AND THEN THERE WERE FOUR: Aside from a couple of scheduling snafus and a wee bit of organizational troubles, this past weekend’s Road to West Beach semifinals wrapped up with a bang-and brought nearly 20 regional outfits together for a string of shows that were about as eclectic as they come. Thursday night’s trip up north combined the collective sounds of husband-and-wife rap duo Circle 13, wild card-winner and resident indie folksters It’s Happening In Soledad, solo singer/songwriter De la Vina, and hard rock heavyweights The Axia. An impressive showing of fans and an even more impressive-and exceptionally loud-set brought home the gold for The Axia, who will advance on to this Sunday’s final round in Alameda Park.
A little closer to home, Stateside played host to both Saturday’s Santa Barbara band-off and Sunday night’s Carpinteria/Ventura showcase. A testament to the broad scope of music being offered up in our small-but-mighty community, Saturday’s line-up combined a smattering of music-makers from some truly diverse genres. The night started off strong with a powerful set by the evening’s most straightforward rock ‘n’ rollers, Redswitch, who lived up to the hype of their recorded efforts by punching out a series of originals and covers that sounded about as crisp and clean as the band’s studio tracks. Following that, Big Jugs took to the stage for their signature cheeky brand of country folk tunes. With them, the band brought a healthy following of fans, all of whom spent the majority of the set clapping, singing, and yes, do-si-doing around the dance floor. The second half of the night played out even stranger. While the punk-tinged garage rock sounds of Die Don Romero found something short of success with the night’s sizable crowd, Beleza Pura turned up the heat-and saved the evening-with their show-stealing mix of infectious Brazilian tunes. In the end, it was Beleza who took home the night’s top prize, earning themselves some 148 votes. And a note to those counting, Redswitch narrowly missed the win, scoring 142 votes over the course of Saturday’s show.
Perhaps the most impressive show of the bunch, Sunday afternoon’s free Goleta and Isla Vista showcase in Anisq’Oyo’ Park brought with it some heavy competition. Unsurprisingly, top online vote getters Boombox Orchestra took first place. But a shock to us all was simply how many people the funk collective brought along with them. Some 200 concertgoers showed up to rally for Boombox, simultaneously turning the park into a mini-dance party that is certain to resurface downtown come Sunday’s show. Other highlights included the sweet and melodic sounds of Rob Kuznia’s wild card-winning band Pom Poms, as well as an impressive acoustic performance by singer/songwriter Grover Anderson and a super promising set from the recently minted outfit Bicycle Escape Plan, fronted by former Kill Ugly Radio leader Ralph Torrefranca.
And last, but most certainly not least, was Sunday night’s big finale and return to Stateside. It was there that The Indy‘s Ventura and Carpinteria picks got together to show their stuff. The night’s highlights were spread throughout the evening, and Carp’s resident reggae star, Dominic Balli, ended up scoring a walloping majority of the votes. But the show also brought with it a number of highlights from some impressive up-and-comers. Both Balli’s buddies Lonesome Dub and Goleta transplants Watercolor Paintings had solid showings, making many of the show’s nearly 300 attendees stand up and take notice.
Balli, along with Boombox Orchestra, Beleza Pura, and The Axia will play a day-long showcase at Alameda Park this Sunday, August 31, starting at 1:30 p.m. The winner will be crowned The Indy‘s first Road to West Beach champion, as well as score a slot on Saturday’s West Beach Music Festival stage. And while we tally votes and prepare to announce the winner, Led Zeppelin tribute band Led Zepplica will churn out the classic rock tunes. Admission is free, and the winning band will be selected by audience vote. Visit independent.com or westbeachfestival.com for show details.