NEVER MIND THE CONFETTI: As a diehard concertgoer, one might think that I live for big, crazy crowds of people. Not so. The truth of the matter is that I’m willing to tolerate large, swarming groups of sweaty humans if and only if there’s some sort of auditory reward sealed into the deal. Needless to say, when it comes time for Fiesta, I can usually be found holed up at home, lodging an aggressive weeklong fight against the Confetti Monster.
Agoraphobic tendencies aside, though, this annual celebration of horses, flowy skirts, and tequila somehow still manages to lure me out at least once a year, and the reason is two-fold. One: My love of street tacos rivals my love of Bowie — and my love of Bowie is strong. Two: It’s the one week out of the year where literally every musician in town in playing a gig and, well, I’m prone to guilt. So, it is with this laundry list of caveats in mind that I decided to draft up a short but sweet guide to the Fiesta tunes that won’t disappoint. ‘Cuz if you’re going to brave the cascarone-wielding masses, there better be a good band (and maybe a cold beer) waiting for ya.
SPENCER THE GARDENER: Okay, okay. For all you locals, this one is kind of a no-brainer. (In fact, most of you probably caught him at De la Guerra Plaza Wednesday night.) But for the newbies, Spencer’s Fiesta sets are about as iconic as the tamales at Our Lady of Guadalupe. And for good reason. His big band, Latin-tinged, Cali-bred surf rock is the stuff parties are made of. This Saturday, August 2, he’ll be joined by a solid selection of S.B.’s music-making elite, including trumpeter Nate Birkey, drummer Tom Lackner, and guitarist Rob Taylor (among many others). The band hits the stage at De la Guerra Plaza at 8:30 p.m.
THE FIRE DEPARTMENT: These UCSB grads cut their teeth on the streets of Isla Vista, which tells me that they’re no strangers to Fiesta-level craziness. It also insures that they know how to keep the party vibes flowing. The Fire Department’s sound is a potent mix of funk, rock, and toe-tapping radio pop — but without all the bad dubstep thrown in. The result: a group of young kids who understand that doin’ it old-school (live musicians, big vocals, no backing tracks) is still the way into an audience’s heart. They play at Casa de la Guerra on Friday, August 1, at 8 p.m.
GALVANIZED SOULS: This weekend, MacKenzie Park’s Mercado del Norte is teeming with youth bands (literally), but Ventura’s Galvanized Souls certainly deserve a special shout-out. Since the quartet took home top prize in Santa Barbara’s Youth Battle of the Bands earlier this year, they’ve been on the receiving end of all manner of national attention (and scored a spot at the Warped Tour to boot). Their sound is an oddly large thing that reads a little bit Blink-182, a little bit Alice in Chains, and onstage, they are as fully formed as any “youth band” I’ve seen. (Truthfully, they’re more fully formed than most “adult bands” I’ve seen.) The guys close out the weekend on Saturday, August 2, at 9:45 at MacKenzie Park.
For a full list of live music taking place during Old Spanish Days, visit oldspanishdays-fiesta.org.