Back in my college days, a long, long time ago, I signed up for a class called “Social Dance,” taught by Kay Chaffey, who would eventually become a lifelong friend.
She was perhaps better known as the godmother of the local international folkdance community, but this class was more about things like the foxtrot, the waltz (which I never really perfected), and my favorite, swing dancing. The skills I learned proved invaluable socially, basically in impressing girls. (I met all of my serious girlfriends while dancing, including my wife.)
Weekend nights, I would go out dancing at Arcata clubs like the Jambalaya, where Freddy and the Starliners were my faves, and the Keg, a Northtown college bar, where I’d hear local combos like the Merv George Band, and occasionally out-of-town bands.
Whoever was booking the Keg must have had connections in the North Bay Area, since one summer they had a fine Marin band called Clover a couple of times. They had a song I loved called simply Dancing, which was about just that. Clover would go on to semi-fame in England, where they served as the backup band on Elvis Costello’s My Aim Is True album, but they didn’t really get the credit they deserved. (That’s a story for another day.)
Somehow the Dancing song came to mind the other day when I was checking my email. I someway got on a local mailing list called “UPCOMING SOCIAL DANCE CALENDAR.” Jason Slyter and company pull together a weekly list for the dance community. Jason explained it’s for those with an “interest in social dancing in Humboldt Co.”
“We have several different groups of people [on the list] who gather for various music and dance events,” he said. “The Calendar started last January, when a group of dancers decided we needed further networking abilities to reach out to each other beyond singular dance engagements.
So, we decided to gather venues, artists, special events, for like-minded people who want a safe, comfortable environment in which to dance. No dive bars or over-crowded venues, plenty of space to dance and converse with each other, with due respect also to other attendees who don’t dance.”
Now I’m always on the lookout for calendars, seeking potential items for this column, but his list of weekly “upcoming” list comes out around the same time as the paper, so I could only see what I’d missed. When I asked if I might get some listings further ahead, he was generous, and mentioned the Taiko Dancers (Jan. 31, more details next week), the Humboldt Folklife Barn Dance (Valentine’s Day in Feb.) and the next Jammin’ Friday, on Jan. 24, a monthly thing put together by what I’ll call, the Social Dance Community.
Jason provided further details: “Jammin’ Friday is put together by the Monday Night Swing dance group that meets at Shoshanna’s Redwood Raks Dance Studio [on Mondays, of course]. Each fourth Friday of the month, we gather at the Arcata Vets Hall for an evening of live music and dance. There is a simple lesson from 8-8:30 p.m. then live music until 10:30.”
“Dancing is truly a great way to connect with the music and we’re always looking to bring more people into our community. The event is open to the public, and we usually get 30-50 dancers and music aficionados each time. The dancers dress up, the floor is amongst the best in the county, and the energy flows freely throughout the evening, with birthday circles, Charleston lines, waltzes, and Vets getting the recognition they deserve for their service.” (Veterans also get in free).
The swingin’ band providing music for dancers this week (Jan. 24) is the James Zeller Trio, led by trombonist/vocalist James Zeller. I first saw him play in The Basement, where his casual style knocked me out, kind of like Frank Sinatra crossed with Tommy Dorsey, or if you really know your swing, Jack Teagarden. James is an Oregon native, who went east for awhile and spent 17 years in jazz central New York City, where he performed with the likes of Wynton Marsalis’ Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, ’bone master Slide Hampton, etc.
It’s all about that swing, or as Duke says, “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.” Jason can dig it. He suggests, “Come on out if you can make it. The students will be returning next week too, so the crowd may be quite large.” And dancing…
Now the truth is many local shows are aimed at dancers of one sort or another. People dress up, but the style at one place will be quite different from Wednesday, Jan. 22, at the Arcata Theatre Lounge (ATL), Big Dog Entertainment presents Riff Raff’s Cranberry Vampire Tour, with modern big beat music man Riff Raff (aka Horst Christian Simco), an associate of Soulja Boy and Diplo. If those names mean nothing to you, well, this is probably not for you. The show starts at 8 p.m. and also includes Esch, City Hippie “and more!” (A meet and greet package comes with a poster and “exclusive shirt” for $80).
Thursday, Jan. 23, it’s the first installment of Lounge Tempo at the Red Lion Hotel. “A night of decadent small plates, fine drinks, and lounge music, i.e. down tempo, new jazz, experimental, funk and soul with live P.A.” manned by DJ Fresh Deps, 6 to 10 p.m. and Chef John whipping up tapas-style small plates from 5 p.m. on.
The Low Notes play jazzy music in The Basement that Thursday starting 7-ish. No tapas, but they have hot nuts and other munchables.
Same Thursday, local rock and blues band Lost Dogs are at Redwood Curtain Brewing Co. starting at 8 p.m. LoCo Fish Food Truck is out the backdoor.
Same Thursday, (again) at 8 p.m. Outer Space presents a Queer Dance Party at Synapsis (on Second Street in Eureka) featuring Joey “La Neve” DeFrancisco of Downtown Boys, a disco punk outfit from Rhode Island. Local support from “awesome local DJs and GoGo dancers. All body types, ages, abilities, genders, etc. are welcome! No experience dancing necessary!” This is an “all age and sober space.”
Another night of dance music Thursday at ATL, this one’s called “College Night.” With doors 10 p.m. it’s clearly aimed at students who “have a late start on Fridays!” Music comes from Techstep, from the college station, KRFH, plus Eluid out of L.A. and Nips from Sacramento, all spinning house and “tasteful trap mixes” influenced by Diplo, and all with the ATL Dance Team. ATL notes, “Over the past four months our beautiful dancers have been a prominent feature upon the stage. Come be captivated as they are sure to make you stare.” I guess they’re basically GoGo dancers.
Lots more deejay music on Friday Jan. 24, with Soul Party #32 at HumBrews. “Resident time-keepers #Jaymorg, DJ Red and Funky T-Rex will be turning back the hands of time to play you a plethora of killer soul music and classic funk tunes.” Special guests include J-Riggs from SoHum and King Maxwell starting at 9 p.m. Maxwell teaches something or other at HSU, so I guess he’s the gown rep du jour.
Right across the way at the Griffin, DJ Gabe Pressure offers “Pull Up” with “dancehall and Afrobeats vibes — “ONE NIGHT ONLY.”
At the Miniplex, Friday, “Casa Jaguar” has “tropical bass, house, Afrohouse music” with DJ Zero One and Blanctron, 10 p.m. to close.
Want something jazzier Friday, with musicians instead of records or whatever? Claire Bent is singing in The Basement with John Wood, Loren Acosta and Jim Bent. (Yes, her dad is in her band.) Showtime is 8:30 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 25, Ghost Train offers an “eclectic mix of R&B, funk and soul with a hint of rock ’n’ roll” down in The Basement, from 8:30 p.m. on. Don’t miss their new vid, “Shame,” a rocker that will “rattle your bones,” cross-mixed with a taste of Chris Issac’s Wicked Game. Nice.
Also Jan. 25, it’s “the first ATL Saturday Show of the season, Soiree O’ Fleigh” with the hardworking DJ Gabe Pressure, CopperTon3, and GMNIITE, a ballerina seduced by bass music. Doors at 9:30 p.m. First 100 get in free. Bonus: The ATL Dance Team is back.
Saturday, Jan. 25, at HumBrews, it’s the latest local Dead tribute, Grateful Getdown, celebrating a “PC Bday Bash.” PC = drummer Pete Ciotti. The rest: Jake Burns and Bryan Kraus on guitars, Chris Devlin on keys, Norman Bradford on bass, everyone on vocals.
Same Saturday (Jan. 25) Papa Haole and the Fleas play “reggae, Latin, calypso, Hawaiian, rock, etc.” at Redwood Curtain Brewing with Papa on ukulele, steel pan and vocals. The punsters suggest, “Sheik your booty in Arcata with the Fleas and maybe get lei’d!”
It’s hip hop time Saturday at the Miniplex with Nac One and friends aka “Boom Bap Kings.” In the past, Nac One Wallace collaborated East Bay producer Fanatik known for his bomb bap style of beats with Nac providing KRS-One style knowledge. Also on the bill, Cam Wallace, Flo J Simpson, Ruffian, Hiraam, with DJ Goldylocks on the turntables. Starts at 9:30 p.m.
Also at the Miniplex on Monday, Jan. 27, it’s The Blank Tapes, aka Joshua Tree-based multi-instrumentalist Matt Adams, who has produced a bunch of albums of ’60s-inspired “folk-rock-surf-psych-soul-pop” for various labels with various side men (and women). To promo the “Look Into The Light” 2020 Tour, he released a video with psychedelic music by “Matt and Co.” featuring a pair of GoGo dancers that look like they stepped out of Hullabaloo. I guess that’s a thing now. Requisite local openers Bow Legged Buzzards start at 9 p.m.
There’s more to say, but no more room. Later…