Online story updated from published version.
Summer may not arrive officially until June 21, but here in Humboldt the season begins Memorial Day weekend, when the noon whistle on the Arcata Plaza marks the launch of the Kinetic Race. It's the first in a series of big events where thousands gather for communion and fun in the sun, most of them revolving around music of one sort or another. For the most part, those in attendance don't think much about the machinations behind the scenes. We know there are people who take care of the many details that go into putting on a giant party, but most of us don't pay much attention to the organizations that apply for the permits, book the bands, oversee the booths, build the stages, arrange for parking, security, porta-potties, clean-up and so on.
That's changed a bit since last summer. Perhaps because of some cosmic misalignment, three major Humboldt County events went through cataclysmic upheavals in the course of the year. You'll read elsewhere in this week's Journal about the strange tale of the Kinetic Race. A change in management at last year's North Country Fair brought serious problems (See "Unfair! Not the same old North Country Fair," Sept. 26, 2006), but things seems to be back on track there with the "Same Old People" regaining control.
The sad story of how a SoHum music fest dedicated to unity tore that community asunder is far too convoluted to explain in great detail here. The short version: A dispute over proceeds from the multi-million dollar Reggae on the River (see "Clash over Reggae," Nov. 16, 2006) led to a protracted legal battle in which the nonprofit Mateel Community Center sued longtime event producer People Productions and Tom Dimmick, whose ranch was home to last year's Reggae. And they sued back. In January the Mateel announced that it was hiring a San Francisco-based company 2B1 Multimedia to produce Reggae on the River in place of People Productions. In February P.P. and Dimmick announced that they were putting on their own replacement festival, Reggae Rising, same time, same place. With a flame war raging on the popular local blog, SoHum Parlance , skirmishes erupted at the Humboldt County Courthouse as the dueling parties took their case before a judge and the Planning Commission.
Last week 2B1 announced that Reggae on the River 2007 is canceled. Those holding tickets online are advised to seek refunds. While the two sides seemed close on money issues, the name of the event proved a deal breaker. The Mateel board remains adamant that the Dimmick/PP event must not be called Reggae Rising. A compromise offered by lawyers for PP/Dimmick to bill the fest as "Mateel Community Center and Reggae Rising present Reggae on the River" was rejected by the Mateel, sighting the potential "degradation of the trademark." And there it stands. It would seem that Reggae Rising has prevailed -- for now. But is the war over? Not according to the latest press release from the Mateel Board, which says in part, "The dispute over Reggae on the River® is not over as consideration of the merits of the Mateel's position have yet to be adjudicated. It has only begun."
This year's Third Annual Organic Planet Festival will take place on Sunday, Aug. 26, at Halvorsen Park in Eureka from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The current musical lineup includes funky blues/rock/soul by the Tommy Castro Band, whose new album recently went to no. 2 on the Billboard Blues charts, and socially-conscious hip hop by Wisdom and the Wisdom Creations Band. Additionally, featured keynote speakers will include internationally renowned "Love Canal" activist (and dioxin expert) Lois Gibbs, winner of the prestigious Goldman Prize, and Global Warming activist and Green Campus organizer at Harvard (and Miss Rhode Island 2006!) Allison Rogers. More exciting lineup announcements coming soon.
Aug. 26 at Halvorsen Park, Eureka -- www.organicplanetfestival.org
As the Reggae clash raged, People Productions CEO Carol Bruno remained in the background mostly doing her usual job: booking bands for Humboldt's biggest music fest. The result: a more reggae-centric lineup than any gathering on the river in years. In recent weeks initial headliners Sly & Robbie and The Taxi Gang (with Horace Andy), Anthony B and Steel Pulse were supplemented by the Marley brothers, Ziggy, Stephen and Damian, each with his own band. The latest addition to the lineup is the Reggae Sunsplash Festival tour, with Luciano, Beres Hammond, Morgan Heritage, Tessanne Chin and Richie Spice. You also have Freddie McGregor, The Abyssinians, Collie Buddz, Heavyweight Dub Champion, Streetstothehill, Tanya Stephens, Queen Omega, Richie Stephens, Soul Majestic and Humboldt's own Ishi Dube. Will Reggae fans show up despite the name change? Aside from some locals, I'm guessing they will.
Aug. 3-5 at Dimmick Ranch, Piercy -- www.reggaerising.com
Mateel Summer Arts and Music Festival
The Mateel board may have been preoccupied, but the community center staff stayed busy assembling its 31st annual summer kickoff party. The ambitious weekend gathering aside the Eel at Benbow brings together over 150 booths selling everything from fine arts and crafts to tofu dogs, plus music, dancing and more on five stages. Among the musical acts: Melvin Seals and JGB, Peter Rowan and Crucial Reggae, Jr. Toots, Crown City Rockers, David Jacobs-Strain Band, Copperwoman, SambaDa, Lansdale Station, Delta Nove, Tempest, Alice DiMicele, Scott Huckabay, Druid Sisters Tea Party and, as the Mateel puts it, "just about every local band and dance troupe you could think of" -- Ishi Dube, NightHawk, Black Sand, The Non Prophets, Nucleus, Sub Sab and Yer Dog, for example. There's a bit of a circus emphasis, and not just on the kids' side, with Circus Nature, Freelove Circus, Cirkus Pandemonium and The Zoopy Show all doing their thing, plus the first Great Benbow Puppet Battle.
June 2-3 at Benbow Lake State Recreation Area, south of Garberville -- www.mateel.org -- 923-3368
"The ultimate biker party" turns 30 this year. The motorcycle fest, with Harleys aplenty in evidence, also attracts fans of classic hard rock. Friday's acts include Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Molly Hatchet, Lydia Pense and Cold Blood, Izzy Osborne's tribute to the music of Ozzy Osborne, Savannah Blue and locals the Clint Warner Band. Saturday is dedicated to biker games, and a custom/vintage motorcycle expo with music by Gregg Allman, Joe Bonamassa and ThundHerStruck, an all-girl tribute to AC/DC.
June 8-10 at Riverview Ranch, Piercy -- www.redwoodrun.com -- (916) 473-6981
Blues by the Bay
The crowd at Blues by the Bay has always been dominated by baby boomers; this year's lineup is aimed straight at them. Saturday's show includes a couple of flash-from-the-past '60s bands, boogie masters Canned Heat, and one of the major players in San Francisco's Summer of Love, Big Brother and the Holding Company, plus Big Mo from Paradise, Zach Harmon, Corey Harris and David Jacobs-Strain. Sunday's featured artists include a couple of guys who came from the '60s Chicago blues scene, country/blues/rocker Elvin Bishop and the legendary Charlie Musselwhite, plus the irrepressible crowd-pleaser Sista Monica, Guitar Shorty, Reno Jones and J.C. Smith.
July 14-15 at Halvorsen Park by the Adorni Center on Eureka's waterfront-- www.bluesbythebay.org -- 445-3378
Humboldt Folklife Festival
Humboldt Folklife Society's 29th festival runs a full week in July in conjunction with Dell'Arte's Mad River Festival. The fun starts Sunday with Annie & Mary Day, where the Folklifers run a fiddle fest in Perigot Park. Monday, back by popular demand, Flying Fingers Night in the Carlo Theatre, with the area's top pickers. Tuesday is Songwriter Night; Wednesday it's Acoustic Jazz with jazz fiddlers and more. Thursday's bluegrass night has filled up so often, they've moved it to the outdoor stage. Friday the action shifts to the Bayside Grange for an evening of Contra and swing dancing in honor of the late Don Wolski, a former Folklife president. Saturday, as always, the festival concludes with an all-day free festival at Dell'Arte with dozens of bands on a couple of stage -- among them The Country Pretenders, Kulica, The Bucky Walters, Sari Baker Trio, UKEsperience, Lila Nelson and Joanne Rand.
July 15-21, mostly in Blue Lake -- www.humboldtfolklife.org -- 822-5394
Buddy Brown Blues Fest
It's just one day, but that day is filled by top local bands playing variations on the blues. So far it's The Delta Nationals, Clint Warner and Highway 101, Nichol Brothers, Buddy Reed, and The Backstreet Drivers.
August 19 at Perigot Park in Blue Lake -- www.bluelakeblues.com
North County Fair The Same Old People return to reinvigorate Arcata's traditional end-of-summer bash: two days on the Plaza filled with arts, crafts, food and music.
Sept. 22-23 on the Arcata Plaza -- www.sameoldpeople.org
Outside Humboldt County
The event once known as the Health and Harmony Festival is now simply the Harmony Festival. Some of the New Age trappings are still in place, but it has evolved considerably to become a three-day multi-stage music fest with onsite camping. This year they've partnered with Live Nation (formerly Bill Graham Productions) to ramp up the entertainment another notch. Brian Wilson, Ricki Lee Jones, Erykah Badu and The Roots are among the bigger names, but the range is wide, from The Waybacks and Jai Utal to New Orleans Social Club and Common, plus a ton of jambands including Sound Tribe Sector 9, Steve Kimock, ALO and moe. Added bonus for politicos: speeches by Amy Goodman and Arianna Huffington.
June 8-10 on the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa -- www.harmonyfestival.com -- 575-9355
Sierra Nevada World Music Festival
Now in its 14th year, the world music fest returns to its digs in Boonville, an easy drive from Humboldt. SNWMF has consistently lived up to its name with a multifaceted, international lineup, and this year's Solstice weekend show is no exception. There's plenty of reggae: Luciano, Bunny Wailer, Toots and The Maytals, Tony Rebel, The Ethiopians, Sugar Minott and Clinton Fearon for example, plus a Virgin Islands reggae package, but they also have the "Afropean" hip hop duo Les Nubians, "King of Ska" Derrick Morgan, Brazilian star Carlinhos Brown, Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars, the very modern Spanish post-flamenco band Ojos de Brujo among the three dozen acts.
June 22-24 on the Mendocino County Fairgrounds, Boonville (30 minutes west of Ukiah) -- www.snwmf.com
Kate Wolf Memorial Music Festival
A truly fine festival focusing on folk and Americana in an idyllic setting with towering oaks for shade and a pond for quick dips to beat the heat. The music is stellar as always, with Richie Havens, Hot Tuna, Dave Alvin, Marcia Ball, Guy Davis, David Bromberg, Laura Love, Dougie MacLean, Robin and Linda Williams, Utah Phillips, Rosalie Sorrels, The Be Good Tanyas, The Bills, The Mammals, The Devil Makes Three, Tribal Voice (John Trudell and Quiltman) and Eliza Gilkyson with Kate's old friend Nina Gerber among the dozens of acts.
June 29-July 1 at Black Oak Ranch near Laytonville -- www.cumuluspresents.com /kate
High Sierra Music Festival
Four days and nights of jambands etc. right after the Fourth of July at yet another county fairground, this one high in the mountains east of here. The highlights: Yonder Mountain String Band, ALO, Les Claypool, Galactic, Disco Biscuits, Soulive, The Slip, MOFRO, Del McCoury Band, Mavis Staples, The Waybacks, Brett Dennen, a Leftover Salmon reunion and that proto-jamband leader from the '60s, Brian Auger with his Oblivion Express.
July 5-8 at Plumas-Sierra County Fairgrounds in Quincy -- www.highsierramusic.com
The "Global Dance Festival for Peace" has simultaneous gatherings around the planet, with Northern California as the epicenter. The three-day campout has speakers, activist booths, films, lessons on green living and, of course, world-class music including Zap Mama, Medeski, Scofield, Martin and Wood, Les Nubians, Ozomatli, Lyrics Born, The Coup, Heavyweight Dub Champion, New Monsoon, Zilla The Motet and Wisdom, plus top tribal DJs.
Sept. 14-16 at Black Oak Ranch near Laytonville -- www.earthdance.org