How One Band Goes Cold Spring Surfing with a Unique Blend of Surf-Rock and Country
Born and raised in Santa Barbara, I like to consider myself a friendly native. I’m happy to offer directions when a rental car full of Italians shows up in my Westside neighborhood looking for the beach, and happier still to show off the city’s hidden corners to newcomers. That said, there are some corners I’d rather not share with certain tourists, and a few Santa Barbara gems I get a little territorial about preserving for those who truly respect and appreciate them.
Cold Spring Tavern is one of those corners, and The Tradesmen, one of those gems. Yet in keeping with the welcoming, all-inclusive attitude of the band and their loyal followers, I feel compelled to share a good thing.
A few weeks ago, I rounded up a couple of friends to make the Tradesmen trek — a drive over San Marcos Pass on a Saturday evening to the rustic little 19th century log cabin bar tucked up against the hillside of Cold Spring Canyon amongst the bay trees. We hopped out of the truck to drink in the evening’s crisp mountain air before heading into the bar to meet Patty Tierney — bartendress extraordinaire and programmer of the live music events held Friday through Sunday at the log cabin bar, as well as the brain behind the Best Of Cold Spring Tavern compilation CDs that features favorites like Tom Ball and Kenny Sultan.
The Tradesmen were already well into their first set, jamming with a cover of the country classic, “I Never Go Around Mirrors.” As Patty pulled me a Fat Tire, the band launched into one of their signature neo-surf rock covers, “Apache,” complete with trippy reverb and drawn-out riffs, courtesy of the band’s inimitable Robbie Bird-Robinson on guitar. The five jack-of all-trades musicians who make up the Tradesmen live up to their name — none more so than Jerry Pike, who switches from guitar to pedal steel, mandolin to crooning vocals without missing a beat. The next shift back to country brought a couple of cowboys to their feet, looking for dancing partners. Beneath the gaze of sun bleached cattle skulls and lit by the glow of a string of tiny Christmas lights, the dancers two-stepped across the cabin’s worn boards.
After a short beer break, the Tradesmen launched into their second set. The night was chilly, inside it was warm, and the band was back in full swing when a limousine pulled up outside and a carload of well-heeled partiers tumbled inside, all party dresses, designer t-shirts and fashionista cowboy hats. They ordered their beer in bottles, crowded onto the dance floor and began to bop — our cue for another blast of that fresh mountain air.
I was still sitting on a picnic table beneath the stars, watching the band through the warped panes of the cabin’s window, when the boppers tumbled out the door again. Their limo idled while one young man finished his Marlboro Red, then flicked it into the creek bed where it landed with a hiss in a pile of dry leaves. In true snooty Santa Barbara spirit, I found myself assuming they were from Los Angeles; surely Barbarians wouldn’t be so barbaric. The limo pulled away and we returned to the band in time to catch a few more classic country tunes as well as the Tradesmen surf-rock original, “Southswell.” The band was too intent on making music to be much fazed, and I was soon swept away by the toe-tapping good tunes.
At the end of the set, Jerry gave me a free copy of their CD, Safety First, and I was ready to forgive the night’s unwelcome interruption. Everyone should get at least one chance to appreciate the Tradesmen at Cold Spring Tavern. So come one, come all, to the little cabin in the mountains. But if you blow it, don’t come showing your face ’round those parts again, or Patty might just flatten your Fat Tire.
411 For a list of upcoming performances at Cold Spring Tavern, visit www.coldspringtavern.com. The Tradesmen also play regularly at Old Town Tavern, Goleta and at the El Capitan concert series. They plan to return to the recording studio this January. To contact the band for bookings or CDs, call John at 969-1886 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.