There’s a new documentary film on Humboldt County’s underground music scene, which of course begs the question: Why are they so damn special?
Looking for answers on the Sac DIY list elicited claims of basements full of video archives, but no actual documentary. The ever-quotable KDVS deejay Rick Ele was quick to jab: “If that pitiful scene can have a documentary, we should’ve made a shelf full of films about Sacto already.”
But filmmaker Jensen Rufe’s Rural Rock & Roll defies Ele, arguing that the impressive Eureka and Arcata scenes are equal parts miracle and milquetoast. “It’s a wonderful smorgasbord of styles, and it all stems from the fact that away from the ‘big city’ there is absolutely no notion of what bands are ‘supposed’ to sound like,” Jensen, former HC resident now L.A. dweller, told SN&R. “So there’s a tremendous freedom in the music scene up there.”
With only two “real” venues, the Alibi (think Old Ironsides) and the 330 Club (Fools Foundation), the existence of an HC scene indeed is astonishing. And fortuitous, given the bands’ apparent lack of ambition to leave the HC, as Rufe painstakingly reveals: fryin’ bacon at Stars Hamburgers; chuggin’ beers and smokin’ bud; soakin’ up the rural milieu—there’s more to life?
But mellow musters meh. There’s JPG, a white rapper with a Be Brave Bold Robot sticker on his keyboard, who’s terrible. And amusing. Eureka Garbage Company, an avant-garde troupe you’ll either want to throw down with or throw rocks at, is your Downtown James Brown of HC street bands.
The best group by far is the Ian Fays, four sisters who live under the same roof and play fragile, quiet indie pop. They’d do well to venture down south … oh, they’re playing the Press Club this Sunday at 4 p.m. Go figure.
As for the filmmaking, Rufe deftly splices interviews into an engaging narrative. RR&R originally was intended to be a TV pilot, and it’d work as a season of half-hour episodes—maybe Sac could sneak in somewhere between Omaha and Albuquerque?