LOOKING BACK, LAUNCHING FORWARD: With the dawn of 2010 comes a whole lotta fresh starts, grand expectations, and high hopes for big change. I, for one, am simply wishing for things to pick up right where 2009 left off-at least as far as live music is concerned. In the past year, Santa Barbara’s music scene has truly begun to flourish. Fringe venues like Muddy Waters and the Biko Co-op started to really up the ante, booking some of the best concerts of ’09, while other fallen soldiers (The Living Room, The Hard to Find Showspace) aimed to launch comebacks. Meanwhile, regional music makers like Threadspinner, Martyrs, and The Spires released some truly dazzling recorded works, while others (oso, Natalie D-Napoleon, and the incomparable Katy Perry) took their tunes on the road. New Noise saw a smashing debut, while the West Beach Music Festival continued to pack a punch, and the Bowl, as always, delivered a brilliant and eclectic mix of world-class musicians. If things keep up at this rate, we’re in for some big surprises and truly great music in the new decade.
LUCK OF THE DRAW: Call it grand luck or pure coincidence, but this week SOhO plays host to two of the most enigmatic leading ladies in up-and-coming experimental rock ‘n’ roll. This Thursday night, the State Street club hosts Cambodian psych rockers Dengue Fever, fronted by Khmer-speaking chanteuse Chhom Nimol. And next Thursday, January 14, Brooklyn-based Asobi Seksu takes the SOhO stage for a very special acoustic set. With the angelical-voiced Yuki Chikudate at the helm, this dream-pop four-piece delivers swirling, shoegazey electro rock that mixes The Jesus and Mary Chain’s signature progressions with the playful, electronic-infused girly-ness of contemporaries like Au Revoir Simone and St. Vincent. While synths and vocal effects have no doubt made the band stand out over the years, the opportunity to see them play stripped of all the gadgetry will surely add a whole new element to the sound. A definite can’t-miss. Call 962-7776 or visit sohosb.com for tickets and details.
FESTIVUS FOR THE REST OF US: If you thought the gift-giving season was over, think again, because starting this Sunday, January 10, the kindhearted folks at SBDIY (sbdiy.org) are turning Isla Vista into a veritable musical playground. For the first time in the collective’s short-but-sweet history, they’re launching a full-scale festival, dubbed the Santa Blah Blah Fest, that stretches through Friday, January 15. During the six-day run, more than 20 bands from a menagerie of genres (twee folk, punk, hip-hop) and locations (California, Canada, New York) will fill the Biko Co-op Garage (6612 Sueno Rd.) for nightly donations-only shows that are open to all ages.
On my personal list of highlights, Cali experimentalists Tan Dollar promise a lot of ethereal vocals, progressive noise, and synth-pounding atmospherics (think Sigur Ros meets Fuck Buttons). They play Tuesday, January 12, at 7:30 p.m. alongside Woodsman and Weed Diamond. Athens, Georgia, indie rockers Nana Grizol also make the list with their earnest vocals and dance-ready guitar hooks, la an early, horn-friendly version of Weezer. They play Thursday, January 14, at 7:30 p.m. with Mount Righteous, Your Yellow Dress, and All Blood. Visit sbdiy.org for a full rundown of the week’s offerings-and don’t forget to tip your entertainment.
FEELS LIKE HOME: Also this month, Ventura’s own Beehouse Records collective gets residential at Zoey’s Cafe (451 E. Main St.). Every Friday night, representatives from the always-evolving musical family will hit the stage for a night of family-friendly (and budget-friendly) music. For only $5, guests can catch indie folk from Tall Tales and the Silver Lining this Friday, January 8, at 8 p.m. In the weeks to come, be on the lookout for live performances from Beehouse supergroup Sea Stones (Jan. 15), The Spires (Jan. 23), and Franklin for Short (Jan. 29), along with special out-of-town musical guests. Call 652-1137or visit zoeyscafe.com for details.