If you celebrate the season in Santa Barbara, there are a handful of things you’ve come to rely on. For one, that giant Christmas tree planted smack-dab in the middle of State Street. There’s also dueling Nutcrackers, a big ole Christmas parade, and Tommy & The High Pilots’ annual holiday concert spectacular. Back in October, the Santa Barbara rockers made a bold name change after more than six years as the Pilots. They’re now going by Beta Play, but that’s certainly not stopping them from keeping their Christmas tradition alive.
This Saturday, December 20, Beta Play makes its hometown debut at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club for a seasonal, special-guest-star-studded benefit concert and peanut-butter drive in support of the Unity Shoppe. In anticipation, we asked the guys to play Santa and bring us a holiday playlist filled with their favorite songs of the season. To listen online, visit independent.com/betaplayxmas.
Mike Dyer (Bass)
Nat King Cole, “The Christmas Song”
This song is the most obvious choice, but I have great memories from every phase of my life attached to this song. This song was written in a blistering hot California summer to help the writers cool down. That must be why it makes me yearn for reading books by the fireplace in the freezing Missouri winter, which is where I’m headed for the holidays. I’m always happy when this song comes on and can’t help but hum along.
John Lennon & The Plastic Ono Band, “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)”
Leave it to John Lennon to join the saturated commercial holiday music genre by composing a catchy Christmas tune that still maintains John Lennon’s signature honesty and social consciousness. Or as Lennon explained it, “putting your political message across with a little honey.” This song allows me to indulge in what the Xmas season means to me without lyrics about reindeer and Santa’s sleigh.
Michael Cantillon (Keys/Backup vocals)
Bing Crosby, “White Christmas”
When I hear this song for the first time every year, it finally hits me that Christmas is right around the corner. Everything about this version puts me in the holiday spirit. It ain’t Christmas without some Bing Crosby.
Frank Sinatra, “Let It Snow”
This song always makes me envision a log cabin covered in snow and a roaring fireplace. That idea seems so foreign since I’m from Santa Barbara. I guess that’s why I love it. Thank you, Frankie.
Matt Palermo (Drums/Backup vocals)
Frank Sinatra, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”
It’s the “warmest” of all Christmas songs to me. I’m instantly comfortable when I hear it, and I guess it’s deeply linked with my childhood because it always transports me back in time to the house I grew up in. Fun feeling.
Vince Guaraldi Trio, “Christmas Time Is Here”
I love that melancholy jazz vibe for some reason — it also makes me comfy and takes me back to childhood. And A Charlie Brown Christmas is such a great classic ― always a good re-watch.
Tom Cantillon (Guitar/Lead vocals)
Mariah Carey, “All I Want for Christmas Is You”
It’s hard to imagine a holiday standard that doesn’t date back 50 years, but Mariah turned this into one instantly. The message captures the true spirit of the holidays: Being with loved ones is much more special than any gift you can open. And Mariah’s voice! She could sing a Tylenol commercial, and I’d listen.
U2, “New Year’s Day”
Apparently Bono started writing this for his wife but reshaped the song to be about understanding in a time of global unrest. There is a “struggle for love,” as he puts it — a message that will never grow old and one that is relevant to this day. Adam Clayton’s bass line rips through the speakers, giving this very heart-filled song that ’80s U2 muscle. There are a lot of lyrics to sink your teeth into here, but “I will begin again” is simple and beautiful.
Beta Play headlines a holiday benefit show for the Unity Shoppe at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club (1221 State St.) on Saturday, December 20, at 9 p.m. Attendees are being asked to bring a jar of peanut butter to donate. For tickets and info, call (805) 962-7776 or visit sohosb.com.