The HUM: The evolution of Humboldt culture

PAN ARTS Jennifer Callen plays steel drums for the Pan Dulce Steel Orchestra. The band plays Friday at the Pan Arts Open House Party in Arcata at Samoa Boulevard and K Street. Bob Doran | Union

Humboldt culture is a curious, fascinating thing. Where else can you routinely hear a steel drum in a rock band or an elementary school band that has rows of pans? How does that happen? A lot of credit goes to a passionate HSU professor. 

Let’s start with a class description for a class titled, Calypso Band 107/407c: “Founded in 1986 by Dr. Eugene Novotney, the Humboldt State Calypso Band was the first ensemble of its kind in the entire California State University system… a 100% acoustic group comprised of an orchestra of steel drums, or more accurately, steelpans. The steelpan, or ‘pan’ as it is called in the Caribbean, is a highly developed instrument formed from a raw 55-gallon oil barrel.” 

Basically, we’re talking about highly refined recycling. Barrels are hammered, etched, tempered, and fine-tuned by expert craftsmen, especially in Trinidad (the country, not the town). Rows of pans are played by rows of musicians, often with nothing else but a drummer to make a pan orchestra. Eugene loved the pure sound, like ringing a bell. It was contagious. He spread that love to Humboldt. The rest is history. 

In the tradition of “each one teach one,” grads from the Calypso Band like Kate Lang Salazar and her husband, John Salazar became teachers and today you hear pans all over Humboldt. Friday, Jan, 31, you can party with the steel crowd at the Pan Arts Open House Party in their panyard in Arcata, where they make steel drums.  

“We are celebrating 20 years of bringing the sweet sounds of steel drum music to the North Coast. Join us from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. for a night of fiery calypso. Pan Dulce Steel Orchestra will perform a short set, plus performances by beginner and intermediate students.” There’s also a free beginner’s workshop “in the traditional rote style of Trinidad and Tobago,” with snacks and drinks “under the mood lighting of our panyard at 1049C Samoa Blvd. at the foot of K Street. They promise “to bring island vibes to our chilly, rainy slice of Humboldt paradise!” That’s how our culture grows. 

In another case of an infectious rhythms catching on, you have Taiko Swing Humboldt, a program of the Humboldt Folklife Society, hosting “SwingPosium on the Road” featuring San Jose Taiko, an “immersive, 360-degree, theatrical experience” created by the taiko players in cooperation with Epic Immersive as a tribute to the big band music and swing dancing set in a mess hall at a WWII Japanese American incarceration camp. 

Wondering what “taiko” is? Well, it’s basically a big Japanese drum, played with big drum sticks to make a big sound. They trace the history back to the 6th century in Japan, but this is a bit newer. How does it fit into the story of people torn from their homes? We’ll let them explain in the show, which is “immersive” in that guests become part of the narrative. 

Doors for SwingPosium are at 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, at Bayside Community Hall with a matinee Saturday starting at 2 p.m. with each performance beginning with a 30-minute “Talk Story.” Listen. You might learn something. Taiko Swing Humboldt is bringing the local Asian American community together, uniting around current issues like the illegal mass incarceration of families. As they say, “History is repeating itself.”

And speaking of related history, the Clarke Historical Museum kicks off the new year by taking a look back “at the history of Chinese immigration to, and subsequent expulsion from, Humboldt County and how that legacy has impacted life in Humboldt today.”  Immigration, Expulsion, Homecoming: The Legacy of the Chinese Expulsion in Humboldt opens on Feb. 1, for Arts Alive, at the Eureka museum starting at 6 p.m. (running through May 2). The exhibits explore the sad history of our treatment of the local Chinese community, including running them out of town in the late 19th century. Yes, Eureka once had a Chinatown, and yes, Chinese people were forcibly shipped out of Humboldt on barges. They also look back at “the popularized myth of a Chinese-free Humboldt County, and how Ben Chin and his restaurant re-established a Chinese population in Eureka.” Educate yourself. 

Catch Absynth Quartet Friday, Jan 31, 7:30 p.m. at the Westhaven Center for the Arts, where the “indie grass” band offers material for their upcoming seventh studio album, Ro-bot 0, which is due to be released, well, whenever they finish it. Incidentally, the spin-off Absynth trio, Sansü (without Tofu) will offer music of some sort at the Minor Theatre’s Red Carpet Oscar Party coming up Sunday, Feb. 9. Details pending. 

Also Friday (Jan. 31) the Whomp crew is teaming up with World Famous Productions for a “massive anniversary party celebrating 10 years of whomp!!” (Double exclamations!!) They’ll have “West Coast Wobble,” from SubDocta, and drum ‘n bass and hip hop from TLZMN (whose identity is concealed by “The Hood”). Then there’s the duo Date Modified Tomorrow, and ChopsJunkie, all with bass-heavy sound by Bass Craft, lights and lasers by 12BC Pro, live art and and assorted vendors. (!!!)

In Blue Lake Friday, 9-ish, Dead On “brings the acoustic side of the Grateful Dead to the Logger Bar.” You know the drill. Tie-dye optional. 

At the Miniplex Friday (Jan. 31) it’s another one of those mystery grab-bag “Local Showcase” nights with Funeral Cops, Raredreams, and Pills For Thrills. Can you tell a book by its cover? Or a band by its name?

Friday, Jan. 31, at 8 p.m. Outer Space presents another show at the Siren’s Song with Sondra Sun-Odeon playing dark rock (from a new album on Graveface Records), plus “melancholy shoegaze space folk” from Nadoyel and Silence in the Snow, a dark duo who recently relocated from Oakland to Arcata.

Down the street at Phatsy Kline’s Parlor Lounge, same Friday (8 p.m.) it’s bluegrass and swing jazz from Hill Honey and the Wildcats, a female-fronted acoustic/electric eight-piece ensemble from SoHum, “self-deemed ‘Crunchy Western’.” Sounds intriguing. 

As mentioned earlier, Saturday is another Arts Alive! night in Eureka. You can see a couple of my works at 20/20 Vision: 20th Anniversary Fine Art Photography Competition & Exhibition at Morris Graves Museum of Art. The cool one-man-band Mister Moonbeam provides a soundtrack of sorts.

Are you ready for some fire dancers? In Opera Alley there’s “Art & Fire,” a benefit for “Humboldt veterans and mental health,” although they’re not specific which organizations. 

At Treasures By The Bay (next to Old Town Coffee) expect “live painting and live music” from House of Mary at 6 p.m., The Colour Green at 7 p.m. (Are they Brits?) and BeTh isBell from 8 p.m. ‘til closing.

At Bandit Savory & Sweet, painter Laura Chapman White is the February/March AA!artist, “sharing new and old works on the theme of folklore.” Mbira music “sets the magical tone of the evening.” 

Starting at 6 p.m. Thundercloud opens for Blacksage Runners at Siren’s Song, both with a heavy bluesy rock sound. 

After the Arts walk, there’s another epic Synapsis Cabaret that Saturday, on the theme Dreamscapes & Nightmares. “What lies in the darkest corners of your mind, and only escapes when you sleep? Join them for interpretations of those etherial and spooky unconscious thoughts played out in aerial dance, live performance and more!” Doors at 8:15 p.m. Sliding scale admission, “nobody turned away for lack of funds.”

Post-Arts Alive find “shenanigans” at Old Town’s North of Forth, meaning music from Mojave Green (“spaghetti western rock ’n’ roll”) and Canary and the Vamp (“jazz manouche meets banshee flapper”) in a tres cozy atmosphere (next door to the Shanty). 

Saturday at Fulkerson Hall at 8 p.m. CenterArts presents jazz pianist prodigy Joey Alexander. The 16-year-old Balinese wunderkind has already made six albums and earned three Grammy Award nominations in a meteoric career that kicked into gear when his hero, Wynton Marsalis, happened across one of his YouTube vids. 

It’s another Radio Clash night Saturday at the Alibi with resident DJs Blancatron and Zero One welcoming DJ Ratrace and TONECHANGE, all of them “ready to make you bop, skank, and dance all night.” Starting 10-ish. 

Sunday, Feb. 2, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. “To celebrate the kick-off of another year of community arts organizing, The Sanctuary will be hosting a seasonal, family-friendly Casual Cafe, with refreshments and entertainment,” and music by The J Street Regulars (who look suspiciously like the James Zeller Trio, but what do I know?) No charge for admission, “but attendees can show support by browsing the bake sale, or making donations for hot coffee and tea.” Read newspapers or books, play with toys and games and “lots of balloons.” Sounds like casual fun. 

After hosting the weekend’s Bayside Community Hall is having an all day work party on Sunday, Feb. 2, from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. “We will be removing all kitchen contents and demoing the kitchen for our kitchen remodel,” they explain. “If you have the skills, tools, and/or want to help, please join us. Drop in and out, or stay the whole day. Any help is appreciated!” 

Next Wednesday, Feb. 5, at Arcata Theatre Lounge, World Famous Presents presents high-end electronica with the Minnesota Exit/Reality Tour featuring Minnesota (aka Christian Bauhofer) plus Thelem, Eastghost, and Thook. Starts at 8 p.m.

Or, also Wednesday, Feb. 5, at HumBrews, they have Pink Talking Fish is a “hybrid tribute fusion act” that mashes together covers of Pink Floyd, Talking Heads and Phish. Why the hell not? 

Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention it. Sunday, Feb. 2, is aka Super Bowl Sunday. (J-Lo and Shakira at 1/2 time. Cost of 30-second commercial: $5.6 million.) You can undoubtedly catch it on a big screen somewhere. 

That’s it for now. Go Niners. Or whatever.

drinks “under the mood lighting of our panyard at 1049C Samoa Blvd. at the foot of K Street. They promise “to bring island vibes to our chilly, rainy slice of Humboldt paradise!” That’s how our culture grows. 

In another case of an infectious rhythms catching on, you have Taiko Swing Humboldt, a program of the Humboldt Folklife Society, hosting “SwingPosium on the Road” featuring San Jose Taiko, an “immersive, 360-degree, theatrical experience” created by the taiko players in cooperation with Epic Immersive as a tribute to the big band music and swing dancing set in a mess hall at a WWII Japanese American incarceration camp. 

Wondering what “taiko” is? Well, it’s basically a big Japanese drum, played with big drum sticks to make a big sound. They trace the history back to the 6th century in Japan, but this is a bit newer. How does it fit into the story of people torn from their homes? We’ll let them explain in the show, which is “immersive” in that guests become part of the narrative. 

Doors for SwingPosium are at 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, at Bayside Community Hall with a matinee Saturday starting at 2 p.m. with each performance beginning with a 30-minute “Talk Story.” Listen. You might learn something. Taiko Swing Humboldt is bringing the local Asian American community together, uniting around current issues like the illegal mass incarceration of families. As they say, “History is repeating itself.”

And speaking of related history, the Clarke Historical Museum kicks off the new year by taking a look back “at the history of Chinese immigration to, and subsequent expulsion from, Humboldt County and how that legacy has impacted life in Humboldt today.”  Immigration, Expulsion, Homecoming: The Legacy of the Chinese Expulsion in Humboldt opens on Feb. 1, for Arts Alive, at the Eureka museum starting at 6 p.m. (running through May 2). The exhibits explore the sad history of our treatment of the local Chinese community, including running them out of town in the late 19th century. Yes, Eureka once had a Chinatown, and yes, Chinese people were forcibly shipped out of Humboldt on barges. They also look back at “the popularized myth of a Chinese-free Humboldt County, and how Ben Chin and his restaurant re-established a Chinese population in Eureka.” Educate yourself. 

Catch Absynth Quartet Friday, Jan 31, 7:30 p.m. at the Westhaven Center for the Arts, where the “indie grass” band offers material for their upcoming seventh studio album, Ro-bot 0, which is due to be released, well, whenever they finish it. Incidentally, the spin-off Absynth trio, Sansü (without Tofu) will offer music of some sort at the Minor Theatre’s Red Carpet Oscar Party coming up Sunday, Feb. 9. Details pending. 

Also Friday (Jan. 31) the Whomp crew is teaming up with World Famous Productions for a “massive anniversary party celebrating 10 years of whomp!!” (Double exclamations!!) They’ll have “West Coast Wobble,” from SubDocta, and drum ‘n bass and hip hop from TLZMN (whose identity is concealed by “The Hood”). Then there’s the duo Date Modified Tomorrow, and ChopsJunkie, all with bass-heavy sound by Bass Craft, lights and lasers by 12BC Pro, live art and assorted vendors. (!!!)

In Blue Lake Friday, 9-ish, Dead On “brings the acoustic side of the Grateful Dead to the Logger Bar.” You know the drill. Tie-dye optional. 

At the Miniplex Friday (Jan. 31) it’s another one of those mystery grab-bag “Local Showcase” nights with Funeral Cops, Raredreams, and Pills For Thrills. Can you tell a book by its cover? Or a band by its name?

Friday, Jan. 31, at 8 p.m. Outer Space presents another show at the Siren’s Song with Sondra Sun-Odeon playing dark rock (from a new album on Graveface Records), plus “melancholy shoegaze space folk” from Nadoyel and Silence in the Snow, a dark duo who recently relocated from Oakland to Arcata.

Down the street at Phatsy Kline’s Parlor Lounge, same Friday (8 p.m.) it’s bluegrass and swing jazz from Hill Honey and the Wildcats, a female-fronted acoustic/electric eight-piece ensemble from SoHum, “self-deemed ‘Crunchy Western’.” Sounds intriguing. 

As mentioned earlier, Saturday is another Arts Alive! night in Eureka. You can see a couple of my works at 20/20 Vision: 20th Anniversary Fine Art Photography Competition & Exhibition at Morris Graves Museum of Art. The cool one-man-band Mister Moonbeam provides a soundtrack of sorts.

Are you ready for some fire dancers? In Opera Alley there’s “Art & Fire,” a benefit for “Humboldt veterans and mental health,” although they’re not specific which organizations. 

At Treasures By The Bay (next to Old Town Coffee) expect “live painting and live music” from House of Mary at 6 p.m., The Colour Green at 7 p.m. (Are they Brits?) and BeTh isBell from 8 p.m. ‘til closing.

At Bandit Savory & Sweet, painter Laura Chapman White is the February/March AA!artist, “sharing new and old works on the theme of folklore.” Mbira music “sets the magical tone of the evening.” 

Starting at 6 p.m. Thundercloud opens for Blacksage Runners at Siren’s Song, both with a heavy bluesy rock sound. 

After the Arts walk, there’s another epic Synapsis Cabaret that Saturday, on the theme Dreamscapes & Nightmares. “What lies in the darkest corners of your mind, and only escapes when you sleep? Join them for interpretations of those etherial and spooky unconscious thoughts played out in aerial dance, live performance and more!” Doors at 8:15 p.m. Sliding scale admission, “nobody turned away for lack of funds.”

Post-Arts Alive find “shenanigans” at Old Town’s North of Forth, meaning music from Mojave Green (“spaghetti western rock ’n’ roll”) and Canary and the Vamp (“jazz manouche meets banshee flapper”) in a tres cozy atmosphere (next door to the Shanty). 

Saturday at Fulkerson Hall at 8 p.m. CenterArts presents jazz pianist prodigy Joey Alexander. The 16-year-old Balinese wunderkind has already made six albums and earned three Grammy Award nominations in a meteoric career that kicked into gear when his hero, Wynton Marsalis, happened across one of his YouTube vids. 

It’s another Radio Clash night Saturday at the Alibi with resident DJs Blancatron and Zero One welcoming DJ Ratrace and TONECHANGE, all of them “ready to make you bop, skank, and dance all night.” Starting 10-ish. 

Sunday, Feb. 2, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. “To celebrate the kick-off of another year of community arts organizing, The Sanctuary will be hosting a seasonal, family-friendly Casual Cafe, with refreshments and entertainment,” and music by The J Street Regulars (who look suspiciously like the James Zeller Trio, but what do I know?) No charge for admission, “but attendees can show support by browsing the bake sale, or making donations for hot coffee and tea.” Read newspapers or books, play with toys and games and “lots of balloons.” Sounds like casual fun. 

After hosting the weekend’s Bayside Community Hall is having an all day work party on Sunday, Feb. 2, from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. “We will be removing all kitchen contents and demoing the kitchen for our kitchen remodel,” they explain. “If you have the skills, tools, and/or want to help, please join us. Drop in and out, or stay the whole day. Any help is appreciated!” 

Next Wednesday, Feb. 5, at Arcata Theatre Lounge, World Famous Presents presents high-end electronica with the Minnesota Exit/Reality Tour featuring Minnesota (aka Christian Bauhofer) plus Thelem, Eastghost, and Thook. Starts at 8 p.m.

Or, also Wednesday, Feb. 5, at HumBrews, they have Pink Talking Fish is a “hybrid tribute fusion act” that mashes together covers of Pink Floyd, Talking Heads and Phish. Why the hell not? 

Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention it. Sunday, Feb. 2, is aka Super Bowl Sunday. (J-Lo and Shakira at 1/2 time. Cost of 30-second commercial: $5.6 million.) You can undoubtedly catch it on a big screen somewhere. 

That’s it for now. Go Niners. Or whatever.

 







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