It’s Folklife week, officially or unofficially, when the Humboldt Folklife Society goes full bore with the annual Humboldt Folklife Festival. Was there a proclamation? Probably.
You may be wondering, what is this Folklife stuff everyone is always talking about? Ten years ago I tried answering that question. (Forgive me if I repeat myself.) The easiest way to explain is to take the word apart. Folk = People. Life = Music, at least for the folks involved in Folklife. Of course that’s an oversimplification.
Folklife is generally concerned with traditional music of one sort or another, more often than not played on stringed instruments like guitars, banjos, fiddles and so on. But Humboldt Folklife doesn’t exclude jazz, so earlier this week they had Jazz Night with plenty of keyboards and saxophones and the like.
As I mentioned, the Folklife Fest is already underway — and we’ll repeat some things from the last Hum: Wednesday, July 12, Huckleberry Flint headlines at show in Blue Lake on Dell’Arte’s outdoor stage called “Music Under the Stars” with Kenny Ray and the Mighty Rovers, and Rogues' Gallery. That’s followed by a night the Logger Bar with the Joanne Rand Trio (with Piet Dalmolen and Tim Randles).
Thursday evening (July 13) it’s “Bluegrass and Beyond,” with sets by the house band at Bubbles, Clean Livin’, and Compost Mountain Boys, the most straight-ahead bluegrass band around. Then there’s the “beyond" part with fiddler Jenny Scheinman, who says, “I'm going to be celebrating the release of Here On Earth [released earlier this year] with a set of solo fiddle tunes, plus a whole set of improvisations and songs with John Wood.”
Her new record is a collection of songs with a traditional bent written for the film Kannapolis: A Moving Portrait. Jenny collaborated with filmmaker Finn Taylor on the project based on short snippets of films by a relatively unknown photographer, H. Lee Waters, shot in the South in the ‘30s and ‘40s painting an indelible portrait of common folk. Her tunes are her own, but they’re definitely “folk” music.
Friday, the Folk Fest takes a break from Blue Lake for a traditional Barn Dance at the Arcata Veterans Hall with Striped Pig Stringband playing the tunes and Lyndsey Battle calling the dances. Wondering what the folk barn dances are all about? The folks at www.barndancehumboldt.com explain, a barn dance is “a fun, community-oriented folk dance and social for all ages, genders, ethnicities, and abilities, non-dancers and dancers alike. A caller teaches each dance beforehand and calls instructions during each dance, with a live band.” You swing your partner, do-se-do or whatever, when Lyndsey tells you. It’s fun, and good exercise, and a great way to meet new people since you can come without a partner or with one. Go. Dance.
All day, all free, all folky
The Hum Folk Festival ends Saturday with the grand finale around Blue Lake’s old Oddfellows Hall, now the home of Dell’Arte. The All Day Free Fest features music on two stages outside, a smaller one called the “Street Stage” in front, and the Rooney “Amphitheatre Stage” in back, plus the “Kids Tent” in a circus tent with arts and crafts projects set up by Scrap, and various music workshops inside in two rooms upstairs. If you get hungry there are food trucks and you can get things to drink (adult beverages and otherwise) in Dell’Arte’s concession booth.
The folking line-up? On the Amphitheatre Stage it’s The Ladybirds at 11 a.m. and Summer McCall at noon. (I’m not familiar with either.) The old time jazzy Belles of the Levee play at 1 p.m. The Bret Harte Breakers at 2 (great name btw), Way Out West from down south (in SoHum) at 3, La Patina Band (not just with Jeff DeMark) at 4, Safari Boots, a band invented for Folklife, move up to the big stage (and the big time) at 5, The Trouble are making trouble again at 6, and, closing the whole show, it’s Absynth Quartet with their patented “fire breathing indiegrass,” proving that all you have to do is add -grass to invent a new genre.
On the Street Stage you have Kray Van Kirk starting things off at 10:45 a.m. Melanie Barnett and Company (11:35), The Chimney Swifts (12:45), Aaron Thomas (1:45) and at 2:45 p.m. Joel Sonenshein’s popular Beatles Singalong, which until this year was in a more intimate (and more crowded) indoor room. The Spindrifters from Fieldbrook follow at 4:45 p.m. Vanishing Pints offer quasi-Irish tunes at 5:45, and closing things out in the street, authentic ragtime blues from The Mad River Rounders.
So-called “workshops” (more play than work) start upstairs in the North Room in the Dell’Arte building with the Humboldt Ukulele Group offering “Beginning Uke” at 11 a.m. with “Intermediate Uke" at noon. Summer McCall leads “A Capella Singing” at 1 p.m. Jan Bramlett demonstrates “Songwriting Techniques” at 2 p.m. then JD Jeffries leads a John Denver Sing-along at 3 p.m. (up against the Beatles).
Across the hall in the South Room Colin Vance teaches Clawhammer Banjo at 11 a.m. Jim Hubbard, Barb Culbertson and Halimah Collingwood offer “Harmony Singing” at noon, a fine fiddler Rosalind Parducci teaches “Irish Fiddling” at 1 p.m. Seabury Gould leads an “Irish/Celtic Music Sing Along” at 2 p.m. and bluesy Anna Hamilton shows you “Tricky Licks on Guitar” at 3 p.m.
The only trouble with the All Day Free Fest is choosing your favorite folk. P.S. The Folklifers remind you, “Don't forget the after party with Object Heavy at The Logger Bar,” which is more funky than folky. Whatever.
A folky side note: Mike “Spumoni” Manetas dropped me a line last week saying, “I just finished another project and have a double CD of live bluegrass shows that Fickle Hill did between 1974-78 in Humboldt County. It is actually pretty good.”
I’m pretty sure Spumoni played at the first Humboldt Folklife Festival, which was up on Fickle Hall, probably with the Fickle Hill band. He has a long history in Folklife, played mandolin in Compost Mountain Boys, ran Wildwood Music and more. He plans on having the disc available at the festival, watch for it. Get one. Listen.
Sometimes all it takes to create a new genre is some attitude and a unique instrument. The band Split Lip Rayfield (playing Wednesday, July 12 at Humboldt Brews) formed in Wichita, Kansas at the end of the 20th Century. It had your usual bluegrass-type instruments — banjo, mandolin and guitar — with an unusual standup bass: Jeff Eaton’s “Stitchgiver” was made from a 1978 Mercury Grand Marquis gas tank with a neck attached, strung with weed-whacker line. Along with bands like The Bad Livers, they invented something known as thrashgrass, or cowpunk or alt. country, depending on the mood of the music journalist. The Split Lip boys have since lost their guitarist to the evil C, but they soldier on as a trio, playing folky music that kicks ass.
The other side
Meanwhile, down on the county line, situated on the other edge of the musical spectrum (and demographic), a festival called Northern Lights is in its fifth year, running Friday through Sunday July 14-16, at Cook’s Valley Campground (near where they have Reggae on the River).
I talked with one of the organizers when they first started the fest, brainstorming a way to differentiate them from EDM (electronic dance music), since they wanted to cut a wider swatch. I suggested “organic dance music,” but it didn’t stick. Whatever. You won’t see a lot of guitars and very few banjos on the fest’s five stages, one right on the river, others in the woods, and a “silent disco” (think headphones). They bill this as “a diverse boutique festival experience in an epic location,” and there’s much more than EDM: art, yoga, comedy (Savage and otherwise) and “floating the river” plus music drawing on other genres.
Headliners include Living Legends, legends in hip hop, Cherub, an electro/pop/funk/dance duo from Nashville, Jai Wolf, lush electronica from NYC, and G Jones from Santa Cruz, mixing it all up, with a lot of “much more.” See northernlights.org for the multi-faceted lineup.
Jazz is alive
It’s the second Friday in July, which means a couple of things: It’s Arts! Alive time in Arcata and there’s a guide to that somewhere on this page, and it’s Second Friday Jazz night at the Westhaven Center for the Arts with RLa playing “Standards and Originals” with vibraphonist/composer Jonathan Kipp, who has played internationally and locally with Calliope and percussion masters Timbata. He’s good.
Saxophonist/flautist Don Baraka sent us an email re: a 3-day series of musical events commemorating the death of sax giant John Coltrane in 1967, or, "the 50th Anniversary of the Ascension of Saint John Coltrane." (Trane was canonized by the Abyssinian Baptist Church.)
“These are not concerts, simply jazz musicians remembering him and improvising in his spirit,” said Mr. Baraka. The informal jams start Saturday (12:30 to 3 p.m.) at Cafe Phoenix (not typically a music venue), continue Sunday at the weekly jazz jam at Blondie’s (6 to 8:30 p.m.), with a special session Monday at Eureka Inn’s Palm Lounge (7-10 p.m.) with Brian Post & Friends, on the actual anniversary of Trane’s death.
It’s ironic that the man who wrote A Love Supreme died during the Summer of Love. If you’re not familiar with his work, start there or maybe My Favorite Things, then move on to later in his life when he took off into inner space with free jazz and ascended. That’s what music is all about, breaking the bonds that restrain us and strengthening those that hold us together.
I'd originally heard this show was happening at the Eureka Vet's Hall, a standard extra heavy metal venue. This flyer came in from Francois who is now involved. I'm not sure who is Rex Everything.
BREAKFAST ALL DAY COLLECTIVE PRESENTS: A FOREST SHOW: V
@ the Arcata Community Forest ~ Bands to be announced! Plan to meet at 5:30 pm in Redwood Park (http://www.cityofarcata.com/rec) accessible by walking, bike, bus, and driving. START WALK AT 6 PM suggested donation $1-$100 to Breakfast All Day Collective's all ages community arts center - Outer Space
Also Friday at Humbrews
"Peach Purple and The Blacksage Runners team up to bring you a evening of local talent. Bring your dancing shoes!"Peach Purple: "Heavy Minimalist Funk " Blacksage Runners: "Piping hot guitar smothered with a generous helping of raucous drums, bass, and bluesy vocals"
Saturday ~ At Northtown Coffee it's another sort of singer/songwriter, not exactly folk, more something else as yet unnamed. Local label Fairly Modest Records tells us, "We are very excited to announce the return of Rob Brundage! This will be an extended music event with many different performers. This is a free show but please bring a couple dollars for the hat. All proceeds will go to Rob for tour support."
Rob Brundage (Bedroom Pop)
Saturday, July 15, 7:30 PM. Pipe Organ Concert by John Karl Hirten @ Christ Episcopal Church, 15th and H, Eureka
The Bay Area organist and composer will perform works for pipe organ by Joplin, Ravel, Hirten, Bach and others, as well as an improvisation on names of audience members. Hirten has played in a variety of venues, and given over 300 monthly recitals at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor. John Karl Hirtens music has been featured on Minnesota Public Radios Pipedreams program and at conventions of the American Guild of Organists. He holds a Master of Music degree in organ performance from the Manhattan School of Music in New York City.
(By donation, they suggest $15.)
Remember, music = life and vice versa. Enjoy it.