SOhO’s Thursday night was the kind that makes a local proud to speak of a Santa Barbara rock scene. That’s because the two S.B.- co-headliners, US Elevator and Ghost Tiger, were both excellent. In both bands you see a real cohesion between the players and a craft that’s one part passion, one part progression and one part piety for the music and its past shapers. US Elevator played just about all the hits – as all the tracks are hits, in my mind – from their debut album. “Community Service,” blitzing off near the beginning of the set, was a treat for the ears and a workout for the feet, while “Where The Rubber Meets The Road” was a certified jam, a beautiful slow burn. Hearing them here, rich with organ tones and crystal-clear guitar, brought forth the band’s loving attention to the quality of their sound – full, warm, humane, vintage – and the Wilco-like touches of invention and surprise. Ghost Tiger’s sound is a little more firmly in the future, heavy with thick synths, phased guitar and a driving darkness. Songs like “Nightshade,” with cloudy synths structured with pumelling percussion from the excellent Maxx, remind one of the “Where I End And You Begin” version of Radiohead, striking both the head and the heart. The three sounded remarkably big for a three-piece, and the touches of early shoegaze and 80s sounds (somewhere between The Cure and Cocteau Twins) gave it a glisten and glow. It’s refreshing to hear a S.B. band that takes full advantage of the emotive power of synths.
Also deserving equal mention was the less local but no less good Sea Knight, who opened the show. Over partly punk or grunge percussion flowed swooning rivers of violin and bass, with singer Linda’s hypnotic siren yowl. Their dark rock-lullabies were a perfect compliment to the following acts, and another example of rock done intelligently as well as passionately – rock for the whole of the soul.