Eureka Rock City!
There's some serious music-making going on behind Northern California's "Redwood Curtain." And filmmaker Jensen Rufe wants the rest of the world to discover what indie music fans in remote Humboldt County already know - this place rocks!
"Rural Rock and Roll" is Rufe's big-screen tribute to the rich but hidden rock scene centered around Eureka and nearby Arcata, Calif. The 60-minute documentary features a dozen bands whose styles run the gamut from pop to metal to alt country, but who all are part of a tight-knit musical community.
The film shows at 9 p.m. at the Columbia Theater and is followed by live performances next door at the Voodoo Lounge beginning at 10 p.m. by three of the groups featured in the movie, J.P.G., The Buffy Swayze and The Ian Fays. Admission to the movie is $5 and includes free cover to the live music - the cost is $5 for the live show only.
Humboldt County isn't exactly the dark side of the moon - Arcata is home to Humboldt State University. But it's also a long ways from the big West Coast cities and far off the radar of rock fans and industry types in Seattle, Portland and Los Angeles.
The documentary and its entourage of bands makes a stop in Astoria during its tour of the West Coast.But the region supports what Rufe says is a remarkably big and vibrant independent music scene featuring dozens of local bands who haven't landed major record deals and likely never will, but who take to heart the old cliché that "it's all about the music."
Rufe lived the scene from the inside, playing in several local groups himself while he earned a master's degree in film production from Humboldt State. He followed the well-worn career path to Los Angeles, where he landed work with MTV, but he didn't lose his admiration for his former fans and bandmates up north.
"Bands come and go in these small towns completely anonymously, compared to the rock world at large," he told The Times-Standard of Eureka. "It gives you perspective, and it proves that rural music scenes are largely ignored."
The Buffy Swayze play what they call 'trailer park glam rock for the sexually ambiguous' after Saturday's documentary screening. Photo courtesy The Buffy Swayze.The film gives a behind-the-scenes look at life for band members, from their fast-food day jobs to kitchen practice sessions. It also includes several performances taped in local clubs and house parties.
Rufe hopes the film becomes the pilot for a regular television series spotlighting other overlooked areas around the country supporting their own local scenes.
Featured performers in "Rural Rock and Roll" include the group Trash and Roll channeling the Ramones, and the smoky Irish pub sing-alongs of Smashed Glass. Vocalists and sisters Sara and Lizz Fay lend their ethereal voices to the Ian Fays' haunting selection "Alcohol Bottle," while the Great Salvation goes glam on "Sierra Leone."
The after-party performers The Buffy Swayze describe their sound as "trailer park glam rock for the sexually ambiguous." Their featured song from the film, "Rock Star," is one of the standout selections from the "Rural Rock" soundtrack CD.
Rapper JPG brings his unique style to the afterparty at the Voodoo Room Saturday. Photo courtesy Mark McKenna.The Ian Fays are just back from their second tour of Europe. The other scheduled act, J.P.G., mixes samples and rapping into a sound "unlike anything you've heard on this planet."
The Ian Fays, led by twins Lizz and Sara Fay, will play at the Voodoo Room Saturday. Photo courtesy The Ian Fays.
House parties in Humboldt are always a scene when The Buffy Swayze plays. Submitted photo.
Melissa Medina of The Ravens wails at a Humboldt house party. Submitted photo.