The Hum ~ Down the rabbit-hole ~ 9/20

Alice's White Rabbit illustrated by John Tenniel

“Alice started to her feet, for it flashed across her mind that she had never before seen a rabbit with either a waistcoat-pocket, or a watch to take out of it, and burning with curiosity, she ran across the field after it, and fortunately was just in time to see it pop down a large rabbit-hole under the hedge. In another moment down went Alice after it, never once considering how in the world she was to get out again.”

from Chapter 1, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Sometimes I take a plunge, let the journey to Wonderland pull me into the Net or the web, or however you describe the seductive trap where we spend too much of our lives lately. Yesterday it started with a curious email from Brown Paper Tickets inviting me to, “Seize the day, celebrate the night,” with “events for day dreamers and night owls… around zip code 95521.”

The specific event in question? Something called, “Rhythm With Reason,” planned for Friday evening Sept. 22, at the Arcata Playhouse, in which “local favorites, Home Cookin' and Ghost Train, pair up to deliver an evening of music in support of CASA of Humboldt's 15th Annual CASA Kid Walk.” (Coming up Oct. 7, in Eureka.)

It went on to describe the bands playing Friday, both of which include players I’ve known for years if not for decades. You may remember Ghost Train, a funk ’n’ soul ’n’ rock band of “mystical musicians” including guitarist Zach Zwerdling, who recently put together Lawnstock (which I regrettably missed) and Jamie Carroll, who put this benefit together. They play second (from 8:45-10 p.m.)

Ghost Train

First up (starting at 7 p.m.) it’s Home Cookin’ with “veteran musicians” Fred Neighbor, Joyce Hough, Gary Davidson and Tim Gray, and special guest, Mike LaBolle. They promise to “cook up a frim fram sauce of danceable originals and R & B standards, with shafafa on the side.”

Those intriguing dishes sent me off on a rabbit-hole exploration. I wanted to find out about that sauce and maybe make some, and some shafafa too. I went to Google looking for recipes. I didn’t find any.

I asked Jamie from Ghost Train if she had one. “Ahaha,” she replied, “I do not. But I know someone who does!” I guessed that might be Joyce. “Yep.” While waiting in vain to hear from Joyce, I looked around webville.

I found a video for a song “The Frim Fram Sauce,” along with an entire Wikipedia entry on the tune...

That ultimately steered me to a 2002 “On Language” column by the late New York Times word expert William Safire titled, “Pop Go The Lyrics.”   

Safire quoted a record company blurb: “’Nobody knows what the words mean,’ goes the website advertising for an album titled All for You, by the pop singer Diana Krall,’ but when Diana sings them, it isn't hard to draw your own conclusions.”

“The album celebrates the song popularized a half-century ago by Nat King Cole, and the reference is to the song ‘Frim Fram Sauce,’ whose lyrics read, 'I don't want French fried potatoes, red ripe tomatoes, I’m never satisfied. I want the frim fram sauce with ussin-fay, with shafafa on the side.’”

Safire goes way down the hole in what he calls, “a job for the Deconstruction Workers Union.” Apparently “frim fram" is ancient slang, cited in a 1546 book of proverbs referring to “a woman easily deceived” who ''maketh earnest matters of every flymflam.”

“Thus,” he went on, “as sung by Cole and then Krall a half-millennium later, ‘frim fram sauce’ is the oleaginous goo of deceit poured over some unsuspecting dupe.”

Regarding “shafafa,” Mr. Safire actually checked in with Ms. Krall (who incidentally is married to Elvis Costello) wondering “if she had any idea about what it meant or where it came from. ‘It's all about sex,’ she replied innocently, though in the sultry tone that has become her musical signature.” Is it always about sex?

Bringing us back to the real world, we’ll remind you that this is all for a good cause, supporting the work of Court Appointed Special Advocates. They tell us, nationally, “nearly 700,000 children experience abuse or neglect each year. Instead of playing with neighbors and making happy family memories, they’re attending court hearings, adjusting to new foster homes and transitioning to new schools. That’s a heavy burden for a child to carry.” Kids have CASAs is in their corner, doing hard, often frustrating work. We appreciate them for what they do.

Says Ghost Train’s Jamie, “I have dreamt of hosting an event like this for a long time and I am delighted to see it finally come to fruition. As a former foster youth, I can't adequately express the power CASAs hold to positively impact a child's life during a tremendously difficult time. It is my hope that this event will generate something significant to support CASA in the work they do.” And, she adds, “Please, don't forget your dancin' shoes!”

At the crossroads

John Hammond photo credit- Jessica Chornesky

When I was a teen first listening to the blues, I came across an eponymous record by John Hammond. It was a revelation to me, a solo affair, just John playing classic tunes on guitar and harmonica drawing on what I came to recognize as the blues cannon by Big Bill Broonzy, Lightning Hopkins, Son House, Leroy Carr, Muddy Waters’ “Hoochie Coochie Man” and Robert Johnson’s version of “Crossroads Blues” (long before Eric Clapton played it). He also included Chuck Berry’s first hit “Maybelline,” played blues-style.

Five decades or so later, I’ll finally get to hear Mr. Hammond play live Thursday when he comes to the Old Steeple in Ferndale. He’ll be on his own, just John, a guitar, maybe a National steel, and a harp in a rack. He’s played with a band off and on, in fact I picked up So Many Roads when that disc came out in ’65. He was backed by a band that had been called The Hawks and would eventually be known as The Band after John introduced them to Bob Dylan. (Charlie Musselwhite and Mike Bloomfield were on the record too.) He played with countless stellar players since.

Lately John’s been doing some bluesy songs of his own and by folks like his friend Tom Waits. (Tom wrote and produced a full album for John.) Mr. Waits says, “John’s sound is so compelling, complete, symmetrical and soulful with just his voice, guitar and harmonica, it is at first impossible to imagine improving it. He’s a great force of nature, sounds like a big train coming.” 

T Bone Burnett describes John as a master. “He is a virtuoso. A conjurer... A modernist... He's sending messages. Storytelling. All mystery. The language goes out through the night.”

I could add to the kudos and perhaps note his Grammy (and other awards) and his induction into the Blues Hall of Fame. Or I could get sidetracked mentioning his father, John Henry Hammond, a record producer who played important roles in the careers of Billie HolidayBenny GoodmanCount Basie, Charlie ChristianAretha FranklinLeonard Cohen, Bruce Springsteen, and as they say “many more.”

John Sr. didn’t really raise his son — John Jr. lived with his mom after a divorce — but he probably taught his boy something about the blues. In 1961, when John Jr. was still a teen, John Sr. saw to it that his employer Columbia Records put out a reissue of the recordings of Robert Johnson, King of the Delta Blues Singers. We may well hear a song from Mr. Johnson’s catalog on Thursday. At least I hope so.

Where it's @...

@Eureka Theater ~ 9/21 ~ Fourth Friday Flix: URGH! A Music War (1982) 

You might not have heard of this live performance movie (filmed in 1980), but you might have heard of The Police, Oingo Boingo, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, The Go-Go's, The Cramps, Dead Kennedys, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, X, XTC, Devo, Gary Numan, Klaus Nomi, Wall of Voodoo, Pere Ubu, Steel Pulse, Surf Punks, UB40, and Echo & the Bunnymen.

URGH! A Music War is live and loud. It’s urgent and proud. It’s more than two-dozen young, energetic bands caught in the act and making the music and moments matter in hot, crowded, amped venues scattered across L.A., London, New York City and elsewhere. It’s big hair, little hair, guys, girlz – with music styles ranging from minimalist electronica to reggae to theatrical camp to mosh-worthy mayhem. It’s catchy, it’s topical, it’s angry, it’s playful, it’s live. And it lives on in this rocking, throbbing, sights-and-sounds showcase.

If you’re looking for a survey of everything weird, wild, dangerous, and generally unprecedented that was going on in Anglo-American rock and pop music in the early 1980s, this left-of-the-dial classic is the definitive answer. Generously sponsored by THE WORKS - A LOCAL INDEPENDENT RECORD STORE in Old Town Eureka (rumor has it there might be some righteous vinyl on sale in the lobby, so bring a little extra just in case…) Tickets are $5.00 all ages. Doors open at 7:00, showtime at 7:30 PM.

@Humbrews Friday, Sept. 22, your best bet is to head straight to at 9:00 pm for a night flush with funk and soul. That's right! It's SOUL PARTY time again!
They’re not bluffing! Resident high rollers Funky T-Rex, DJ Red, and #jaymorg will be upping the ante and going all-in to get you out on the dance floor. This month, put your hands together and raise a ruckus for our special guest, King Maxwell. Also, DJ East One will be joining the club this month for a no-limit opening set. Visuals by Alpha Information. Lights by Owen and Matt, Inc. Still just $5, still 100% vinyl! Now that you know the deal, we hope you’ll join the Soul Party fold. Stay on the one and see you Friday!

@The Jam on Friday Don't go chasing Waterfalls, Get Your Freak On and Push It at Shoop!: A Hella Gay Old School Booty Jam Party!!!
Join you local queers and allies at Club Triangle's 4th Friday Throwback Party! This month's installment will be loaded with your favorite Old School Booty Jams, so come Fight for your Right to Party and Shake Your Rump!!! Resident DJs:
DJ Anya, DJ Joe-E , Zero One ~ Visuals by Marmalade sky $5 | 10pm | 21+ |

Pharoah Sanders ~ Saturday 9/23 @Van Duzer Theatre ~ CenterArts ~ HSU

Emerging from John Coltrane’s groups of the mid-’60s, legendary jazz saxophonist Pharoah Sanders is known for his distinctive sound. His work embodies the spiritual foundation of avant-garde jazz and he has shaped his own sonic world that encompasses the primal wails and fierce energy of late Coltrane and the stomping R&B of his Little Rock youth, Asian modes, and Moroccan grooves, while balancing his explosive improvisations with gentle ballads of
sublime simplicity.

Speaking of jazz, Claire Iris Schencke  has an artist talk and live demo with the Tim Randles Quartet @Black Faun Gallery on Saturday 9/23 starting at 6 p.m. The artist will discuss techniques and motivation behind her work while demonstrating her process.

Pride (in the name of love)

It’s Pride weekend in Humboldt, which means a parade with many rainbows in Arcata followed by a Redwood Pride event on the Plaza with speakers, an open-mic, performances of some sort “and much more.”

I know the Raging Grannies are singing, which means I’ll be bringing my dear old mom...

I hear my friend Tamaras is playing with one of her many bands, LD51.

Maybe I’ll see you on the Plaza.


As usual, the is “much more” happening around town, but I have friends visiting from out of town and things to do with them, so you’re on your own for now. Maybe I’ll see you somewhere. Ta ta until then…