Friday There’s no better reason to leave work early on a Friday during a Santa Barbara summer than a 5 p.m. start to a show at our hallowed Bowl. Reggae was on the menu, as the Roots, Rock, Reggae tour rolled into town, featuring Ozomatli, Bunny Wailer, Stephen Marley, and Ziggy Marley. Thanks to the tour’s manager, a backstage pass wound up on my pants, which I cashed in after watching Ozomatli bring their Latin funk from the stage down to the beer garden in a raucous marching parade. Backstage, the smell of fresh fish permeated the eating area as Rastas meandered around the dining and dressing rooms. The normal last minute snafus were occurring—where’s this guy? Do they know the new schedule? Jon Nicholson (the mild-mannered supposed opener) got stuck in traffic?!?—but things were more or less mellow. Moss Jacobs of Nederlander—the Bowl booking guru—was giving a tour, talking about how the cut-out cat character was almost stolen by one of The Strokes a couple months back. I was merely trying to get out of the way as my fiancée Joanna found her friend Scotty, the man who provided us the passes. Once we got to the food, it was tasty as I’ve come to expect from the Bowl chefs. Ranging from boiled and bbq’d corn and ital veggies to fish and tri-tip, I we chowed off to the side of the stage as Bunny started his set. After I gulped the last bite of brownie, I walked toward the side of the stage to see Bunny up close, breaking into “Ballroom Floor.” Such a diminutive cat, I thought, with such a massive legacy. As we headed back to the audience—backstage sounds pretty cool, but in my few times there, I’ve realized that you end up missing the show—I saw Stephen Marley skanking off to the side of the stage. We were already halfway down the stairs, but Joanna said, “Why not go say hi?” I had interviewed him, after all, and he was the son of Bob, the man who’s music and message shaped my emergent mind in high school, college, and beyond. “Yea,” I thought,” I’ll go say hi.” As I walked toward Stephen—he was either ignoring me or just unaware of my approach—a large bodyguard eyed me fiercely, especially as I pulled my card out of my pocket. It made me realize that Stephen, like his father, is probably somewhat of a target for those wanting to make a name for themselves, so I whipped out the card fast, making sure the bodyguard didn’t think it was a shank. He motioned me over, directly in front of the entire Bowl audience. (No one, I later learned, saw any of this.) “Uh, I had interviewed Stephen and I just wanted to say hi, shake his hand, ya know?” I said sheepishly. “No,” he said plainly, shaking his head. “Let him enjoy the show. After the show you can.” Fair enough, but I knew I wasn’t coming backstage again. The rest of the show had my crew and I skanking up a storm in the seats, dancing more than I can recall ever doing so at a Bowl concert. That was especially true for Stephen Marley, who rocked through his dad’s hits, including “Could You Be Loved.” As he started into “Buffalo Soldier,” he seemed generally surprised that everyone knew the lyrics, and that the response to “Why-yo-yo, Why-yo-yo-yo-yo, Why-yo-yo-yo-yo-yo-yo-yo” was so strong. It was a tough act for Ziggy, who seems to be embarking on his own musical trip these days, to follow. But when Stephen and Bunny returned to deliver “Get Up Stand Up,” the night came to a memorable close. Then, with a handful of friends, we stopped by Mi Fiesta Liquor at Milpas and Canon Perdido, picked up way too much beer (12er o’ Bud, sixer of Widmer Hefe, 12er o’ Pacifico—there were six of us, all already drunk), and walked back home to Santa Barbara Street. Then came Rusty’s pizza—I used to hate it, but I’ve been warming to it recently—and then came sleep.
Saturday We had a wedding down in Moorpark that afternoon, so we made the most of the morning with a bike ride down to brunch at Stella Mare’s, which is always a good way to work up an appetite. Once there, we leaned more toward lunch than breakfast, and started with the oak-grilled artichoke, complete with a vinaigrette reduction sauce and a Dijon-based aioli. I washed the bites back with a Stella Mare’s viognier, which also went perfect with my chicken and goat cheese crepes. Joanna went with the special calamari salad, enhanced with those squiggly pieces that look far too much like octopi for my tastes. Back on the bikes and off toward Whitcraft Winery, where longtime winemaker Chris Whitcraft was in the back restarting a stalled malolactic fermentation. We tasted through four of his wines: the barrel select chardonnay (“which selected itself,” Chris joked), the 2004 Aubaine pinot noir (from SLO County), a 2002 block-designated pinot from Bien Nacido (one of the library wines that Chris pulled off his shelves after opening this tasting room back in March), and the 2003 French Camp lagrein, which is the second to last vintage of the grape for Whitcraft Winery. Chris, who I’d met once or twice before at other wine-guzzling events, proved quite the wine trivia buff, explaining how Napoleon lost the Russian front due to waiting for wine and how Charlemagne made white wine popular year-round back in the old days when chard was harder to grow than pinot, which the Burgundians had been growing for centuries.
Sunday After a night of wedding party merrymaking, Sunday morning was slow, save for a brief round of tennis at the high school courts on Nopal Street inspired by a Russ Spencer interview with Jimmy Connors in Santa Barbara Magazine. For lunch, I made my way down De la Guerra Street to the Italian Grocery, where a long line awaited their Super Deluxe sandwiches. After watching Mayor Marty Blum and husband Joe come into the market and take their place in line—prompting a young civil servant to discuss his move to the county bureaucracy—I realized by eavesdropping that I was standing amdist News-Press employees who were fueling up on subs before making their way down to the Dodgers game. As a lifelong San Francisco Giants fan (I’m a fifth generation San Jose native) and Indy employee, I felt a little outta place, but bit my lip. Then, all of the sudden, the older cash register lady started yelling “Thief! Thief!” as two twentysomethings—sporting tattoos and gangsterish garb but acting extra-nice to the sandwich makers—escaped from the store. She didn’t catch them, but when it was finally my turn to pay for my super deluxe, dill pickle, Squirt, and Pellegrino, I asked her what happened. “Ah,” she said, “they’re stealing beer. They did it before and I got them caught and now they’re doing it again. I know where they live.” Sure enough, they were seen walking the neighborhood minutes later. The rest of the day was laid back, sitting on the porch, watching the day go by. I also popped in the DVDs Burn to Shine: Portland and Sublime Tribute Live to kill some time before heading to Center Stage to see hypnotist Joshua Seth work his magic. That show, which was nearly sold out despite it being Seth’s first in town, made for a hilarious end to the weekend, as volunteers danced, played fake instruments, entered fake sporting events, won the lottery, drove their dream cars, and generally freaked out on stage to resounding applause. Joshua Seth, who just moved to town, plans on doing some more shows in Santa Barbara in the coming months, so watch out for that.