CHECK ONE, TWO: ‘Tis the season for great parties, ugly sweaters, and a whole lot of killer live music. As in years past, the holidays are bringing with them loads of sonic goodies, whether they be local legends heading home and plugging in or traveling acts looking to soak up SoCal’s dependably unseasonable sunshine. And this week is certainly no exception. This Saturday, December 3, New Noise Santa Barbara and Notes for Notes join forces for Holiday Sound Check. The now-annual event (which successfully took over the San Marcos Building courtyard last December) is relocating to the weather-proofed Contemporary Arts Forum for year two. They’re also inviting back headliner, party starter, and Santa Barbara dweller Martin Gore, who’s lined up to deliver a legendary deejay set. (DJ Matty Matt will open the show.)
While catching a Depeche Mode member performing at a 200-cap venue space is sure to excite most, it’s the night’s “big picture” that I’m all about plugging. This year, the Sound Check is benefiting two more-than-worthy causes: Notes for Notes’ ever-expanding youth recording studios, and the reopening of The Living Room, the soon-to-be-completed all-ages, drug- and alcohol-free venue in Santa Barbara.
“The Holiday Sound Check was such a success last year we would be crazy not to do it again,” said Notes for Notes founder and director Philip Gilley in a recent press release. And we couldn’t agree more. The second annual Holiday Sound Check kicks off this Saturday, December 3, at CAF (653 Paseo Nuevo) at 7:30 p.m. The event is 21+. Call 966-5373 or visit newnoisesb.com for tickets and event info.
UNPLUGGED: Also this week, the Indiana-born, tightly Santa Barbara-tied boys of The Ataris return to Velvet Jones (423 State St.) for an extra-special acoustic show in support of frontman Kristopher Roe’s new solo album, Hang Your Head in Hope. The record, which Roe has made available at a donation-based, pay-what-you-want price point, is also doubling as a fund-raising effort for The Ataris’ nearly completed 10th full-length, The Graveyard of the Atlantic.
As for what you can expect from these famously buoyant pop punksters in the unplugged setting, think lots of open-chord strumming and big, sometimes-guttural vocal leaps. (I’m likening it to Dashboard Confessional meets Rise Against.) Roe & Company take to the Velvet stage this Friday, December 2, at 9 p.m. For tickets and info, call 965-8676 or visit velvet-jones.com. And for a full stream of Hang Your Head in Hope, visit theataris.bandcamp.com.
GLOBE TROTTING: When the folks at Club Mercy announced they’d be bringing Laurel Canyon luminary Jonathan Wilson to town this month, my folk-lovin’ heart skipped a beat. When they tacked on opener Omar Velasco, though, I had a full-fledged freak-out. I’ve long claimed Velasco to be one of Santa Barbara’s best musical exports, but in 2011 it seems more obvious than ever. A singer/songwriter in the truest sense, he spent the better half of the year championing the DIY ethos, self-recording, producing, and releasing a stunning six-track EP, See Lion Run. Like Wilson, Velasco lays claims to one of those strong but subtle voices that radiate familiarity (even if you never can quite lay your finger on whom he truly sounds like). In turn, both men craft folk-imbued songs that incorporate elements of ’60s and ’70s rock and Southern twang, and employ visions of the natural world in ways that are both evocative and effortless. Better still, these very compatible music-makers recently took their tunes overseas, touring together and as openers for those other folk-rock icons, Wilco. This Wednesday, December 7, Wilson and Velasco take to the stage at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club (1221 State St.) for a night of sweet, haunting, and downright beautiful music-making starting at 8 p.m. Call 962-7776 or visit clubmercy.com for tickets.