While it has been exciting to hear live music and participate in a real in-person audience again after so many months, the Delta surge hasn’t made the experience any easier. Only time will tell if this current state of affairs is truly sustainable, or if artists, promoters, and venues will be forced to consider either imposing more restrictions on who can enter a show or begin the dreadful postponement/cancelation dance we learned all too well in 2020. For the moment, prospects seem reasonably good that we can continue to enjoy ourselves, but things during COVID have a way of changing when you least expect it.
In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been to four concerts in person, three of which were indoors. Fortunately, those were all presentations of the Music Academy of the West, and they have done an excellent job making sure that things are as safe as possible and that people feel comfortable in their seats. Both times I went to Hahn Hall, there was plenty of room to spread out, and the space felt airy. So I couldn’t see pianist Conrad Tao’s hands the way that the folks who chose the more crowded left-hand side of the room could — I enjoyed the music equally well without watching his fingers fly.
The orchestral concert I attended at the Granada was exhilarating, and maestro Larry Rachleff gave a terrific performance, including a great podium speech about the Charles Ives composition Three Places in New England. Nevertheless, I was thankful for the decision to dispense with intermission and end the performance after approximately 90 minutes. Maybe something good is coming out of all this after all.
On Friday, August 6, at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles, I encountered an entirely different order of challenge by attending a rock concert (Zappa Band, King Crimson) in a very large venue. The staff there handled the crowd beautifully, and the common areas throughout the Greek felt safe and comfortable. That said, waiting on line to use a crowded restroom was an adventure, even with a mask. There’s a lot that will feel strange for a while now that we have spent so much time in isolation, and the shoulder-to-shoulder vibe of big outdoor shows is definitely in that category. Perhaps by the time the Santa Barbara Bowl comes alive at the end of the month, things will have calmed down. Let’s hope so! In the meantime, mask up.
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UCSB Arts & Lectures Season Announcement on August 31
The Arts & Lectures season reveal event is always a great time, and this one will be doubly meaningful after so much improvisation and struggle to keep the program in gear over the past year and half. It will be interesting to see how this trend-setting organization chooses to handle their programming mix and the associated protocols. Will online shows remain a significant part of their offerings once the option of in-person programming is back on the table? Stay tuned for what promises to be a bellwether announcement.
Lobero Calendar Comes Alive in August
After a successful free event with Zach Gill at the beginning of the month, late August will see the first steady succession of concerts at the Lobero since the pandemic began. Sax man Dave Koz kicks it off on Friday, August 27, followed by the popular duo The Milk Carton Kids on Tuesday, August 31. Both of these shows will be popular and should give the staff there a chance to prepare for the Labor Day weekend two-night stand by Toad the Wet Sprocket, which will no doubt be packed with fans, friends, and family of these hometown favorites. Those shows are on Saturday-Sunday, September 4-5, at 8 p.m. Looking ahead, Jakob Dylan and the Wallflowers arrive on Wednesday, September 8, touring on the strength of a new album, Exit Wounds, that’s likely to wind up appearing on many best-of-the-year lists come December.
The Listening Post
This acoustic guitar duo from Mexico can’t be filed in any of the conventional categories. They obviously owe a great deal to flamenco and other Spanish guitar traditions, but they also come out of heavy metal, and they’ve listened to and absorbed all kinds of rock and blues. On Mettavolution, their fifth studio album, they weave dense musical structures together in surprising ways, with Gabriela Quintero providing the propulsive rhythm parts and partner Rodrigo Sánchez soaring on lead. The final track, an 18-minute cover of Pink Floyd’s song “Echoes,” is like nothing else you will hear this month, and if you like it, you can catch them live courtesy of Goldenvoice and The Arlington Theatre when they touch down there on Tuesday, September 14.