Sometime this past week I was chatting with some of my musician friends. Not surprisingly, we discussed many topics of grave importance. Which album by which artist was their best; how this or that band really went downhill after they brought that new guitarist on board; and that if bands want to land local outdoor festival type gigs they'd better keep away from sad songs, stick with major keys and smile a bunch. As I said, very important stuff. Then, as it always does, the topic of money came up. Not so much about how there isn't any for local musicians, but how local musicians tend to not ask for much. Certain genres pay a bit more, occasionally. Got someone in your band who can pick a banjo all quick like? Money. Got someone in your band who can pull off a good patois? More money. But by and large, Humboldt's got some talented musicians who don't ask for much. Is that fact based on some sort of informal market analytics? It is entirely possible.
Concert-goers themselves generally don't have a lot of money to spare. Even though they were smart enough not to spend their student aid on a Gibson Les Paul or Ampeg stack, it's not like they're rolling in the bread either. They're kind enough to shell out for a cover charge, but they want enough leftover to buy a beer or two. Charge too much at the door and your future fans will shy away because they can't get sufficiently tossed to enjoy your music. Charge too little and folks may think your band can't be that good if you're only asking $1 to get in. And if they take the bait, and then get extra drunk at the show — with all that money you didn't take from them — they might forget in the morning the name of that awesome band they break-danced to the night before.
You also have to know your crowd. Playing the Van Duzer? Ask for anything under $35 and folks will think it's part of a lecture series. Playing the Alibi? Ask for anything over $5 and folks will think you're pretentious and deserve a Pabst can in the face. The reason I bring this all up — I think — is that a lot of Humboldt musicians don't want a lot of your money. Just a little bit. They really just want you to listen. Some bands up here have been playing for decades and they're still jamming for a $5 cover. Trust me, it's not the money that keeps 'em playing. Neil Young once sang of sailors and sirens on the shore "singin' songs for pimps with tailors who charge 10 dollars at the door." Now I doubt Neil would agree, but I have to wonder if local musicians aren't both pimp and whore who in the meantime, are also working the door. Thank them next time for not charging more.
You can catch locals Moonpine joined again by out-of-towners Roselit Bone at the Sanctuary in Arcata at 8 p.m. They're only asking $5 to get in, but the Sanctuary likes to roll with a sliding scale up to $20. Go figure.
Want to convince your date that you read books and are a man or woman of the world? Check out Johnny Gandelsman playing some Bach at the Arcata Playhouse at 8 p.m. $15 for the "complete sonatas and partitas for violin solo."
And Six Rivers Brewery hosts a not-so-secret performance of the Ultra Secret Good Guy Organization for free at 9 p.m.
If you're looking for a show tonight with someone who has been on shows with Conan and Fallon and who has "been the subject of Al-Jazeera and NPR pieces and was a keynote speaker at this year's Nobel Peace Prize Forum" then Brother Ali will be your guy. A hip-hop artist who sings about more than how cool he is, this brother of someone's keeps it socioeconomic and aims for truth and justice. Sound good? Humboldt Brews at 9:30 p.m for $20.
If "Cali Reggae" and "free" is more your jam, then head to the top of the hill for the Dubadubs at Six Rivers Brewery at 9 p.m.
A lot of music that you'd expect at a Hoedown will be at the Mateel today starting at noon for the 11th annual Humboldt Hills Hoedown. For a full lineup head over to www.mateel.org.
For non-Hoedown music, The Honky Tonk Detours will play some of that tonk and alt-country. You'll find this hybrid of the Delta Nationals and Cadillac Ranch for free at the Mad River Tap Room at 6 p.m.
Stickin' around Blue Lake? Eyes Anonymous are playing for free at the Blue Lake Casino and Hotel at 9 p.m.
Don't like free but love Pink Floyd? Money will be recreating some of Floyd's classics and all of DSOTM (got that?) for you at the Jambalaya at 9:30 p.m. for $10. (Full disclosure: ¾ of that band are above shameless self-promotion.)
More into the Dead? Humboldt Brews tonight has Stu Allen & Mars Hotel. Stu's played with Melvin Seals and Bob Weir. Not bad. And if Melvin says this guy sounds eerily like Jerry, then you know it'll be good. 9:30 p.m. and $15 for this one.
Want something that goes full Dead? You most likely already know about Dark Star Orchestra, then. DSO goes a bit beyond the normal tribute act. They can play the songs and ride the jams for sure, but to make it a bit more interesting (and challenging) they recreate full setlists from the Dead's years touring. You'll be treated to a special acoustic show at HSU's Van Duzer Theater for $36 ($15 for students).
Full show listings in the Journal's Music and More grid, the Eight Days a Week 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 Night Show on KWPT 100.3 FM weeknights at 6 p.m. while occasionally filling in on the Morning Show at 6 a.m. as punishment.