As summer slips away from us, many of us parents are now thankfully transitioning back into school mode where we can unload our kids for five to six hours a day, five days a week. The days of juggling work schedules to get kiddos to camp on time and pleading with family members to look after them while we toil under fluorescent lights is almost at an end. Our daughter just began her first year in high school and we've been trying to help her prepare for the big change. Much like I was, she's equal parts excited and terrified. We've been trying to reassure her while not shying away from the realities of high school. "It sucks for a while," I told her, with the caveat that "senior year is pretty cool, as you've got most of the social stuff figured out by that point." I also explained that she already occupies a higher social status going into high school than I ever achieved and has miraculously avoided the concentration of pimples that adorned my babyface. She's a smart and cool cookie, so she'll be fine. She mentioned that when she feels anxious, listening to music helps to calm and center her. Although I never quite thought about it in those terms when I was her age, music was always a refuge and served as the soundtrack of awkward teenage social problems getting better instead of worse. I can specifically recall listening to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' Into the Great Wide Open in the Southern California sunshine with friends during a particularly simple social scenario that I had failed to navigate with grace or wisdom. Would the girl ever talk to me again? It turned out no, but the music gave that specific angst wings to fly away and provided a larger context for my "intense" sufferings.
This all flew through my mind sitting at UCSF waiting for my mother to come out of surgery last week. As I sat with my uncle waiting for news, tapping away on my keyboard to catch up on work, I couldn't help but feel anxious. The anesthesia could be too much; they could find a cancerous growth. Then a woman began playing the harp in the lobby below us. Even as I picked up on the assorted Disney theme songs she was playing, I had to laugh — it was wonderful to hear. And it didn't take long for the gentle harp music to relax me and take most of my worry. Ten minutes later we heard that my mother had come out of surgery just fine and we could head back to see her.
And you know what? Chances are it'll all be fine. Whatever we're going through. We'll be fine and music can help us along the journey.
With some of the high schools already back in session, you parents deserve to get out and celebrate that you survived the summer. For those of you with younger kids who haven't started school yet, well, you deserve a beer or three just to keep the internal machinery nice and lubed up. Stop by the Mad River Brewery Tap Room at 6 p.m. to hear Jenni & David and the Sweet Soul Band who'll be playing for free. There's also a free show tonight at the Redwood Curtain Brewery: local funk and soul band Ghost Train starting at 8 p.m. Sam of Angry Hammer Productions dropped me a line to share that there's metal on the bill at The Jam in Arcata tonight with two out-of-town bands — Hazzard's Cure (crusty stoner metal from Oakland) and Wild Hunt (atmospheric black metal crust also from Oakland) — along with "local weird metal" Muppet Hunter and heavy-ass umlaut rockers War Möth. The show starts at 8 p.m. with a $7 ticket price. The Miniplex is excited to host Mississippi-based singer/songwriter Dent May who "crafts elegant and whimsical pop tunes in the vein of Magnetic Fields, with a dash of Serge Gainsbourg and Jonathan Richman," and who'll be playing songs off of his release Across the Multiverse around 9 p.m. Bring $10 to get into this show. Bring a few dollars more for a drink.
Classic country is on the bill tonight at the Mad River Brewery Tap Room at 6 p.m., thanks to the Redwood Ramblers who are playing for free. The Trinidad Bay Art and Music Festival kicks off tonight in Trinidad's Town Hall at 8 p.m. with a concert of modern classics featuring Nonoka Mizukami on the marimba, joined by Peter Kibbe on the cello. It'll be well worth it at $30. The Eastern European sounds of Chubritza return to Cafe Mokka at 8 p.m. and for free. At the same price, you'll find Jimi Jeff & The Gypsy Band rockin' the house in the Wave Lounge at the Blue Lake Casino at 9 p.m. At the same time (and also free) The Mojo Rockers will be groovin' the dance floor at Bear River Casino.
Day two of the Trinidad Bay Art and Music Festival gets underway at 2 p.m. at Trinidad Town Hall with Tales of the Baroque with Trio Seraphim. Four hours later, you'll find dance music courtesy of the Delta Nationals outside at the Mad River Brewery playing for free. Mon Petit Chou is at Cafe Mokka playing also for free and at 8 p.m. doing its French-Canadian thing, which is great music to drink cappuccinos to by the way. Temporary Resonance Trio is at Trinidad Town Hall at 8 p.m. to keep the Trinidad Festival moving along. The '80s Mercedes for the Ladies returns to the Wave Lounge in Blue Lake Casino at 9 p.m. so put on your leg warmers and headbands and get ready to dance to Eyes Anonymous. When I first read the press release about the band Talking Dreads, I was a little perplexed by the band's move to cover Talking Heads songs with a reggae-tinted groove but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. As I went back and listened to some Heads, I could definitely envision where reggae could definitely fit these songs. You'll have a chance to hear this first hand tonight at Humboldt Brews around 9:30 p.m., when the band gets on the stage. "Head Dread" Mystic Bowie is tight with Chris Franz and Tina Weymouth of the Talking Heads and he was a member of The Tom Tom Club, so you know you've got some real fans and real talented musicians tonight. Tickets are $10 for this show.
The Trinidad Bay Art and Music Festival wraps up today with three concerts at two venues. The first begins at Holy Trinity Church at 11 a.m. with preludes, dances and counterpoint with Peter Kibbe on the cello. Then at 2 p.m. you'll find soprano Clara Lisle and powerhouse pianist Daniela Mineva at Trinidad Town Hall before everything wraps up at the same venue at 8 p.m. with Festival Strings joined by soloist Michael Kibbe on the oboe. Trinidad's never had it so good.
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 email@example.com.
Andy Powell is a congenital music lover and hosts The Album of the Week Show on KWPT 100.3 FM Tuesdays at 6 p.m. He'd still be a mess if it weren't for Tom Waits' Small Change.