A year ago, Omar Velasco and his music-making friends banded together to help offset the medical costs for a friend in the midst of an intense family tragedy. Calling it Omar Velasco’s Festival of Friends, the good-hearted get-together was a spirit-raising affair with lush rock and introspective folk. This year, there are new reasons to give and, as such, new reasons to play, and the Friends are all back in town. Tonight on Thursday, December 22, Omar Velasco and the Mother Tongues will be joined by Nate Salman (of Waterstrider), Sierra Reeves, Jeremy Reineck (of Wetlands), and more.
Originally slated as a benefit for Standing Rock, the all-ages festival will now help out Totem Santa Barbara, a seasonal arts-based leadership program for teens. “It’s really important — that’s where it all starts,” Velasco said of those fruitfully visionary teenage years. In fact, this year, Velasco found himself reminiscing about his own childhood and intends to manifest those memories in the form of a new EP, a follow-up to 2015’s excellent and underrated Golden Child. Sung entirely in Spanish — his first tongue and “something of an origin for me” — the EP has been a creative invitation from the cosmos for Velasco to explore his own upbringing. “I’m in my early thirties, and it may be a thing that happens to you when you kind of want to tie back to the beginning, to reconnect with a sort of innocence you feel you’ve lost and bringing that back.”
With a roster of S.B.-grown, L.A.-stationed acts, the cheerful holiday event will be a way for Velasco and friends to reconnect to their regional roots. “They’re all so talented, and I love what they’re doing,” Velasco said of his fellow players. “This is a good reason to come together and make some music for the hometown. It’s pretty important for me to keep that connection through the years, and hopefully it will continue to grow.”
Omar Velasco’s Second Annual Festival of Friends is Thursday, December 22, 8 p.m., at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club (1221 State St.). Call (805) 962-7776 or see sohosb.com.