They came, they saw, they rocked…eclectically! A clutch of bands, under the auspices of modern rock radio station KJEE, shook the Santa Barbara Bowl last weekend, proving that rock is not only still among the musical living, but as varied as ever.
On June 4, an enthusiastic (if not full capacity) Bowl audience embraced the diverse line-up, the most renowned of which was the riff-crunching Australian trio known as Wolfmother. The 16-year-old group brought the bottom with its primal metal as Alex Carapetis drummed like a killing machine, occasionally drifting from sturdy John Bonham into the double-kick stomp excesses of original Slayer drum monster Dave Lombardo. Carapetis totally delivered with the twitchy palpitations of “New Moon Rising.”
Singer/guitarist Andrew Stockdale and bassist/keyboardist Ian Peres were easily identifiable by a massive ’fro and bright red shirt, respectively.
Peres proved a ball of energy and generous, lingering to sign autographs after Wolfmother’s set. In concert, he went keyboards-crazy during the jammy “Woman.”
The Cult came to mind as Stockdale belted out “Victorious,” their latest album’s title track. He reached for those Robert Plant notes on “Gypsy Caravan,” which showcased greasy, skuzzy ’70s guitar and traces of Doors-like shamanistic psychedelic rock. By this point, a polite little mosh pit had formed near center stage.
What’s admirable about Wolfmother is that aside from the modest smoke machines belching from the wings, the band doesn’t rely on (or need) any special effects beyond their stripped-down music, much in the tradition of their fellow Aussies, the lean-and-mean, Bon Scott version of AC/DC in the 1970s.
Canadian sextet The Strumbellas — offering backwoods fiddle-rock reminiscent of The Lumineers or Mumford & Sons — won audience’s hearts performing “Wild Sun” and closed by rousing the crowd with the steam-building anthem “Shovels & Dirt,” off 2016’s Hope.
The craziest reception was for Fitz & the Tantrums, who confidently worked the crowd into a sweat with their upbeat, throwback pop rock. Recalling ’80s and ’90s sounds ala Thompson Twins, Culture Club, and The New Radicals with some ska flourishes, the Los Angeles band — Noelle Scaggs, bedazzling in a chrome silver top; cool cat frontman Michael Fitzpatrick in black — previewed tracks off their June 10-released self-titled album, including “Walking Target” (“You guys are the first to hear that song,” Scaggs shouted, eliciting much crowd love) and “It’s Complicated,” backed by Salt-N-Pepa “Push It”-style shuffling rhythms.
Bookending the bill: openers FMLYBND and locals Iration, who induced audience gyrations with their reggae-rock thing on songs such as “Reelin” from 2015’s Hotting Up.