folk

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

Humming along after Breakfast…

As you may or may not know, the Breakfast All Day Collective‘s “safer space,” Outer Space, is celebrating turning two years of operation on Friday, Feb. 1.

Sarah Torres

The 2nd birthday party features Arcata High hip hop collective 4 The Masses, local garage punks Wet Spot, indigenous activist/singer/songwriter Sarah Torres with cousin Adam, and the spoken word artists of Word Humboldt, who typically hold down the word fort Tuesdays at Northtown Coffee.

Interview by Bob Doran, podcast mix by John Hardin

If you’ve been reading the Hum for awhile, you know that the BAD Collective followed in the footsteps of something called The Placebo, a loosely knit group of kids that came together to create a space where they could hang out and have occasional shows with local and touring bands.

As Placebo founder Abe Ray explained, “We decided that Arcata needed a more permanent music venue, one that catered to all ages and brought bands into the area.” This was way back in 1999, when Ray and a bandmate took out a loan from their parents to pay rent for a warehouse space on South G Street in Arcata (somewhere near what is now Redwood Curtain). The name Placebo was chosen to indicate the drug-free environment they insisted on at the venue.

“We didn’t really know what we were doing; we just did it,” said Ray. “Up ’til then, I was basically just a kid who went to shows. We hooked up with some people who knew how to put on shows…” The rest is history, at this point ancient history.

The Placebo crew poses in front of their space in Manila – photo by Bob Doran

The Placebo put on a bunch of shows until the City got wind of their unpermitted venue. The kids were for the most part teenagers, and they didn’t know what hoops they were supposed to go through to go legit. Their venue was shut down. They tried again a couple of times, first in Manila, in an old classroom in the community center, where neighbors complained about the noisy shows, then later on in Eureka, where they shared a building on West Third Street with a couple of artist collectives: Empire Squared, and Synapsis, the baby of trapeze artist Leslie Castellano. Again, there were permit troubles and neighbors who complained about noise.

While Leslie, persevered and eventually moved Synapsis to another space in Old Town (and was elected to the Eureka City Council), the members Empire Squared mostly graduated and moved on. The Placebo’s founders did the same, leaving behind a ghost that still exists, but only as a dysfunctional Facebook page.

The founders of the Breakfast All Day Collective and its safer space Outer Space did not have to suffer the same “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” that took down Placebo, but they still need our support. (For more history, read Lauraine’s piece for the Union.) Outer Space’s space on 11th St. was once home to Copeland Lumber, which was replaced by Nilsen Feed’s short-lived store hiding ‘round the corner. Now that Nilsen has thrown in the towel (for whatever reason), the BAD folks are not totally sure what will happen next, but they’re been good tenants, so they hope they’ll get to stay. We’ll see. If it looks like they need more help, say yes. And go check out a show.

Wednesday, Feb. 6. look for folky fare with Buck Meek from Austin, Texas (getting for a tour in support for Jeff Tweedy)…

Buck is currently on tour with his Keeled Scales label-mate Twain from Virginia

and local support from Hollan and Emelia Grace

The shows just keep coming. Friday, Feb. 15, 7-10 p.m. It’s two new young groups from Arcata, Petty Education (also playing at Redwood Yogurt Friday, Feb. 8) and mash yellow bird

As February stumbles to a close Wednesday, Feb. 27, Outer Space hosts the appropriately named, awakebutstillinbed (San Jose screamo)

plus Sundressed (AZ folk punk), Sunsleeper (SLC sad rock) and Alien Boy, who is a punker from PDX, not from outer space.

Remember, all Outer Space shows start and end early (7-ish-10 p.m.) so the kids (and seniors like me) can get to bed early. Also, remember when you were younger and needed a safe place to play. That’s all they ask…