June 12, 2003 should be a local holiday. On this day, a raucous and deafening cultural event took place, the immediate effects of which have been overshadowed by the sonic mushroom cloud that continues to unfold to this day. The site of this Manhattan Project was The Alibi. The elements fused together were local bands The Hitch and The Letdown. The Fermi, Feynman and Oppenheimer of this experiment was Ian Hiler. This was the first night of live and local rock at 744 Ninth St. in Arcata.
Hiller, a Long Beach ex-pat, son of a Marine, and pirate radio DJ, had been promoting local punk and rock shows in Northern Humboldt for a few years. However, this particular Thursday night gave the rebels and rockers a permanent venue many still consider a musical home. Many of us got our start at The Alibi. Many of us have played our best — and worst — on its beer-stained carpet. Many of us forged lasting friendships there. Many of us honed our D.I.Y. chops there. Some of us have worked there. Some of us have been 86'd. Some of us have been driven home by their bartenders. Some of us have even met our future spouses there. My point being: A good many of us rockers would not be who we are now without The Alibi, and without Ian Hiller.
It took me a while to get him to sit down and chat about the local music scene now and as it was. Seeing himself as more of a curator/fan/supporter, he didn't give much credence to the important role I assigned him. We drifted off into nostalgia for the early days of The Alibi and the bands that came through our one-horse town. Locals The Hitch, The Letdown, Que La Chinga, The Rubberneckers, The Ravens, Dragged by Horses, The Ian Fays, Nuns with Guns, The Buffy Swayze, The Lowlights, The Cutters, The Monster Women and The Eureka Garbage Company were just a few. Then there were the out-of-towners like The Juanita Family, Mos Generator, DMBQ, Green Milk from the Planet Orange, Ding Dang, Uzmecho, Brain Oil, Power of County and Drunken Prayer.
Hiller sees The Alibi as a place to turn locals on to new music and as a kind of musical incubator for "start ups" to network, trade shows, relay stories of the road and refine their songwriting and live shows. When he mentioned this, the web of connections between us local musicians and kindred musical spirits from Portland, Tacoma, Seattle, Oakland, San Francisco and beyond crystallized. How many of us called up that band in Portland to set up a show for us to return the favor of us supporting them while in our town?
A lot goes into supporting a band. It needs a lot from itself to keep going. It also needs a community to keep it going and spaces for the sound to fill. The Alibi has been that place for many and I offer my thanks.
Things get folky with some fiddle tunes by Fingal this evening at the Mad River Brewery Tap room starting around 6 p.m. and, as usual, for free. Farther south you'll find the John Jorgenson Quintet performing at The Old Steeple in Ferndale at 7:30 p.m. Multi-Grammy-winner Jorgenson mainly plays guitar but is also at home on the mandolin, dobro, pedal steel, piano, bass and assorted brass instruments. This guy's played with Bob Dylan, Elton John and Bonnie Raitt, among others, so welcome him to town. A huge Django Reinhardt fan, expect healthy doses of Gypsy jazz tonight for $40.
"Funky jazzy improv" is on the musical menu in Blue Lake at the Mad River Brewery Tap Room at 6 p.m. courtesy of Ultra Secret. As above, this one's also free. At 8 p.m., the Arkley Center for the Performing Arts hosts the Eureka Symphony for its "March Raptures" concert. Internationally acclaimed — and former local — pianist Ryan MacEvoy McCullough joins the Symphony to perform Beethoven's Emperor Concerto. Tickets start at $19. Bring the kids to Cafe Mokka for a hot cocoa and to hear Italian tunes from the Fusilli Brothers for this free show at 8 p.m. At the same time (and for the same price) you can listen to local Americana trio, Kingfoot at the Redwood Curtain Brewery in Arcata. If jazz is more up your alley, head to Speakeasy in Eureka at 9 p.m. for the RLA Trio, comprised of Tim Randles, Mike LaBolle and Ken Lawrence, and joined by Paula Jones and Don Baraka. This local jazz is free tonight but feel free to leave a tip. Also free, despite the name, is Money — we'll be hawking our Pink Floyd tribute your way also at 9 p.m. in the Wave Lounge of the Blue Lake Casino. It's one of the few times you'll find free money at the casino. Back in Arcata are two local heavy-hitters: Object Heavy and the Absynth Quartet join forces at Humboldt Brews at 9 p.m. It's $15 for this fun show; be prepared to groove.
Mad River Brewery house band The Crop Dusters (past and present employees of MRB) play a variety of tunes for you at 6 p.m. for free. Leave a tip, as I'm assuming they all get free beer. If you missed the Eureka Symphony last night, you've got another chance tonight. Same info as above. The Ethniks are playing their "international" tunes for you and the kiddos tonight at 8 p.m. over at Cafe Mokka for free. Long-time blues rockers Tommy Castro & The Painkillers are on the road supporting their recent release of Method to My Madness and stopping by Humboldt Brews tonight at 9 p.m. A six-time Blues Music Award winner, Castro has been packing clubs over his four-decade career, so grab a $20 ticket before they disappear. Local-music-puppet-master Ian has some "sex-groove alt. country" and "Arcata primitive country" (his words) at The Alibi tonight courtesy of Strix Vega (including yours truly) and Opossum Sun Trail. I'll let you decide if the "sex-groove" is anywhere to be found at this 11 p.m. show. Perhaps the later it gets, the easier it will be to find. Only $3 for these two local bands.
Dirtwire, featuring Beats Antique alum, brings its "world instrumentation into rhythm with electronic beats" that will get the dance floor bumping at the Arcata Theatre Lounge to wrap up our weekend. Joining this 9:30 p.m. bill is Lapa, a Russian-born classical violinist now based out of Portland, who blends his classical stylings with electronic music for a something one could call Mozart grooves. Tickets are $20 for this show.
Pink Floyd and Grateful Dead fanatic Piet Dalmolen returns to the Mad River Brewery Tap room at 6 p.m. to do his solo guitar/loops. The show's free so help this father of two out. The Redwood Jazz Alliance brings Endangered Blood to the Morris Graves Museum of Art at 8 p.m. This NYC-based double-sax quartet has some solid avant-garde jazz chops, but the real ace up its sleeve is homegrown bass legend Trevor Dunn, whom we always celebrate when he returns to his hometown. All About Jazz calls the band's music a type of mix of "bebop, Mariachi, free jazz and post-bop," so you're in for something unique and for only $15 ($10 for HSU students, I believe). Also returning to Humboldt tonight is reggae-rapper Matisyahu, who's stopping at The Mateel at 9 p.m. to support his new album Release the Bound. Tickets will sell fast for this one at only $35, so go get 'em. Supporting an upcoming release of Third Wall Chronicles are the Pimps of Joytime, who return to the Arcata Theatre Lounge with eccentric marching band MarchFourth in tow. Tickets for this funky time are $25 and doors open at 8 p.m., with a show time of 9 or 9:30 p.m. if I had to guess.
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 doesn't miss the old Alibi bathrooms.