“He’s a moody old man/ song of summer in his hand/ he’s a moody old man.” So begins Kate Bush’s “Delius (Song of Summer),” a gorgeous, impressionistic paean to the English composer Frederick Delius and his assistant Eric Fenby, who was placed into the position of scribe by the master’s deterioration at the ugly hand of advanced syphilis. Delius’ lush and floral soundscapes evoke a world from which summer is birthed by a radiant morning of symphonic, natural rapture. His oeuvre of music is pure soundtrack visions before the concept of soundtracks even existed in the cinematic sense. I like to listen to his work this time of year, particularly his gorgeous “A Song Before Sunrise.” This week I am thinking about his Florida Suite, which was influenced by the songs and music of African Americans during his time here in the early 1880s. The songs came to his ears over the wind and water around the clock, spirituals and ballads sung by Black workers finding release amid the brutal conditions of the late 19th century American South. I mention this connection because two things happen during the timespan of this week’s piece: Juneteenth and the beginning of summer. I mention Delius not as a “white lens” from which to observe Black art, but to recognize the radical scope of influence that African American art has had on this planet. Spanning every continent and country, Black American culture has given so much to the world at large, and no amount of praise or recognition can ever really capture its invaluable contribution to humanity. I’m not the right person to discuss the struggle, pain and violence borne by generations of Black Americans. There are plenty of more intelligent and better-suited people for that job and I suggest you listen to them. I just wanted to take a moment to point out that literally everywhere you look, in every corner of the world, Black American art has left its beautiful and brilliant imprimatur. I want to observe that and register my profound thanks for it. I simply would not want to live in a world without, for instance, jazz music, gospel, and the blues. A soulless planet could never sustain life.
Enjoy the summer and love your neighbor.
There’s a special open mic happening today at 6 p.m. over at Northtown Coffee/Mother’s Cooking Experience. Local nonprofit Youth Art Will Succeed (aka Y.A.W.S.) is presenting a night of BIPOC voices, with featured performances by Flo J Simpson, RAH, All’Love Aundrea and more.
In anticipation of Juneteenth, Black Humboldt is putting on a Black Healing Through the Arts showcase at Humbrews. This variety show of local talent includes comedy, hip hop, spoken word and burlesque by performers Josh Barnes, Mo Desir, Elektra Gray, Kemistree, Wess Vega and more. Doors are at 8 p.m. and the price of admission is a mere $10 for this well-packed bill. This is an excellent show with which to christen your weekend. Saturday
Texas has among its better qualities a history of churning out good, soulful, country songsters. Zane Williams is one such fellow, and his group The Wilder Blue trades in a hybrid of country-dusted, harmony-laden gems just gleaming with facets of bluegrass, blues and rock. You can hear this group earnestly plucking, strumming and singing the night away at the Arcata Theatre Lounge at 7 p.m. ($15). This is just the sort of show that’s perfect for a summer evening on the backend of a full moon.
When local legends Dale Cash, Jim Lahman, Ron Perry and Bill Moehnke come together to jam, it is sometimes under the handle Blues Through the Years. The group is giving what for at the Morris Graves Museum of Art today at 3 p.m. for its Afternoon of Jazz series. If you would like to hear music from the essential backbone of the American songbook, then grab a spot. The suggested donation is as follows: $5 general, $2 for students, seniors and military, free for museum members and children. I will very likely be there, as I have a well-known bias toward hearing Cash play the bass, having taken a very special bass lesson from this most excellent childhood neighbor back when I was a teenage novice musician.
Another quiet music night on the redwood edge of the marine world. My advice? Take the time on this federally recognized Juneteenth holiday date to read about Black American history or the works of a Black artist. I’m looking forward to revisiting one of my favorite collections by one of my favorite essayists, Ishmael Reed’s excellent Shrovetide in Old New Orleans.
Tuesday, Summer Solstice
Festival circuit road dawgs The Hip Abduction comes to town tonight to share its jammy vision of reggae, Afrobeat and electronic dance music with the masses. When bandleader David New brings his cadre friendly freaks to the stage at the Arcata Theatre Lounge at 7 p.m., grooves will fly and dancing will commence ($15).
In the interest of mentioning (at least once) every little byway, nook and oddity out there for your midweek enjoyment at our many fine entertainment establishments, I have landed on this weird little nugget. Did you know Blondie’s, that low-fi little college rock haven just past the edge of Cal Poly Humboldt’s campus, has a weekly figure drawing event at 6 p.m.? Odd but somehow sensible, this evening of drawing is suitable for artists of all levels of practice. Just make sure to bring a five spot for the model’s time.
Collin Yeo (he/him) lives in Arcata with two enchanted grimalkins, chaotic sisters and masters of the Tail each as lithe and cunning as pixies.
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