<b>DOUBLE PLAY:</b> Spencer VonHershman is spearheading a new plan to bring live music to the East Beach Batting Cages. Last week, roughly 70 people turned out for the makeshift venue's first show.
Paul Wellman

If you’re a live music fan living in Santa Barbara, you’re already well aware of the increasing venue deficit plaguing this city. And apparently, so are the folks at the East Beach Batting Cages. Just last week, the lower Milpas Street establishment began hosting concerts after hours. They’re calling the pop-up venue Funzone, and they’re already looking to make the facility a fully functional hot spot for weekend shows.

Batting Cages owner John Cox is an S.B. native who grew up in the 805’s once-thriving music scene. “When I was a kid growing up in Santa Barbara, the local music scene was incredibly important to me,” Cox said. “Friday and Saturday nights at the Living Room, Sniffy’s, and the Pickle Patch kept me out of trouble and ignited a love of music in me.” Cox continued pursuing his musical interests after high school and eventually even played with his band, Fly By Night, at Warped Tour. Now, he focuses mostly on his business but still plays music in his free time.

“Funzone is a live music experiment we’re trying out,” he went on to explain. “The batting cage employees are all music fans and came up with the idea of using the old arcade room for small, all-ages shows. I’m hoping this will be a great resource for new local bands and a fun, safe place for music fans of all ages to hang out. No drugs, no alcohol, just great music.”

Cox anticipates the venue will feature music from all genres and levels of ability, ranging from middle school and high school bands to touring bands and area musicians. His hope is to keep costs low — $5 show admission rates will be put toward paying for touring bands and investing in gear for the venue. The eventual goal is to raise enough money to build a stage and purchase live sound equipment, he says.

Like the venues Cox remembers from his youth, Funzone will be open to all ages all of the time, and there will be a strictly enforced policy against alcohol or drugs on the premises. Cox wants to provide a safe and welcome space that the community can enjoy and one that celebrates the diverse music being made here in S.B. In addition, the Batting Cages’ foosball and table-tennis games will be available during Funzone shows as “extra entertainment.”

The fun officially kicked off last Friday, August 22, with Santa Barbara-turned-Bay Area act Watercolor Paintings, S.F.’s Void Boys, and 805ers Blossom and Mallards, but you can still get in on the action. Show organizer Spencer VonHershman says upcoming events include Uranium Orchard, Big Mess, Virga, and Smoke Wizard on Wednesday, September 17, and Easter Teeth and Pelican Vision on Saturday, September 27. He also encourages interested bands to get in touch. For more info about shows and booking, email spencer@theeastbeachbattingcages.com or visit facebook.com/funzonesantabarbara.


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