When Glen Phillips and the Works Progress Administration (WPA) return to the Lobero this Saturday, it won’t just be a homecoming for the S.B.-born singer/songwriter, but for the whole band. It was onstage at the Lobero in 2007—at a Sings Like Hell show, in fact—that Phillips and his bandmates first came together as a collective. Today, the folk supergroup is still alive and kicking, and it features a rotating lineup of some of the most notable and respectable musicians in the game. For Saturday’s show, Phillips will reunite with some of WPA’s founding mothers and fathers, including Nickel Creek’s Sara and Sean Watkins, and Elvis Costello’s Pete Thomas and Davey Faragher.
“It’s a cool project to be involved with just because everybody’s from such diverse backgrounds,” said Phillips recently. “I think it could easily be pigeonholed into being Americana music because we have duel fiddles and a pedal steel, but the songs aren’t written that way. There’s that template for composition that I don’t think we looked at, so it ends up really being its own sound.”
Formed out of a friendship that began at L.A.’s Largo, the WPA now boasts an ever-changing roster of players, which allows each member to come and go as schedules dictate. “We don’t get to play a lot with Sarah, and we haven’t played much with Pete and Davey, so simply shuffling that around and getting to hear her sing and play is just going to be a real pleasure.”
Saturday’s show also marks the end of another strong season from the Sings Like Hell concert series, which Phillips acknowledges as one of Santa Barbara’s true musical treasures. “It over and over proves that you don’t need to have a massive national hype to be doing something worthwhile and interesting,” he said. “In the last few years, since I’ve been touring more solo and acoustic, I’ve been playing places like The Ark in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago. … You can be an hour or two outside the nearest major city, and you can still pull a couple hundred people who’ve never even heard of you before. They’re there because they trust the series, or they trust the venue, and Sings Like Hell is our shining local example of that.”