Ohio-born singer and songwriter Jessica Lea Mayfield first came to my attention last year when she collaborated with Seth Avett (the Avett Brothers) on an album of Elliott Smith cover songs that showcased Mayfield’s graceful voice and delicate guitar playing.
Her mastery of the emotionally-tinged music comes as no surprise to her fans. Mayfield’s been active as a solo artist from the time she was 15, playing guitar in bedroom recordings. Since 2008, her career has blossomed with albums that have transitioned from acoustic folk origins to electric and stylized garage pop wonder.
Tonight, Mayfield continues on her current solo West Coast tour with a show at HopMonk Tavern in Sebastopol. Sonoma County native Alison Harris opens the show. For more details, check out the HopMonk website. And click on the videos below to get a glimpse of Mayfield’s singing/songwriting power.
Sonoma County songwriter Neem Wood mixes together shimmering electronics, soulful guitars and heartfelt lyrics for a compelling, emotional blend of indie rock and pop under the name Become the Villain.
Wood has a new album due to be released this weekend with a show at HopMonk in Sebastopol, and he has a preview of his latest work in the form a new single, “Slip Away,” that’s available to listen to right now.
Stylistically and sonically sophisticated, “Slip Away” features Wood’s soaring vocals and dark percussions with strong pop hooks and a cathartic chorus. Click on the track below; and catch Become the Villain tomorrow, Saturday Jan 23 at HopMonk, with other local luminaries Lungs and Limbs, Horses Heaven and Charley Peach. Details are here.
Tennessee-born songwriter Clark “Big Kitty” Williams has cultivated a fringe following for his idiosyncratic folk and country ditties that are equally humorous and harmonious. Two months back, Williams trekked from the blue mountains of his longtime home of Chattanooga, TN to settle in the Gravenstein apple orchards of Sebastopol. And he’s brought his music with him.
Williams has already played a few gigs around town in the last month, and this week he’ll be at Jasper O’Farrells on Thursday, Dec 3, from 6pm to 9pm. If you’ve never heard Big Kitty’s music, click on the music video for his song “Little Man” below, and head over to the show tomorrow to welcome Williams to the North Bay.
The devastating Valley Fire that swept through Lake County last weekend, and continues to burn, has leveled entire neighborhoods and left tens of thousands of people homeless, displaced and in need of basic supplies like clothing, food and shelter. It’s a heartbreaking story, but the community in the North Bay has been quick to act with relief drives and fundraising efforts and that include a number of concert events. Here’s a few coming up this week and next:
September 17: Coffee and beer cafe Brew welcomes local musicians Cory Oleson, Charlie Davenport, Andrew Maurer and Francesco Catania with local artists auctioning off their work and proceeds from sales and beer going to relief efforts in Lake County. 555 Healdsburg Ave, Santa Rosa. 7pm.
September 20: HopMonk Tavern is hosting a collective of Sonoma County artists, promoters, and event producers in presenting an all-day benefit concert and silent auction. The lineup is still TBA, though it’s sure to be a killer bill, with all proceeds benefitting Valley Fire relief. If you can’t attend but still want to donate, you can do so here. 230 Petaluma Ave, Sebastopol. Noon. $20.
September 26: The Phoenix Theater is putting together a rocking night of local acts including Bad Boy Eddy, State Line Empire, LuvPlanet and Faith & Bullets. A raffle and silent auction come with this show as well, and again all proceeds are going straight to those in need. 201 Washington St, Petaluma. 7pm. $10.
These are just a few of surely dozens of such shows happening for this cause. If you know of one, throw it into the comments, and if you can, please help our neighbors in need. Don’t know where to start? Go here.
Hopmonk Tavern in Sebastopol is consistently one of the best live music venues around, showcasing local talents and traveling bands alike in the intimate space of the tavern’s Abbey and outdoor courtyard. One of the highlights of the venue’s schedule is always the “Songwriters-in-the-Round” series, happening the last Thursday every month, and always featuring a bevy of North Bay musicians performing solo, original songs.
This month is no different, as songwriter Jon Gonzales hosts a night of folk, rock and throwback pop music presented by four players, Jeremy McCarten, Jen Tucker, Ken Risling and Georgia Ruth, rotating on stage for an eclectic night. If you’re not familiar with these songwriters, click on the videos below to preview what’s sure to be an engaging show.
First up is Jeremy McCarten, best known as the front man of Sonoma County indie rockers Manzanita Falls, a singer with deep emotional reservoirs and a magnetic stage presence.
The heavenly harmonies emanating from the folk gospel duo MaMuse has steadily built a following around their spiritual and sonorous songs. They have appeared numerous times at folk fests like Kate Wolf and won best duet performance on “A Prairie Home Companion” in 2012. This year, the Chico-based Sarah Nutting and Karisha Longaker have released their most personal and ethereal album to date, Heart Nouveau. Featuring collaborations with songwriter Molly Hartwell and a deep percussive rhythm throughout, the new record is emotionally charged and resonant.
This week, MaMuse celebrates the new album with a performance in Sebastopol. Hartwell will be on hand to lend her voice, as will longtime friend and musician Mike Wofchuck. Lauren Brown opens the show on Saturday, July 11, at Subud Hall, 234 Hutchins Ave, Sebastopol. 7:30pm. $18-$20. Get tickets here.
Frank Hayhurst, Francis Rico, the Zone Music guy; no matter how you know him, you probably know him as a good guy who doesn’t think twice about helping out musicians in need. Now that he can use a little help, he’s asking for it in the most fun way imaginable: by hosting a barbecue with over a dozen musical acts.
Hayhurst, who owned the landmark Cotati music store Zone Music for over 20 years and started the nonprofit Musicians Helping Musicians Foundation, recently underwent successful hip surgery. He feels great now, says the musician-shaman-author, but as anyone who has spent time in a hospital bed knows, medical bills can be staggering, even with insurance covering most of the tab. And this event is just $10, with food options by Rasta Dwight’s BBQ from $5–$15 and beer from Lagunitas available, too.
Musicians include: Gator Nation, Uncle Wiggly, Danny sorentino, Levi Lloyd, Onye Onyemaechi, Sarah Baker, Allyson Page and many, many more, including the legendary Bronze Hog. Frank Hayhurst’s Hip Trip goes down Sunday, March 23 at the Sebastopol Community Center. 7985 Valentine Ave., Sebastopol. 5–9:30pm. $10.
Sheer exposure to some of the world’s finest reggae musicians is reason enough to hit up WBLK’s Monday Night Edutainment dancehall party in Sebastopol. South American songstress Alika with Oakland-based selector DJ Stepwise gave an outstanding performance to a packed house last Monday at Hopmonk. Hosted by local DJs Jacques and Guacamole, Alika was fresh off Reggae River where she played with L.A. band Quinto Sol. DJ Stepwise opened the show with an incredible cultural history lesson in current Latin American music, mixing reggae and cumbia artists from Argentina to Panama, Mexico to the Caribbean.
Clearly laying down a precedence for Latin American reggae at the weekly dance party, Alika sang the entire two hour set in Spanish. Her message of universal rights was received by a crowd as diverse as the county offers. Although many folks couldn’t understand the lyrics, the good vibes united us across cultural divides.
Performing selections off her fourth album “Educate Yourself” along with several tracks from her newest mix tape “Unidad y Respeto” (“Unity and Respect” mixed by DJ Stepwise), Alika proved confident in connecting with a U.S. audience. Considered the No. 1 Spanish-speaking female reggae singer in world, her six album catalog features such artists as Mad Professor, Anthony B, and Mexico’s leading rapper Akil Ammar.
The seamless mix of roots reggae, hip hop, and cumbia rhythms incorporate Alika’s blend of streetwise female rapper with the air of a Rasta empress – at Monday’s show she donned a black Adidas jacket, high-top Nike kicks in pink, and a shirt with a artist’s rendering of Haile Selassie’s image under which read “Babylon Shall Fall”.
Before the show, Alika sat down with me in the green room to talk about the Reggae on the River music festival, her latest album, and why she loves people who pirate her CDs.
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.
It’s unlikely that Sebastopol is going to see a Monday night anything at all like this for the rest of the year. It felt like Bassnectar’s show at the Hopmonk was everything that the old stone building was built for, all those eons ago: “Avast! One Monday, these walls shall absorb the Earth’s pinnacle of gut-rumbling bass. Build strong, gentlemen!”
Yes, the bass could be heard two blocks away. I am surprised the windows are intact. Inside, the sweet combination of smells that only a packed club creates, fueled by Bassnectar’s singular style that had fans driving from hours away (the show was sold out days ago, but if you had a $20 bill, or a good story about your car breaking down, or were pregnant in a tube top and skirt, the guys watching the side doors seemed amenable).
Bassnectar has been in heavy rotation around these parts, and once an album receives that distinction, it’s time for the knighting ceremony, a.k.a. putting it on cassette. The Side Two to my Bassnectar Underground Communication tape is Spank Rock’s YoYoYoYoYo, a record which shares a lot of the same breakbeat production but has rapping, which is nice. One of my favorites from that album is “Bump,” with a killing verse by Amanda Blank. She’s got a solo album out in June, and judging by the first peek, it looks to deftly rule.
For those who weren’t able get in tonight, across the alley at Jasper O’Farrell’s was the place to be, at the long-running Monday Night Edutainment (“WBLK a dun di place every Monday at Jaspers.” “Seen? Yes Iyah! I-man WBLK a wickid!”). Jacques and Guacamole come up on eight years this summer, and they bring back the Coup’s Pam the Funkstress on June 1 to celebrate. Before that, for some of the best in Bay Area beats, Hopmonk’s got Greyboy coming in on May 14’s Juke Joint, too.
I sometimes have a hard time explaining to adults why a crowd can get excited about a person on stage pushing buttons. I’d hope that tonight would set some of the naysayers straight, if only for variety alone—it’s the only set I’ve heard that’s referenced the Gorillaz, Bill Haley, and “Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun.” One thing, though, is undeniable: Sebastopol is whipping Santa Rosa’s ass on Monday nights. I drove home, brain still slightly curdled, and downtown Santa Rosa felt like a whimpering dog with its tail between its legs in comparison.