WHO KNEW? We may only be five weeks in, but I’m already dubbing 2014 the Year of Surprises — at least as far as area music geeking is concerned. Despite the all-encompassing swell of Santa Barbara International Film Festival events, these first few weeks of the New Year have brought some pretty epic little glimmers of creativity to town, and more often than not, they’ve manifested in unlikely places. Case in point: last weekend’s happenings in Isla Vista Theater, where Santa Barbara’s own Jimmy Tamborello (Dntel, The Postal Service) took the stage at a sparsely attended lecture hall and spun over an hour of beautifully weird electronic music as part of the Magic Lantern film series. Backed by Hiroshi Teshigahara’s stunning documentary about architect and visionary Antonio Gaudí, Tamborello successfully transported attendees to a psychedelic version of 1980s Spain, complete with a soothingly tripped-out soundtrack. The result was a night that felt, looked, and sounded like the kind of cultural event only afforded to big-city dwellers — at a price tag that could have never existed anywhere else.
It stands to mention that Magic Lantern is now two for two in the off-kilter “concert booking” department: Last month’s practically private Dub Thompson show was one of the better, stranger live music moments I’ve experienced in the last six months and provided the few in attendance with an abrasively loud and wonderfully whacked-out sneak peek of a band that is destined to blow up in 2014.
On that note, Isla Vista as a whole has been a bit of a hotbed of late. Whether you count the recent of Montreal concert (and the upcoming and sold-out Childish Gambino show) at UCSB’s Hub, or Matt Kivel’s stark and striking turn at the Biko Co-op Garage a few weeks back, it seems the college and college-adjacent set are on a roll. Meanwhile, I’m relearning the joys of dodging bicycle-bound coeds in the dark.
For more on Magic Lantern’s goings-on, visit facebook.com/MagicLanternFilmsIV. For the Biko Co-op’s concert calendar, visit sbdiy.org.
SAVE THE DATES: Speaking of sneak attacks, next Friday, February 21, Portland rockers The Thermals make a quasi-impromptu appearance at Velvet Jones (423 State St.) with Los Angeles psych act Colleen Green. Since forming in 2002, The Thermals have ingratiated themselves to fans worldwide thanks to a potent and riff-filled mix of lo-fi guitar rock and wonderfully chantable lyricism. (Think The Hold Steady, minus all the whiskey drinking.) Need more coaxing? Frontman and multi-instrumentalist Hutch Harris is a slight but impressively energetic force onstage; bassist Kathy Foster boasts one of the most epic set of locks rock ’n’ roll has to offer; and Colleen Green makes the kind of quietly chugging dream pop that feels as if it’s constantly on the verge of exploding. The show starts at 9:30 p.m. Call (805) 965-8676 or visit clubmercy.com for tickets and info.
This week, your best bet seems to be the Saturday, February 15, triple-header at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club (1221 State St.), featuring New Politics, Sleeper Agent, and Magic Man. If you’ve had an ear to the area radio dial of late, you’ve likely heard New Politics’ “Harlem,” a jumpy, jerky, and oh-so-hooky pop-rock jam that’s brimming with big drums, group chants, and an ear-imbedding chorus. In other words, bring your dancing shoes … and maybe an extra set of earplugs. The show starts at 9:30 p.m. Call (805) 962-7776 or visit clubmercy.com for tickets.