What’s in a name? As a band name, Front Country was supposed to offer an alternative to “back country” to indicate their roots in the more or less urban San Francisco Bay Area where they got their start.
But after moving to Nashville, it perhaps changed its meaning. “We do have ‘Country’ in the name, which can be kind of confusing, but I don’t consider our band to be very ‘country,’” explained the band’s lead singer, former Humboldter Melody Walker. “I’d say we’re adjacent to bluegrass and adjacent to country.”
NPR’s All Things Considered categorized their style as “string-band pop” and when a UK reviewer dubbed an album “roots pop,” they picked up on that in their p.r. She figures Americana also fits, but that describes so many bands you can get lost in the big tent. Whatever.
When Front Country plays a CenterArts show at Fulkerson Hall Sunday, Oct. 20, you’ll find Melody out front on lead vocals (and occasionally guitar), with Jacob Groopman on lead guitar, resophonic guitar and mandolin, Adam Roszkiewicz on mandolin and banjo, and Jeremy Darrow on standup bass.
This year, the band went from a quintet to a quartet with the loss of their fiddler, Lief Karlstrom, a founding member who left to take up a career as a geology teacher at U. Oregon, and to raise a new family. It takes them a step way from the more traditional bluegrass sound, not that they were ever traditional.
Sunday’s show will mean a return to her alma mater — Melody earned a music degree from Humboldt State in 2008— and a return to a stage she’s been on many times. She actually inquired about changing venues, since Fulkerson Hall brings back a few somewhat “traumatic” memories. “You know it’s the recital hall, the place of fear and judgments,” she said. “It was also a place of learning and growth. When you bring your act back there, you wonder if you’ll measure up.”
What did she learn at Humboldt? “I think I was lucky to study music there and to play around Arcata. The music scene is so tightly knit, but open. I was able to learn to play a bunch of different instruments [in school] and to join several local bands and get experience gigging as well.” She played with a wide range of local bands in Arcata including the Worldbeat outfit WoMama, the vocal group AkaBella, and fem-folk band Vintner’s Daughters.
With Front Country she’s moving up the proverbial musical ladder. “We have a new album that we’ve just finished, but it probably won’t come out until next year.” It showcases the new lineup, plus drums, which may lead to adding a drummer to their touring unit.
Since relocating to Tennessee, it seems like they’ve been on a perpetual tour, moving up to working the festival circuit. “All summer we’ve played festivals, it’s pretty sweet,” said Melody. When we talked via phone she was at a festival in Florida. “Sweet” because it’s more lucrative than touring, and they tour a lot. “We do about 130 dates, and there’s travel days,” which means they spend 2/3 of the year on the road from home base in Nashville with travel including to Australia and the UK and some one-offs in France and Tibet. (How they ended up in Tibet is “a long story,” one for another day.) Catch the band when you can. Showtime is 8 p.m. on Sunday.
Today, Oct, 16, pick your scene. There’s a “Grateful Dead Music Jam” at The Jam with “musicians from some of your favorite local bands getting together” to play from the Dead canon. Tie-dye and trance dancing not required.
Or, at Synapsis, the Bulgarian folk “legends” of Bulgarika, offer “traditional music dance parties, weddings, concerts and special occasions.” The folks at HumboldtFolkdancers.org, responsible for this special occasion, promise, “Audience members will also have the opportunity to learn traditional dances.” You must dance. Showtime 7:30 p.m.
The Depot at HSU somehow becomes “The Coffee House” on Thursdays for free shows, this week with DJs from the Arcata Soul Party crew, #Jaymorg and Funky T Rex spinning vinyl on Oct. 17, 6 p.m. Next Thursday (10/24) it’s Monsieur, an “electronic renegade.”
Friday at Bayside Community Hall (at 5 p.m.) it’s Rockin’ Ramen, a fundraiser for Taiko Swing Humboldt, with traditional ramen prepared by Chef Johnny Honda and music by Bandemonium, a Taiko drum performance and “special guests.” Buy one-of-a-kind ceramic ramen bowls by artists at Fire Arts, or silent or raffle items, all benefitting bringing Swingposium from the Bay Area (coming in January) where taiko met swing band music when Japanese Americans were incarcerated during WWII.
Bigfoot fans will not want to miss the classic horror film The Legend of Boggy Creek from 1972 coming to the Eureka Theater Friday at 7:30 p.m. The low-budget docudrama was a surprise blockbuster, and a drive-in classic.
Or, at Humbrews Friday there’s Fat Laces 3: Night of the Living Bassheads with DJ Red, #Jaymorg, Chill Will and special guest DJ Goldylocks “dropping classic boogie, ‘80s electro, and classics from rap’s golden era.”
The Miniplex at Richard’s Goat has a free alt. showcase with The Sturgeons, CT Bombers and Pills for Thrills, all new bands I haven’t heard yet.
Out in Blue Lake that Friday at The Logger, Clean Girl & The Dirty Dishes (1/2 of Monster Women) and joined by Former Chimps, a “new local supergroup with members of Splintercell, Buffy Swayze, the Hitch, and so many more.” Meanwhile across town, Lone Star Junction twangs some outlaw country at Blue Lake Casino.
Let’s call Saturday covers night in NoHum. You have a Talking Heads dance party with Naive Melodies at the Jam. Over at Humbrews it’s The Undercovers, “playing everything from AC/DC to Bruno Mars, Led Zeppelin to Notorious B.I.G.” And you have ubiquitous Dead covers by The Miracle Show at Blue Lake Casino creating “flashbacks of that indescribable feeling of a great Dead show,” that you may or may not remember.
Looking for something crafty? Saturday, Oct. 19, at Arts & Drafts (in Old Town) it’s an all day “Craft Punk” thing noon to midnight with music by Dirt Magic (“heavy bluesy rock”), Bowlegged Buzzards (“gypsy punk”) and The Scum Lourdes (“glitter punk”) and punkish crafting led by Lauren Miller of Altar Ego, Michael Deakin of Blue Ox Millworks, and screen printing by Maximus. All for free.
Saturday is Sneaker Night Arcata Theatre Lounge with World Famous presenting Onhell, Psy Fi, Hypha and Rhizae. “Come enjoy dope beats, dope vibes, and don’t forget to rock your favorite (dope) sneakers!”
Very heavy rock at the Alibi Saturday night with Lord Ellis and their friends from Port Angeles, Wash. Teepee Creeper, a trio with “noise-stoner-doom-punk-metal influences.” Between making whiskey and hammering nails, Lord Bohner has little time for rockin’ thus, “This is looking like the only time we’ll be playing out this year. So, we’ll have to pack in a year’s worth of energy into this show!” Be there!
In SoHum Sunday, Oct. 20, at the Mateel, Ineffable Live presents top shelf Caribbean reggae with Collie Buddz (aka Colin Patrick Harper) from the Bermuda Islands, plus Keznamdi, from Kingston, Jamaica.
Monday and Tuesday, Oct. 21 and 22, Jenny Scheinman and Allison Miller’s Parlour Game plays at the Arcata Playhouse. Full details elsewhere.
Tuesday, Oct. 22, at the Arkley Center, CenterArts presents masterful songwriter/storyteller Todd Snider with his folksongs, on tour with the true master of storytelling, Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, who at 88 has a great many stories to tell. Starts at 7 p.m.
And, to quote Porky, “That’s all folks.”