What is the "Southern California Sound"? I heard the term recently mentioned in regards to a band playing The Depot on Friday (The Donkeys) and although I immediately had an idea of what the sum of that sound is, the individual parts that make it up were a bit more troubling to identify. The artists who built the So-Cal Sound are The Byrds, Neil Young, CS&N, Joni Mitchell, The Eagles, Jackson Browne, Buffalo Springfield, The Doors, etc. — though not all of those bands nor all of their catalogues would neatly fit into this sound. Maybe some songs from The Byrds' Mr. Tambourine Man or Sweetheart of the Rodeo might fit. The Eagles' "Take it Easy" and "Peaceful Easy Feeling" are a good fit. "Journey of the Sorcerer"? Maybe not so much. Joni Mitchell's Blue? Yep. The Doors? You can find some Venice Beach/Laurel Canyon vibe in there, but it gets dark pretty quick. Was darkness the underbelly of the L.A. laid-back, good-times, sun-kissed sound? Perhaps.
The point being that it's easier to hear a "sound" — the sum of all music's parts — as it all combines and washes over the ear. Much like Seurat's "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte," when you look closely, you will see something completely different. Start picking a "sound" apart and you find derivatives and elements from all over. You are left with fragments and parts stripped away from their context. Maybe the gestalt approach is the best way to hear the sound, and an atomistic approach aids in the understanding of it. Perhaps both are necessary for a fuller appreciation of music or the So-Cal Sound we're discussing. Either way, check out The Donkeys and hear for yourself their confluences and divergences with the sound. Papers are due on my desk Monday morning.
There's a birthday to be celebrating tonight at The Jam in Arcata. Owner/birthday boy/drummer-in-too-many-bands-to-name Pete Ciotti will be jamming with Object Heavy to celebrate his advance in years. You know it'll be a funky good time, and to sweeten the pot Portland's Scott Pemberton Trio will be joining in on the fun. With guitar chops and licks reminiscent of Mark Farner and Eddie Van Halen, rippin' rock fans will have a blast. Wish Pete a happy birthday around 9 p.m. and your gift to him can be whatever the cover charge is.
HSU students get a hell of a show tonight for free at The Depot. San Diego indie rockers The Donkeys will be bringing some of their California sun-soaked songs to our rainy and dreary neck of the woods. Sounding in part like a mid-'60s psychedelic So-Cal garage band with one foot in the sand, they also bring some pop sensibilities echoing swingin' London circa '66. The band's new album Midnight Palms will be out next month, so expect to hear songs from that upcoming release. Supporting the recent release of Love Rules the World, local barroom rockers The Trouble will be on the bill giving the students a taste of what the local club scene sounds like. "Up and comers" The Velvet Touch will also be performing, around 9 p.m.
The 21-and-over crowd can head to Humboldt Brews to catch the first night of The Rock Collection at 9:30 p.m. This "All-Star Band" features Melvin Seals, Stu Allen, Greg Anton, Lebo and Robin Sylvester — all veterans of the stage, and no strangers to Humboldt. If you can't catch 'em, you're lucky enough to have another chance Saturday. $25 to get in.
As just mentioned a sentence ago, The Rock Collection will be back at Humboldt Brews in Arcata; 9:30 p.m and $25.
The Depot at HSU has L.A.'s Chicano Batman for a two-night residency. Steeped in a love of soul sounds, these fellas pull some sonic weight, from '60s "Tropicalia" to slow-jam soul, while pulling off the classic ruffled tuxedo shirts that we were all too embarrassed to wear to prom. Local record spinners Matt 'n Adam start the show at 9 p.m. for $10. Don't sweat it HSU students, this one's free with your I.D.
Steeped in the art of stealing the sounds of Pink Floyd, Money will be at Cher-Ae Heights Casino for free starting around 9 p.m. (Full disclosure: the real Roger Waters could actually hold a tune.)
Psychobilly fans rejoice, Bad Kitty Presents has you covered. The Rocketz, from L.A., make their Alibi debut tonight and you should make them feel at home. "Shamrockabilly" band Craic Haus (don't ask me how to pronounce that) will join, bringing an Irish and punk feel to the joint. $5, 11 p.m.
Missed Chicano Batman last night? Or just want to see them again? Do it! They're back at the Depot, this time at 8 p.m. $10 for us, free for HSU students.
Blues soldier Buddy Reed is doing his thing (as he does every Tuesday) at Libation in Arcata. He's rockin' for free and will be starting around 7 p.m.
Before they head to Sacramento, check out The Motet at the Arcata Theatre Lounge at 9 p.m. Humboldt's accustomed to getting down and groovin' with this "progressive funk collective." With a tight horn section, you'll be sweating in no time. $20 to get your musical exercise on.
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. He got a C- in music history.