HOME IS WHERE THE ROCK IS: With 2010 winding down, music lovers are all but forced to sit back, reflect, and take stock on what was an unarguably great year for new music, both locally and globally. But I, for one, am still focused on the calendar week ahead. In between Christmas proper and all the New Year’s Eve action (I’ll get to that in a minute), Santa Barbara’s ever-reliable show spaces are bringing in a wealth of homegrown goodness. Case in point: next week’s one-two punch at SOhO (1221 State St.). On Tuesday, December 28, the beloved State Street venue keeps it all in the family, as doorman-cum-promoter Pradaject presents bartender-cum-rocker Michael Mooneyham’s Comfort Machine. While the band self-categorizes as alternative indie rock, what they offer up lies far beyond the mundane constraints of their genre. Led primarily by Mooneyham’s guitars, the sound falls somewhere between Wilco at their most lovelorn and jammy and Pinback at their most subdued. Whatever comparisons you want to make, what you can expect is a whole lot of warm tones, somber breakdowns, and instrumental introspection of the thought-provoking variety. The show starts at 7 p.m. with openers Innes and Keltic Flamenco.
Then on Wednesday, December 28, the hype up to New Year’s really gets going, with a funk-fueled headlining set from S.B. party starters Wetlands. Things start quietly enough, thanks to two folk-minded sets by Santa Barbara natives Idea the Artist and Nate Salman, who’s vocal prowess and lyrical stylings can easily hold the spotlight. Once the crowd is good and primed, though, it’s time to dance. If you’ve yet to catch the Wetlands crew live and in action, you’re in for a treat. Think horns, talk boxes, synths, and a whole lot of hand percussion. The show starts at 8 p.m. For tickets and info for both dates, call 962-7776 or visit sohosb.com.
OUT WITH THE OLD: While the ringing in of 2011 brings with it plenty of fun-filled soirees and musical outings (see our Holiday Planner), I’ve got my eyes on two (well, technically three) can’t-miss year-ending concerts. First (and second) up are Animal Liberation Orchestra’s two back-to-back nights at SOhO on Thursday, December 30, and Friday, December 31. These now-annual homecoming shows have become a Santa Barbara music-scene staple of sorts—not to mention a guaranteed good time for friends and fans. Since forming at UCSB in 2002, these four jam banders (namely, keyboardist/vocalist Zach Gill, bassist/guitarist Steve Adams, guitarist/vocalist David Brogan, and drummer/vocalist Dan Lebowitz) have gone from rocking Isla Vista house parties to joining forces with Jack Johnson’s Brushfire Records, releasing three major-label offerings, touring the world, and, in the case of Gill, launching a lucrative solo career. Fame and cool points aside, the band always manages to make it back to S.B. to celebrate their roots—and their year—with the community that was there when it all began. Both shows start at 9 p.m. The Family open Thursday’s show, while The Messengers open ALO’s New Year’s Eve event. Call 962-7776 or visit sohosb.com.
Also on New Year’s, the Mercury Lounge (5871 Hollister Ave.) and Club Mercy continue their super swanky love affair with yet another killer holiday party. This time around, the Goleta watering hole plays host to reggae heavyweight Pato Banton. While Banton has been around the musical block, getting his start with ska legends The Beat in the early ’80s, his current musical incarnation might just be my personal favorite. Mixing elements of dancehall, hip-hop, and first-wave roots music, Banton’s recent forays (see 2009’s Universal Love) are laid-back, undeniably groovy, and meticulously produced (chanting children samples and all). Sounds like the perfect, dance-worthy soundtrack to a new year to me. The show starts at 9 p.m. and is 21+. For tickets and info, visit clubmercy.com.