The HUM: What the folk?

Barn Dance caller Lyndsey Battle and Striped Pig Stringband are no squares. Photo by Bob Doran |

As summer rolls along, pulling July with it, it’s once again time for the Humboldt Folklife Society Folklife Festival, the 41st annual celebration of all local things folkish, whatever folk means. 

In Humboldt it’s fairly loosely interpreted, as you can see by the musical range in the eight-days-a-week ahead (Saturday, July 13, through Saturday, July 20) from folk to rock, country and bluegrass “and beyond,” all in sunny Blue Lake.

We kick things off at the Mad River Brewery, 195 Taylor Way, Blue Lake, with the appropriately named  “Festival Kickoff” starting at 2 p.m. (Saturday, July 13) with semi-Irish tunes by The Vanishing Pints, followed by The March & Months (4:30 p.m.) and concluding with country-rock by MRB regulars, The Detours. (Free, but Folklife loves donations.)

Sunny Blue Lake shines with Annie and Mary Day Sunday, July 14, at Perigot Park with The Tidepool High Divers (noon), Tyger Byle (1 p.m.), That Buckin’ String Band (2 p.m.), Bayou Swamis (3 p.m.) and last, our weekly Dead cover band Dead On at 4 p.m.

Monday (July 15) is Folklife “Movie Night” at Dell’Arte’s Carlo Theater with a free screening of Country Music, a preview of a new PBS series by master documentarian Ken Burns, answering questions like “What is country music?” “Where did it come from?” And what’s all that twanging about? Burns examines the lives of the Carter Family, Hank Williams, Bob Wills, Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson “and many more.”

Tuesday (July 16) is “Songwriter Night” at the Carlos at 7:30 p.m. hosted by former ex-HFS-prez Patrick Cleary with songwriters Tracy Symons Smith, Michael Dayvid, Georgia Ruth and Andrew Wakefield. 

Wednesday, July 17, “Under the Stars Night” takes things outside in Dell’Arte’s Rooney Amphitheatre with the bluesy Handshakers, C&W rock by Cadillac Ranch and the always shimmering Huckleberry Flint. Starts early, 6 p.m. and this one will probably sell out in advance.

“Bluegrass and Beyond” on Thursday, July 18, in the Rooney, means stringy music by The Kentucky Warblers, Old Dog and Compost Mountain Boys. Again at 6 p.m.

The action shifts to Prasch Hall (by Perigot Park) on Friday, July 19, for a Barn Dance with Striped Pig Stringband and caller Lyndsey Battle. The hall is not a barn; currently it’s mostly used as a roller rink, but few of the dances are in barns. The Folklifers just don’t think of

square-dancing as “square.” 

Tickets for all the shows mentioned above are at Wildberries or at online. No tix required for the All-Day Free Festival in and around Dell’Arte on Saturday, July 20. There’s music on two stages, workshops inside, food trucks, kid’s crafts and more, all free.

It starts on the Street Stage with The J. Nelson Band at 10:45 a.m. followed by Tristan Norton (at 11:45 a.m.) Seabury Gould and Evan Morden (12:45 p.m.) Lone Star Junction (1:45 p.m.) Covered with Moss (2:45 p.m.) The Oyster Baes (3:45 p.m.) and ends on the Street side with Joel Sonenshein’s popular Beatles Sing-Along from 4:45 ’til 6:45 p.m. 

Meanwhile on the Amphitheater Stage (aka the Rooney) things get underway at 11 a.m. with Chubritza International Folk Band (a different sort of folk). Then it’s LodeStar (at noon), Johnny Kadingo (at 1 p.m.) The Bandage (at 2 p.m.) Kenny Ray & the Mighty Rovers (at 3 p.m.) The Gatehouse Well (at 4 p.m.) Belles of the Levee (at 5 p.m.) Kingfoot (at 6 p.m.) and last but not least, at 7 p.m. right after that Beatles music, The Yokels, who could do a full set of Fab Four, but won’t. (Maybe a couple?) 

Feel like more folkin’ around? The Logger Bar has the traditional Folklife Festival Free Day Afterparty that night with “local Blue Lake honkytonkers” Barn Fire rippin’ things up. “Y’all come now ya’hear!!!” says Kate.

Speaking of the Logger, Friday, July 12, they host the return of Rooster McClintock. Guitarist Jake Brake dropped me a line saying, “Howdy Bob, I just wanted to give you a heads up. We’re really excited to be back in the music scene after taking five years off. We’ll be delving into ye ole songbook of original honky-tonk and alt-country music that we’ve cooked up in the barn.Hope you can make it or help spread the musical word. Thanks!” No problem. That’s why I’m here. Showtime 9:30 p.m.

The next night Saturday the 13th, the Logger has a post-Festival Kickoff Afterparty, with Pine Hill Haints, on their “Alabama Ghost Music” Tour. The band is from Alabama, currently on the road between SF and PDX. Expect cool merch, especially their T-shirts. Incidentally, Ghost Music is a fine album they released in 2005 and recently re-released. Music starts at 9 p.m.-ish.

Remember Bobby Amirkhanian, the bass player who played in a bunch of local bands before hopping a cruise ship? He’s in town and is celebrating “St. Paddy’s In July” at the Jam on Friday, July 12. “I’m back in town for a couple weeks,” says Bobby, “and that means The Rebel Liberties are putting on a show with local Bad Religion cover band The Automatic Men. The Jam will be hosting the party like they did on St. Paddy’s a couple years ago; come on down, have a pint, and rock out to fun covers and Irish punk! I won’t be back in Hum for another year and a half or so due to work, so this would be a great way to get some Bobby-time,” he concluded (not to be confused with colluded). Doors open at 8 p.m. for Guinness or whatever, expect Automatic Men at 9 p.m. and Rebel Liberties at 10:30 p.m. 

At (or in) Outer Space Monday, July 15, watch for a Canadian invasion when the “Really Well Summer Tour” comes to town with Mauno from Halifax, Nova Scotia. “Say it like ‘mao-no,’” they note, adding, “we love music!!” while describing their lovable music as “weirdo pop-rocks.” 

On this portion of the tour they’re on the road with jo passed from Vancouver, BC who records for Sub Pop. Frontman Jo Hirabayashi says that the nicest thing anyone has ever – ever – said to him was that debut album sounds like “fucked-up Beatles.” Opening is Daniel, who I assume is the Daniel from Sanctuary. “Acoustic emo punk from Arcata,” fits him. Remember, Outer Space in an all ages safer sober space, where they start and end early, 7 p.m.-ish.

Thursday, July 18, hear No Covers at (or in) The Basement. No Covers is Justin Ross on piano and Tamaras Abrams on drums, both from Ultra Secret (formerly USGGO). They explain that they, “fell musically in love as part of the pit orchestra during Ferndale Rep’s rendition of Sweeney Todd. Tamaras would host jam parties at her house for the cast and crew and the rest is local music history.” 

I have a long history with Tamaras, who used to be an itinerant singer/songwriter type, until she settled locally and went to HSU to study music. She’s been a drummer for awhile playing “improvisational” music, when she isn’t rescuing large animals. Showtime is  9 p.m.

Coming next Friday, July 19, to HumBrews, bluesman Tommy Castro & The Painkillers, led by that dude with a tight black T, who plays some killer licks on guitar. The Painkillers includes former-local Michael Emerson (just here with Supermule) and a rhythm section with bassist Randy McDonald and drummer Bowen Brown, together for over four years.

The Morris Graves Museum of Art welcomes you for “A Classical Summer Evening” Saturday, July 20, with local pianist Alexander Knight. Expect “a selection of pieces that are an amalgam of works from the master composers, written in myriad forms,” Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin, and Debussy, you get the picture. Alexander has been studying music since he was seven, switched from guitar to piano when he was 17. After “an ancillary career in the fine dining food industry,” he now expresses his “joie de vivre” teaching piano and guitar lessons and playing for you. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Showtime is at  6 p.m.  

See you at



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