For too long, the ukulele has been both the court jester and the bastard stepchild of the musical instrument world, something to laugh at, scorn, and pick up a cheap plastic version of on the family trip to Honolulu.
The ukulele is actually a descendant of a Portuguese instrument, which was brought to the islands by British sailors. It soon became all the rage in Hawaii, and then later on the mainland as well. The uke lost its mojo with the advent of the big-band era and eventually wound up being stigmatized as a “novelty” instrument due to the proliferation of cheap variations, as well as ‘60s oddball Tiny Tim, whose ugly mug unfortunately turned him into The Face Of Uke.
Lately, however, the ukulele has regained both popularity and favor with music fans. The Riverside Ukulele Liberation Front meets monthly in the gallery/basement of Riverside’s Back to the Grind coffee house to celebrate all matters uke-related. Members bring their ukuleles, music stands, songbooks, and a taste for free-spirited fun that the IE could surely use more of. The group even has a hymnal that members add songs to every meeting, with the only certainty being that “Tip Toe Through the Tulips” is nowhere in the mix. And these guys are serious about the uke—as founding member Jeff Odien puts it, “This is no joke,” but it is a good time. If you’re simply interested in the ukulele or have been plucking one on your own, the RULF will turn you into a full-fledged devotee. (Bill Gerdes)
The Riverside Ukulele Liberation Front meets the first Sunday of each month in the basement at Back to the Grind, 3575 University Ave., Riverside, (951) 784-0800; www.back2thegrind.com. Sun., 1-3 p.m.