If, as the saying goes, the third time is the charm, then this Friday night at the Santa Barbara Bowl promises to be a celebration not to be missed. Once again, our beloved open-air amphitheater of rock will play host to an all-out Día de los Muertos hootenanny, complete with roaming dance troupes, 20-foot light-up skeletons, costumed ushers, more than two dozen community-made ofrendras, face paintings, jumbo-sized puppets, art installations, custom decorations, and, of course, a stacked lineup of Latin artists new and old. “Basically, the idea was to take what we have done the past two years and make it bigger and better,” said the event’s primary visionary, Nicole Alejandra Pierpont, before adding, with a laugh, “but to try and not go totally crazy in the process.”
Working with family friend and Nederlander bigwig Moss Jacobs (Nederlander books all of the shows for the Bowl, and Jacobs is their VP of talent) as well as a large network of area nonprofits and youth-serving art programs, Pierpont has managed to put together an evening jam-packed with rock and roll, culturally rich and relevant goings-on, living art, and just the right amount of mysticism and spook for the entire family. “We try to balance all the fun aspects of the holiday — the music, the art, the dance — with the reality of what Día de los Muertos is really about, [which is] honoring the people and our loved ones that are no longer here,” explained Pierpont, who shares a birthday with the holiday.
To that end, this year’s edition of the annual celebration will include some 30 remembrance altars in the Bowl’s glen area, roughly twice the amount of custom-made ofrendras made in years past. Groups such as the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, UCSB’s Chicano Studies Department, Franklin Neighborhood Center, and Santa Barbara High’s Don Riders are but a few of the folks making installations this year. There will also be a communal altar, said Pierpont, in case you want to bring something to add yourself. Drawing from her own Mexican heritage, Pierpont has long celebrated the multifaceted and deeply layered spiritual holiday. “There is just something about taking the time to think about where you come from and connect with the family that came before you,” offered Pierpont. “Each year, I learn something new.”
And while the music acts are always the main draw (with this year proving no exception, thanks to long-standing icons such as Kinky and current darlings of Los Angeles such as La Santa Cecilia and Chicano Batman all sharing the bill), the Bowl’s Día de los Muertos festivities are perhaps best distinguished by the dance performances and the expect-the-unexpected pop-up feel. This time around, some 100 dancers, from six different troupes, will be performing throughout the venue from the entrance gates to the stage to basically everywhere in-between.
Whether it is the stirring Ballet Folklórico de Los Angeles, the exquisitely costumed Los Chinelos de Morelos, the traditional Aztec dancing of Kalpulli Huitzilin Ihuan Xochitl, or a pack of stiff-limbed zombies, the assorted dance action truly makes the entire Bowl come to life, keeping you on your toes and entertained whether you are in the front row of the pit, waiting for a beer, or simply on your way to the bathroom. “Some people might look at this lineup and say, ‘I don’t know who these bands are,’ and I get that,” admitted Pierpont. “But if you want to go to a good party and experience a full evening of living culture and creativity, then the Bowl is exactly where you will want to be.”
Día de Los Muertos Events
10/29: Día de los Muertos Celebration Bring a picture of a loved one, and share it on the community altar. There will also be art, music, prizes, spoken word, face painting, and special deals in the SBCC store. 11am-2pm. SBCC Campus Store, 721 Cliff Dr. Free. Call 965-0581.
10/30: Día de los Muertos Celebration The Bowl will be transforming into magical Oaxaca, Mexico. Throughout the evening, there will be Aztec dancers, mariachis, costumes, altars, skeleton faces, art installations, and performances by some of the most influential contemporary Latin bands and deejays, including Kinky, Bomba Estéreo, La Santa Cecilia, and Chicano Batman, plus Conjunto Zacamandu and returning guest DJ Carlos Niño. 5pm. S.B. Bowl, 1122 N. Milpas St. Free-$50. Call 962-7411 or visit sbbowl.com.
10/30-11/1: Día de los Muertos Carpinteria 2015 This three-day festival includes a festival kickoff party, parade, Aztec Dance Troupe, art walk, celebration party, custom art installations, and more. Fri.: 4-8pm; Giovanni’s Pizza, 5003 Carpinteria Ave., Carpinteria. Sat.: noon; Carpinteria Beach, end of Linden Ave., Carpinteria. 1-4pm; Carpinteria Arts Ctr., 855 Linden Ave., Carpinteria. Sun.: 4-8pm; Carpinteria Arts Ctr., Carpinteria. Free. Visit diadelosmuertoscarpinteria2015.com for a full schedule.
10/31: Day of the Dead Charity Bash Enjoy an incredible evening full of art, music, food, and fun, all to support Will Rise Project, recognizing the artistic nature of every human soul, and Red Road Foundation, creating sustainable communities for those in need. 6pm. Eos Lounge, 500 Anacapa St. $30. Visit tinyurl.com/dotdcharitybash.
10/31, 11/3-11/4: El Día de los Muertos 2015 Take a look at the visually spectacular Mexican Day of the Dead altar and El Catrin y La Catrina. Three generations of the Linares family have prepared and combined this popular history, bringing traditions somewhere between José Guadalupe Posada and Tim Burton. The exhibit shows through November 14. Noon-4pm. Casa Dolores, 1023 Bath St. Free. Call 963-1032 or visit casadolores.org.
10/31: Día de los Descartes Guest artist Mary Price will help artists of all levels create cool and scary Halloween costumes and other Day of the Dead art projects. 10am-noon. Art From Scrap, 302 E. Cota St. $8. Children 5 and under must be accompanied by a parent. Call 884-0459 or visit exploreecology.org.
11/1: Día de los Muertos Join Adelante Charter School of S.B. as it hosts a day of authentic altar displays, open-air market, arts and crafts, activities, entertainment, food, and music. 11am-4pm. Casa de la Guerra, 15 E. De la Guerra St. Free. Visit adelantecharter.org.
11/1: Día de los Muertos Honor those no longer with us with life, art, music, dance, and more. There will be altars, area bands, youth talent, food, vendors, prayers, and more. 1-7pm. La Casa de la Raza, 601 E. Montecito St. Free. Call 965-8581 or visit tinyurl.com/casadelaraza.
11/1: Mariachi Monarcas of Goleta Join the youth Mariachi Monarcas in a day filled with arts and crafts, food, mariachi presentations, and more. The youth group provides children throughout Goleta with cultural arts opportunities. 1:30-4:30pm. Goleta Valley Community Ctr., 5679 Hollister Ave., Goleta. $10-$15. Visit tinyurl.com/mariachimonarcas.