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Presuming the Great Divide

Posted by: on Nov 8, 2009 | Comments (0)

On a night when a single Republican voting for the House healthcare reform bill is hailed as “bipartisan,” I realize just how much there’s a gap in our lives. You’re either one thing or the other, especially around these parts. I spent part of my day yesterday at the St. Helena Skatepark, which just opened three weeks ago, hanging out with kids who can’t afford new skateboards. They were riding used boards, handed down to them, which also served as their transportation a couple miles back home. At the same time, just down the street, a winery hosted an upscale Napa Valley™ food & wine shindig with a half-mile line of shiny new cars parked outside and a $100 entry fee.

I drove home listening to Lucinda Williams’ World Without Tears, an album with a lot in common with Q-Tip’s The Renaissance even though the two wouldn’t ever get played back-to-back on the same radio station. The divide. So it felt right to join in a coming together, and that was the Free Mind Media benefit last night at the Guyakí Mate Bar in Sebastopol.

I fully endorse Free Mind Media because in a climate where everyone asks why, they ask, why not? People go hungry on the street. We sit around and wonder why. Through Food Not Bombs, Free Mind Media says “Why not just feed them?” Police shoot unarmed citizens with mental problems. We sit around and wonder why. With Copwatch, Free Mind Media asks “Why not march together in the street in protest?” We wonder why we’re divided and they live out and promote small, simple acts that we often don’t consider because we assume the divide is too great.

Aside from the obvious coming together of people—and there were a lot of people packed into Guayakí’s back room, old and young, rich and poor, bob-cutted and afroed—more than half the lineup last night had both guys and girls in the band, another “why not?” that’s good to see being answered. During Not to Reason Why’s epic set, Goodriddler’s Nick Wolch and the New Trust’s Julia Lancer joined in for an insane three-drummer extravaganza together, erasing the multitudes of Napa Valley BMWs from my mind and sending me back to Santa Rosa with a lifted heart.

Cheers to Free Mind Media and all the bands, and especially to Guayakí, and David & Celeste, for providing a solid all-ages venue that’s been going off lately with positive vibes.

Sebastopol: Party People in the Place to Be

Posted by: on Jun 8, 2009 | Comments (3)

DJ Vadim is gonna be at Hopmonk’s Juke Joint this Thursday, and although his last few records have been heavy on the reggae tip, I wholeheartedly recommend getting thy ass down there and checking it out. Born in Russia, raised in London, and now living in New York, Vadim’s style is a true cross-cultural hybrid; his series of USSR albums on Ninja Tune bridge in the most perfect way the worlds of hip-hop and electronica, and feature mostly rappers from outside of the United States. I am listening to USSR: The Art of Listening right now, and feeling good.

I stopped by the Guayakí Mate Bar a couple weekends ago to catch the Highlands and the Semi-Evolved Simians, where Celeste and her dad David have started putting on shows. The setup’s great: A cafe and coffee bar in the front and the “Aché Room”—a resplendent name for a venue if ever there was one—in the back. It is wider than it is deep, which is good for bands who don’t exactly draw 300 people, and being right next to the now-desolate Barlow Co. assists for nighttime walks between bands. The Crux played there last weekend; the owner’s planning on booking more shows in the future.

I talked to Noah D today, who’s getting married soon and is feeling the down-home spirit of friends, family and funk. He’s starting a weekly night at Aubergine called “The Dial Up.” I like the name. He doesn’t. The first night’s this Tuesday, June 16, featuring all vinyl—no CDJs, no Serato. The flyer promises Funk Essentials, Hip-Hop Slumpers, Big Reggae Tunes, Soul Boulders, Dancehall Gems and R&B Classics. I’m not sure what a “slumper” is, but A Tribe Called Quest might be a good signpost. Future nights will feature Nick Otis; a pay-the-bills ’80s Night; and Noah’s inventive hip-hop group, Sonicbloom.

Add to all of this Monday Night Edutainment over at Jasper O’Farrell’s still going strong, and the story of nightlife in Sonoma County in 2009 starts with an S and ends with an L. Somehow Sebastopol has gotten nightlife figured out, while Santa Rosa continues to have problems with live music.

This might also be a good time to mention Hillcrest Middle School in Sebastopol, whose marching band were given the chance to perform a song in the Apple Blossom Parade of their own choosing by their teacher, Mr. Fichera. Q: What did the students pick? A: “Love Lockdown,” by Kanye West! Fichera arranged it for marching band in about three hours, and the song’s huge drum cadence never sounded more amazing than bouncing off the buildings of Main Street on a Saturday morning.