TONIGHT’S THE NIGHT: Whether or not you’ve been keeping tabs on our annual Downtown Sound battle of the bands, tonight’s finals showcase at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club (1221 State St.) is one concert you do not want to miss. After last week’s double dose of live shows to determine the top four, we’ve come away with finalists who promise to bring their A-game — not to mention a few hundred eager fans — to this Thursday’s finale.
Like the S.B. scene itself, the finalists run the stylistic gamut, each blending a handful of solid influences to create sounds that are familiar without sounding too derivative. Among the spread, we’ve got lo-fi folkies Islay Street, a collection of four consummate S.B. players (including the übercute hubby and wife — and soon to be second-time parents — Michael and Margaret Easbey) who remind us of Bright Eyes, David Bazan, and Castanets, all rolled into one. Also on board are the youngsters of Blue Suns, whose median age has yet to deter them from treading some seriously historic rock ’n’ roll ground. (Think Beach Boys harmonies, Blur-esque progressions, and guitar tones that call out to surf rockers both present and past.) S.B. chamber pop makers Little Owl will also take to the stage to vie for top prize. Since catching our attention last year, these four have truly come into their own, and scaled back their buoyant, building structures to create a sound that’s part Arcade Fire theatrics, part Edward Sharpe-y quirk, and all joyous and sing-along-ready fun. Rounding out the bill is Lompoc’s Saint Anne’s Place, who delivered a full assault of swirling and psych-infused My Morning Jacket–style guitars and rich, gravelly folk-rock vocals during their Wednesday-night semifinals showing.
As for who will take top prize, it’s anybody’s game. Each person through the door tonight will have one ballot to cast for their favorite act, and the winner will be announced directly following the final band’s set. Up for grabs for the Downtown Sound winner is a spot at this year’s New Noise Santa Barbara Music Festival, an on-air “Localize It” spotlight on 92.9FM KJEE, $5,000 worth of guitars and gear from Ernie Ball, a prize pack from Instrumental Music, apparel and schwag from Arbor Collective, recording time at Playback Recording Studio, a chance to score a one-record recording contract with S.B.’s LeRoi Records, and a profile in The Santa Barbara Independent’s 2011 Santa Barbara Band Guide.
The Downtown Sound Finals showcase hits the stage on Thursday, October 20, at SOhO at 8:30 p.m., with all proceeds benefiting the Living Room and the New Noise Music Foundation. For info, visit newnoisesb.com.
BATTLE BROTHERS: And if you still haven’t gotten your fill of band battles, the final round of the second annual Santa Barbara Youth Battle of the Bands takes place this Friday, October 21, at the Lobero Theatre (33 E. Canon Perdido St.) at 7 p.m. Over the course of one night, 15 bands will compete in three categories (14 and younger, 16 and younger, and 18 and open) for cash prizes. For more info and tickets, call 963-0761 or visit lobero.com.
GAME, SET, MATCH: And the homegrown goodness keeps on coming next Wednesday, October 26, when Notes for Notes patron-turned-instructor Caesar Valenzuela takes to the stage at Velvet Jones to open up for The Game. The aspiring performer, producer, and executive director of S.B.’s MusicBox 1235 (1235 De la Vina St.) has been pursuing music since stumbling upon the area nonprofit Notes for Notes in 2006. Nowadays, Valenzuela divides his time between running the De la Vina studio, mentoring young music makers, and writing and recording. The all-ages show starts at 8 p.m. Call 965-8676 or visit clubmercy.com for details.
ALSO THIS WEEK: Folk legend Paul Simon plays the Santa Barbara Bowl on Sunday, October 23, at 7 p.m.; Trinity Backstage presents rising singer-songwriter Peter Bradley Adams at Trinity Church (1500 State St.) on Saturday, October 22, at 8 p.m.