2010 Santa Barbara Band Guide

Downtown Sound Kicks Off with a Whole Bunch of Music Making

Welcome, music fans. For version 4.0 of our annual Santa Barbara Band Guide, we’re switching things up a little, giving you a lengthy (and certainly incomplete) list of S.B. music makers – as well as some gems we spotted lying just beyond county borders. In the following pages, you’ll find a neat little list of up-and-coming artists, long-standing collectives, and everything in between, as well as a few fresh faces we think have what it takes to make it big.

Band Spotlight:

Alixandra Macmillan-Fiedel

If you’re prone to look for what’s next in music, chances are you’re going to want to keep your eye on Alixandra Macmillan-Fiedel.


As their opening slot at last month’s Wavves show proved – and our bands team enthusiastically reaffirmed – Birdfeeder are Ventura’s newest ones to watch.


If you’re in the mood for something to groove to, look no further than Wetlands.

Gardens and Villa

Funky bass chords, loads of synth, a handful of flute flourishes, and an anything-goes attitude have situated Gardens and Villa in a somewhat indefinable genre.

In addition, we’ve strewn these handy little symbols (★) throughout it all to indicate the other stellar acts we think you should check out for yourself.

Still want more? Head on over to, where you can find profiles, music, links, and upcoming gigs for all the artists we’ve listed here, as well as the first round of our Downtown Sound Competition. It’s there, from now to midnight on Monday, October 4, that you can log on and vote for your favorite musicians. And when the polls close, we’ll tally the scores and give the top eight winners a chance to compete live for the prize package of a lifetime: pro recording time, $6,500 worth of gear, and a spot on this year’s New Noise music fest lineup.

So what are you waiting for? Dig in, listen up, and ENJOY!

Alastair Greene Band
Guitarists should take notes from this Santa Barbara axeman, who puts the gruff and soulful back into blues rock, especially on the ZZ Top-ish number “Cut You Loose.”

Angelo Meatcraft
Funky bass, whimsical guitar, and a hint of bluegrass is what’s behind this self-described “steamreggafunkagrassjam” band.

Anthony Prieto Band
Backed by his nine-piece band, who come equipped with congas and plenty of sax, Prieto’s smooth vocals help create plenty of infectious Latin grooves.

★ Area 51
Not just another cover band, Area 51 possess a fun and enthusiastic Funky Town revivalism that allows them to explore everything from Aretha to Kool and the Gang.

Musically speaking, this San Luis-based hard-rock band employs creative drum and guitar arrangements that will have you thinking you are listening to a different band every time the song changes.

Back Pocket
Intrepid female vocals with prominent acoustic roots allow this trio to bring a dash of soul to folk music.

Bela Lugosi
The punk attitude and classical music backgrounds of Misha Bodnar and his wife, Ingrid, give rise to a provocative and undeniably original sound.

This turbo-charged outfit employs raspy screams and incessant drumming to give new definition to the term “speed metal.”

Big Jugs
Lewd and suggestive lyrics add a noteworthy comical element to this band’s catchy bluegrass twang.

★ Black Judah
Topping Jamaican music charts with their hit “Mercy Please,” Dylan Judah and Sugar Black team up to create a fast-paced reggae sound with surprisingly motivational lyrics.

Black Toad
Scratchy guitar riffs, mesmerizing drum sequences, and elusive keys make up this four-piece fusion of hard-rock and jam-band psychedelia.

Boombox Orchestra
Part Parliament-style funk, part old-school hip-hop revivalists, these I.V.-born multi-instrumentalists know how to bring the party.

Bossa Blue
The brainchild of guitarist Michael Petracca and flutist Carmen Kuchera, Bossa Blue creates bluesy swing with a jazzy flare all its own.

Bruce Goldish
Goldish mixes the warm and calming feelings of classic acoustic fingerwork with a splash of the fast-paced, percussive style of Spanish guitar.

Bubbling Dead
Self-deprecating lyrics and a grungy sound find this band walking the line between metal and gruff alternative rock.

Built on Decay
These guys reek of male aggression, thanks to ultra-intense guitar playing and scream-it-like-you-mean-it vocals. Look out for a new album in the coming months.

★ Burning Giraffe
Inventive lyrics combine with the seminal licks of early-’70s psych rock to create a sound much larger than your average two-piece.

Songs that brim with tales of lust and longing make us think these lovelorn boys have mixed just the right amount of emo into their pop-rock sound.

Cat OK
This trio gives off a ’90s progressive-meets-alt-rock feel with their own mid-tempo sound, complete with string and some beautiful guitar soloing.

Christina Grimm
Powerful and smooth vocals in tandem with shrewd narrative lyrics convey Grimm’s perfect blend of blues-infused guitar and folk structures.

Cleo Lynx
Lynx’s rustic folk style shines through on songs like “Pierced So Deep,” an intimate tale of affection that’s backed by a bevy of lush strings.

★ Coral Sea
Rey Villalobos heads this sometimes-solo, sometimes-full-band indie-rock project that moves from quiet lovelorn balladry to delicately upbeat folk-pop.

These Santa Barbara reggae makers may be playing less frequently than they used to, but they can still bring the good vibes with their modern roots sounds.

Crying 4 Kafka
Grainy guitars, kickin’ drums, and a nonchalant punk attitude prove the perfect recipe for this group’s progressive post-punk style. Must listen: the rim-click-filled “Ain’t Always Paradise.”

This eight-piece collective thrives on traditional Irish sounds, but dabbles in the fast-paced and uninhibited on songs like “Sporting Patty” and “Hobart’s Transformation.”

Dante Elephante
A Craigslist-formed band whose use of unabashed alt-pop arrangements and swift fingerpicking guitar sequences give some clue to their influences, which include Wilco and Radiohead.

Dark Lights
Founding Dishwalla member George Pendergast mans the kit in this sometimes-melodic, sometimes-hard-rock trio.

★ Dave Gleason
A hybrid of country and rock emphasizes the restless spirit and capitalizes on Gleason’s soulful deliveries.

Debra Farris Band
Sometimes-funky, sometimes-bluesy guitar work takes a comfortable backseat to Farris’s soulful deliveries, which call to mind Melissa Etheridge at some points, Tracy Chapman at others.

Guitar-driven numbers “I Can’t See” and “Get On with My Life” embody the gruff and heavy sound of this straightforward four-man hard-rock show.

★ Dominic Balli
Uplifting lyrics proclaiming “All we need is love” provide the icing on this already delicious musical cake. Balli’s use of driving hip-hop beats and reggae-infused guitar and bass make for an inspirational and catchy sound.

Donna Greene & the Roadhouse Daddies
Greene and her Daddies dish up blues that evoke the Greenwich Village nightclub scene of the 1930s.

DP Fresh
Feel-good vibes surround this group’s rootsy sound and raw lyrical style.

Eduardo Aispuro
An alt-country feel that culminates in distorted electric-guitar tones. For a taste, check out the track “Don’t Go.”

False Puppet
Do not be fooled by these Puppets’ youth; this trio makes up for what they lack in age with heavy drowning bass and an impressively in-your-face, punk-tinged lyrical style.

Flint Westrock and Friends
With a sophomore album (Heaven ’n’ Earth) in the works, Westrock delivers simple lovelorn country numbers.

★ Franklin for Short
These Ventura natives craft heartfelt songs filled with enough genuine honesty and catchy melodies to set them heads above their indie-rock contemporaries.

Goleta’s resident fusion rockers dish up a hearty helping of positive vibes, shared vocals, and funky beats à la Jason Mraz or Jack Johnson.

Haddon Cord
At just 17, this Idaho transplant is drawing inspiration from Miley Cyrus and Sheryl Crow, with big, sultry, countrified arrangements.

★ Headless Household
A jazz institution of sorts, these S.B. experimentalists have been going strong for more than 20 years and are currently riding high on the recent release of their best effort to date, the double-disc Basemento.

Heart of the Void
Their new self-titled album showcases a metalcore style that ignores genre fads and highlight instrumental skills, creating a hard-hitting fusion of melodic metal and hardcore punk.

Hero and the Victor
These longtime Santa Barbara rockers may draw comparisons to big-namers like Modest Mouse and Television, but truth is, their aggressive axe work and Afrobeat-tinged grooves are a creation all their own.

★ Holdfast Rifle Company
Ralph Lowi spearheads this S.B.-born country outfit, which dishes out some of the most achingly haunting honky-tonk and Johnny Cash-style croons we’ve heard of late.

Honeysuckle Possums
Five all-female players join forces to create this original bluegrass collective. The harmonies sparkle and the instrumentation reminds us of deep-South livin’ circa 1939.

Howlin’ Woods
This group’s mix of blues-rock and soulful vocals shines through on tracks like “Students of Life,” a seven-minute ballad where frontman Jordan Chetakian’s soothing voice mixes with earnest, folksy arrangements.

★ Idea the Artist
Santa Ynez native Ines Beltranena proves a crusader for singer/songwriters everywhere with her free-flowing, powerful vocals and piano-driven ruminations on life, love, and creating.

This almost un-Googleable entity plays rock that’s part Meteors-style surf, part Best Coast-esque lo-fi.

The Iration success story started simply enough, with the band playing in and around the I.V. party keg. Nowadays, though, these reggae rockers are living large on Pepper’s Law Records label and touring the country on behalf of their latest, Time Bomb.

Iron Curtain
Originally formed in the early ’80s, band founder Steve Fields reemerges with a half-new cast of musicians, playing the same shadowy, synth-infused sounds of their heyday.

For Ize, it’s all about the organic, reggae-infused hip-hop; material that’s light on the beats, heavy on the positive vibes.

James Johnson
Johnson does it all, from reggae-inspired piano numbers like “Summertime in December” to the guitar-driven “Glass Factor Nine,” evoking a classic-meets-alternative-rock sound.

Jaret Campisi
Inspired by strumming masters like Jack Johnson and Dave Matthews, Campisi gives us a refreshing twist on typical acoustic rock, thanks in large part to his candid lyrical style.

Jazz Project
Sax man Justin Claveria’s Jazz Project is just that, an experimental melding of intensity, precision, and dance floor-ready tunes.

Jeffrey Bretz
This singer/songwriter offers acoustic and electric covers of slow-grooving classics, ’80s rock-outs, and Spanish-language tunes.

Jon Francis
Carp’s resident Latin-music aficionado specializes (and shreds) the flamenco guitar, but his recent release, A Night in Madrid, is much more, chockful of percussion, flutes, and visions of faraway lands.

Josh Mogck
Simple lyrics take you on a ride through deliberate guitar parts and a funky percussive-driven backbeat.

June Recovery
With a slew of new recordings, this trio professes an honest and full sound that draws from an amalgamation of genres, including funk, jazz, and good ol’ rock ’n’ roll.

★ Kimoya
Breezy, lovelorn lyrics and stripped-down acoustic guitar lines typify James Moya’s singer/songwriter fare.

★ Kyle Nicolaides
The one-time Martyrs frontman goes it alone, but continues to churn out the distortion-heavy tunes and soulful speak/sing deliveries. Think Entrance Band meets the Strokes.

★ Lee Koch & the Grinders
Ventura blues rocker Lee Koch knows his way around the guitar/harmonica combo and is gaining quite the reputation, thanks to some seriously catchy tunes and the help of his twangy backing band, the Grinders.

Legends of Skate
These Summerland dwellers mix a raw lyrical style with minimal guitars to create a restrained rock sound reminiscent of ’60s folk troubadours.

Leslie Lembo
Backed by a full band, Lembo shines through with powerful and expressive performances that demonstrate her impressive vocal range.

Lonesome Dub
A seven-piece collective whose vibrant throwback to reggae’s roots reflect a fusion of Sublime-style ska and classic blues guitar.

Loomis & the Lust
This retro-minded pop band makes use of catchy lyrics and melodious power chords to create memorable pop hooks. Want a taste? Check out “A.D.D.”

Mac Talley Trip
Speak/sing vocals and shoegazey guitars abound in Mac Talley’s Wilco-meets-Pavement-style meanderings.

Margie Nelson Jazz Group
With more than 10 years of vocal experience, Nelson performs alongside wailing saxophones, bluesy guitars, and plenty of piano to create a classic sultry sound.

Mike Lopez Band
Santa Barbara-born, Oceano-bred Mike Lopez embraces his twangy, countrified influences with open arms (and chords) on tracks like “Rodeo Cowboys.”

Montecito Jazz Project
As the name states, smooth foot-tapping jazz is what you get from this troupe, whose “Tico Tico” includes a foray into Spanish stylings.

Morganfield Burnett & Da Blues
Santa Barbara’s resident blues and R&B providers are all about the smooth grooves and can nail a mean cover to boot.

Guy-girl vocals and classic Americana structures mark this earnest, indie-minded S.B. three-piece.

Natalie D-Napoleon
Perth-born Napoleon mixes brazen lyricism with a honey-like country inflection to create songs that call to mind players like Alison Krauss and Gillian Welch.

Nicola Gordon
Delicate acoustic guitar lines and pointed lyrics mark this longtime S.B. songstress’s folksy catalogue.

One Eyed Willie
This recently formed Santa Barbara four-piece wears their ’80s love on their sleeves.

Orlando Napier Band
Sax, keys, and laidback percussion helps backup this S.B. crooner, who manages to straddle that fine line between Jason Mraz and Jamie Cullum.

★ Paper Swords
On debut album Wax Moon, Wane, these five indie rockers make their presence known with a respectful nod to baroque pop wizards like Sufjan Stevens.

Paull E. Rubin
Regarded as a fundamental player in some of the best jam bands in the tri-county area, Rubin leads the way with accentuated guitar licks and deep, punctuated bass lines.

Phantom Pomps
Pussy Fonatine (drums, vocals) and the Cap’n (guitar, vocals) team up to create accessible guitar riffs and a clean sound reminiscent of psychobilly greats like The Cramps.

This Santa Barbara-based lyricist has mastered the art of intellectual hip-hop, throwing down rhymes and beats that are as smart as they are fast-flowing.

Headed by the harmonious combination of four lead vocalists, Pie delivers a unique take on classic rock favorites.

★ Quiet Giants
Abby Rickertsen provides the vocals for this S.B.-based four-piece that’s part alt-rock, part indie folk, and all good listenin’.

The solo project of guitarist/singer Troy Coulon, Rash is heavy on the power chords, and chockful of low, speak/sing vocals.

★ Ray Fortune
Taking cues from greats like Tom Waits and Jim James, Fortune delivers deeply personal, delicately orchestrated folk that’s twangy one moment, starkly simplified the next.

★ Rebelution
Santa Barbara’s resident reggae rock superstars may spend most of their time on the road, but these UCSB-bred dub lovers still spout the local love loudly and proudly.

Richard Wahd Trio
Funky bass lines fuel this upbeat pop-rock act, which features plenty of chugging guitar, bass, and drum work.

★ Rising Son
These Ventura-born reggae makers specialize and succeed in crafting authentic, heartfelt roots tunes and have even played alongside greats like Lee “Scratch” Perry.

Robert Steffen
A wellspring of spacious, acoustic-tinged folk-pop that combines with Steffen’s bright growl of a voice to create something special.

Rusty Lindsey Band
Lindsey’s Southern roots run deep on tracks like “Let You Down”; the perfect example of his gruff vocals and bluesy guitar picking.

Salt Martians Bluegrass Band
Tupelo Junction’s house band is more than just a sonic accompaniment to your shrimp ’n’ grits; they’re churning out authentic bluegrass jams like true Southern gentlemen.

Sean McCue
Propelled by his acoustic roots, McCue gives new definition to the singer/songwriter shtick, thanks to undeniably honest vocals and top-notch guitar compositions.

Senior Year
Word on the Facebook street is that this beloved, quasi-dormant cover outfit will be back in full swing sometime soon. Fingers are crossed for some big-band Lady Gaga numbers.

Seth Pettersen & the Undertow
A near-perfect mish-mash of jangly, Beach Boys-inspired progressions and Harry Nilsson-esque vocal leaps that’s as catchy as it is nostaligic.

Josh Misery’s screamo vocals demand your undivided attention, while bassist Bob Dickson and drummer Ethan Graton provide the necessary, swirling rhythmic accompaniment.

Shepherd’s Pie
This group will have just about anyone busting into an Irish jig with their mix of fiddles, mandolins, and guitars.

Silent Meow
Fast-paced, in-your-face punk style, with just the right amount of aggression, this band will make you want to beeline for the circle pit with tracks like “Moral Police.”

Skip James and Project 41
This Los Osos five-piece takes its cues from rock greats like ZZ Top and the Doobie Brothers, churning out top-down, breezy classic rock.

You would never be able to tell that this metal quartet just got together earlier this year with the amount of melodic chemistry they have on their hard-hitting and explosive single “Take a Ride.”

So What Kombo
A six-piece jazz collective that’s willing to travel, So What mixes bossa nova and blues standards with something decidedly funky.

★ Soul City Survivors
Their name says it all; they have enough soul for the whole city of Santa Barbara. Soulful renditions of classics like Creedence Clearwater’s “Proud Mary” have enough big-band horns to make it all sound super uplifting.

Soul Mates
These ambitious youngsters (under the watch of some skilled elders) are churning out ’60s soul that would make Mom and Dad (and Grandma and Grandpa) proud.

★ Spencer the Gardener
Whether it’s classic covers or Latin-flavored originals, onstage at Fiesta or jammin’ at a backyard bash, Spencer continues to bring the party, one groovy guitar line at a time.

★ Spires
This beloved Ventura-bred duo-turned-three-piece excels at churning out short, sweet, distortion-filled pop rock, à la a breezier Pavement or a stripped-down Belle and Sebastian.

★ Springtime Is Wartime
Unconventional epicness from one of Santa Barbara’s longest-standing experimental acts. Brothers Josh and Tim Eymann lead the charge in this delightfully off-kilter math-rock trio.

These Santa Barbara fusion rockers are not afraid to give credit where credit is due, namedropping and paying a solid homage to blues greats like T. Bone Walker and B.B. King, even as they cover classics like “Turn on Your Love Light.”

This spinoff from four fledging bands closely resembles the classic rock greats before them. This high-energy cover band will have everyone “doin’ a little dance.”

★ Tall Tales & the Silver Lining
Like past albums, Tall Tales’ recently released Fall In is brimming with folksy meanderings, each tied together by frontman Trevor Beld-Jimenez’s warm, thoughtful lyrics.

Ted Hoagland
Veteran Santa Barbara singer/songwriter graces us with his signature sound, composed of blues, country, and funk-rock elements.

Piano-driven indie pop meets slick rock ’n’ roll deliveries when these Santa Barbara locals take the stage. Frontwoman Sarah Corum might just be S.B.’s answer to female powerhouses like Vanessa Carlton and Sarah McLachlan.

★ Todd Hannigan & the Heavy 29’s
This Ventura surfer-turned-singer is a far cry from Jack J. And his “Thicker” is a beautiful folkish number that showcases some seriously haunting vocals.

★ Tommy & the High Pilots
Fresh-faced frontman Tommy Cantillon can hit the high notes, and we get them aplenty — along with soaring guitars and sparklingly crisp drum work — on the band’s soon-to-be-released offering American Riviera.

With the upcoming release of their second studio album, these rockers produce a growling, resonant, pure rock sound.

Two Headed Boy
Don’t be fooled by their name, because there ain’t very much Neutral Milk Hotel in Two Headed Boy’s tunes. Instead, we get buoyant, catchy indie pop à la Rooney or The Format.

Verna Beware
If you like your music loud, look no further. Crunching guitars, hard-hitting drums, and rockin’ vocals make songs like “Hour of the Wolf” the quintessential headbanger’s ball.

Vienna Boa
One-time New Yorker brings her trippy neo-new wave tunes to the Left Coast. Think Roxette meets Ziggy Stardust.

Vincent Zorn
A refreshing blend of rumba and flamenco marks this highly contagious, acoustic-driven form of contemporary gypsy music.

Waiting Around to Die
Distortion-filled riffs and languid vocals are just part of these shoegazers’ introspective, Joy Division-inspired project.

★ Watercolor Paintings
Goleta-bred twee pop from two of the Santa Barbara scene’s biggest champions. Bro and sis Josh and Rebecca Redman craft lo-fi ditties on uke and harp that are as poignant as they are precious.

Wil Ridge
This Santa Ynez singer/songwriter may sound a hell of a lot like Dylan, but once you get past the gruff vocals, you’ll find the whiskey-soaked Americana that’s all Ridge’s own.

Winchester Rebels
A mix of fist-pump-worthy guitar riffs and big, ballady vocals that call to mind Muse one moment and Stone Temple Pilots the next.

★ Windmill Vandals
Never mind that these four rockers aren’t yet out of high school — their hook-filled, White Stripes-esque tunes have already made the big-time, with guest spots on TV shows like 90210 and Entourage.

Wrong Again
Never mind their name, Wrong Again is everything that’s right about jam bands: earnest lyrics, spiraling guitars, and groovy bass licks.

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