When I lived in New York City, I would often find myself homesick. There, in my obscenely overpriced junior one-bedroom, I would long for the warm sands, open spaces, and 75-minute free parking of Santa Barbara. In these moments of despair, there was one clear and consistent panacea: launching YouTube and typing in your name.
In August 1980, you played a two-day concert at the Santa Barbara Bowl to a gleefully enthusiastic hometown crowd. To my delight, a well produced film of this event exists online, infringing upon god knows how many copyright laws.
“During this past tour, we had some great times,” you say in mellifluous voiceover over a slow panning shot of the empty venue getting prepped, “but as the end came closer, I got more and more anxious to see my family, my friends, and my home: Santa Barbara.”
Kenny, it seems we’ve traveled similar trajectories. I had some great times in New York, some of which I can actually remember. But as the 60-hour work weeks began to clash with my inherent laziness, the end came closer, and I got more and more anxious to see my home. So as you can plainly surmise, we are not so different, you and I. You are a Grammy award-winning artist of international renown, and I occasionally write for the local free newspaper; we are practically twins.
Anyway, I would watch this video in which you hold court at the Bowl, strutting around in a deep-cut red jumpsuit that would make Phoebe Waller-Bridge jealous. Looking like the most fashionable inmate at a women’s prison, you blow through your hits with effortless aplomb and all the swagger of a young, spindly musician at the height of his game.
It’s a remarkable record of a Santa Barbara that seems at once both wholly familiar and entirely strange. There’s the amphitheater more or less as it is today, with its steep bleachers, raucous pit, and incomparable view of the ocean and the islands beyond. But the shots of the crowd serve as a dispatch from a bygone era. It’s a conspicuously homogenous collection of young, tan, blonde people for whom yacht rock clearly constitutes the vanguard of popular music. This is a time and place in which college-aged kids could lose their shit over songs about Winnie the Pooh, the joy of expectant parenthood, and the simple sensation of feeling alright. What would they have made of WAP?
Regardless, watching this concert in my tiny Manhattan living room was something akin to mainlining Santa Barbara directly into my veins. Even amidst the relentless sounds of taxi traffic and the wafting aromas of Halal cart meat, I was instantly transported home.
Like so many things in 2020, the 40th anniversary of this magical concert has come and gone without the celebration it so deserved. But if life returns to something resembling normal next year, we simply cannot allow the show’s 41st anniversary to suffer the same fate.
And so, I’m asking you and the Santa Barbara Bowl to make the necessary arrangements. You have a full year to assemble a band, rehearse the songs, and work out the logistics.
I understand that to many musicians of your generation, this would be a tall order, but to you this should be child’s play. After all, you’ve miraculously managed to maintain your voice and continue to look every bit like that spindly kid from 1980.
Now, I realize that I’m already asking quite a lot, so I’m not going to tell you what to wear to this show but I will simply ask you this: If a bride maintains her figure for 40 years after her wedding, does she not owe it to herself to take the gown for one last spin?
Kenny, there comes a time in which a man has to honor his own past, commemorate his triumphs, and celebrate himself home. This is it.