PARTY MONSTER: Following last year’s Fiesta debacle in front of Tonic-and the recent waterfront melee that occurred during this year’s Fourth of July festivities-I will be the first to say that I look forward to this weekend with about as much excitement as I do trepidation. That’s not to get all Debbie Downer on the joys of public celebrations, though. In fact, there are parts of the yearly Fiesta chaos that I downright enjoy: the confetti that sticks to the recessed corners of my house for months after the party has subsided; the street fair-style food-a-palooza; the live entertainment that stretches all day long and doesn’t demand a $30 cover charge. And with pre-, post-, and mid-Fiesta music being provided at multiple venues by a collection of Santa Barbara staples, this year’s line-up is giving even the most anti-Fiesta of residents reason to stick around and even (gasp) leave the house sometime this week.
In case you missed it, Spencer the Gardner (spencerthegardener.com) got things rolling last night with an officially unofficial Fiesta Kick-Off Party at Casa de la Guerra, aka “The Casa Cantina.” And for those of you who are vowing to keep the shenanigans to a weekend-only minimum, don’t fret. Spencer and his crew will be back for encore performances on Friday, August 1, at Mackenzie Park (at the corner of Las Positas and State streets) as part of the post-parade festivities at Mercado Del Norte. The jams start at 5 p.m. He’ll also take to the main Fiesta stage at De la Guerra Plaza proper on Saturday, August 2, at 9 p.m.
And in between all the dancing, awards ceremonies, and miscellany entertainment, there are plenty of community-centric (and Fiesta certified) sonic highlights being sprinkled into this year’s lineups. On Thursday, July 31, at Mercado del Norte, you can catch a glimpse of acts ranging from the authentic (Fuego Gitano, Alma de Mexico) to the kitschy (I Want My ’80s) to the familiar (Calisis, Area 51). And if you’re looking to get your salsa on before heading out on the customary Fiesta bar crawl, the entertainment at Casa de la Guerra on Thursday night is nothing to be scoffed at. Starting at 5 p.m., the outdoor plaza will host back-to-back sets from Vientos del Sur, Los Higuere±os, Banda Agavena, and Conjunto Desafio.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH: And for those of you that, like me, tend to run out of cascarone-fueled steam long before the party’s over, I encourage you to venture on up State Street on Saturday, August 2, for a dance party at SOhO (1221 State St.) that has will celebrate Santa Barbara history in a truly different way. Starting at 9 p.m., the club will play host to an evening of ska, jam, and reggae rhythms courtesy of Carpinteria’s own skankers, The Upbeat (myspace.com/upbeatska), San Diego locals Skanic, and S.B. regulars DJ Fredo and Dominique Bali. For The Upbeat, the show marks a welcome means of celebrating Fiesta their way. The show is also the only one the band has lined up between now and this September’s three-day West Beach Music Festival (westbeachfest.com). The group has been performing together (and opening for acts ranging from No Doubt and The Wailers to The Specials and Bad Manners) for over 22 years sans breakup, hiatus, or drastic lineup changes. And, over the years, they’ve not only become a definitive force in the S.B. music world-they’ve also put themselves on the map as true purveyors of the modern rock steady, roots, and ska music that once infiltrated the mainstream music world. But, anyway you look at it, this is one musical institution that you don’t want to miss-and one dance party that is sure to be moving all night long. For tickets at information, call 962-7776 or visit sohosb.com.