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New Year, New Lineup

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

It’s that time of the year when you’re so broke you can’t afford to pay attention, yet you still feel like celebrating, although not nearly as much as your credit card company does.

This is a night of celebration, introspection and intoxication--and one of the few times that people who don’t usually go out, go out. Happy New Year.

New Year’s Eve seems to bring out the dancing-fool gene in those seeking to maximize their potential to celebrate. There are scores of clubs, bars and restaurants around the county offering millennium parties, including Nicholby’s in Ventura, which will feature a re-formed and revitalized Papa-Nata. The band, back after a year’s absence, promises to pack that dance floor with its reggae-flavored tunes.

Local music fans certainly remember Papa-Nata. It is not only the spiritual descendant of one of the most popular local bands of all time, Lion I’s, but also a whole slew of successors, including the Trouser Trouts, the Throbbin’ Willies and Simple Phunkshun.

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The common chord in all these bands is Guy Jeans, the frontman and keyboard player singing mostly his own songs.

Nicholby’s owner Nick Taylor surely remembers Papa-Nata as well. The band owns the club record not only for attendance but also for bar sales.

The new and improved Papa-Nata is a quartet featuring Jeans on keyboards and vocals, Ian Stewart on guitars, Robert Rachelli on drums and Bruce Conaway on bass.

The previous version of Papa-Nata released a couple of CDs and was playing all over the state but not making any money. The problems went way beyond creative differences to encompass fundamental mathematics and even a dress code, according to Jeans.

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“I was getting frustrated--we were playing all the time and I was always broke, having to borrow money and just totally struggling,” he said. “The whole thing was getting too weird. They wanted to dress up in suits. I’m from the beach, bro--I ain’t wearing no suit.”

Then it gets even stranger, sartorial considerations aside. Imagine the Stones with no Mick Jagger; or maybe imagine John Fogerty’s mechanic re-forming Creedence. Jeans ended up on the outside looking in at his own band.

“They didn’t kick me out of the band--I just got frustrated and just kinda left. Then, the next thing I hear is that this band called Blue Beat Cartel are calling themselves Papa-Nata and playing Papa-Nata songs, my songs. I thought, ‘What a trip.’ I didn’t sue them or anything, but my lawyer sent them a cease-and-desist letter. I’m glad all that’s over. So now, we’re back playing in shorts like we’re supposed to.”

They’re also playing some new songs, but they haven’t forgotten such old favorites as “Pressure” and “Destination.” And Jeans says to expect the third Papa-Nata CD in a month or so--surely a record for efficiency among local bands, most of which remain on the rigorous Raging Arb & the Redheads timetable of an album every 10 years, no matter what.

“We’ve been working on our new album for about a year and a half now,” Jeans said. “We’ll do some old ones, too--'Beer In My Hand,’ of course. This band has a lot harder edge with distorted guitars than the last band did. Since we don’t have any horn players in this band, Ian covers the horn parts with his guitars. It’s more rockin’ than before. It’s going to be so fun.”

DETAILS

Papa-Nata at Nicholby’s, 404 E. Main St., Ventura, 9:30 tonight; $25; 653-2320.

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A group calling itself All One Tribe is sponsoring a Y2K “drum-athon” featuring groups of drummers from throughout the world beating a path to the new year. The local episode is titled “As We Drum We Are One” and was to begin at 4 a.m. today at the Church of Religious Science in Ventura.

The event will feature not only 25 hours of drumming in the basement, but also religious ceremonies upstairs from representatives of all the prime-time players. Prayers and drumming. Drumming and prayers. Lots of it.

According to church spokesman David Helm, the 4 a.m. starting time was no random choice.

“At 4 am., it will be the year 2000 at the international date line, which is located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean near Midway Island,” Helm said. “It begins with a calling in of the ancestors to honor all those who came before.”

How long can a drummer drum? An hour, 25 hours? That remains to be seen. Also remaining to be seen: the reaction of grocery stores to the run on sweet potatoes. A sweet potato, actually a washed sweet potato, is the suggested donation in honor of the 100th monkey.

Helm explains:

“Legend has it that there was a group of monkeys living in Africa, and one day one of the monkeys went down to the river to wash a sweet potato. Gradually, more and more monkeys followed suit. By the time the 100th monkey washed his sweet potato, another monkey hundreds of miles away began washing his sweet potato. The idea of all this is that if you put one idea in the consciousness, it will spread throughout the world. We want to begin the new year with the idea that you are right with the world.”

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DETAILS

“As We Drum We Are One” at the Church of Religious Science, 101 S. Laurel St., Ventura, 4 this morning; free; 648-5574.

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Party animal skills will be put to the test for New Year’s Eve survivors Saturday night in the Conejo Valley when reggae band Urban Dread appears in the big tent in the parking lot of the Hyatt Westlake. The gig is tagged the Millennium Reggae Fest, and it’s right off the freeway. If it were any more convenient, it would be in your driveway.

This millennium dance party features the most popular band in the Conejo Valley, resuming where it left off after playing this venue all summer. Actually, Urban Dread and the area go way back--the band’s first gig was in 1988 at the defunct Sergio’s, which now is alive and well as the Yucatan Cantina.

Not only does the band know hundreds of reggae songs, plus numerous originals, it could probably play until the next millennium.

During the summer, a typical Urban Dread gig featured lots of locals in the 20 to 50 age range, with mostly younger adults. Generally, there are more girls than guys.

Here’s the lowdown on the band, according to frontman Jason Bourne: “It’s more rock or something--it’s not just reggae. We play music for people who don’t like reggae, at least until they see Urban Dread.”

DETAILS

Urban Dread at the Hyatt Westlake, 880 S. Westlake Blvd., 9:30 p.m. Saturday; $15; 557-1234.


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