Arcata Eye Scene

A-town art, music, theatre. Mostly music. Updated Wednesdays.

Jennifer’s top 11 of 2008

With my Christmas in San Francisco already slipping away as if I’d just awoken from a dream, how am I expected to recall all the way back to January, 2008? March? June? Even November feels a little fuzzy. But now that Josh Duke (see column, right) has thrown down the gauntlet, let me plunder my memory in hopes of rekindling your own fond live music experiences of 2008.
Unlike Josh, I tend to have fun naturally when out, so I don’t have a “Worst of 2008” list – neither can I choose a clear victor in the “Best of” category (I love you all equally, dear bands).

Live music highlights, 2008

• Side Iron and Nipplepotamus, Alibi, April. Somehow I’d missed the classic Americana sounds of Side Iron the first several times they played. This, despite Terrence’s description of them as “your new favorite band.” Finally I saw them. And in love with their sound, I fell. Seeing Nipplepotamus back in action brought a sweet and special sort of pleasure, too.

• Dynamite Sweater, Humboldt Brews, May. Dynamite Sweater’s music invokes the holy trinity of live shows, making me want to laugh, dance and sing-along. The fact that the gig was KSLG’s birthday party and the band sang my name in a song was butterscotch topping on the ice cream cake.

• Radio Moscow, Alibi, June. Psychedelic blues-based sound reminiscent of The Black Keys – no surprise The Keys’ Dan Auerbach produced their record. Music to get lost in. Like a road trip for your mind, baby.

• Speaker Speaker and Weepel, Alibi, June. Speaker Speaker joined Arcata’s premier Weezer cover band (since broken up, sadly) for “The Sweater Song” sparking a nostalgia that continues to linger into present day.

• Pants Pants Pants and Universalia Jane, Jambalaya, June. Two brilliant and unusual groups sharing a bill and complementing each other perfectly. This was the sort of show that illuminated the best example of what music can be when not confined to genre-ready radio or a singular category.

• J.J. Grey and Mofro, Humboldt Brews, September. Maybe it’s something in the air, but somehow that J.J. Grey elevates what is already an appealing blend of front porch swamp funk to  level of sexy, sweaty, grooving fun – he’s just got something going on that keeps the ladies dancing all night long. Mmmhmm.

• Floating Goat, Alibi, October. When I heard Floating Goat had scheduled a gig at the ’bi, I threw up my arms and shouted, “Yeah!” Because sometimes you want to move your body to the music, but other times, you want the music to move through your body. Floating Goat once again assaulted the crowd with ferocious stoner rock riffs that, despite the aggressive nature of the music, never felt the least bit unfriendly. Rather like an exorcism in which the rock demons burned away whatever Catholic guilt still lingered in one’s soul.

• Jeff DeMark and Ukesperience, Muddy’s Hot Cup, November. It turns out, everything is better with a little ukulele (“little” ukulele? Isn’t that redundant?), even the wit-filled, heart-tugging, gut-busting stories of Humboldt’s premier storyteller.

• Peter Mulvey, Arcata Playhouse, November. I rarely go to shows on Mondays due to post-deadline exhaustion, but a desire to take my husband out to hear this guitar player everyone kept raving about prompted our attendance at the Humboldt Folklife Society-sponsored show. Clever me. The Milwaukee-based singer-songwriter not only played guitar with the ease of a master, but casually tossed off songs mixing the lyrical strength of Elvis Costello, the dark wit of Tom Waits, the good-natured brilliance of Randy Newman. Definitely an all-time high point of my show-going lifetime.

• Zach Gill, Van Duzer, November. I expected headliner Mason Jennings to be great, but I knew little about Zach Gill – how I missed this manic, hilarious, genius of a performer, I have no idea. (You may know him from Animal Liberation Orchestra.) But anyone who can pull off covering Charlie Daniels’ “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” by turning it into an accordion song about the devil going to Bavaria, well, the man clearly has few peers.

• Lila Nelson, Arcata Playhouse, September. If life always rewarded people who were talented, Lila Nelson would have composed her latest album in her state-of-the-art studio in her multi-million-dollar home before embarking on a tour that would have her playing for thousands. But neither sheer musical ability nor an ability to write lyrics as sharp and beautiful as a Damascus sword automatically propels anyone to fame. I’d fix that if I could, but in the meantime, to be an audience member at one of Lila’s shows is something all lovers of music, beauty and life should seek out. Her CD release party proved sublime.


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