Preservation Party

by Josef Woodard

Preservation Hall Jazz Band (PHJB) soirée at the
Lobero Theatre promises to be a venue-related symbiotic love fest.
The Lobero is the most beloved and historic of Santa Barbara’s
theaters (its roots extend back to the late 19th century). The
PHJB’s home venue is historic on multiple fronts. The Hall itself
is a rustic fixer-upper in New Orleans’s fabled French Quarter, a
structure dating back to the early 19th century.

In 1961, trad jazz lover and tuba player Allan
and his wife, Sandra, turned the place into a band
HQ, dedicated to preserving the traditional jazz style of the early
20th century, the idiomatic source from which jazz grew and became
America’s greatest indigenous art form. The band itself has passed
through Santa Barbara countless times on their summer tours out
west, but this time around, in the acoustically welcoming space of
the Lobero, is special.

This year, the band is working in the wake of Katrina, finding
more gigs and open ears, but is also stinging from its city’s
ongoing travails. Preservation Hall itself suffered only slight
physical damage, but the crimped tourist flow and dislodged
cultural identity is a hurting thing. Musically, the song remains
the same, but five members lost their homes and now live elsewhere,
and leader-bassist Ben Jaffe (Allan’s son) has
formed a fund to support Crescent City musicians.

This is a fine time to revisit the band’s joyous and deep-veined
musical message, and in a happy old musical home.

Radiohead really play at the Santa Barbara Bowl
four years ago, or was that just a blissful dream that several
thousand of us had, still reeling from the memory thereof? It was
the season before they completed their most recent album, Hail
to the Thief
, and all agreed that our Bowl was an ideal spot
to absorb their epic/ambient sound. We continue wishing they’ll
stop here again, but the band — after hatching families and tiring
of the Big Road Warrior Rock Band drill — has moved to larger
venues and more compact tours.

They’re still one of the only bands that matter, whether or not
they’re riding the wave of a new album, which they weren’t on their
recent tour. They did play a number of new songs from a
work-in-progress, and the prospects sound bright. (Meanwhile,
Thom Yorke has released a solo album.) Radiohead
is well worth driving a distance for, even to San Diego, where they
played last week in the evocative waterfront setting of the
Embarcadero Marina. (At one point in the show, Yorke jokingly
hollered, “Hey you, in those boats — did you pay?”)

They opened with the beguiling hit “There There” — with its
delayed snare drum gratification — and ran through a hypnotic
parade of songs new and old. We also got impressionistic interludes
and codas, like the lingering loops after “Everything in Its Right

Some have called Radiohead a latter-day extension of Pink Floyd,
which makes some sense. But the band outta Oxford is less
sentimental, and more sophisticated in its musical explorations,
inspiring attention from observers normally indifferent about rock
— like the New Yorker’s astute classical critic Alex Ross,
who brilliantly profiled the band a few years back. They’re happy
to experiment with odd meters, oblique lyrics and textures, and
chords you never find in the rock ’n’ roll bible. That’s partly why
we love them. Plus, they rock live, and they sound like your

Amphitheater, at the Los Angeles premiere of Leonard Cohen: I’m
Your Man
(fab film: don’t miss it), Leonard
issued some Cohen-esque humor and humility onstage:
“I’m going to the green room to get a drink, to fortify myself for
the inevitable moral pneumonia following a blizzard of praise.”
(Got e?


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