Santa Barbara Bowl Gets Done Up for Día de los Muertos

Dancers, Altars, Surprise Guests Help Jump-Start a New Tradition

Consider the over-the-top stage sets, delightfully out-there costume choices, and abundance of candy-skull paraphernalia, and it becomes hard to imagine a group more apt to headline the Santa Barbara Bowl’s first-ever El Día de los Muertos Celebration than The Flaming Lips. It’s fitting then that the Oklahoma City psych rockers hit town on the one day of the year devoted to memorializing, reveling, and partying in honor of the dead.

“The planets most definitely aligned for this one,” said Moss Jacobs, VP of talent for Nederlander Concerts.

Blessed with the “opportunity of a lifetime” earlier this year, Jacobs reached out to longtime friend and co-conspirator Nicole Pierpont, an artist and part-time Santa Barbaran who has spent years scheming with Jacobs about a big, festive blowout at the Bowl.

“Nicole is a half–Salvadoran, half-Mexican; was raised in Mexico; and she is extremely knowledgeable about Day of the Dead,” Jacobs said. “We didn’t want to do the vibeless plastic pumpkin thing that Halloween has become. We wanted an event that did justice to the culture and the community of Santa Barbara.”

And an event it most definitely is. With Pierpont art-directing from afar, Friday’s celebration is quickly shaping up to be as extraordinary and extravagant as its headlining act.

“We’re creating an altar in the Glen for all of the musicians who have played the Bowl that have passed away,” Pierpont explained. In addition to the overhaul of the venue’s famed Jerry Garcia Glen, decorations and art installations will be strewn throughout the space, including a pair of 20-foot skulls built by Santa Barbara artist Eric Lehman, handmade decor from S.B. High School’s VADA students, and the Santa Barbara High School Don Riders bike club, who will tow “mobile altars” around the venue. Also contributing to the takeover are Kalpulli Huitzilin Ihuan Xochitl Aztec dancers, Ventura-based traditional banda Zacamundo, pet altars made by the folks at Casa Dolores, and Santa Barbara nonprofit LifeChronicles, who will supply the face paint. Additionally, Pierpont hints at a surprise performance from Proximity Theatre Company, which she says showgoers will not want to miss. Attendees are also highly encouraged to dress up.

“This is one show where you want to get there at 4 p.m., walk around, and really take it all in,” said Pierpont. “This isn’t the type of concert where you hang out for two hours, watch a band, and leave.”

“I’m enjoying it because it’s bridging cultures. It just fits on so many levels,” adds Jacobs. “It’s The Flaming Lips. It’s the last show of the year. It’s the Day of the Dead. It couldn’t be more perfect.”


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