Saturday, February 16, 2013

Struttin' Cock in Arcata, California

There are about three bands I’m interested in seeing live these days.  Well, that may be a bit of an understatement.  I’d see anything on Voodoo Rhythm’s label, so that’s a stable of bands.  The other two are Death in June and NashvillePussy.  When I got word that Nashville Pussy was coming to Humboldt in February (Valentine's Week, no less), I was filled with the kind of internal conflict you only read about in literature or see in movies like Twilight or Throw Momma From the Train.

It wasn’t that I didn’t want to see the band.  Far from it.  The problem was that there were two things keeping me from buying a ticket.  One: there would be people there.  I hate people.  I don’t mind them individually, but put them in a group and suddenly what was tolerable on a one-on-one basis produces the most murderous thoughts in my mind.  As if the fact that Nashville Pussy wasn’t putting on a personal show for me wasn’t enough, there was the second problem:  the venue, which was Hum Brews … in Arcata, California.  Arcata is one of those places I do my best to avoid.  The people, the “vibe,” and even the town’s layout makes me froth at the mouth as if imitating Cujo.  If Al Qaeda was taking a poll of places one would most like a dirty bomb to be detonated, Arcata would have my vote.  Sayonara, Trust Fund Babies.

Then there was the fact that it was on Sunday night and I had to be at work early Monday morning.  That barely registered on the radar, as I usually only get three to four hours of sleep a night, but I’d be lying to say that time wasn’t a factor.

I remained conflicted right about up until the show date.  It seemed like an easy choice – just fucking go.  It really doesn’t get much easier than that.  For me, however, the cons were outweighing the positives.  Arcata.  People.  In order to help mitigate this mental stalemate, I decided to repeatedly call Hum Brews.  I figured if the show started just about on time and there was no opening band, I could actually tolerate the event.  So, a few days prior to the show I started calling, and must have done so about five times.  Every time I called I spoke to someone different.  Every time I got the same answer.  Band takes the stage at nine.  No opening band.  I figured that really meant the band would go on at 9:30, but I was convinced there would be no lame-ass opener.  I was partially right.

Butter Licker, RC/DC and I arrived at Hum Brews around ten of eight.  Why?  None of us knew.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.  I do know it wasn’t to take in Arcata’s atmosphere.  College kids who can’t handle their organic liquor and aimless thirtysomethings whose chief goal in life is to win the Pot Olympics are hardly people I want to converse with in any capacity other than to say, “Sorry I ran over you with my car.”  Since the show wasn’t set to start for about another hour, we waited, watched hockey coverage on television and had discussions about the fluid nature of reality and stealing artwork.  (Butter Licker did not like my example of the brain not being able to react properly to what it was seeing, and RC/DC did not appreciate my approval of art theft.)

About quarter after nine, the doors to the band area opened and we are the first through after paying our admission.  My initial thought was that the area was small and the stage far too compact.  A bar at the back of the room promised that if the music wasn’t your thing, overpriced drinks could soothe your savage soul.  We ended up taking a seat against the far wall.  I figured the band would take the stage in about fifteen minutes, sweat like hell, and we’d call it an evening.

By the time 10:30 reared its head, I was getting antsy.  The guy who let us through the doors had told me that Nashville Pussy’s rider said “no openers,” but when the band members got there they were apparently surprised by the fact that there was no opening band.  My guess is that they expected to go on around 10:30 because that would give the opening band time to do its magic.  When the musicians saw there was no opener they took it easy backstage and then came out to kick ass.
The crowd was small, though I wasn’t too surprised.  Arcata, while playing host to a lot of various musical acts, has little in the way of what I would call “good taste in music.”  Stale hip hop, faux indie a-go-go, and the ever-present reggae crap is the town’s musical backbone and it leaves much to be desired, though the people eat it up and little else.  The band took to the stage, however, and just started blasting through its sleazy Southern rock as if it were playing to an arena-sized crowd.  One song after another with little banter in between.  There was a moment when the singer, Blaine Cartwright, dedicated a song to Humboldt because he’s a lifelong “pothead” and we’ve been keeping the quality up and making America realize weed isn’t so bad.  (I guess those aimless thirtysomethings have something they can take pride in after all.  Let’s hear it for personal achievements!)  Nashville Pussy played a bunch of my favorites.  “Go to Hell.”  “Hitchhike Down to Cincinnati and Kick the Shit Out of Your Drunk Daddy,” “Wrong Side of a Gun,” “Struttin’ Cock” and so on.  Beautiful.  Insane.  Tight.  I had reviewed some of the band’s work back when I used to write for Tattoo Savage, and I can safely say the years have done little to slow the act down.  That said, there was a new addition to the band that caught my attention.

Butter Licker snapped this of Buitrago in action.
I found it fairly hard to ignore the bassist, Bonnie Buitrago, who was filling in for the super cool Karen Cuda while she was taking a break from the tour.  She was playing with a wild skill and abandon that floored me.  Few things in life are sexier than a woman kicking ass at something she is really good at doing.  Butter Licker agreed with me.  RC/DC didn’t, but only because she wasn’t paying attention.  I, on the other hand, barely noticed the rest of the band.  Buitrago was that demanding of my attention.
All in all, I made it through the night without gutting someone and had a pretty damn good time.  Nobody from Arcata attempted any kind of lame conversation with me, much to both of our good fortune, though Butter Licker was touched by someone she and RC/DC dubbed “Molester.”  Arcata didn’t give me some rare disease, either, and the only downside of the night was the ringing in my ears that served as a reminder that I was at a great show. 

Still, fuck Arcata.  Enjoy the dirty bomb.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: I paid to get in the show.  Clicking on a link can earn me a commission.