TALE OF TWO POP STARBURSTS: Now that 2009 is sliding into its final quarter, rabid music lovers-professional and otherwise-naturally begin sorting out what was and has been this year. Considering the healthy flow of pop music of all stripes this year (is Santa Barbara’s pop musical temperature heating up lately, or what?), the two pop shows that leap out of the crowd, to these ears, are Deerhoof at Velvet Jones and Katy Perry at the Bowl.
Say what? It might seem that those artists live at opposite poles of the pop omniverse: Deerhoof is a beloved and progressive mainstay of the left-of-center indie rock world, while Perry heads straight down the middle, with a fashion-conscious retro-meets-slightly-edgy pop-rock bubbliness. But pop shouldn’t be as polarized as its fans and affinities like to make it. Can’t we all get along here? I remember an interview with Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne in which he refused to take the mainstream pop-bashing bait of his interviewer, insisting that Mariah Carey was just as good as any Brand X indie god.
Of course, one connecting factor between those local shows was the delayed gratification and act-of-God-inspired postponements. For Deerhoof, swine flu hysteria prevented safe passage to the States of their Japanese opening act Cornelius (now there’s a band that would be great to hear here). By the time they played Velvet Jones in August-exactly a month before Perry’s show-Deerhoof rattled the club in a triumphant swoop of intricate songs and arty cerebral dance steps.
Perry’s original Bowl date was interrupted by the Jesusita Fire and tagged onto the end of her tour. It is possible that locals are unfairly biased, but Perry appears to be a true new sensation, a supremely entertaining, vocally gifted pop ear-candy dispenser. It can be said that Perry’s highly entertaining Bowl show was the most tingly concert of the Bowl season in terms of showcasing a genuine Santa Barbaran superstar. By the time she did play the Bowl in early September, Perry had scored three No. 1 hits (“I Kissed a Girl,” “Hot and Cold,” and “Waking Up in Vegas”)-all loveably energetic and catchy numbers-making the Santa Barbara born-and-bred Perry by far the biggest and brightest pop star this town has grown. All hail this perky punchy, local-gone-global popstress.
GIVING THE DRUMMER SOME: Drummers don’t get enough respect or spotlights, but they-and those in the know-know the critical importance of the world’s oldest instrument, the all-important heartbeat in so many musical forms. Sometimes, our sense of drummer love is awakened by sad news, such as the recent news of liver disease problems in the life of the great American drummer Richie Hayward of Little Feat fame, the subject of a fundraising show at the Canyon Club last week featuring Jackson Browne and many other Hayward friends.
Next Tuesday, drums are upfront in an experimental music wingding at Muddy Waters, when Chicago-based drummer and composer Frank Rosaly stops by for a show, along with intrepid left-field jazz drummer Rob Wallace. Rosaly, who has worked with such notable Chicagoans as members of Tortoise, formidable saxists Ken Vandermark and Von Freeman, Peter Brtzmann, and Anthony Coleman, has recorded Milkwork, an intriguing solo drum-and occasional electronics-album (on his preferred format of vinyl). It’s a subtle, coloristically poetic journey, luring the ear and mind without undue bashing or splashing.
WORLD MUSIC GAMES BEGIN: One of Santa Barbara’s most wonderfully intimate music venues, the theater at UCSB’s MultiCultural Center (MCC) is ever the hot spot for world music, albeit in small doses each season. Three such concerts have been announced for the fall, beginning with this Saturday’s appearance by Koumemba, a West African band spiced with reggae touches. Coming up in the MCC’s world-tapping series are the Mexican jarocho band Conjunto Hueyapan (Fri., Oct. 23) and Melody of China (Fri., Nov. 13).