The HUM: Reggae for Bob, a Playhouse benefit ‘and more’

HOME COOKIN‘ will play at a benefit concert Saturday, Feb. 8 at the Arcata Playhouse. Submitted photo

If you’ve been following the Hum for awhile, either since a quarter of a century back when it started, or lately, well, lately I’ve been nostalgic about the good ol‘ days. I haven’t talked much about the real beginning of my writing career, such as it is. I was a Humboldt grad, but never a journalism student. I was earning a living cooking, when a late reentry college student, a guy named Guy Cross, started a monthly entertainment newspaper called Edge City. He knew me as the chef at the Silver Lining (we did a cooking video together), and he knew I liked music “and more,” so he asked me to write for the fledgling paper about whatever I was interested in. 

One of my early assignments was to go to a local reggae concert. The 2nd annual Bob Marley Festival at the Eureka Muni had Aswad, Judy Mowatt and a fine Humboldt band, Rod Deal and the I-Deals, all brought together by the late Queen of Humboldt reggae, Carol Bruno. The show was in February in celebration of Bob’s birthday, Feb. 6, always a good time to hear reggae.

This year on Thursday, Feb. 6, which would have been Bob’s 75th birthday, El Gee and Booty Shakin Productions offer “A Celebration of Bob Marley’s Life” at the Arcata Theatre Lounge featuring Tarrus Riley, Dean Fraser and The Black Soil Band and a special Bob Marley Tribute set featuring our own Ishi Dube, Madi Simmons and Vidagua (with Madi’s daughter, Lorenza) and DJ Sarge OneWise. 

Headliner Tarrus Riley is a top flight reggae singer/chanter, and saxophonist Dean Frazer’s bands are always tight as a drum. The reason that festival in the early ’90s came to mind was not because of Jamaica, but because of the late Rod Deal, who wrote timely anthems about what was happening in SoHum, like 2,000,000 Acres, about the fight against the destruction of the redwood forest, and Helicopters, about the CAMP days when the government was raiding farms in the woods. He sang, “Helicopters are causing us to be afraid for life. Helicopters, one or two are always in sight. Helicopters, they’re violating our constitutional rights.” 

A few years back Ishi, a Humboldt homegrown guy who was raised in SoHum, pulled that song out of the past for a remix, renaming it Choppers, and reminding us of a time when the herb was totally black market, before it was rebranded as cannabis, when the War on Drugs was fought by people on both sides wearing camo as more than a fashion statement. I’ll be surprised if Ishi doesn’t play that anthem on Bob’s day. 

BTW, in advance of the big show, Tarrus Riley will be in town for a meet and greet Wednesday (Feb. 5) from 5 to 7 p.m. at Proper Wellness Center in Eureka at 517 5th St. Can you guess what they sell there to help you to get well? (They also deliver.) 

Another flashback from my personal past came in an email inviting me to an Arcata Playhouse benefit dance party coming up Saturday, Feb. 8, at 8 p.m. with Home Cookin‘. I hope I don’t have to tell you too much about all the good things happening at the Playhouse, where in addition to a great variety of music shows, they host “theatre by all ages, for all types,” and “and more” like oversized puppets, an Artists in the School program, their teen program Apprentice Entertainment, etc. 

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Haley Davis, the new Playhouse publicist noted, Home Cookin‘ is “composed of legendary local musical veterans, Joyce Hough, Gary Davidson, Fred Neighbor and Mike LaBolle serving up savory musical entrees with a saucy backbeat.” (A food reference is mandatory.) 

For me, to start with, I’d probably put Fred second on the list, since he’s married to Joyce, and they’ve been in bands together for around 50 years. I’ve been dancing to their music for decades. In a way, they were also instrumental in the founding of the Hum. In 1993, Edge City had changed hands and I was writing for a younger editor, Chris Lauer. I had shifted my work at the monthly to interviews with big name artists who were coming to town, everyone from Jimmy Cliff and Mickey Hart to Ray Manzarek and Michael McClure. I pitched a local story about an anniversary show at the Jambalaya — the club was marking 20 years since it was founded by Fred and Joyce, who took over the bar formerly known as Dan and Jerry’s at a time when they were the house band, Freddy and the Starliners. They weren’t really cut out to be club owners, a hard, mostly thankless job (just ask Pete Ciotti, who just sold the same club), but their various bands still played there. 

Anyway, Chris wasn’t interested in an interview with a local band, so I shopped the idea around. Jack Durham, then the B-section editor for the Arcata Union liked my idea. (BTW, Jack is now the publisher/editor of the Mad River Union.) That was one of the first pieces I did for a paper other than Edge City. Ultimately, it led to my longstanding Hum column, which started in the original Union. 

Bouncing back to the times when Fred and Joyce owned the Jam, they eventually sold it to Andrew Cairns, who then sold the club to their friend Chloe Damus and a couple of others. It was a golden time for the Jambalaya culturally with musicians like Elizabeth Cotton, Etta James, Robert Cray and The Meters gracing the small stage, and too many local folks to mention, along with poets reading their work. 

A friend and Westhaven neighbor of mine, Dixie Gorrel, started serving home-cooked meals at the Jam Fridays. The dinners became popular enough that it led to her starting a full scale restaurant in Westhaven, calling it Larrupin. The rest is more Humboldt history. I mention this for a couple of reasons: First, the Jam is scheduled to reopen under new ownership in mid-February. (You probably read about it in the Union last week.) Second, another old friend of mine, Darcey Lima, who worked with me at the Silver Lining, has been doing something along the lines of what Dixie did years ago, but at the Logger Bar in sunny Blue Lake. Darcey’s Dinner runs from 5 to 7 p.m. the first and third Friday of every month, with occasionally an extra bonus. There’s a meal Feb. 7, (The Stallions plays songs by Ween after at 9 p.m.), then there’s Darcey’s Special Valentine’s Day Dinner Feb. 14. Date night? That night, Eyes Anonymous plays “cheesy love songs and songs about break-ups.” Sounds romantic, right?

A little more reminiscing about the early days of the Hum, 25+ years ago: One of things I wrote about was a one-man-show called Writing My Way Out of Adolescence by my old friend, Jeff DeMark. The first in a long line of stories “and more” from the Blue Lake raconteur. He’s still doing the same sort of thing, only different. He dropped me a email recently saying: 

“I’m doing a show at the Westhaven Center on Saturday, Feb. 15, at 7:30 p.m. The band is Inscrutable Rabbit and includes my [twin] brother Paul and John Dillon on guitar. John gigged in bands in the Bay Area for many years: funk, pop, jazz, etc. He moved up here maybe 18 months ago. He is the brother of Amy Dillon, who is married to artist Jack Sewell of the old Sewell Art Gallery. Tim Breed will also be playing with us. He is currently the drummer in the [Trinidad country western band] Tidepool High Divers and led the Psychedelvis Band,” who mixed Elvis tunes with Bowie covers, to interesting effect. “We will be doing almost exclusively original songs, a bunch of mine, others by Tim and John. And I’ll be performing a couple of stories and maybe a poem or two, also.  

“One of the stories is about Doug Sahm. Maybe you know this, but I got to know him at Slim’s [Boz Scaggs old nightclub] in SF, and he started coming up here, going to Crab’s games and hanging out semi-regularly. He died of a heart attack at age 58, 20 years ago this past November, and I want to pay tribute to him. 

“The other story is called ‘Pickle Anarchist,’ about working at McDonald’s. I wrote it for the Dell’Arte ‘Stories in the Tent’ event and they performed it with Jeff Kelley telling the tale. I’ve only done it once, so it’s very fresh. 

“So that’s the scoop. Any publicity will be much appreciated. Thanks, Jeff.” There’s more. We exchanged a couple more emails, talked about the Rabbit name “and more,” but ink ain’t cheap, so look for an expanded version elsewhere.

I wrote what amounts to another column about the rest of stuff going on around the north county area, but I guessing Jack will balk at the amount of ink and paper required to put it in the paper. Plus, we haven’t really figured out how AB-5 is going to effect my work, ‘cause freelancers like me are in the crosshairs, but that’s a rant for another day. Bottomline, you’ll have to read the rest online somewhere else, I’m just not exactly sure where. (Check thehum.online.) See ya somewhere…

 







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