“When I was a child my family would travel down to Western Kentucky, where my parents were born. And there's a backwards old town that's often remembered, so many times that my memories are worn.
And daddy won't you take me back to Muhlenberg County, down by the Green River where Paradise lay. Well, I'm sorry my son, but you're too late in asking. Mister Peabody's coal train has hauled it away…
The coal company came with the world's largest shovel and they tortured the timber and stripped all the land. Well, they dug for their coal till the land was forsaken then they wrote it all down as the progress of man.”
"Paradise" was a song written by John Prine for his father, who once lived in that forgotten town. One of the great songs on his eponymous debut album released in 1971, it spoke of a time when the Peabody Coal Company (now known as Peabody Energy) fueled the Tennessee Valley Authority’s coal-fired power plant, at least until the decline of coal and mining in general led to the sad decline of Muhlenberg County.
The topic of coal and Paradise came up when I made dinner for the iconic songwriter ages ago. Some time in the early Oughts, I had a side job catering for artists visiting for CenterArts concerts. I fed Mr. Prine’s band before a HSU show, but he liked to eat after he performed. He just wanted “chopped steak and potatoes,” (and not French fries) and “nothing green on the plate,” no vegetables, no salad, forget the parsley garnish. Easy enough for me, I whipped up some mashed potatoes and chopped up a fine steak. (He noted that hamburger would have been just fine.)
When I delivered his meal to the green room backstage, I told him how much I enjoyed his performance, which, of course, drew on his deep songbook (more on that later). I mentioned that I’d recently heard his friend Bonnie Raitt sing “Paradise” at a local benefit for the hard-fought battle to save the Headwaters Forest. Singing his tale of the destruction of the environment by the coal industry seemed quite appropriate.
Mr. Prine brought me up to date on the doings of Peabody Energy. He explained that Paradise disappeared when they tore the tops of the mountains leaving ugly scars behind. Later, after being forced to do remediation to clean up the mess they left behind, the hypocrites used a classic greenwashing technique: They declared themselves as leaders of “green” restoration.
Since then they’ve been working in opposition to the Clean Air Act and other environmental regulations “for the progress of man,” while they’ve been major funders for climate change denial organizations. Things weren’t looking good for the company for awhile and they went into bankruptcy, but earlier this year they managed to exit bankruptcy as their fortunes are rising with Trump and co. working hard to revive the backward thinking fossil fuel industry as part of his War on the Future.
Will any of this come up when Mr. Prine closes the Kate Wolf Music Festival at Black Oak Ranch this weekend? Perhaps. He has a new book out, Beyond Words, in which he looks back on his deep songbook.
“Paradise” is in it there, along with "Angel from Montgomery,” "In Spite of Ourselves" and many more. We’ll see which ones he pulls out.
I’ll be at the festival all weekend, trying to keep up with a plethora of music on four stages. It starts Thursday afternoon and runs until Sunday night with dozens of musical acts, far too many to list here. While it started out as the Kate Wolf Memorial Folk Festival, named for the songwriter who died in 1986, it’s expanded its range now, becoming simply a “music" festival. Kate’s spirit lingers as the festival traditionally closes with her song, "Give Yourself to Love,” which this year follows Mr. Prine’s set.
Other highlights include Bruce Cockburn (Sunday)...
Brandi Carlile (Saturday)...
Lukas Nelson & The Promise of the Real (Friday and Saturday)...
Playing for Change (Friday and Saturday)
mixing it up a bit, Baka Beyond (Friday, Saturday and Sunday)...
...and Raising Appalachia (Saturday and Sunday) who fit in at all sorts of fests.
Former local Melody Walker and her band Front Country are there Thursday and Friday as they prepare for a summer full of festivals all over the country. Face it, festivals are where it’s at for working musicians today.
I’ll be camping out with a Humboldt crew headquartered by a big oak tree at Black Oak Ranch. I hear it’s going to be hot, I hope it’s not too hot, and that I can find a place to nap. Say hello if you’re down there, especially if you know a cool spot.
On the bicycle corridor
While I’m down trying to beat the heat on the ranch, life goes on in the cool NoHum. I won’t be there for the oh-so-funky Soul Party #1 at Humboldt Brews with DJ Red and #JAYMORG following in the big shoes of Matt ’n’ Adam, who put on the longest running rent party I know of: 67 Soul Nights.
Red and Jay tell us “the show must go on” and they’re “looking forward to seeing you all there this month as we welcome DJ Funky T Rex to the lineup... plus a special guest DJ set by Dacin.” Now you know #Jaymorg as a stalwart from Soul Night with a well curated record collection, and DJ Red who has been filling local dance floors for as long as I can remember.
DJ Funky T Rex is aka drummer Tanasa Daniel from Collective Elements and Woven Roots, aka reggae DJ Tanasa Ras. What's his plan for Soul Party #1? “Play some funk, New Orleans funk, soul, maybe some Latin funk,” he said. “Just went to Jazz Fest in New Orleans so got some inspiration.”
And Dacin? “He’s played Soul Night before. He used to have some odd DJ name. He plays disco and soul. [It’s hard to] to classify everyone, but we all play soul and funk. It’s such a wide genre. We try to cover all aspects.”
Wednesday, past the metaphorical hub on the 10th St. bicycle corridor, The Griffin celebrates its one year anniversary after moving into the Robert Goodman space. They’ve been offering “well-crafted cocktails” and “small plates” (kind of tapas-style) featuring “locally sourced ingredients,” spiced up with salsa dancing on Wednesdays and a rotating line-up of local DJs and musicians most weekends: First Fridays Sign of the Times with DJ EastOne & Friends (Arts! Arcata), Last Friday Loose Joints with DJ Knutz & Friends, Last Saturday reggae OneWise Sound. The plan for June 21? A ribbon cutting ceremony at 8 p.m. with salsa dancing at 8:30 (and every Wednesday).
The Redwood Acres “Best of Humboldt Fair" runs Thursday through Sunday, 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. except Sunday when it closes at 5. They have the usual fair stuff: carnival rides, animals of various types: livestock, wild ones (apparently from Oregon) and sharks (from who-knows-where) and pirate parrots, along with Annie the Clown and cowgirl tricks by Karen Quest (who you might have seen earlier under the Big Top at the Mad River Festival).
Friday’s “Best of” musical headliner is Brad Wilson & The Rolling Thunder Blues Band from Visalia who usually play at casinos when they come here. Brad rips some blues at 6 and 8 p.m.
Saturday at 3:30 p.m. it’s Lone Star Junction, a local outlaw country band who are on their “2017 Summer Tarp Tour,” which has them all over Humboldt, playing at Eel River Brewing earlier that day (at 1:30), after a gig at the Firewater Lounge Friday night. They also play the Fourth of July at The Journey’s End way out in Ruth. (Yes, I know that’s in Trinity County.)
Incidentally, as far as I can tell, the “Best of Humboldt Fair” is not connected to that “best of” this and that contest you may have been seeing on Facebook, or in some other paper, which seems to be a social networking contest and mainly a way to sell advertising.
Metal and funnies
The Angry Hammer folks (who put on local metal/punk shows) sent out a plea saying, “Come on y’all, I know everyone wants a stage in the Siren's Song because every time I talk about an upcoming show there someone asks me if we will have the stage. Well, the stage costs about $245 a day to rent. If you guys all throw down enough, we can buy the materials and build a permanent stage in there for every show. Come support local music!”
So the Friday Angry Hammer show at Siren’s Song will be a stage benefit of sorts with loud local bands: Dullahan (psychedelic motorsludge), Frequency Shift (prog metal), Harsh Shards (new local metal heads looking for a vocalist) and Don't Panic (experimental synth rock having a hard time settling on a name). Donations for the stage fund encouraged, because if you have a stage, you can stage dive more easily.
Friday at the Arcata Playhouse it’s a night of stand up comedy featuring Alfonso Ochoa, who “you’ll get to know as a white-washed Mexican, divorcée, blackjack dealer, and ex-fat guy, originally from the Inland Empire,” who has been on TV on some show I’ve never heard of. Then there’s Tom Goss from somewhere in the Southwest, who supposedly brings “hilarious energy with a touch of awkwardness.” Local funniness comes from Josh Barnes and James Stephen, and my friend and former coworker Kim Hodges, who serves as hostess. (Hostess Cupcakes or Twinkies?) I’d have to say, the Playhouse seems like a good place for comedy.
Two from Francois:
That's Jenny Don't & the Spurs outlaw country from Portland. Plus Gabe & Turtle a guitar and mandolin duo from Blue Lake @The Logger Bar. Friday, June 23rd.
Cars, Cars, Cars
My old friend Joey from Silver Lining days sent me a message through Facebook for a Blue Lake Show 'n' Shine for all you car heads. I might have forgotten totally, but I saw this flyer at HealthSport. (Not sure why part of it is detracted.) Anyway, if I wasn't down trying escaping the heat I'd go. I love car shows, even if they are a remnant of a dying technology.
Ford v. Chevy...
Note the detraction on the description for this '41 Chevy. It's not hard to guess that it was Fred's ex-wife who got detracted. (If only life was that easy.)
At the movies
Fourth Friday Flix at the Eureka Theater features Them! one of many fear-of-our-nuclear-future monster movies from the ‘50s, and “the first big bug feature,” in this case, giant irradiated ants that become a national threat (and also perhaps symbolize the Red Scare). The screening was “generously sponsored by the Science Fiction Club of Humboldt,” who promise Them! is “better than it has any right to be.” Doors at 7 p.m. Showtime at 7:30.
Want to watch movies outside Saturday night? Movies in the Park (that’s Sequoia Park) presents Rogue One: A Star Wars Story starting at 7 p.m. with the main feature later after cartoons and other stuff.
Meanwhile in Arcata, you have Movies Under the Mural at Los Bagels with the animated hit Moana! at 9 p.m. The flicks have a couple of things in common: both have strong female teen leads fighting against the odds, and both are Disney movies, with theme park rides possibilities. Don’t we all need role models?
Next Taco Tuesday at the Sanctuary (June 27), there’s something unusual accompanying dinner, Eyes of Stone and Water: Perspectives on Cuba, a short film and a presentation of photography, field recordings, and more documenting a Cuban journey by ethnologists Oryan Peterson-Jones and Andrew Pritchard. Oryan, an Arcata local, explained how he ended up exploring music around the world in this Hum interview. (Thanks to John Hardin for editing and adding music).
As Oryan explained, they “travelled from Havana to Santiago de Cuba, hoping to return with stories about the island's rich musical history and reactions to the recent evolution of political relations. Through encounters and interviews with professors of music and Santeria priests, we indeed found the story, though it was far more epic than first imagined.”
They plan to return to Santiago de Cuba in July to document Carnival culture. Let’s hope Trump doesn’t close the door Obama opened. We need to build connections not walls.