Last Friday’s show at the Funzone in downtown Santa Barbara, co-headlined by indie musician Avi Buffalo and his new project Litronix, was intimate to say the least. Band and audience members alike all gathered together in the extra-room-turned-concert-space in the back of the East Beach Batting Cages, with no stage to separate the ten or so attendees from the performers. Many of the audience members were longtime Avi Buffalo fans, who were ecstatic to hear he was restarting his solo career after experiences with over-controlling managers drove him to announce that he was calling it quits. Additionally, his Santa Barbara show is the only stop on his mini-tour where he was listed to play a solo set. The concert’s small turnout only cemented its status as a memorable niche experience.
First on the bill was Santa Barbara experimental electronic musician Text Back. The event’s Facebook page described Text Back’s musical array as, “A table spread of electronic devices [that] allow him to make beat-driven soundscapes, with sampling and experimental vocals.” Ironically, his music was all prerecorded on his laptop, which he let play on a table while sitting on the floor behind it. I walked in during the middle of his set, and initially had the odd impression that the audience was just silently listening to the venue’s interim experimental ambient music, without looking at their phones or talking to each other. It took me a second to realize it was the middle of his peaceful, contemplative set. The next act, Ventura’s own Bobby Rae, strummed his guitar along to pre-recorded background tracks of his sweet, floaty brand of indie rock, despite a few technical issues with his computer that momentarily slowed down his set. “Again and Again” and “Afternoon” were some definite highlights.
Soon after, Litronix, a band who self-describes their genre of music as “danger,” took the stage. Litronix comprises of L.A. musicians Kevin Litrow on keyboards and vocals, and Avi Buffalo on guitar and keyboards as well. When their set started, almost everyone in the audience was sitting
down, which prompted Litrow’s grand statement, “Stand or sit: it is your choice!” Most people stayed sitting, because it was very comfortable. What followed was a frenetic synthesis of rich, reverberating synths, blending in with Buffalo’s guitar, which was plugged into the Audio In of a Moog synthesizer.
Litrow’s firm vocals and jerky dance moves added an ‘80s-like performance on top of their already ‘80s-like music, ranging from the hypnotizing finger-picked guitar of “Pump the Gas” to the punctuated synths of “Are You New Age?” During the latter, Litrow pointed to different members of the audience and asked non-sequitur questions, moving on before they had a chance to process them, and later mirrored their arms-spread hand movements that were meant to imitate the vastness of the keyboard sounds. Their set ended with an anecdote about a weed cookie they were given at an Oakland show earlier that day.
Avi Buffalo created an entirely different vibe for his solo set by dimming the room’s lights, so that the only illumination came from the outside and the dials of Buffalo’s Moog. He didn’t have a backing band; it was just him plucking away at his electric guitar while Litrow sang backing vocals and managed the effects pedals, while sitting cross-legged, again mirroring the audience, among the equipment.
Buffalo sang his way through fan favorites like “Summer Cum,” “What’s It In For,” and “Can’t Be Too Responsible,” where his constantly controlled energy sometimes gave way in a brief, frantic guitar solo, traversing the instrument’s neck before transferring back into his virtuosic finger picking parts. Buffalo’s guitar playing was usually just a slowed-down version of those moments of spasmodic expression, and it was fascinating to see the playing style that created his music’s inspired guitar parts. His solo set was a much calmer affair than the rest of the show, and a fitting end to such an intimate, close quarters concert.