We here in Humboldt are lucky. It's easy to forget but deep down we know that. We live in a rural part of the state that's hard to get to and have a low average median income for a family of four compared to much of the rest of California, if my memory is correct. I could go on but I won't. There are also tremendous upsides: It's one of the most gorgeous spots on the planet and our "rat race" is more of a rat power-walk. We've also got a concentrated wealth of artists and musicians among us. Sometimes those artists leave Humboldt but often those who keep with their art come back when they can. One such musician returning to our pristine neck o' the woods is Lila Nelson.
Many of you have probably caught Lila performing her songs during intimate singer/songwriter shows over the many years Lila lived up here. Many remember her as the host of KHUM's "Meet Me in the Morning" program. She's one of our more celebrated singer/songwriters and many were sad to see her go. I heard Lila was returning to town for her first Humboldt show in about five years, and I was able to catch her quickly after she put her daughter to sleep. Lila told me that she and her husband, Ian, had recently spent about a year living in Italy close to a town called Bra in Piedmont, which has a slightly larger population than Eureka. While Ian was studying gastronomy and traditional Italian cuisine, their daughter learned to speak some Italian and got to know some extended family living in the region. Lila described this short bit of their lives as the "Eat, Pray, Change Diapers" period. Will that eventually be reflected in her catalogue? I don't see how it couldn't — she's already got a great album title.
Speaking of new songs, Lila has been working on one called "Sung Un-Hero," which she tells me is topical but has been difficult to correctly write. She said, "when [Trump] was elected, people in Italy said almost comically, 'Oh, he's your Berlusconi! It's your turn!' I take it a little further." When asked if she's planning on getting back into the studio anytime soon she told me, "Yes. Tiny Telephone opened in Oakland recently and I have some time booked there. I'm actually studying nursing right now so I'm feeling some anatomy-themed music-to-have-a-revolution-by." As for what to expect for Lila's show (more on that below), she mentions that she's "previewing a bunch of new songs and dragging out some B sides for the first time. Even playing a few on the piano, which I don't usually do live. A pretty good mix of old and new. My setlist is always in pencil ... I've spent so much time in Arcata it still feels like home, even though it's been a while. I really appreciate being able to come back and have people support my art, whatever form it takes. I'm grateful." So welcome this former local-troubadour back to town this weekend.
You can get your pre-Arts Arcata game on tonight at the Redwood Curtain Brewery, which is celebrating its seventh anniversary with local indie-grass powerhouse The Absynth Quartet. The band will be jamming away around 8 p.m. and all for free. Celebrate good local beer with good local music.
Arts Arcata is upon us and as of press time, the weather should be non-rainy. That means you can stroll around the Arcata Plaza and soak up the myriad of local musicians and bands vibrating the air. If art + Arcata ain't your thing, perhaps check out local rockers Wild Otis at the Mad River Brewery Tap Room at 6 p.m. this evening. They're playing for free and you can get your hands on a copy of their new release Don't Let Me Fall. You can bring the kids out to Cafe Mokka around 8 p.m. for some hot cocoa while you caffeinate and hear the Celtic tunes of Good Company, also playing for free. Experimental funk/fusion is on the bill at The Miniplex in Arcata, courtesy of Oakland-based Wicked Man, supported by local soul rockers Velvet Touch and fellow local heavy funkers Peach Purple. The show starts around 9 p.m. — bring $10 for the ticket. The Green Week Kick-Off Party is in full force tonight at Humboldt Brews at 10 p.m. Get your groove on with D'Vinity, ILL-ESHA, and MiMOSA (I'm unclear which of those previous 16 letters should have been capitalized), who'll be cranking out the bass and booty-shakin' jams. This party's got a $27 ticket price.
Local blues and R&B band the Lost Dogs are up at the Mad River Brewery around 6 p.m. and playing for free. As mentioned above, former local songstress/storyteller/Morning DJ Lila Nelson is in town to play music for the first time after her time abroad. With folky roots and insightful and oft-times whimsical lyrics, she'll be joined by fellow Nelson sister — and still local — Siena Nelson, whom you have most likely seen and heard with the numerous bands she's performed in here in Humboldt County. I got late word that fellow Renaissance woman Jackie Dandneau will be rounding out this bill, so you're in for a trio treat. Show starts at 8 p.m. and is only $15 at the Arcata Playhouse. Helping to celebrate the seventh anniversary of Redwood Curtain Brewery tonight is local Pink Floyd Tribute Money (with yours truly) who will take the stage at 8 p.m. and for free. Co-founder of the record label Sublime Frequencies, Hisham Mayet is stopping by town to spin an eclectic and international mix of world tunes and grooves at The Miniplex around 10 p.m. Expect songs and sounds from "Laos, Vietnam, Iraq, Syria, Ethiopia, Western Sahara" as the press release notes. A $10 bill gets you in the door.
Recently wrapping up the sold-out Alice's Restaurant 50th Anniversary Tour, Arlo Guthrie comes up the road to visit us here in Humboldt. On the road with his band Shenandoah (comprised of Terry A La Berry, Steve Ide, Carol Ide and Abe Guthrie), Arlo's Running Down The Road Tour brings some of his favorite cuts from his late '60s and early '70s catalogue. If you don't already have a ticket, you probably don't want to hesitate. Arlo's at the Van Duzer Theatre at 8 p.m. with a $56 ticket price.
Sticking with the Van Duzer, Charles Lloyd & the Marvels will be on the stage tonight at 8 p.m. A jazz giant, Lloyd has played saxophone with many of the greats. Let me just run down an abbreviated list of some of the folks Charles has played with and/or alongside: Howlin' Wolf, B.B. King, Charlie Mingus, Keith Jarrett, The Doors, The Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Cream and Jefferson Airplane. He's recently released a cover of Bob Dylan's "Masters of War," which is, sadly, always a relevant song (here's to the day when it won't be). Joining him on that recording and at the show tonight is Lucinda Williams. $46 will get you a seat to see one of the saxophone greats.
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. The West is the best, baby.