There’s a reason we call it the Historic Lobero Theatre. The 140-year-old venue, which spent the better part of last year getting a $6.25 million facelift, is considered one of the best concert spaces on the West Coast. With a modest 600 seats, it’s housed its fair share of big-name rock acts, from Jackson Browne and David Crosby to The Avett Brothers and the Smashing Pumpkins. Like our beloved Santa Barbara Bowl, it’s a venue that means more than its capacity numbers — it’s a place to which musicians want to return.
In that regard, it makes sense that the Lobero rarely hosts nights devoted to Santa Barbara bands. Between its seasonal series obligations and the high demand from touring artists, the Lobero’s stage remains a sort of Holy Grail for 805 players, a stage that young musicians aspire to conquer.
And this weekend, six Santa Barbara acts are going to make that grand ascent. The occasion: Americana Alive, a night-long, festival-style concert meant to highlight and celebrate the richness of the S.B. folk rock scene. Spearheaded by area acts Erland and Doublewide Kings, Americana Alive’s bill is boasting sets from Omar Velasco, The Kinds, Bear Erickson, and Haddon Cord, as well as music video screenings and nonprofit partnerships with both Santa Barbara Channelkeeper and Blue Ocean Sciences. And, according to Erland frontman Erland Wanberg, it’s all about uniting around the music.
“It’s definitely something that’s programmed by the artists to bring the scene together,” he said of Americana Alive’s creation. “We’re all friends with each other, and we figured to get together for one big night, it was worth it to try and do something new and big, to go for the Lobero.”
Thanks in large part to the long-running Sings Like Hell series, the Lobero has become a mecca of sorts for folk and alt-country music, and Sunday’s lineup is a great testament to the genre’s growing muscle here at home. Since forming in 2011, Erland has nicely straddled the line between pastoral folk rock and toe-tapping pop, mixing dusty ballads with the kind of upbeat, open-road anthems that California’s folk rock scene was built on. In recent years, the guys (named Wanberg, bassist Mike Mooneyham, guitarist Marko Srdanov, and drummer Nate Keezer) have embarked on multiple U.S. tours, as well as self-funded and self-released a debut album, 2013’s shimmering On Our Side.
As for Velasco, the onetime S.B. staple now calls L.A. home but still holds a dear place in our hearts. In recent months, the singer, songwriter, and touring guitarist for Jonathan Wilson’s band has been hard at work on his long-awaited debut, which is now in the final stages. Produced by Wilson and loosely inspired by the music and people Velasco has encountered over the past three years, the forthcoming record is both infectious and introspective, calling to mind AM radio staples, as well as the countrified rock of Jackson Browne’s early catalog.
Elsewhere in the night, The Kinds and Cord will hold it down for the ladies, thanks to two wonderfully divergent and equally mighty guitar-toting female voices. Meanwhile, Doublewide Kings play a strand of Americana that lies close to the canon; the band cites The Allman Brothers and Van Morrison as kindred spirits. But it’s Erickson who’s acting as the evening’s glue. A multi-instrumentalist and Santa Ynez–bound production wizard, he’s worked with almost all the acts on the bill, and the chance to see him on a stage as illustrious as the Lobero’s seems both extraordinary and long overdue.
But, then again, maybe that’s the point.
Americana Alive kicks off at the Lobero Theatre (33 E. Canon Perdido St.) on Sunday, July 13, at 6 p.m. For tickets and info, call 963-0761 or visit lobero.com.