This week the Union celebrates fools. While the news section has some sort of ironic “fake” news, here in the “Scene” we’re always full of foolishness and fool’s errands. Face it, for most people, music and art are not considered serious vocations. Fools are there to entertain us, to put on parties and fests of various types so we can forget our problems, drink and dance our troubles away. And we’re better for it.
Perhaps the ultimate fool’s errand is to get together a group of volunteers and throw a festival and do it just when spring in springing and there’s a good chance it could rain. For example, this weekend we have the Redwood Coast Music Festival, a major party with a long history, but a brand new name.
It started out in 1991 as the Redwood Coast Dixieland Festival, a fundraiser for seniors that borrowed an idea from the Old Sacramento Dixieland Jazz Jubilee. A bunch of old timey jazz bands were booked in venues around Eureka for a weekend of dance music. It’s hard to imagine, but back in 20th century there were folks (mostly old folks) who followed the Dixieland festival circuit like Deadheads on tour. Tourists came to town in RVs or filled motels, and it was good for business in the off season. Senior programs and youth music education got a little money. Everyone had a grand time.
As time passed, the local festival evolved, first by adding “variety” bands that offered a change of pace from Dixieland. Zydeco and jump blues proved popular, leading to a full-on blues festival, Blues by the Bay. There were lean years. Making festivals profitable is difficult and the second fest called it quits.
Meanwhile, the jazz festival continued beefing up the variety and became the Redwood Coast Jazz Festival. This year the variety evolution is complete as even jazz has been dropped from the fest’s name. Thus we have the Redwood Coast Music Festival.
“We’ve really wanted to become more broad based,” explained Mark Jansen, president of the festival’s volunteer board of directors. “The idea is just to become a general music festival. There’s a lot of confusion when you put ‘jazz’ in the title.”
While there’s still plenty of jazz of various types, there’s an emphasis on the blues, at least in the headline acts, with Cajun music and rockabilly in the mix as well. It all starts Thursday at Adorni Center with the Kick-off Dance with a youth band from Zane Junior High and Stompy Jones, a jumpin’ swing band. (BTW, the dance comes on the heels of Taste of Main Street, a food fest in Old Town and thereabouts that’s not exactly part of the music fest, but symbiotic.)
Friday the fest proper begins, literally all over town, with an Opening Ceremony with the Au Brothers in the Adorni, and music in the Red Lion, the Muni, the Morris Graves and next door in the Eureka Theater, and a new venue, the Sequoia Center in Myrtletown. The highlight Friday: the Blues Legends Show at the Muni with harmonica blaster James Harman and blues guitar master Duke Robillard.
There’s a swingin' Dance Contest Saturday afternoon at the Muni, followed by a “Saturday Night Blues Show,” which is actually half zydeco/Cajun with Gator Nation, Tom Rigney & Flambeau with special guest Michael Doucet (from Beausoleil), and half blues with harpist/guitarist Kenny Neal, and closing, slick Rick Estrin & The Nightcats.
Saturday’s eclectic lineup at the Eureka Theater includes my friends The Detours (formerly the Honky Tonk Detours) and Buddy Reed, and something new, rockabilly rocker Gino Meregillano and his all-star Cash in Hand Band paying tribute to the late great Man in Black, Johnny Cash.
There’s a lot of music to choose from, dozens of bands, but fair warning, it’s going to cost you a bit, even if you just go one day or maybe want strictly blues. (See www.rcmf.org for details and a full schedule.) If you’re broke, there are a couple free shows: Arcata Interfaith Gospel Choir sings for free Sunday morning at the Adorni (followed by some Cajun music) and, since April Fools falls on the first Saturday, it’s an Arts Alive night, so there’s no admission at the Graves. That means you can hear Stompy Jones and a fine gypsy band, Le Jazz Hot, for free. No foolin’.
What a fool believes
What else are you fools up to Saturday? Maybe your interested in fermented grains and some non-jazzy music. The 7th Annual Humboldt Homebrew Festival at the Arcata Community Center has a power-packed music lineup with bluesy Anna Hamilton, old timey bluegrass-ish Striped Pig Stringband, irie reggae by Irie Rockers, and Lovebush, a big band that mixes James Brown funk with Fela Afrobeat. Of course there are amazing homemade brews and ciders to taste (there’s a contest and prizes), and good food. To make it all seem less foolish, proceeds go to Engineers Without Borders, doing good works in Camoapa, Nicaragua in a partnership with our local Sister City Project. Warning: Last year the event sold out in advance so don’t be a fool, get a ticket in advance.
For a different side of American culture that day, there’s the California Indian Big Time and Social Gathering with traditional card games, dances and songs in HSU’s West Gym. As they put it, “In honor of Native American culture, song and history, the Big Time is an opportunity to strengthen and reinforce tribal identity.” It runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and it’s free.
The crafty folks at SCRAP Humboldt wonder, “What better way to celebrate April Fool's than with a live crafting competition?” To that end they have another Rebel Craft Rumble at the Arcata Playhouse. They explain, “Four teams will compete in a battle of on-the-spot creative problem solving and artistic wit to become the next Extreme Ultimate Supreme Craft Masters.” This may seem like one of those only-in-Arcata things. That’s what I thought, but I like to keep our news away from fakery, so I dropped the “Extreme” phrase into Google and discovered another Rumble, also on April Fool’s Day and also held by Scrap, but in the Tri-cities area in Washington, which just happens be where my big sister lives. My nieces are pretty crafty and might even be involved. I’ll have to check. I’m not sure why, but they note: “This is an 18 and over event due to adult themes and limited seating.” Adults only crafting? Who knew.
Pity the fool
Back in Eureka on April Fools night, if you’re looking for the polar opposite of anything remotely like Dixieland jazz, blues, etc. try Siren’s Song Tavern, where DisBeatCrasher presents an evening of punk rock with DS-13 (aka Demon System 13 aka Destroy the System 13) a thrashcore band from Umeå, Sweden. This is an old school punk band that formed around 1995, took a decade off along the way to do something else, then resumed thrashing around the world. Their West Coast tour brings them here with Outside Looking In from Chico and two local punk bands, Cross Contamination, and The ChainLinks, who describe themselves as “Oi!” punks. You have to know some punk history to know about Oi!, a British sub-genre from the ‘70s with working-class roots and songs touching on things like police harassment and football (aka soccer in England). There’s much more to it as the movement mutated over time, but I’m guessing this was all before the kids in this band were born.
At the Jam a group of fools known as Diggin Dirt play the last show of their Full Season album release tour. Their genre? “Funk, reggae, soul, jazz, rock, roots, gypsy, psychedelic” as well as Afrobeat and just about anything you might throw into a jam blender. This may be the ultimate fool’s errand, taking an eight-piece band on the road to promote a record album, a now-obsolete way of delivering music in an age of streaming and so on. (You can hear the album on SoundCloud.) Opening is The Apiary, a local “soul-sex-jazz-funk” outfit, formerly known as Beats and Kale.
Now I know one of the guys in Diggin Dirt has been playing sax in The Apiary as well. Tyler Martin also happens to be a member of Lovebush, so he’ll be playing in three bands on the fool’s holiday. He’s in more bands as well. As I sit at my desk in Arcata, he’s somewhere on tour in SoCal, probably not making much or drawing a per diem, just on the road doing what he loves to do: playing music so people can get together and dance and forget about the world’s troubles, at least for a little while. Let’s all drink a toast to Tyler and those like him. Party on fools.
And yes, I realize that I skipped the rest of the many cool things happening this week. You're on your own. You'll figure it out. Just don't be too foolish.