Sometimes the most powerful memories are preserved in sounds; a single note from a familiar voice or guitar can often bring us back to places long forgotten. This was certainly the case at Velvet Jones last Wednesday, where bodies amassed for the chance to see Angels & Airwaves (AVA) on one of the opening dates of their current transcontinental tour. Fronted by former Blink 182 vocalist Tom DeLonge, the alt-rock astronauts compacted a sound lofty enough to fill a stadium into the ecstatic little room and found a welcoming response in kind.
With new material in hand from their fourth studio effort, Love, Part 2, the performance rather appropriately marked their first return to S.B. since the premiere of William Eubanks’s Love at last year’s Santa Barbara International Film Fest — a sprawling sci-fi drama that features an original score by AVA. “Cinematic” is most certainly a word that describes the quartet’s sound; awash with sweeping strings, reverbed-out guitars, and charging percussion, new songs like “Dry Your Eyes” and set-opener “Saturday Love” rekindled the same sense of longing as previous records while exploring new tones and textures. For their part, the crowd was all for a trip down memory lane, as voices readily filled the spaces left by DeLonge and crew, like the climactic coda of their original single, “The Adventure.”
Eventually, the tunes were put on hold as DeLonge paused to give a shout-out to Goleta punk staples Lagwagon, with whom he shared one of his first tours, and to speak a bit about S.B. and his former projects. “A lot of people ask me, ‘Is Box Car Racer ever going to do another show?’” he said, incurring a wave of screams at the mention of his still-beloved (and now-defunct) post-hardcore outfit. “Well, this is Box Car Racer. This is the continuation.” With that, he launched into a cover of Boxcar’s “There Is” before following up with “Hallucinations” and “Secret Crowds” to conclude the set. Given the consoling, memory-obsessed nature of DeLonge’s lyrics, it’s not hard to see how AVA’s music forms a conscious timeline.