilson with Dave's friend Nalia on vocals for some Antônio Carlos Jobim bossa nova tunes and jazz standards.
Another big Weekend at the Arcata Theatre Lounge: Thursday night it's "Baxtale! A Balkan/Gypsy Dance Party" with Fishtank Ensemble, a wild combo led by French fiddler Fabrice Martinez, who once traveled through Europe in a mule-drawn caravan with F.E.'s vocalist/fiddler/saw player Ursula Knudsen. The band also includes flamenco-style guitarist Douglas Smolens and Serbian stand-up bassist Djordje Stijepovic, who leads a Balkan rockabilly band on the side. Yes, it's a crazy mash-up of styles and, yes, it works. They are amazing. Added bonus: Ya-Habibi Dance Company shake their bellies as part of the show.
Friday at the ATL it's "A Panolply Of Sonancy" (whatever that means), an alt. this and that revue that includes plunderphonic artist Pretty Hemp Princess, dark folky Brother Mitya, a new Arcata band, Mt. Mountain, and perhaps most important, the farewell performance by thelittlestillnotbigenough, who are losing graduating members and calling it quits. Journal intern Juli B described the lsnbe sound as "largely unlike anything else currently on the market: entirely poetic, wholly insightful and hellishly absurd," and we couldn't put it any better.
Saturday the ATL goes alt. rock with Seattle's The Curious Mystery (who record for K Records) and Humboldt's own Strix Vega, who have allegedly been banned from playing anywhere else but Arcata (or maybe that was some other band).
Remember Dameon Lee, who fronted the local band Lowlights, then left town to return to New Mexico? (Who can forget that heart-wrenching scene in Rural Rock & Roll?) Dameon's now playing banjo with a Burritos-esque country-rock band out of L.A. called Big Eagle with Humboldt native Robyn Miller (formerly of The Peels). They're on their way north and will stop here Saturday for a show at the Lil' Red Lion. Check their MySpace (/bigeagleband) -- they sound real good.
Wild cyber-tribal music at Nocturnum Saturday: Medicine Drum, an organic-rave band that includes Aussie Earthdance-founder Chris Dekker, is on the road with Ganga Giri, an awesome Aussie percussionist/didgeridoo player who tours with digi-looper V-Ka.
Coming up next Wednesday at Nocturnum, Jerry Joseph and The Jackmormons, a post-Americana rock band led by another former local. Old timers will remember smokin' gigs at the Jam by Jerry's band, Little Women, Humboldt's first reggae-rock band.
St. John and The Sinners vocalist Courtney Weaver called to let us know about a few gigs the band has lined up. Courtney's been a Sinner for a few months now. "Saint sings the rock and I do the blues and R& B covers," she explained. For example? "We do interpretations of Willie Dixon and John Lee Hooker songs, early Etta James stuff, things like that." The gigs: Thursday, The Sinners open for Three Bad Jacks, a psychobilly band from L.A., at the Pearl Lounge. Then on Friday they're joined by "special guests" in a benefit at Humboldt Brews for Redwood Curtain CopWatch. Saturday afternoon you'll find The Sinners out by the Manila Community Center in connection with the Kinetic Race, then they head to McKinleyville for a show that night at Six Rivers Brewery. Sounds like a long weekend.