When the lights went out in Santa Barbara’s theaters back in March, something vital to our community and to our sense of collective identity entered a state of suspense. When and how would we be able to return to our beloved venues? There was — and to a large extent, still is — no way to be certain of the answers.
The pandemic closure posed one kind of challenge for dedicated fans, and another, more existential one for those who make their living by performing or by presenting performances. When David Asbell, the executive director of the Lobero Theatre, looked at a calendar full of empty dates stretching indefinitely into the future, he knew he had to take action. “Everything was uncertain,” he said; “we felt we had no control” over when the theater might reopen. Unwilling to remain passive in response to the crisis, Asbell reached out to his large network of musicians and producers with one thought in mind — let’s find a way to come back. “We have to be active,” he told me. “This is a momentum-based business.”
The results of this comeback will be seen on Sunday, June 28, at 7 p.m., when the Lobero will present Kenny Loggins with a trio live online. The show will happen on the theater’s large stage with the musicians observing social-distancing guidelines. There will be no audience in the venue. Instead, there will be a five-camera setup produced and directed by television and music veteran Byl Carruthers. The plan is to capture the event and stream it on Vimeo in a dynamic, concert-film style, “like The Last Waltz, or seeing a band on Saturday Night Live,” according to Carruthers.
Tickets to the online event are $15 and the show, unlike many of the recent “from home” streams we’ve been seeing, is not a benefit. It’s a new form of what the Lobero has been doing for decades: charging a fair price for the best possible live music experience under the circumstances. Yes, circumstances have changed — have they ever! — but the intention and the quality remain.
Although Loggins and the Lobero plan to donate a portion of the proceeds to NIVA, the National Independent Venue Association, the goal of the event is to help artists and venues in an even more tangible way by establishing a business model that could potentially keep many of them from closing for good. “We’re looking to establish a template for clubs across the country,” said Carruthers. “It’s a way forward in the interim. People outside the industry may not know it, but a lot of their favorite venues are simply not going to be able to hang on” through an extended period of inactivity.
Speaking with both men by phone last week, I heard tremendous determination to create something that’s truly safe — a level of social distancing and “contact-less” interaction that’s designed to make artists and technicians alike fully comfortable with the experience.
I also heard their shared enthusiasm and gratitude at being able to kick this new venture off with Kenny Loggins as the artist. No one has done more than Loggins to exemplify and stimulate the spirit of togetherness in Santa Barbara, and none of us need to be reminded that he’s still got “the voice.” Tickets for Kenny Loggins, “Live from the Lobero,” a pay-per-view livestream event, are for sale now at lobero.org. Buy one and be part of this valiant effort “to save live music and the places where it lives.”
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