The Hum: Redwood Coast Music Festival ~ 5/9-11


As you may or may not remember, 29 years ago the Redwood Coast Music Festival was known as the Redwood Coast Dixieland Jazz Festival. The transition happened slowly, first by adding what was considered “alternative” bands to an all traditional jazz lineup. A couple of other things happened when Deborah Lazio was handling booking. (I have to admit, I don’t remember the exact sequence.)

Big name non-jazz acts were hired as headliners, and a spin-off outdoor blues fest, Blues by the Bay, was added for Labor Day weekend. 

While BbtB was popular, especially with the baby boomer demographic, it lost money, and was discontinued a few years ago. (Acres of Blues is trying keep that spirit going at Redwood Acres, but that’s a story for another day.)

While there’s still an audience for Dixieland, its old fans are dying off, and the fest had added more pure swing, zydeco and R&B acts, basically all sorts of acts, like at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. At some point “Dixie” was dropped and for a few years it was known as the Redwood Coast Jazz Festival. In 2014, “jazz” was dropped from the name, as blues became important to the lineup and Western Swing was added. Redwood Coast “Music” Festival was born.

At this point it seems like the RCMF has completely merged with Blues by the Bay. The big name acts come from the blues world and you can go to the fest and hear no “jazz” at all, if that’s what you want to do. Really, with music in six venues, there’s too much to choose from.

My blues loving friend deejay Good Rockin’ Derral Campbell is afraid he’ll have a heart attack from a blues overdose. “Oh geez this lineup is stuffed with virtuosity and fun. It’s gonna be time for some very tough calls. Little Charlie’s gonna be wearing at least three hats 1) the Charlie Christian thing Saturday at 3 (Sat. at the Sequoia Center); 2) Two nights of performing with Carl Sonny Leyland… fascinates me with the prospects for high humor and hijinks (Fri./Sat. @ the Muni); and 3) A reunion w/ Rick Estrin and the Nightcats. Charlie and Kid Andersen at the SAME time? (Sat. 9-ish at the Muni) You know, all my college roommate buddies have had heart attacks now, and I know I’m playing on house money myself. And I may be pushing my luck this Friday night. I’m not excited though.”

(Here’s what he wrote about the fest for Jefferson Public Radio, “The Blues Is Back At The Redwood Coast Music Festival.” Derral is host of Rollin’ the Blues and The Blues Show on Saturdays on JPR’s Rhythm & News Service.)

Here’s what Little Charlie Baty, has planned, he’s the former leader of the Nightcats and will play with Rick Estrin and his former bandmates, as well as with Carl Sonny Leyland and others… well, I’ll let him take over.

“One of my big moments is rapidly approaching,” says Charlie. “It might be my biggest moment – you never know. This weekend I will be appearing as a Special Guest or Guest of Honor or a title with some sort of honorific attached to it at the Redwood Coast Music Festival in Eureka CA.

“My work starts on Friday. I will perform with the legendary pianist/vocalist Carl Sonny Leyland and his combo, during a set of blues and swing. Then I will rest for a few minutes and then reunite with Rick Estrin and the Nightcats for a brief spell. If all of that excitement doesn’t kill me, I’ll return the next day to perform a special Tribute to Charlie Christian set with a hand-picked combo of 7 or 8 people – drummer Jeff Hamilton, bassist Sam Rocha, trumpet player Marc Caparone are just some of the players and we will also be joined by vocalist Dawn Lambeth. Then another set or two with Sonny Leyland. I get tired just typing about it.

“There will be so much talent at this festival. Curtis Salgado will be there. My friend Geoff Miller and the Twilight Drifters will be playing. Pianist John Cocuzzi will be swinging until the girls come home. It is such a fun festival – traditional jazz, blues, rockabilly, swing, and probably all sorts of other music that I’m not up on. Over 200 musicians will be performing. I’ll get a chance to play with some of the most talented swing and trad cats out there. Plus I’ll get a chance to ham it up with Rick Estrin and Kid Andersen again, listen to Lorenzo Farrell’s soulful organ playing, and enjoy the steady pocket of Alexander Pettersen.

“Then there’s trying to keep up with Sonny Leyland. What a talented soul and just a plain nice guy he is! I love the way Dawn Lambeth sings – a beautiful voice without a bunch of unnecessary frills – she just has a way of selling a song with her voice. And, finally, I’ll be able to release this catharsis of Charlie Christian songs and ideas that have building up inside me for months.

“Now you’re caught up – check the oil, check the tire pressure, fill up the car with gas, pack a light bag and head up to Eureka. You’ll be glad that you did!”

KHUM’s blues deejay Chas Lewis recommends “Aki Kumar, Carl Sonny Leyland and Charlie Baty, Anthony Paule Soul Orch w/Wee Willie Walker” (all blues of course).

As Charlie mentioned, there’s a couple of sets by Curtis Salgado, who was the template for “Joliet Jake,” John Belushi’s character in the Blues Brothers. They hung out in Eugene when Animal House was filmed, and Belushi basically lifted Curtis’ act, both the songs and his attitude. That happened while Curtis was in first incarnation of the Robert Cray Band, where he served as brash front man for shy “Young Robert.” Curtis went on to serve as lead singer for Roomful of Blues and by the early ‘90s, he had his own band. In 2010 he was one of the headliners for Blues by the Bay after winning a Blues Music Award for Soul Blues Male Artist of the Year. He’s played here a couple of times with Mark Hummel’s Blues Harmonica Blow-Out (and will do so again elsewhere), but lately he’s been playing with guitarist Alan Hagar

Look for the flags marking venues…

Sarah Marina says, “When picking bands, consider venues. I like pairing them like wine and food for a tailored experience. 🙂 Ex: Morris Graves Museum for an intimate and lofty artistic moment as opposed to the vibrant mass of energy at the Muni. Same band in each setting is a different experience altogether. Same venue with each band… also unique.

“The other factor is guest artists rotating through each band. I heard [fiddler] Tom Rigney duel it out with Brian Casserly [trumpet] a couple years ago and that was an on fire duo. They are back at the Adorni Saturday night to do it again and I expect it to be a great show if you don’t mind missing a portion of the Muni blues.”

Speaking of blues, my friend Katy Stern says, “Don’t miss Anthony Paule and Frank Bey,” part of the big blues-orama Saturday at the Muni (with Curtis as “special guest). Everyone has their faves.

It ain’t cheap, they have different prices depending on if you’re just going to one day, but $30 is the cheapest. Please note: ticket sales locations are at the Muni and Adorni venues ONLY.  Will Call is at the Adorni venue. If you can’t afford a ticket, there’s always the free show Sunday morning with our own Arcata Interfaith Gospel Choir singing at 10 a.m. at the Adorni. And Les Craig notes there’s music all over Old Town, “We’ll be on the Gazebo Saturday from 11 to 1, courtesy of Eureka Main Street.”

It’s this weekend!

See ya somewhere, people…

The Hum: Turning Gray Skies Blue + (plus) + more

People all over the world (everybody), join hands (join), start a love train, love train… The next stop that we make will be soon The O’Jays

After working as a music writer for several decades now, I’ve assembled a massive collection of records, CDs, etc. I wish I could say they’re well-organized — alphabetized or whatever — but they’re not, not at all, except a side collection of music by local artists. One corner of my office is dedicated to shelves full of CDs by Humboldt-based artists (and a few tapes), A to Z selections by artists from Absynth Q and Afromassive to Yer Dog and Robert Ziino. 

The other day I was talking with my friend, the musician/deejay Lyndsey Battle, about local bands. She was thinking about doing a segment of her show on KHUM show featuring locals. I invited her over and we started going through my stash looking for music by folks that she hadn’t heard. We didn’t get far, maybe to the end of “D”s with the rare Dynamite Sweater demo. When she returned the discs, I asked what she’d liked best. The first one she mentioned was one she hadn’t heard before, the eponymous album by Barking Dogma, with none other than Tim “Timmy” Gray on drums and vocals, among others.

Barking Dogma

Now as it turns out, Arcata Playhouse is hosting a benefit for Timmy Friday, May 3 (doors @ 7 p.m. showtime @ 7:30). The musical evening, titled “Get On Board the Love Train,” will raise money for his medical expenses. As Joyce Hough explains, “Several years ago [he] was diagnosed with a rare degenerative brain disorder which has restricted his ability to pursue his widely recognized talents as a musician and sound engineer/designer.” 

Timmy Gray at work

Even if you don’t know his name, chances are you’ve heard Timmy’s work. In addition to Barking Dogma, he was a member of Lance Romance (a long time ago), The Bayou Swamis, The Joyce Hough Band and other bands. He also recorded a mess of local bands, and served as music director for Dell’Arte for over 20 years. 

The upcoming Mad River Festival will feature “Turning Gray Skies Blue: The Music of Timmy Gray” with directed by Dell’Arte artist director Michael Fields. The Dell’Arte Company will celebrate “a lifetime of work” by their resident sound designer, with a “concert for the ages” featuring music he wrote for Mary Jane: The Musical, Blue Lake: The Opera, Wildcard, Grasshopper and the proverbial “much more!” (June 21, 22, 28, & 29 @ 8 p.m.)

Friday’s show at the Playhouse features the aforementioned Lyndsey Battle with Cory Goldman

Old Dog with Marty Dodd, Gary Davidson, Tom Pexton, and Dave Deason…

and a solo set by guitarist/handyman Jeff Landon, who just happens to be replacing the gutters on my house as I compose this column. (He’s also been working on a new song for the show that I can’t tell you about.)

(Jeff is on guitar and vocalst.)

Closing the show will be dance music by Home Cookin’ with Joyce Hough, Fred Neighbor, Mike LaBolle, Gary Davidson (again) and Timmy.

“Join us for an evening of celebration as we lend our friend Tim a hand on the Love Train,” says Joyce, adding, “You can also assist Tim at GoFundMe: gofundme.com/timgraylovetrain.” Advance tix recommended. Get ‘em at Wildberries or online at brownpapertickets.com.

Elsewhere

Coming to Humbrews Thursday, May 2, it’s Sepiatonic, an “electro-vaudeville” outfit from Portland, Ore. somehow combining “brass, bass, beats, bellydance, and burlesque.” A local connection is oneKarolina Lux, who says, “Hellooo Humboldt peeps! ‘Tis I, your long-lost returning HSU Marching Lumberjack bellydancing trumpet-playing friend 😉 back with my band/dance project Sepiatonic, and we are ready to RAGE the face off Humbrews… We have house/bass beats, we have brass, we have bellydance and babes. Please come by…xoxo”

If you know your Humboldt art history, you know that the deep roots of the amazing art umbrella org Ink People Center for the Arts lie in founder Libby Maynard’s printmaking. Their latest project is a back-to-the-roots thing, the Old Town Ink Lab, a “makers space for print media and literary arts” opening in Eureka at 212 G Street. The space will feature several printing presses, as well as work stations, tools, resources, and equipment for public use. They mark their Grand Opening Friday, May 3, from 4 to 6 p.m. when the public will have an opportunity to say hello and make their own prints on one of the presses at no charge.

Deadhead alert: Friday (5/3) at Humbrews catch Garcia Birthday Band (aka GBB) allegedly “the premier Grateful Dead Tribute in the Pacific Northwest,” based in Portland, formed in 1999. They play on days that are not Jerry’s b-day.

At the Alibi, late that same Friday, “a rockin’ night of heavy psych music” by The Freeks from L.A. and CV from Eureka. “Music at 11 p.m. sharp. Bring earplugs.” Nuff said.

You might know the soulful folksinger Chris Webster from her Sacto band Mumbo Gumbo. She plays without them at the Arcata Playhouse Saturday evening (5/4, 8 p.m.) backed by the extremely accomplished accompanist Nina Gerber, who is best known for her role as Kate Wolf’s guitarist. 

The Humboldt State Calypso Band, led by Professor Eugene Novotney, plays that same Saturday in HSU’s Fulkerson Recital Hall (also @ 8 p.m.) For 33 years they’ve been dedicated to “maintaining an accurate and authentic connection to the roots of the steel band movement, and to the innovative musicians of Trinidad,” with this special show dedicated to the memory of the late Clifford Alexis, a native of Trinidad & Tobago, who built and tuned the first set of steelpans made for the HSU Calypso Band and played with them dozens of times. Yes, of course, they’ll be playing one of his tunes, also one dedicated to him. 

Okay, that’s all for now… Take a dip in the pool with Visible Cloaks…

The Hum: 4/20 2019

If you live in Humboldt, you can imagine why four-twenty is such a big deal here – and it has nothing to do with blackbirds baked in a pie. For the uninitiated, 420 (or 4:20, or 4/20) is code for getting baked, as in the consumption of marijuana, or to be P.C. cannabis. Exactly why that number is lost somewhere in a smoky mist of lost memory cells for some.

The urban legend website Snopes.com debunks the theory that 420 comes from the California penal code section relating to marijuana use and pooh poohs the notion that there are 420 active chemical compounds in pot (for what it’s worth, High Times says there are 315). The folks at Snopes guess that the term came from a group of Marin County teen stoners who gathered every afternoon at 20 after 4 to share a smoke. (Was it pure chance that the initial legislative deal implementing California’s medical marijuana initiative Prop. 215 was Senate Bill 420?)

A controversial 4/20 gathering in Arcata’s Redwood Park 2008 ~ photo by Bob Doran

Whatever the source, the time and associated date have become synonymous with herb culture, which means it is an auspicious day to do something that stony types might want to attend, with special attention to jammish music, Dead stuff and, of course, reggae.

It’s 4/20 time at Humbrews, with Deadheads gathering for Hammond B-3 organist Melvin Seals and JGB in day two of a two-night run. (You’re supposed to know Melvin played keys for the Jerry Garcia Band.)

On Saturday, the Wave at the Blue Lake Casino celebrates 4/20 with The Miracle Show. You are invited to “bring back those flashbacks of that indescribable feeling that a great Dead show gave us all,” (for those not at the JGB show).

All day (noon-midnight) Blondie’s celebrates RedwoodStock on 4/20 with La Mancha, Over Yonder, Jade Moon (from L.A.), Los DuneBums, Cornbread Kelly. Flying Hellfish and Tonalites.

Forever Found (in Eureka) celebrates the “End of Prohibition” with a big reggae-centric bash with Rasta vet Don Carlos, plus Woven Roots and Object Heavy and local DJs and live artists galore. (Starts at 3 p.m.)

Skip ahead to 4:20

The Hum: A quick KHSU R.I.P. plus more…

Gregg “Vinny” DeVaney @ KHSU Pledge Drive ~ photo by Bob Doran

I’m in mourning. My dear friend died the other day. It’s not like it was a surprise. My friend’s health wasn’t that great, and frankly, as I grow older, I lose friends all the time. But losing KHSU is different. I was still suffering from a rough 2018, when I lost my radio co-conspirator Gregg “Vinny” DeVaney of Fogue fame, then my mom gave up on life. Oh well, what else can you say but R.I.P… I could go on and on, but that may have to wait for another day…

And in the end, Ed Campbell played a requiem by Stravinsky…
Phil Ricord gathered names for an R.I.P. ad in the Union ~ photo by Bob Doran

For now it’s time for some Humming…

The Sanctuary regularly hosts artists in residence. This time they’re puppeteers. They present Poppo & Baloney and the Dream Circus April 18, 19, and 20, an original tale told by a “multidimensional cast of puppets, dancers, and live musicians” in collaboration with students from Dell’Arte (and others, including my young friend Vela). “All things are possible with a little make-believe and your imaginary friend.” Kid friendly, but for adults too. Thursday and Friday @ 7 p.m. Saturday matinee @ 2 p.m. “Kids 12 and under FREE!”

David Jacob Strain and Bob Beach play some blues and more Thursday, April 18 (7-9 p.m.) at Westhaven Center for the Arts. David’s been playing mean slide guitar for decades, lately with Bob’s virtuoso harmonica.

Orpheus leads Eurydice away from the Underworld

Your chance to hear the Orphic Percussion Quartet in concert comes Friday, April 19 at the Arcata Playhouse. You might ask, what is “orphic’?

According to Classic Wisdom.com, “The Orphic religion, as well as their texts, was said to have been associated with the literature from the mythical poet, Orpheus. In the myth of Orpheus, his wife Eurydice suffers a fatal encounter with a snake. By journeying to the Underworld and composing a song that softens the heart of Hades, Orpheus is able to win his wife’s resurrection, but on one condition: he mustn’t turn back to look at her on his way out. Of course, he can’t resist one last look, and he immediately loses his love a second time. From then on, Orpheus can only recall Eurydice’s ghost through song.”

Young marimba master Cameron Leach spoke for the Orphic group. I started by asking about a connection with the local outfit Marimba One, who are usually responsible for marimba shows at the Playhouse. “We are sponsored by Marimba One,” he noted, adding, “although I’m personally sponsored by a different manufacturer.”

How would he describe the music? Is it classical music, neo-classical, experimental?

I’d characterize our music under the umbrella of “contemporary percussion ensemble music.” We are doing our best to bring together two things that sometimes are viewed as disparate in the contemporary music landscape—things that are easily listenable and accessible to a wide range of audiences, but also very high quality and substantial pieces that push the art form.

We think these two can go hand in hand, and are continuing to develop that idea through new commissions from exceptional composers. I’d say that in and of itself is an identifying factor of the group. We also all have experience marching with various drum corps, which is particularly uncommon among concert percussion ensembles. 

The instrumentation for the group is percussion quartet. We don’t really gravitate towards a particular setup, but recently we have been performing and commissioning pieces for mallet quartet (2 vibraphone and 2 marimbas—instruments that are typically provided at venues), and also smaller “suitcase pieces” which only require instruments that can be easily packed and transported.”

Friday, April 19 is your last chance to experience playwright Eve Ensler’s Any One of Us: Words from Women in Prison, this time at the Eureka Women’s Club. There’s a gourmet dinner at 6 p.m. Showtime at 7.

Remember those bluesy rockers the Clint Warner Band from a decade ago. They were allegedly “dubbed the ‘Hardest Working Band in the Region’ for 5 years straight” a decade ago. Well, they’re back to “melt the stage down” for a reunion show in the Wave Lounge at the Blue Lake Casino on Friday 4/19.

Also on Friday (4/19), Full Moon Fever returns to the Jam with tunes by the late great Tom Petty.

Yes, Piet and Pete are together again. Says Jam owner, Pete Ciotti, “I’m gonna be rejoining Full Moon Fever for a night this Friday April 19th at The Jam. It’s gonna be fun to dust off the guitar and sing some Tom Petty. I hope you all can make it out! 2 sets!!”

It’s kinda like 4/20-Eve crosstown at Humbrews, with Deadheads gathering for Hammond B-3 organist Melvin Seals and JGB starting a two-night run 4/19 & 20. (Melvin played keys for the Jerry Garcia Band.)

More on 4/20 haps coming tomorrow…

The Hum: Jenny Scheinman visits the City of Looms

Robbie, Jenny and Robbie

There’s a brief moment in local fiddler Jenny Scheinman’s movie/concert thing, “Kannapolis: A Moving Portrait,” when we see a man with a hat shot from below. He seems serious at first, like he looking off toward some unknown future. Then he looks down and sees the camera (and with it the cameraman), and that far-away serious look breaks momentarily, and he starts to smile. You’re supposed to smile for the camera. Sometimes you can’t help yourself.

Still from Chapel Hill, N.C., 1939 by H. Lee Waters

The cameraman was one H. Lee Waters (“H” for Herbert, but no one called him that), who ran a photo studio in Lexington, North Carolina (with help from his wife) for over half a century — 1926 on. 

He mostly made a living doing portrait work: weddings, school groups, people at church, shopping, at work, anywhere groups gathered, but as the Depression hit, the luxury nature of photography hurt his business. He had to find find another way to make some money with a camera, and he did, with a movie camera. 

H. Lee used his to make what he called Movies of Local People, focused on exactly that: folks at work, in the street, kids on playgrounds, parades, again, anywhere groups gathered in small towns in the South. The short flicks were shown in movie theaters before the main attraction — usually some Hollywood fare — and he got a small percentage of the take. As a side result the lives of “local people” were captured forever, set in amber for posterity. 

H. Lee’s work lives on. His negatives went to the Davidson County Historical Museum and the movies ended up in the Archive of Documentary Arts | David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University. Shooting in North Carolina and portions of Virginia, Tennessee, and South Carolina, Waters produced 252 films across 118 communities. There’s a treasure trove there. 

At some point someone one at Duke burned a DVD of some of the (silent) movies, and gave it to Jenny. She was enchanted and wrote hours of music, matching the feel with Appalachian instruments. Jenny’s friends Robbie Fulks and Robbie Gjersoe, both multi-instrumentalist string players from Chicago, signed on to fill in the musical gaps, again with a timeless Appalachian feel. 

Jenny talks about creating a soundtrack for H. Lee Water’s films.

Finn Taylor, a Berkeley-based filmmaker (think Sundance) was enlisted. He worked with editor Rick Lecompte, and sound designer Trevor Jolly, to turn the raw footage into something new. The project was initially rolled out in 2015 via Duke Performances (like CenterArts, but for Duke University in Durham). What you’d have to call a multi-media event centered on a Carolina town called Kannapolis, once known as “the City of Looms,” home to a textile mill.

Getting off work at the mill.

You may know Cannon for towels, sheets, stuff you’d find at Bed Bath & Beyond, Target, or K-Mart or wherever. They used to make that stuff in company towns like Kannapolis, until 2003 when Cannon went bankrupt and closed the mill. The Cannon label became part of Iconix, “a portfolio of strong global consumer brands across fashion,” etc. alongside Boxer shorts, London FogOcean Pacific and other product lines (plus Peanuts Worldwide, Charles Schultz’ brand). In short, they’re now made in China (or thereabouts), instead of in the U.S. of A. (A YouTube search for “Kannapolis implosion” shows you a huge factory collapsing, and with it, metaphorically, the textile business. 

Returning to Jenny’s musical “Moving Portrait,” it doesn’t exactly touch on current events, and is more interested, at least musically and visually, in the outer edges of America, where the South met the rest of the country, and the old met the new. 

Jenny is originally from Petrolia (where “shift happens”). Her fiddle took her across the country to play post-modern music with the likes of John Zorn and the downtown New York crowd. She’s played in righteous babe Ani DiFranco’s band, made Mischief & Mayhem with guitarist Nels Cline, drummer Jim Black, and bassist Todd Sickafoose, then came home, metaphysically and musically with a more folky record, The Littlest Prisoner (2014).

That was followed by Here on Earth (2017), which draws on the music she wrote for the Kannapolis project. It pulls you deep into the Appalachians, with tunes redolent of Scotch/Irish roots and touches of the blues, familiar yet totally original.

There’s resonator guitar and banjo, a little bit of electric guitar (Bill Frisell plays on the record, and but I’m sure the two Robbies suffice)…

…the only thing missing is the visuals.

I’ve been waiting patiently for her to bring it home, and thanks to gentle prodding from the folks at the Arcata Playhouse, it’s happening, and in a bigger venue, the Arkley Center, on Friday, April 5. There might be a few tickets left on this one-night-only performance. (Or maybe there’s a miracle out there.)

Listen to Lyndsey Battle speak with Jenny Scheinman about the show on KHUM radio.

“These are America’s home movies. They contain a clue to our nature, an imprint of our ancestry. They were shot before Americans had sophisticated understanding of film, and capture truthfulness that one is hard-pressed to find in this day and age now that we are immersed in a world of social media, video and photography. These people can dance. Girls catapult each other off seesaws and teenage boys hang on each other’s arms. Toothless men play resonator guitars on street corners, and toddlers push strollers through empty fields. They remind us of our resilience and of our immense capacity for joy even in the hardest of times.” – Jenny Scheinman

Jenny Scheinman ~ photo by Bob Doran

Event promoter and coordinator David Ferney from the Arcata Playhouse became aware of the project in 2015 when it first premiered at Duke University where is was commissioned. The university originally approached Scheinman with the idea of creating a performance piece with the archival footage of H. Lee Waters. Scheinman enlisted filmmaker Finn Taylor as a collaborator on the final project. Ferney had his eye on the performance film project and spent three years trying to coordinate a Humboldt screening.

“I knew it was special and felt that it needed to be presented in Humboldt.” said Ferney. “I originally approached Merrick McKinlay at the Minor Theatre and we planned to present it there, but we felt the capacity was just too small. Jenny suggested the Arkley and everything fell into place.”

The Minor wanted to stay involved so in addition to being a sponsor, they are providing the projections for the movie. “The Arkley has been great with helping us make it all work. It has really been a coming together of a great team to bring this special project to our Humboldt community.” said Ferney.

About Robbie Fulks and Robbie Gjersoe:

Guitarist and singer/songwriter Robbie Fulks, a mainstay of the Chicago folk scene, has released 10 solo records on the Bloodshot, Geffen, Boondoggle (self produced ), and Yep Roc labels. He’s made multiple appearances on NPR’s “Fresh Air,” “Mountain Stage,” and “World Cafe”, PBS’s Austin City Limits; NBC’s TodayLate Night with Conan O’Brien, and 30 Rock. Film use of his music includes True Blood and My Name Is Earl. From 2004 to 2008 Fulks hosted an hour-long performance/interview program for XM satellite radio, “Robbie’s Secret Country.” His compositions have been covered by Sam Bush, Kelly Hogan, Sally Timms, Rosie Flores, John Cowan, and Old 97s. As an instrumentalist, he has accompanied everyone from the Irish fiddle master Liz Carroll to New Orleans pianist Dr. John.

Robbie Gjersoe is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, songwriter & occasional engineer and producer who has worked on a variety of musical projects wide-ranging in style and content over the last 30 years. He plays guitar, bottleneck slide, resonator, dobro, baritone ukulele, mandolin, nylon string, cavaquinho, viole, 12-string, lap steel, pedal steel, and bass. With Screen Door Music, which he co-created, he has composed and performed soundtracks for many films including Grand Champion, Robbing Peter, and Vanishing Of The Bees. His music was used in the movie The Hot Flashes and the TV show The Mentalist.

About Finn Taylor:

Finn Taylor wrote and directed Dream With The Fishes (Sony Classics), Cherish (Fine Line), The Darwin Awards (Fox and Icon Entertainment) and Unleashed (Level 33 and Voltage Entertainment) and co-wrote Pontia Moon, produced by Paramount Pictures. A three-time Sundance alum and native to the SF Bay Area, his recent feature documentary, Kannapolis: A Moving Portrait, premiered at the National Gallery at the Smithsonian and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY and is continuing to tour throughout the country through 2019.

His most recent feature film, Unleashed, won six audience awards, at festivals across the country, including MVFF39, and was picked up for US distribution by Level 33 and foreign distribution by Voltage Entertainment. Variety, in its 50th Anniversary edition, selected Finn Taylor for its prestigious list of “The Top 20 Creatives to Watch.”

Jenny writes saying,

“Hello friends! Here we go again – more music and shows! A week from today my movie and live music piece Kannapolis: A Moving Portrait will commence a tour of the west coast. This piece is about community, so I’m especially excited to be finally presenting a hometown gig at The Arkley Center in Eureka!

We will also be bringing ‘Kannapolis’ to The Savannah Music Festival where I will be in residence as a teacher for a full week along with Bryan Sutton, Darrell Scott and Mike Marshall – very much looking forward to that!

In May and June Jenny Scheinman & Allison Miller’s Parlour Game will be in the northeast, midwest and west coast. We have been working really hard to finish our debut album – it is mixed, nearly mastered, and we will be celebrating its official release at Newport Jazz Festival in early August.

Also I wanted to let you know that I will be leading a new string program at Jazz Camp West this summer in beautiful La Honda, CA. The faculty there is extraordinary, and from my friends’ accounts it is a completely transformative experience to attend. Feel free to email me with questions, and please spread the word to string players far and wide. 

Thank all of you so much for listening and staying involved in the arts. 

Love & gratitude,
Jenny

Jenny Scheinman on Tour:
April 4 – La Jolla, CA – Lawrence Family JCC (Kannapolis)
April 5 – Eureka, CA – Playhouse Arts @ The Arkley  (Kannapolis)
April 6 – Corvallis, OR – Oregon State University (Kannapolis)
April 11 – Savannah, GA – Savannah Music Festival (Kannapolis)
May 9 – Brooklyn, NY – Barbes (Parlour Game)
May 10 – Brooklyn, NY – Barbes (Parlour Game) 
May 11 – Baltimore, MD – An Die Musik (Parlour Game)
May 12 – Millheim, PA – Mother’s Day Matinee @ Elk Creek Cafe!(Parlour Game)
May 14 – Durham, NC – Sharp Nine Gallery (Parlour Game)
May 15 – Columbus, OH – The Refectory (Parlour Game)
May 16 – Madison, WI – Art + Literature Laboratory (Parlour Game)
May 17 – Chicago, IL – The Green Mill (Parlour Game)
May 18 – Chicago, IL – The Green Mill (Parlour Game)
May 19 – Cleveland, OH – Nighttown (Parlour Game)
June 4 – Berkeley, CA – The Freight & Salvage (Parlour Game)
June 5 – Healdsburg, CA – Healdsburg Jazz Festival (Parlour Game)
June 7 – San Diego, CA – The Athenaeum (Parlour Game)
June 22-29 – La Honda, CA – Jazz Camp West (Teaching Residency)
August 3 – Newport, RI – Newport Jazz Festival (Parlour Game)
photo by Bob Doran

The Hum: A Chat with Alice DiMicele (coming 3/14 & 15)

Alice DiMicele ~ photo from Debra Thornton Photography

Alice DiMicele is heading this way — again — playing two local Playhouses. She’s been making something she calls “organic acoustic groove” music for several decades, and since her headquarters are in Southern Oregon, well, she comes through Humboldt often. I figured it was time for another chat to get up to date. Dropped her a line and suggested a virtual interview. She was out walking her dog and the weather was threatening, but she was ready to roll.

“It’s starting to rain, but I have a waterproof phone,” she began. “What do you want to know? The basics are, I’m coming to town to play two shows in Humboldt: Thursday, March the 14th at the Arcata Playhouse, and Friday, the 15th at the Redwood Playhouse in Garberville.

“Thirteen-year-old phenom Delaney Rose is opening both shows, which makes me very excited because I’ve known her since she was a baby. Her mom Francine is one of my favorite people to sing with.” (You may know her from Francine and Nimiah.)

“I’m coming solo this time around, which is exciting because most of my last shows, for quite a few years, have been with a band. Kind of fun for me to just bring my guitars and get to pull out old tunes and be real spontaneous.”

I’m always interested in how musicians keep doing what they do. In your case, I know you just finished a big IndieGoGo campaign to raise funds for an album. Did you reach your goal?

“I’m putting out a new live album with my band Force of Nature called Live at Studio E. It was recorded there in Sebastopol. It’s owned by Jeff Martin who used to be a Joanne Rand’s bass player, when she had the little big band.

“I actually did a small crowdfunding for it because I didn’t need a huge amount to get it to the presses, so I kept it small, only two weeks long, and raised my $5,500 or so that I needed to pay for all the expenses. I’m very grateful that folks are willing to preorder like that to make it happen for me. The album is really fun, kind of a snapshot of the band that I showed up with last time in Arcata.

It seems like the old ways of the music biz are fading with the coming of streaming with Spotify or whatever. Is it still important to put together an “album” for selling on your merch table, and who knows where else? I assume the income stream mostly comes from touring, although even that is a gamble.

“Oh yes, it’s all a big gamble, but I guess it really always has been. Definitely my living comes from people buying CDs and buying tickets to shows. Spotify is great for the listener, but it does not provide any type of income for me. Even though I get lots of plays, it’s such a small amount of money that it ends up being like $3 a month or something ridiculous like that. 

“So I definitely rely on the support of people who love my music enough to go ahead and buy the CD, or buy the download, and buy tickets and come to shows. I’m grateful that I still have a career, although I am definitely living more on the edge than ever. One would hope at my age I would have a little more security. But the muse provides. I’ve got to trust that.

“The crowdfunding thing has really helped because even people who don’t want to physical CD or download have a way to make a donation towards the music. I’m grateful for the generosity of my fans and friends and family.

What was the last song you wrote? More about rivers and love?

“I seem to be writing less, but the songs seem to be a little more potent. I’m currently working on a song called “Compassion.” That’s kind of my obsession right now, developing compassion in myself and wanting for compassion to be developed in our world. 

“The current political state of our government is so much about “me first, I got to get mine,” and not really caring about others. I’m quite distraught over it all and so I think what is coming out in my music is my sense of wanting to look deeper at ways of caring for everyone.

“Seems like homelessness is out of control. It seems the income gap is just getting so much wider and so many people are despairing right now. The focus of my music is to try to bring some Joy, but also to go deep and remind myself and the listener that compassion really needs to come first. Without it we are really doomed. The last election gave me a little bit of Hope with all the gals that got elected all over the country. I still think we need a council of Indigenous Grandmothers for President.”

What is the Grandmothers Empowerment Project you’re involved with?

“Grandmother’s Empowerment Project is a 501c3 that I helped start and that I’m on the board of directors for. We give housing stipends to Native American elders here in the Klamath Siskiyou bio-region. One of our recipients is grandmother Agnes Baker Pilgrim, aka Grandma Aggie, who founded the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers.

“A group of us used to just pay Grandma Aggie’s rent, but with the recession, around 2008, most of the folks that would chip in every month had to stop, so we started this nonprofit so we could get money donated by a bigger donor. [We had one, but] that donor has since stopped his yearly donation, so now it’s left to me as the fundraiser to try to raise all the money. It’s quite a job, but our elders need the help. Where I live in southern Oregon is Grandma’s traditional homeland, but she can’t receive tribal benefits or support unless she lives up in Siletz, on the reservation. She wants to live in her traditional homeland, so we support her to be able to do so.

What else have you been doing?

“I’ve been at this troubadour thing for a very long time. I did my first coffeehouses in 1983 and started touring in 1987.

Alice in 1983

“My favorite thing is to play for folks and take them on a journey through the music. There is something magical about playing concerts. Each one is unique but there is a thread that weaves them all together. Music creates intimacy in a room full of strangers. We laugh together. We cry together. We explore myriad emotions through song and story. We raise our voices together and hopefully we leave the show feeling a little lighter or unencumbered.

Alice DiMicele

“I like to think of concerts as a place to deposit unwanted stress, fear, anxiety, and negativity. A place to gather energy with kindred spirits. Kind of like being in the forest. Music has that same kind of negative ion effect on people. And my greatest wish is to send folks home with some inspiration to wake up the next day and make the world a better place by being a little happier and a little more compassionate, to appreciate the little things a little more and to relish in the wonders of the natural world.”

The Hum is the digital home of Bob Doran. @bobdoran

The Hum: Lucky 13

The number 13 is synonymous with bad luck. They say it’s considered unlucky to have 13 guests at a dinner party, many buildings don’t have a 13th floor and so on. Apparently it goes back to the Bible and the last supper, where Christ and the twelve apostles made thirteen people at the table, counting the betrayer, Judas Iscariot.

Judas Iscariot (on right), retiring from the Last Supper, painting by Carl Bloch

That said, for some unknown reason, Wednesday, March 13 turns out to be a good day for showing us the eclectic nature of our Humboldt music scene.

Let’s start with an evening with Lou Barlow at Siren’s Song. You may know the indie rock icon from Dinosaur Jr., Sebadoh, or one of his other bands. I heard he was coming from Chris Colland of Eureka Garbage Co. fame who tried putting a house show together, at least until the Siren’s Song folks stepped in. Lou posted a message explaining…

“In 2019, I continue my small space 7:30 showtime tour. I did this throughout 2018 and it was really good. The general set-length seems to be about 2 1/2 hours, which is what it takes to play the requests I get and the corners of my catalogue (Sebadoh, Folk Implosion, Dinosaur Jr, solo, etc.) [that] I like to touch on every night. I also tend talk about the songs, my kids, and whatever else happened that day. I’m most comfortable in this setting, please join me if you can.”

Don’t hesitate, only 50 tickets available. (It’s probably sold out already.)

Meanwhile 3/13 in Ferndale, at the Old Steeple, iconic singer/songwriter Greg Brown sings a few and tends to “talk about the songs.” (Along the same track, but different.) Again, the show may be sold out. Check before you drive all that way.

At the Arcata Theatre Lounge that night (3/13) it’s Big Wild (aka producer Jackson Stell) who “crafts lush soundscapes and sweeping melodies that challenge the status quo of electronic music,” on his “Superdream Tour.”

Originally a hip-hop beat maker known as J Beatz, Mr. Big shifted gears after leaving Massachusetts on a “life-altering trip to Big Sur,” where he succumbed to Cali’s “natural glory and open spaces to create the atmospheric and wide-spanning Big Wild sound, traversing electronic, indie, pop and beyond.” Openers TBA.

Over at the Miniplex 3/13, it’s Japanese psyche from Loolowningen & The Far East Idiots. (Loolowningentranslates as“wandering people.”) The Tokyo-based “poly/cross/multi/liquid-rhythm/math/prog/alternative rock trio crafts “ink wash painting-like sounds and unicursal rhythms, for all wanderers.”

Like-minded local support supplied by Blackplate and Idyll.

Back in downtown Arcata, Claire Bent and company are at The Basement. They tell us: “Claire and the boys are excited to bring the “funk” to The Basement on Wednesday March 13th! This is an early midweek show from 8 PM to 10 PM for all you early risers 🙂 Claire will turn it on as the Princess of Soul. So if you just want to chill out or want to get those dance grooves moving in your body, come out! We’d love to see you.” I assume the mention of “the funk” means she’s with Citizen Funk, which is a change of pace for The Basement with a shift to rock instead of jazz.

Of course since this is a Wednesday, that means it’s Whomp Whomp Wednesday at The Jam. Appropriately ChopsJunkie of ShadowTrix Music has a track titled “XIII.”

ChopsJunkie

WHOMP Representatives Esch, Riskii, and Elegvnt laid down more EDM…

And last but not least, at Humbrews 3/13, there’s the Grateful Bluegrass Boys with “classic rock through a bluegrass lens,” of course with Dead covers this band out of Santa Cruz.

Is that eclecticism or what?

The Hum: Joan Gold knows color.

Joan Gold messaged me the other day saying, “Hello Bob, I have not been able to put the video on my web site as I would like to have it.” She is referencing a recording I made the other day when she gave an artist’s talk at the Black Faun Gallery. She’d asked if she could use it, of course I said yes, but warned her I’d used a Facebook live feed to broadcast her talk. I wasn’t sure how could she post it.

“I can easily upload a Vimeo or YouTube version if you could convert it,” she continued. “Otherwise, there is another less desirable way I might be able to do it which I will attempt if these other versions are not possible. Obviously I don’t know beans about videos.” She does know color however.

It took some educating for me to figure out how to move the recording from Facebook to YouTube, but eventually I figured it out. Here’s her talk, which you can also watch in her site: joangoldart.com

The Hum: Mardi Gras 2019 Edition

Phat Cat…

Let’s talk holidays, specifically, semi-religious holidays. Carnival and the related Mardi Gras, aka “Fat Tuesday,” are age-old celebrations marking the day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, when some folks start fasting. Big parties use up all the meat, drink and other stuff they’re about to give up.

As with many Christian holidays, elements of old Pagan rituals have lingered. Wikipedia notes, “Popular practices included wearing masks and costumes, overturning social conventions, dancing, parades, etc.” Are you looking to “parté?

The Mardi Gras & Masquerade Phat Tuesday Parté at Phatsy Kline’s Parlor Lounge has it going on.

Eat, Drink and DANCE!!! ~ Masks encouraged!
No charge to enter! That’s right it’s FREE! 5-7 pm they have “Meowy Hour” drink specials and Jambalaya/Gumbo feasting begins!!! (Supports AC Samoa Soccer)
7 pm Brazilian Butter music DJ Marjo Lak spins Brazilian Bossa Nova
8-10 pm The Bayou Swamis!
10 pm Copperton3
11 pm DJ Learix

Now I posted a note last week asking about gumbo, and this feast seemed to be the local answer. A fan of the Bayou Swamis posted it, and they are definitely ready to laissez les bon temps rouler Cajun style.

Randle Lundberg on accordion – photo by Bob Doran

They tell us,

The Bayou Swamis have stolen the funky Zydeco dance beats from the swamps of Louisiana and planted firmly in the marshes of Humboldt County. They have a repertoire of Cajun two-steps and Zydeco stomps, and they also swamp up classic swing tunes, country standards and traditional ’50s rockers. Their music continues to spread the swamp gospel and to keep fans dancing and clapping into the night!.

A special line-up for this evening will be Randle Lundberg – button accordion, fiddle and vocals / David Bradley – acoustic guitar and vocals / Marla Joy – bass guitar and vocals / Jonathan Kipp – Drums / Kate Koelmel-rubboard, triangle, vocals…

~ Costume up for a chance to win a nights stay at the The Inn at 2nd & C… Green, Gold and Purple Baby!

  • Meanwhile, at The Sanctuary it’s a different sort of music (with accordions) with Szkojáni Charlatans, “aninternationally traveling Balkan & Gypsy quartet based out of Hungary, and bringing Romanian and Hungarian folk tunes with a strong repertoire in Serbian, Bulgarian and Macedonian music,” who are here with Het Hat Club (or maybe it’s some combination of the two, there were two events listings. Anyway, the touring ensemble consists of:
  • Kjartan Code (US): Vocals + Bass
  • Valentin Desmarais (FR): Saxophone
  • Janos Bito (HU): Accordion
  • Isaac Misri (US): Guitar and tambura
Het Hat Club
The Tidepool High Divers

I haven’t heard this band, but I like the clever name, and the smile cowboy shirt on one member, and the photo that comes with it, with attention paid to background (with distant tidepools) although, as a photographer, I couldn’t help but notice something most you probably overlooked: Two out of four band members have their eyes closed. Rule of thumb for group shots: Take at least as many shots as there are members if you want everyone to have their eyes open. We blink much more than you probably think.

This Tuesday youth poets will be shinin’ at Word Humboldt! Incredible local poet Norah Gray will be hosting a special youth open mic to start the night from 630 to 730. All young people 18 and under are free to come rock the mic with us and and then we will have our all ages open mic for the remainder of the night! Bring your words and come and support local youth poetry!

Word Humboldt is a community space for you to speak your truth, be heard, and enjoy yourself away from the stress of the week.
Join us for a night of spoken word, good times and community at Northtown Coffee in Arcata, CA!

(Please forgive me for falling into editor mode, but “press” info does not typically need quite so many exclamation marks!!)

The Jam has another Tuesday thing: Top Grade Tuesdays:
“Get your weekly dose of dancehall, reggae and hip-hop from two of Humboldt’s premiere reggae DJ’s. Alternating weeks hosted by Cassidy Blaze and Real Youth. Check for weekly drink specials and authentic Jamaican cuisine.” (I should mention here, the Jamaican couple who does food there does a fine job.)

ZeroToFierce.org


There’s also an opening reception tonight for Shē-ärt frəm Thə härt/ visual art show, part of the O2F Festival (Zero To Fierce)…
Details on the women-centric event at Arcata Playhouse or ZeroToFierce.org…

The Hum: Darryl sings some for Gypsy ~ Sunday, 3/10

Darryl Cherney is not someone I hear from often. When he sent me a note the other day asking how he can get some ink in the Journal, I had to tell him I haven’t written for them for years. But I’m not out of the game entirely. What was he up to? Well, for one thing, he has a show coming up Sunday at the Arcata Playhouse.

“I’ll be playing solo and free-wheeling it,” he told me. “I’ve got new material including my new KMUD favorite: “In the Shelter of the Cove,” (which has the usual humor and sarcasm). I’ve been talking more, storytelling and slowing and speeding my songs up, getting my soul into it.”

He sent me a press release today, we’ll start with that…

“On the 20th anniversary of the controversial agreement that established the Headwaters Preserve in southern Humboldt County, legendary songwriter, singer, and activist Darryl Cherney will raise awareness and memories with an event Sunday, March 10, an evening at the Arcata Playhouse to benefit the new David Nathan “Gypsy” Chain Memorial Scholarship fund.

Earlier this week at HSU’s Social Justice Summit, Cherney screened the feature movie “Who Bombed Judi Bari?”, a 2012 documentary produced by Darryl about the 1990 car bombing in Oakland on organizer Bari and himself.  

Bari was critically injured in the attack. After the bombing, the FBI arrested Bari and Cherney on suspicion of transporting illegal explosives, but they were never charged due to lack of evidence. Bari and Cherney sued the FBI for violation of their civil rights and won in a landmark case in 2002.”

Next we’ll revisit an old piece I wrote about Mr. Cherney back when I did write for the NCJ: a flash back to Darryl’s West Side Story…

A self-described “dyed-in-the-wool New Yorker,” Cherney was born and raised on the west side of Manhattan. His father was an English teacher; his mother, an office manager. But another strong influence in his youth was Tony Schwartz, one of his neighbors on West 57th Street.

Tony Schwartz records Darryl

Schwartz was a master of electronic media who created more than 20,000 radio and television spots for products, political candidates and non-profit public interest groups. Featured on programs by Bill Moyers, Phil Donahue and Sixty Minutes, among others, Schwartz has been described as a “media guru,” a “media genius” and a “media muscleman.” 

Darryl recalled, “I did over 30 radio, voice over and TV commercials and two radio interviews with Tony by the time my career ended at age 13 (puberty).

“Tony wasn’t interested in actors. He pretty much only used real people in his commercials, giving him both a unique sound and a special place in history. He produced the first anti-cigarette smoking ads, anti-pollution ads, ads for five presidential candidates and countless politicians — about 23,000 in all. He authored two books: The Responsive Chord and Media: The Second God.”

A legend in the New York advertising world, Schwartz is perhaps best known for creating what is known as “the daisy ad,” a television spot for Lyndon Johnson’s campaign against Barry Goldwater that juxtaposed a little girl picking a daisy with an atomic bomb explosion.

Schwartz was also known as a pioneer in using real children in his radio and television commercials. One of the children Schwartz used was young Darryl.

“When I was 5 years old, riding my tricycle in the neighborhood, Tony spotted me and approached my mother, asking if he could do some sound takes,” Cherney recalled. “I did ads for Quaker Oats, for Ivory Snow and Equitable Life Insurance, for high grade bologna. (The vegans will kill me for that one, but I didn’t know.) I made $35,000 by the time I was 11.”

He also recorded a story with young Darryl telling the story of a funeral for his pet turtle Tony Turtle in 1964.

It was in Schwartz’s home studio that Cherney got his initial political education. “I would go over to Tony’s house and be surrounded by politics. It was on the walls, on the bookshelves, in the record library. He had autographed pictures of John Kennedy on the wall — he did four presidential campaigns.”

Cherney said he started getting involved in political campaigns when he was just 9, and music was also part of his life from an early age. He studied classical piano from the age of 7 and got himself a guitar at 10. “I picked up the guitar, and as soon as I had learned three chords, I started writing songs: political songs, or even environmental songs.”

It began with “The Long Island Expressway in Rush Hour,” a song about congested traffic set to the tune of “Snoopy and the Red Baron,” and other parodies.

As he grew older he continued songwriting, but was dissatisfied with it. “I knew that there was something I didn’t know, something missing in my consciousness. And it was reflected in my songs; they were not sophisticated enough, not analytical. They didn’t embrace a holistic politicism. Maybe I hadn’t formed an ideology yet.”

Mover-shaker-Pagan

By 1982, Cherney had graduated from Fordham University in New York City with a BA in English and a master’s degree in education. Besides teaching at a local business school, he dabbled in marketing on the side.

He also got involved in the New York City Folk Musicians Cooperative, an organization run by the folksinger Jack Hardy.

At the time Cherney was earning a living as a “man with a van,” through a business he called Prime Mover. “I would use other folk musicians for my crew,” he recalled.

The co-op was where Cherney met Judy Zweiman, “my first Judy, I call her. She was playing bass with a group, Josh Joffen and Late for Dinner. We dated pretty steady for a couple of years, from ’84 to ’85.”

Zweiman introduced Cherney to the spiritual practice of paganism, not long before he left New York for California. “She told me I was a pagan and I didn’t know it. Eventually I knew it. I’ve been a practicing pagan since 1984. I’m a lifetime member of the Church of All Worlds.”

What does it mean to be a pagan? “It means I honor the Goddess as well as honoring God. It means that I see the divine in all things, whether it be the wind, the sun or a blade of grass. I see different elements of the sacred. It means that I participate in rituals: We greet the four seasons with ceremonies.”

Heading west

In 1985, Cherney the moving man decided to pack his 1976 Dodge and move himself, leaving New York. “I had pre-rented a place in San Francisco. I did not have any job in mind, but I knew you could always make money moving furniture.”

He also knew he “wanted to do something political, to work for social change.” In an oft-told tale, he recounted how he was diverted on his way to San Francisco after picking up Kingfisher, a traveling Cheyenne “road man” somewhere in Oregon.

“Kingfisher asked me, `What do you want out of life?’ I said, `I want to learn how to live off the land and save the world.’ He said he knew where I needed to go: Garberville. When we drove into town he took me straight to the EPIC office.”

The nonprofit advocacy organization EPIC formed in 1977 around a successful campaign opposing the timber industry practice of aerial herbicide spraying. By 1985 the group was working on a variety of other timber-related issues.

“I immediately started learning about the redwoods falling,” said Cherney. “I arrived in November of ’85, right after [Charles] Hurwitz made his bid to take over Pacific Lumber. That’s what was in the headlines at the moment. Here I was a New Yorker, a provincial Manhattanite, so I was like, `What? You can cut down the redwoods?’ When I found out they were clear-cutting them, I couldn’t conceive of it; I didn’t believe it could be legal.”

While he was working with EPIC, another group caught his eye: the more radical environmentalists known as Earth First! Cherney had never heard of them before he saw a sticker on the door of the EPIC office showing the Earth First! clenched fist logo.

“What differentiates Earth First! from other environmental advocacy [groups] is the fact that direct action strategies are employed,” explained Karen Pickett, an Earth Firster since 1983 who works with the Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters.

Asking around, Cherney found that there were no Earth Firsters active on the North Coast in the mid-1980s. “Bill Devall at Humboldt State had had an Earth First! group in Arcata that took on the G-O Road [plans for a road from Gasquet to Orleans through land considered sacred by local tribes]. In Mendocino they had formed around the Sinkyone [wilderness issue]. They had come and gone. So I was not the first Earth Firster [in this area]; I just rejuvenated it, along with Greg King and eventually Judi Bari, of course. We brought it to a new level.”

Darryl and crew – photo by Greg King

While EPIC was fighting battles on several fronts, before long Cherney and the journalist King, who met in 1986, pulled together a cadre of Earth Firsters and mounted a campaign to save a grove of redwoods on Pacific Lumber property near Fortuna known as Headwaters Forest.

Read the 2002 piece “Outside Agitator: How Darryl Cherney Set Out To Save The Redwoods And Ended Up Suing The FBI (And Winning)”
BY GREG KING ~ (SEPTEMBER 2002) ~HERE

In doing so “he brought into focus a totally unknown world view for most of the resource-oriented community around here,” said 2nd District Supervisor Roger Rodoni.

“He did not become everybody’s friend. He was the guy, if you [were talking] about a timber protest, Redwood Summer, Earth First! all of that side of the equation, Darryl Cherney’s name was going to be in the forefront. He was the pioneer. Sure, there’s a lot of people who are going to say that’s not good. Me, I’m not so quick to say that’s not good. If it took Darryl Cherney to create that awareness, that’s a positive thing.”

According to Pickett, “Darryl played a major role in the forest campaign in Northern California and in the Earth First! movement in general. He’s been a very visible and vocal character in the landscape. He’s a skilled organizer, and one of the things he brought to the forest campaign and to the larger movement was his musical ability.”

Utilizing his background in PR, Cherney bombarded local and national media with press releases about various demonstrations, many orchestrated with theatrical pizzazz, and punctuated by his topical songs.

He became a master at the provocative sound bite, the face of radical environmentalism on the North Coast. In the eyes of those he opposed, a target for anger at the environmental movement in general.

“In some ways he was someone to vilify,” said Mason. “But if it wasn’t him, it would be someone else, someone like me.”

In 1988 Cherney ran for Congress in the Democratic primary, calling himself “the singing candidate.” While he lost the race to incumbent Doug Bosco, he gained a new collaborator along the way, a politically aware graphic artist and organizer who volunteered her services: Judi Bari. As an added bonus, she played fiddle. They became partners and lovers.A

In 1990 while Californians were preparing to vote on the future of timber harvesting, choosing between the Forests Forever initiative crafted by environmentalists and a rival initiative put forward by the timber industry, Bari and Cherney declared “Redwood Summer.” It was a series of protests emulating the Mississippi Freedom Summer, 1964, when voter registration workers descended on America’s South as part of the fight for civil rights.

“Earth First! raised the profile of what was happening,” Mason recalled. “Clearly the world came to see that (lumber companies) were still clear-cutting ancient redwoods.”R

Judi Bari and her fiddle

What happened next sent shock waves through the movement. While Bari and Cherney were driving through Oakland on their way to play a concert in Santa Cruz, a homemade bomb exploded in Bari’s car. The police and FBI accused the activists of carrying the bomb themselves. The lawsuit filed by Bari and Cherney alleging violation of their civil rights was settled in their favor. (The identity of the bomber has never been established.)

At least 3,000 protesters came from across the United States to participate in Redwood Summer protests in Humboldt County and elsewhere in the state. While Bari spent most of the summer in the hospital and rehab, she emerged for an August rally in San Francisco in her honor. The Headwaters Deal, which preserves about 10,000 acres of woodlands, was clinched in 1999.

A different activism

Darryl sang through it all, noting that his writing changed. For one thing he says he expanded his focus “outside the redwood region to world politics. I’m speaking more in what I’d call the authentic first person. When I’m singing `You Can’t Clear-cut Your Way to Heaven’ or `Where You Gonna Work When the Trees Are Gone?’ I’m pretending to be someone else. But now, I’m writing in the first person and actually singing about me.”

Of course he still gets political…

And he still sings for his old comrades. “My favorite audience is still around the campfire, without any amplification. For me, that’s the ideal stage, singing for people who may be going out to get arrested the next day doing a forest action or a tree-sit. The effect that the music has on them may be even more powerful than if I were on the radio broadcasting to thousands. You just don’t get as famous.”

David “Gypsy” Chain

On Sunday, March 10 Cherney takes the stage at the Arcata Playhouse to entertain and educate with his political songs and stories from his years as an organizer with Earth First!  

Naomi Steinberg, one of the event organizers, comments, “Darryl is just the right person to lead us in a reflection on the Headwaters deal concluded 20 years ago.  His songs are as powerful, passionate and funny as ever… We can enjoy a reunion of old activists and hopefully inspire some young ones.”

The event Sunday is a benefit for the David Nathan Gypsy Chain Memorial Scholarship Fund. Admission is $20 and up (additional donations appreciated), but FREE to students. Doors open at 7 p.m. the program begins at 7:30.

The David Nathan Gypsy Chain Memorial Scholarship was established to remember a young activist killed in 1998 while protesting illegal logging in the Grizzly Creek watershed.  Make a tax-deductible donation online or by mail through the Humboldt Area Foundation, which administers the scholarship fund. For information, see http://www.davidgypsychain.org or http://www.hafoundation.org/GypsyChain

Student applications are now open for the $1000 scholarship, until March 15, through the Humboldt Area Foundation’s scholarship website at http://www.hafoundation.org/GypsyChain or https://www.hafoundation.org/Grants-Scholarships/Scholarships-Apply-Now . Students can also learn more about the scholarship and how to apply for it at https://hafscholar.fluidreview.com/p/a/19205 .

The scholarship will be given to a student graduating from a Humboldt high school and planning to attend HSU or CR, or to a continuing first year HSU or CR student, who demonstrates commitment to environmental protection through study and activism.