“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.
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.”
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 MartyDodd, GaryDavidson, 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.)
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Fog, Ocean 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
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 Today, Late 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.
They say “March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb,” although whether the wet weather will finally dry up, well, that still remains to be seen.
For me, late February meant a missive from my old drummer pal, Danny Montgomery who wrote,
“Back in California, two shows on the horizon—Thursday, Feb. 28 at the Arcata Playhouse with Jerry Martien and the Band of Angels featuring Thad Beckman and Fred Neighbor, with Gary Davidson and m
Mr. Martien (the acclaimed Humboldt poet) describes the “new stuff” as, “Country blues accompanying story and lyric of the Dust Bowl and the Okies, our present disrupted systems, natural and political, humans and birds caught up in a crisis of migration and refuge.” Expect thoughtful rumination on current events.
Danny’s second show is the next night, Friday, March 1, “the homecoming” of Thad Beckman and Band. “Gary and I will be accompanying the Thadster,” he explained. “You can expect a new CD from Thad and some special guests.”
Among the special guests, Barney Doyle, who I met recently at the Co-op’s Clear-Out-The-Ten-Pin-Building fire sale, where he was helping out since he recently relocated to Arcata to take a job as controller for the Co-op.
Barney Doyle (in the 10 Pin Building) – snap by Bob D…
We got to talking about music. It seemed he’d sat in the night before with The Handshakers, taking guitarist Michael Walker’s chair (a story for another day).
Turns out Barney and Danny have known each other for ages, same thing for Danny and Gary, who have been playing together for 50 years.
As Danny explained, “I’ve been playing with Barney for over 45 years.We began in the summer of ’73 in a band called Hog Wild, playing Walt’s Friendly Tavern and the Mad River Rose… [Those were the days…] He’ll be sitting in with us on that Friday with Thad. You know Barney was a member of Mickey Hart’s band…” among other bands.
“Gary and I met in the 4th grade in Fremont, CA. . . Our moms played on the same softball team. . . We began playing [music] together in high school in the stage/jazz band. Then I put together a big band called Just Jazz, that we played in. We also had a trio that I played vibraphone in. . . Our first bona fide paid gig wasn’t until NYE 1971. . . Then some years later, in the mid 70s, Gary joined a band I was playing with from a fraternity, Sigma Phi, at Cal, Berkeley. That band, Short Notice still plays, and has a recent Arcata transplant in it, Barney Doyle. . . When Gary moved to Humboldt, we began playing with several local artists, Joyce Hough, Fred Neighbor, Thad Beckman, Dr. Ross, (ask Gary for any I’ve missed). . . Also, Gary and I have done numerous recording sessions. Many for the song writing team of Parvin-Patterson…
“And 3 or 4 of Thad’s albums. . . .
We’ll be recording a live CD from the Jerry Martien concert on the 28th [renamed] “Jerry Martien and The Band Of We’re No Angels”. . .