Looking for something cool to do in San Francisco on a Friday night, we somehow ended up at The Rickshaw Stop, where bicycles hung from the ceiling and a band called Diego's Umbrella was on stage. I'd heard about the S.F. band's cross-genre mash-up; they'd played their "Mexicali Gypsy Pirate Rock" in Humboldt a few times, but I'd never caught their act.
They were a motley crew, some dressed in Mariachi gear, others in German lederhosen and bandanas. The music was as described ... and the crowd was dancing up a storm.
Founded in Santa Cruz in 2001, where initial members were going to UCSC, guitarist Tyson Maulhardt recalls, "At first it was sort of a West Coast reggae/surf vibe -- you know, that Jack Johnsony-Sumblimey kind of feel, but tinged with electronic beats with samples a la DJ Shadow. That and flamenco guitar adding a bit of Buena Vista Social Club."
Acoustic guitarist Vaughn Lindstrom studied flamenco (he also plays trombone); Maulhardt was more in the Cuban jazz/Marc Ribot vein. Since relocating to S.F. they've lost and added members. At this point they have Jason Kleinberg switching between violin and accordion (adding klez/gypsy-ish elements), a third guitarist, Ben Leon and a wild rhythm section with Kevin Blair on upright and electric bass and John Willhoite on drums. The sum total makes for a great party band. They have a song that pretty much describes their mission: "Viva La Juerga."
"Juerga is an old Spanish-gypsy term that basically just means an impromptu party with dancers and music and good times," Maulhardt explains. And that's pretty much what the band is all about. Ready to party with D. Umbrella? They play this Thursday, June 4, at Humboldt Brews. Be prepared to dance.
Coming Friday to the Wave in Blue Lake: Critical Measures Trio, a band out of Petaluma with local ties. "It's kind of a homecoming for us," says CM-3 guitarist/vocalist Todd Bugbee. You might remember the band name from years ago: It was a local hip hop crew that included Bicasso, a rapper who's gone on to greater fame. This is not that group. Bugbee was living here at the time and played in a few bands: The Orbitones and HSU's P.M. Jazz Band among them. He was friends with the Critical Measures guys. Later, basically because he liked the name, he adopted it (with permission) when he put together a funk-jam outfit down Sonoma way with bassist Joe Nemzer, another musician with Humboldt roots.
"We're pretty organic. It is what it is: three guys jamming it out," Bugbee explained. "We recorded one of our first jams and put it up on MySpace; before we knew it people were asking us to play."
Todd Fed-Xed a CM-3 demo disc with a few songs (his day job is with Fed-X). Sounds pretty tight -- but also loose. Most of the tunes are instrumental; maybe that's why "The Fade," the one with lyrics, stands out. It came together casually says Bugbee. "We had this four chord jam and needed lyrics." He jotted down a line: "I remember when I was 19, I brought a shotgun to a crime scene, since that day I could never live that down." The band played off that, turning it into a study on fading memory and regret and, no, it's not a true story. At least so he claims.
If you're into the neo-old school soul of Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings, you may want to check out Orgone, a funky nine-piece soul band from Hollywood along the same lines playing Friday at Nocturnum. Lead singer Fanny Franklin has the Jones/Winehouse vibe, but the band also adds touches of War and Fela-esque Afrobeat. Psychology students will remember that Austrian psychiatrist Wilhelm Reich sought to harness orgone as a weather- and life-changing alternate energy force.
The Monster Women are busy this week: Thursday they're at the Arcata Theatre Lounge with local noise/folk band Medicine Ball and Dreamdate, a female trio described by überhip Aquarius Records as "crushworthy indie pop ... unaffected and uneffected electric guitars strum away happily and the drums keep things simple with an uncluttered beat ... Nice." Friday M. Women head to Auntie Mo's for a show with Nite Jewel, described by M.W. Courtney as a "Los Angeles lounge femme electronic duo. They just got a write-up in BUST magazine and seem to be gaining some national attention."
Looking for something exotic and worldly to do on Saturday night? You have several options. Father and son sitar masters, 'Pandit' Shivanath Mishra and Deobrat Mishra, aka The Mishras, play traditional North Indian ragas and other folk music that night at the Arcata Playhouse with Mahapunya Das on tabla. The Mishras are on tour to help support the newly formed Mishra School of Indian Classical Music in Nelson, B.C. where they'll offer be sitar, tabla and harmonium classes.
Meanwhile at the Arcata Theatre Lounge, Shoshanna and the Ya Habibi Dance Company present their 12th Annual Spring Hafla. I had to look that word up; a belllydance glossary tells me it's "a party/celebration with music, food, dance and (maybe) drink." This one features many local Middle Eastern dancers plus guests Regina Anne from Eugene and "international dance star" Zoe Jakes from San Francisco. Zoe's a tribal-style dancer who's toured with Bellydance Superstars and The Yard Dogs Road Show and, we're told, "She loves unicorns and has never once doubted their existence."
Over in Eureka that night local "Afrock" band WoMama prepares to head out on a weeklong California Coast tour. It's Arts Alive! that night and SambAmore will lead the way from the Old Town Gazebo to the Red Fox Tavern Piped Piper-style. "After the Red Fox we do Summer Arts at Benbow Sunday," said WoMama member Melody W., "then we're playing Fresno Monday, then L.A. and San Diego, then it's a long drive up the coast to Santa Cruz, on to San Francisco and finally the Caspar Inn in Mendo." If you have friends in those places, you can check MySpace (/womama) for exact locations and let 'em know.
As noted, it's Arts Alive! night. The Fabulous Bluejayz play blues, jazz standards and original songs in the Rotunda of the Morris Graves Museum of Art, and there's also reception there for the Northwest Eye regional fine art photography competition. (Shameless plug: I have a photo in the show.)
Paul from The Zygoats wants you to know his band's playing at The Logger Bar Saturday night with Summers in Kuwait and The Hard Ride. He notes, "Summers in Kuwait features Matt Marek, formerly of Dragged by Horses and currently of The Ravens. The Hard Ride is a Humboldt County Rock supergroup featuring Robert Tripp of The Fire Demons [whose name I got wrong the other day], Jody Goldman of Dragged by Horses and Tavan Anderson formerly of Nuns with Guns." It's also the first public gig for The Zygoats new bassist Curtis.
Jazz fusion bass man Tommy Lockett called with details on this Thursday's Jazz Night at the Jambalaya (7-10 p.m.) with his new friends Michael Curran (on drums), Dave Wilson (guitar) and Gregg Moore (trombone).
The Eureka Chamber Music Series has completed its season, but they're having one more benefit concert Sunday afternoon at Calvary Lutheran. This one features local talent including The Meadowood String Quartet, pianist Christina Cho, a barbershop quartet from the Harmonaires, Calvary Connection (from the church choir) and young violinist Otis Harriel, a student of Rob Diggins who recently won a Harmonaires scholarship.
"It's not American Idol by any means," says ECMS' Pearl Micheli, who will play that night too. "We'll have musicians from age 5 and up. Everyone is just having fun making music."
And isn't that what it's all about?