ROCKIN’ THE OLD WEST: With so many concert venues to choose from in Santa Barbara County, most locals may think they’ve seen it all. But even the most dedicated concert lover might not be familiar with the Pozo Saloon. Hidden off the beaten path of the major highways in rural San Luis Obispo County, it’s a long way to go for a show. But if you’re willing to make the trip, you’ll find the experience to be well worth your time. About a half-hour’s drive off the 101 on the way to, and past, Santa Margarita Lake, the Pozo Saloon is a quaint little venue that was part of the once-bustling old western town of Pozo. Since the rise of fast cars and freeways, the saloon is the only part of the town that managed to survive. Now considered a historical landmark and authentic relic of the Old West, the Pozo Saloon has occasionally played host to favorites like Willie Nelson, Dwight Yoakam, and Los Lobos. Its rustic and low-profile surroundings make it a relaxing stage for both performers and fans.
This season, the Pozo’s already packin’ quite a quiver of bands. This Sunday, March 26, reggae superstars Steel Pulse share the stage with rootsy up-and-comers Pepper. G-Love and Special Sauce were slated to play on April 8, but just canceled their show in favor of doing a corporate party. The Pozo season, whose additions and changes are posted on the Web site, pozosaloon.com, continues on May 21 with Eddie Money and the Fryed Brothers and meanders into summer with Kansas on July 2. There’s sure to be more great shows added soon, so keep an eye on pozosaloon.com for details. — Mary Vanderpool
WHAT’S FOR BREAKFAST: In its lone Santa Barbara appearance a few years ago, The Breakfast made sure to leave a lasting impression. Playing to an empty Absinthe on a dreary Monday night, the jamband from New Haven, Connecticut treated it like a sold-out Fillmore — leaves one to wonder what the group’s capable of when people actually show up. Like many bands from the new generation, the improvisational quartet has integrated the influences of its heroes into an authentic stew of sound. Complementing a foundation of psychedelic rock with styles including trance, funk, and reggae, The Breakfast seems to take pride in throwing audiences for a loop. Led by high-flying guitar assassin and singer Tim Palmieri, these Yankees will be rolling through SOhO on Sunday, March 26. — Tyler Blue
VIVA LAS VELVET: It’s going to be a busy weekend at Velvet Jones. Kicking it off on Thursday, March 23, will be Southland, a down-home blues and classic and country rock band whose endless supply of instruments and vocalists has entertained audiences for the past 10 years. Stick around afterward to see Dominic Balli. Then on Friday, things start swingin’ a little faster to the piano and guitars of returning rockers The 88. With The 88 will be Goldspot, a newer but promising band whose style lingers in the space between indie and pop. Next, Grounded takes the stage, to end the night in a fury of drums and punk. By Saturday, March 25, the music will be blasting to the rock/punk/ska anthems of The Triggers, a combination of two former Spanish rock bands who bring unrivaled energy to their shows. Following them will be The City Streets, an alt-country rock group reminiscent of bands like The Clash. Last but not least, Grounded will perform once again, finishing off the weekend in a crash of symbols. — MV
COLD SPRINGIN’: Former S.B. homeboy — and contributor to this column — Roger Len Smith returns from Austin to Santa Barbara this week to drop off a dose of his latest songwriter rock offerings and slang some of his new album, A Better Place. After a CD release party at Molly Malone’s Irish Pub in Hollywood, Smith finds a cozy seat at Cold Spring Tavern on Friday, March 24, with Claude Hopper in support at 7 p.m., and then rides the Tsunami in Montecito on Saturday, March 25, at 8 p.m.
DON’T MESS WITH VELTEXANS: If the thought of seeing three incredible S.B. bands in one night interests to you, then you’re lucky: Just make thy way to Rocks this Friday. That’s when Boise, Idaho transplants-turned-locals The Veltexans will show off their razor-sharp riffs, smart vocals, and snappy percussion that’s as tight as a virgin’s … drum. They’re in the studio finishing their debut EP, and if their recent three-song demo is any indication, the Vel-T’s are gonna rawk the house first and ask questions later. Joining them are The Hero and The Victor and Springtime Is Wartime, so set phasers to “stun,” lend a lobe, and dig this gig. — Brier Random