Music » The Hum

Slipping Home

Catching up with Steel Toed Slippers, harvest climaxes and how to be like the sound guy from Police Academy



Hopefully, this doesn’t kill the rock ‘n’ roll mystique -- the fast livin’, groupie drenched, substance-heavy imagery we’ve come to associate with life in the biz. But here goes: Rock bands go home for Thanksgiving, too.

The trip looks slightly different though. Humboldt natives and founding members of the three-piece Steel Toed Slippers Will Nicoll and Matt Moss, along with newest Slipper Nick Maury, end a marathon string of California-spanning shows -- eight in nine days, including an unplanned jam sesh at Thomas George Estates winery -- with a pre-Turkey Day return show at HumBrews on Saturday. STS are earning their white meat.

And not just by giggin’. In recent months, the now SoCal-based band has been in the studio working on a full-length album co-produced by Little Feat bassist Kenny Gradney and Bonnie Raitt guitarist Johnny Lee Schell. Tentatively titled Here Comes, the album is set to be mixed by Grammy-winning engineer Ed Cherney and is expected to be released spring/summer of 2012.

“I think its a good representation of what we do live,” says drummer Matt. "It’s not overproduced.” So there.

But while the Slippers have reason to be hopeful about their musical future, they haven't graduated from the need for day jobs. Luckily, they've landed a pretty sweet gig.

The boys have been living at a Harold Robinson Foundation-sponsored camp in the Angeles National Forest -- in the mountains about an hour out of Los Angeles -- which aims to provide meaningful experiences to inner city kids. The Slippers act as counselors by day -- playing music with kids, serving meals -- and gig at night. They recently had the opportunity to open for Ozomotli when the group came up to the camp to play a show.

But while they’ve had the opportunity to play in well-known L.A. clubs and work with great players, most of their growth as musicians has occurred away from Humboldt ears and eyes. The boys were still teenagers when they scurried through the Redwood Curtain. Part of their desire to play HumCo is to prove that they aren’t the same amateurish McKinleyville High School kids they were when they started out.

"We didn't know anything," Will says of STS's early period. As proof he recounts the band's first radio gig on HSU's KRFH's Local Lixx show.

"I had this Lou Reed spoken word thing," Will groans. "I couldn't sing at all."

Will's growth as a vocalist can be heard on the first tracks released from the recent sessions. The bluesy groove of "Fading" provides space for scratchy impassioned growls in its peaks as well as more nuanced, restrained whimpers in its valleys. Lou Reed doesn't work this hard.

This trip to Humboldt up the 101 will be the first for bass player Nick Maury. The Claremont, Calif., native and Los Angeles Music Academy graduate errs on the side of diplomacy when asked what his band mates have told him about the area, simply saying he’s heard we have “good vegetables.”

On Saturday Night, the Slippers will share the stage with another local band seeking to entice ears elsewhere. The Berel Alexander Ensemble is set to hit the Zoo Recording Studio in Oakland in December and is planning a California/Oregon tour for next year. And so you know, Berel reports that the group is very close to getting that BIO-bus it was angling for on Kickstarter earlier in the year. If you chipped in, rest well knowing it didn’t just buy beer.

Speaking of beer, Mad River Brewery will be drenched in Parreira on Thursday when two of Chris P’s projects -- The Trouble and The Lonesome Roses -- invade. Perhaps you should buy him a Steelhead. Dude’s workin’ too hard.

You know your friends who really like music? You know the ones who describe the spirtual experience they had at the last concert they drove nine hours to go see? Yeah, on Monday night they’re all going to be at the Arcata Theatre Lounge. That’s because the drumless instant spirit tuneup that is The Devil Makes Three returns to hit Humboldt ears with a punk ethos-tinged acoustic ragtime fun assault. If you can’t make the show for whatever reason, take solace in the fact that DM3 just released a live album called Stomp and Smash. Not the same, but in a pinch ...

Also big this week at the ATL is EOTO -- the side project of The String Cheese Incident members Michael Travis and Jason Hann. But be warned, bluegrass fans! This is a far cry from mandolins and lap steel guitars. EOTO creates live loop-heavy danceable dubstep-ish electronica. Expect more glow sticks than hot licks. Filling out the night super DJ Phutureprimitive and Bay Area turntablist Knowa Knowone.

If one night of sweaty swaying does not satiate you, there’s also Accurate Productions “Soda Pop” event -- emphasis on “pop” -- Friday at Nocturnum. The night is alleged to be a celebration of all things pop culture. So, pace yourself, American.

Many moons ago, on a redwood tree somewhere deep in the Redwood National Forest, a broken bong shard was used by an early North Coast Rastafarian settler to carve these words: “A week shall not pass in Humboldt without reggae.”

And it was so! This week the Mateel hosts its annual Harvest Ball headlined by Jamaican-born rising reggae star Perfect. Also on the bill are Luv Fyah and Reggae Angels from the Bay Area and local DJs Second Nature Sound.

But there’s more! Bonus Man is having his own harvest shindig at the Arcata Theatre Lounge on Thursday with Midnite from the Virgin Islands and Jamaican sing-jay Lutan Fyah. Thus, we declare this harvest season to be sufficiently celebrated. See you next year.

Finally, uh, I have no idea what to make of this, but it made me say “huh?” so that counts for something. Tuesday at the Arcata Playhouse, Dell’Arte alum Tess Cartwright and her partner Vid Warren present Beatrick, a juggling and physical theatre show. Sure, sure. But apparently the key to the whole performance is its beatboxing elements. ‘Cuz, apparently, they’re really good at beatboxing.

So much so that the duo of Warren and Cartwright are doing a workshop the night before (Monday) on how to improve your beatboxing and sound effect-making skills. Yes! That guy from Police Academy was my hero growing up. My ship has come in.


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