March 25, 2013

Dennis Quaid & The Sharks @ SOhO ~ March 23, 2013

photo by p.dunkley

Great Balls of Fire!

Ok, that was too easy. But since I am covering a cover band, albeit a high profile cover band, I believe it to be apropos.

Dennis Quaid, the star of such films as The Right Stuff, The Big Easy, Innerspace, and yes, Great Balls of Fire! graced the stage of SB’s very own SOhO. Backed by his all-star rock band, The Sharks, Quaid promised a night of good ol’ rock ‘n roll.

photo by p.dunkley
And that’s what SB got. The band was tight, the music bluesy and guitar heavy, and the frontman very theatrical. The songs were classics from the hay day of rock, covering The Doors, Van Morrison, and, of course, Jerry Lee Lewis. And of course Quaid made all the right faces in all the right places – would you expect less from a movie star?
Although I was promised celebrities and I saw none, there was a great crowd in attendance. Truthfully, I have never seen such an excited yet well-behaved crowd as was at SOhO for this show. And the band fed off the energy creating a show that was loud and fun.

Yup, there sure was a whole lotta shakin’ go on. (Sorry, couldn’t be helped.)

March 19, 2013

Spencer The Gardener @ Amigos, Ventura ~ March 16, 2013

photo by Laura Lynch

Keep the Party Dancing

Sure, Ventura isn’t technically Santa Barbara, what with the whole 25 miles that seperates our cities (too far for a Santa Barbarian). But Spencer the Gardener is Santa Barbara grown, so it counts!

I ventured down to Ventura as I often do when Spencer The Gardener plays there to “get out of town.” Plus, they are pretty much my favorite party band, and I just couldn’t bare to go out on St. Patty’s day this year, what with it being a Sunday and all. So I had to get my party band on a day early.

And they delivered.

Amigos is a little cantina on Main Street. Good food, cheap drinks. They also have ample area for a band to play and people to dance. This is required at a STG show! With dueling brass, funky guitars, and a mariachi meets polka sound, your body just starts moving in all sorts of ways. Part salsa, part interpretive dance. Literally, my friend had an interpretive dance for most songs. Which is easy to have for Spencer’s fun, animated lyrics.

The set was a nice montage of new and old, playing songs off their new album Breaking My Own Heart. The new album is a bit somber with songs like “There She Goes” and “Bye Baby,” but still has their trademark danceable tunes, with heavy horns and grooving guitars. Perhaps an evolution of the band?

All in all, STG always keeps the party dancing!

March 11, 2013

Ghost Tiger @ 7 Bar & Kitchen ~ March 7, 2013

A Little Room to Breathe

photo by paul dunkley

Packed doesn’t quite explain it. “Packed like sardines” might be a better description. For a soft opening, 7 Bar and Kitchen had to be pushing capacity.

The large diverse crowd was made up of folksters (folk meets hipsters), entrepreneurs, college kids, parents, and SB local music buffs. It was one of the most diverse crowds I have ever seen in SB. I am not sure if the crowd came for the opening of the new hot spot in the funk zone, or the indie folk band playing the event. My guess is a combo of both.

photo by paul dunkley

The band, Ghost Tiger, emerged on the Santa Barbara scene a couple years back (according to my research), fresh faced and wide eyed. The five-piece is made up of Alixandra Macmillan-Fiedel (vocals), Emma Houston (keyboards), Kevin Evans (bass), Chris Norlinger (guitar), and Chris Stansell (drums). A fusion of folk and electronic pop, GT has a trendy indie folk sound that draws a nice following. The big selling point for this band is Macmillan-Fiedel’s voice. It’s big, deep, and soulful – and doesn’t seem like it would come from this tiny girl.

As the music started, the crowd condensed near the sage. The beginning of the set ranged from a foot tapping number to a heart heavy ballad. I lasted four songs. 

Unfortunately, I started feeling like a sardine buried alive in a small tin can, so I had to leave just to breathe. Which really bummed me out. I would really like to enjoy both the venue and the band under less “stressed” conditions. But a girls gotta breathe.

7 Bar and Kitchen 

Ghost Tiger 

March 8, 2013

Ryan Bingham @ The Lobero ~ March 3, 2013

photo by p.dunkley

"Step into the unknown
Where your path rewinds
See if you can find out
What you came here for"

“Roots rock” is a popular buzz word right now, which essentially means – good ol’ fashion country. Not the country pop that now plays heavily on the airwaves, but good ol’ honky tonk  “roots rock.” That’s the showcase New Noise created Sunday night.

photo by p.dunkley
Honey Honey opened up the show. The duo is made up of Suzanne Santo (vocals/banjo/violin) and Ben Jaffe (vocals/guitar/drums). Together they create a soulful alternative country sound that would now be called “roots.” The duo, with tour support, cutely bantered with each other between heart wrenching ballads. The lyrics were dark, but relatable, and the blues just drew you in. I fell in love and got my heart broken just a little.

photo by p.dunkley
The headliner, Ryan Bingham, is an American roots rock singer/songwriter – you may have heard his song “The Weary Kind” in the film Crazy Heart. It did quite well. A respectful cat too, when a lady in the crowd yelled out “are you single,” Bingham firmly replied “no ma’am.”  The shy singer stayed underneath a 10-gallon hat the entire show, but his bar hall raspy voice filled the Lobero. The music was compelling and dark, with plenty of twangy slide guitar and simple jazz drum beats. Any one of his songs could have been a personal anthem.

It’s good to visit our roots sometimes.

March 4, 2013

Phat J’s Birthday Bash featuring Tommy & The High Pilots @ Velvet Jones ~ March 1, 2013

There Ain't no Party Like a Phatty Party. 

The nth annual Birthday Bash for one of Santa Barbara’s most recognized DJ boasted a number of great local Santa Barbara bands – Matt Armor, Indian Trading Furs, Strikes At One, Winchester Rebels, and Tommy & The High Pilots. 

I came exclusively for Matt Armor, Indian Trading Furs, and The High Pilots. Although, can it be called “exclusive” when you’re trying to see three of five great bands?

Matt Armor played right at 9. An acoustic “roots rock” set in front of a growing crowd. With nothing but his guitar and his throaty growl, Armor set the tone for the rest of the night.
photo by j.puchli
Indian Trading Furs quickly followed, turning the energy in the house up a notch. The four-piece folk rock band filed the room with insane banjo, fast guitar, plunky bass, and snappy drum beats. ITF touts a dueling vocal style, with Kyran and Will playing off each other, creating an almost howling affect – which goes well with the folky punk rock. I can’t believe it was my first time seeing them play in a proper venue. Definitely staying on my radar.

Strikes Against One, then Winchester Rebels hit the stage. Both bands are stellar, but I thought they had a different flavor than the others on the bill. This showcase could have easily been split into two, with SAO and WR carrying a heavier rock show. But the people loved them.

photo by j.puchli
Then SB’s favorite hometown boys explode on stage. Tommy and the High Pilots can only be summed up with one word: rock. They have really grown into themselves, both their sound and stage presence getting better with age. T&THP played a crowd pleasing mix of their early hits, then “tested the waters” with some songs off their new album – which I recorded on a crappy iPhone so it just sounds like heavy breathing on my phone.  Bummer, guess I gotta wait for the real thing.

As always, Phat Js’ Birthday Bash was a phenomenal success. Thank you Phat J for being born to rock.