Another year is behind us and, fortunately, another in front of us. When we look back to take stock of the year we're leaving, it's easy to focus on the times in which life had its bloody way with us. It's less easy to remember the multitude of small and daily joys we experienced throughout.
While reminiscing, I heard from a friend that George Michael had passed away at 53. As I watched old Wham! videos, I thought of other musicians who departed this year. I started to wonder, what is the best song to remember each one by? It wouldn't necessarily be his or her best song, the most popular or even my favorite, but rather one that's fitting to listen to now that he or she has gone and a new year awaits us. So here goes:
10. Bobby Vee — "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes"
This song has something enduring to it. Although playful and lighthearted on the surface, there's a bit of darkness and jealousy just beneath Bobby's smiling sun-kissed face. You may think you're alone but the night is always watching.
9. Keith Emerson/Greg Lake — "Fanfare for the Common Man"
This one's a bit of a two-fer, sadly, as we lost both Keith and Greg of Emerson Lake and Palmer this year. Their arrangement of this Aaron Copeland fanfare is not for the faint of heart; it is bold, grand and audacious. A hell of a way to go out.
8. Paul Kantner — "Wooden Ships"
Count me as one of the many who didn't know until recently that Paul co-wrote this one with David Crosby and Stephen Stills. It's a wonderful song and the Jefferson Airplane version is worth a listen. To sail off and leave your world behind ...
7. Glenn Frey — "Doolin-Dalton"
Something about the early era of The Eagles — especially Desperado — hints at the fierce cockiness of youth. It's hard not to smile looking back now at young men in Los Angeles dreaming of being cowboys. "Well, the towns lay out across the dusty plains/Like graveyards filled with tombstones, waitin' for the names."
6. George Michael — "Freedom! '90"
I can't say I've ever had a bad time when I've heard this song come on. Here's to freedom, baby!
5. Prince — "I Would Die 4 U"
Another one that's hard to not have a good time with. It's got more than your average dance hit lyrics with Prince reminding us that there's "No need 2 worry, no need 2 cry" because he's our Messiah, and we're the reason why. We pick our idols and that's no small thing.
4. Leon Russell — "Stranger in a Strange Land"
Leon opens with some delicate piano that yields to some similar lyrics.
"How many days has it been/since I was born?/How many days 'til I die?" When the choir kicks in, he reminds us that we're all in it together and these questions are universal.
3. Sir George Martin — "Get Back" from the Love Album
Now, not a musician or artist here in the sense the previous were, but it's almost silly to not think of Sir George as a Beatle. His touch, ear and guidance of the Fab Four can't be overstated. He knew when he could help and when to back up because they were onto something. This medley of sorts is a two-minute wonder — what The Beatles and Sir George had the balls to pull off.
2. Leonard Cohen — "Treaty"
An artist whose lyrics continue to change in my mind. The words stay the same but the lyrics take on new meanings. His words haunt, and that's not a bad thing. This song, like many on his last album, has his gravelly, wisdom-soaked baritone right up front. It either won't leave you alone or it'll bring you right into his skin.
1. David Bowie — "Blackstar"
Also from a final album, this song still scares the shit out of me. The music video doesn't help, either. None of this means I don't love the song. It's creepy, dark, obtuse, insightful and, well, Bowie. It yields to softer moments when you imagine David was looking up at the sky, with this as his public goodbye. "Something happened on the day he died./A spirit rose a meter and stepped aside./Somebody else took his place, and bravely cried:/I'm a blackstar, I'm a blackstar."
All right, it's New Year's Eve, the night you've been waiting for to get out and party (and to stay up past 10 p.m.). Tonight's the reason that there hasn't been too much going on the past few days, or even the next few days. Well, many students are out of town, so that keeps things a bit mellow, too. However, there is no lack of things to do tonight. I don't pretend to present the full list of options, merely some choice ones here to celebrate with your neighbors. Whether you're welcoming in the New Year, or more in need to give salutations to 2016 and be done with it, local bands are at the ready to provide for your entertainment.
I don't know that it's fair to call it a yearly-one-night-venue-non-specific residency but, if memory serves, the rumored bionic string band, Absynth Quartet has spent the last few New Year's Eves bouncing around Arcata on NYE. The group tends to pack the party and outside of their inherent talent, I credit adding drums to the grass. Can bluegrass alone move your ass? Sure, but throw in a goddamn backbeat and some non-Appalachian syncopations, and you've got a recipe for a good ol' Humboldt time. This year AQ4 is back at the Arcata Theatre Lounge to dance and groove you into 2017. The stage will be warmed up by fellow locals Kingfoot and "comedic piano-pop" band Scuber Mountain. Doors open at 8 p.m. and I recommend advance tickets instead of gambling on any $18 full price tickets being left. I am told there will be "balloons and stuff." Up in Willow Creek, you'll find hard-working locals The Movers and The Shakers doing their rock/blues thing for free at The Forks starting at 8 p.m. Just a bit east of them, you'll find the Jimi Jeff New Year's Eve party at the RockSlide Bar and Grill, also for free but around 8:30 p.m. And now for something completely different, the Arcata Playhouse welcomes in the new year with Speakeasy and the Conglomerates. Speakeasy takes you "on a journey of old jazz standards and new jazzy tales" and is written and performed by Jacqueline Dandeneau along with musical heavyweights Tim Randles, Tim Gray, Tim Theiss, and Tim ... I mean Corey Goldman, and will start around 9 p.m. After this, the costume changes begin and the Conglomerates — comprised of the Tims, Corey, Gregg Moore, Zuzka Sabata, Siena Nelson and Jackie — get you moving while jumping genres, moving from "Joe Strummer and Sharon Jones to the Black Eyed Peas and Louis Prima." Expect the Conglomerates closer to 10:30 p.m. and $20 will get you in the door for this performance.
The Blue Lake Casino and Hotel hosts two shows at the same time, so either pick which one fits your fancy or bounce between the two. In the Sapphire Palace at 9 p.m. Zion I headlines the party with local support Mr. LifExperience, Pure Powers, DJ Gabe Pressure and DJ D'Vinity. It's $30 tickets for this show. Just across the way, in the Wave Lounge, you'll find Humboldt's favorite '80s cover band Eyes Anonymous kicking out the feel-good jams and all for free. Bonus points to the band if it can work in any WHAM! Or George Michael tunes for the night. Back in Arcata, you can catch the Soul Night NYE Party at Humboldt Brews also at 9 p.m. Be prepared to sweat in the new year and remember to drink water to replenish the vodka you sweat out. It's $10 for this one. Choose wisely, have fun, tell this year to piss off, and remember, we need your help making 2017 a better year than the last.
Full show listings in the Journal's Music and More grid, the Calendar and online. Bands and promoters, send your gig info, preferably with a high-res photo or two, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Andy Powell is a congenital music lover and hosts The Night Show on KWPT 100.3 FM weeknights at 6 p.m. To lose something only means we get to find it again.