Public pianism has run amok on State Street, and that’s an almost entirely good thing. Launched during the tenure of the New Noise festival a decade-plus back and continued through the years, this year courtesy of Santa Barbara Bowl’s sponsorship, the “Pianos on State” project deposits colorfully and fantastically painted pianos on corners up and down State Street. All comers, of all skill levels, ages and degrees of performance awareness, are invited to tickle the keys or pound on them (with care).
On this month’s “First Thursday” evening, flitting between Thursday night activities and the pre-DakhaBrakha concert Ukrainian festival outside the Granada Theater, I took a few-block tour of the piano promenade. A pianist on one block was quite adept, shifting between classical and pop music. One of his passerby-fans asked “do you play anything danceable?” Voila: he busted into a snort of ragtime. One era’s dance music is another era’s retro flavor du jour.
One block up, the pianist is more on the avant-garde/catch-as-catch-can side of things, mashing together some dissonant notes, but also keeping up a propulsive rhythm. Roving up another block, a young woman flanked by friends played pleasant pop ditties, calling on lyrics pulled up from a cell phone.
Most of what happens on the pianos follows the happenstance plan, with some notable exceptions. Take, for instance, an Independent-hosted performance by Zach Gill, he of Animal Liberation Orchestra and Jack Johnson band/ally fame. We just caught Gill on the big stage of the Santa Barbara Bowl, during Johnson’s homecoming, sold-out two-night stand, where he bounced between vintage keyboards (his preference) and a kindly, long-armed accordion solo up front. On Friday (October 21) at noon, Gill sits down to do his musical business on the piano at State and A (Anapamu), in front of Old Navy. Be there or be out of the loop.
Tall Phish Tale
Trey Anastasio’s old and occasionally reunion-izing band Phish swung through town in 2014, playing at the Bowl. With his own organically-grooving group Trey Anastasio Band (TAB), Anastasio stopped by the Arlington recently for the group’s first official local outing, as part of an only 11-show fall tour. And the crowd went mildly wild, a jamband-icious bunch which transformed into a bobbing, undulant mass of seduced humanity.
Anastasio, a fine and tasty guitarist and affable, mild-mannered example of a charismatic rock star, led a band with a big, fat, friendly and dance-able sound. Featured in the ranks are two women horn players/background singers — noted trombonist Natalie Cressman and trumpeter Jennifer Hartswick — and famed percussionist Cyro Baptista, whose musical toolbox included slap-happy swimming flippers. TAB gave us plenty to dance about.
Glen Phillips, of Toad the Wet Sprocket and Glen Phillips-ian fame, has not been a stranger in this strange pandemic epoch, thankfully. Even during lockdown, the inspired singing songman was an intrepid streamer-performer, then jumping back into the touring swim — once allowed — with Toad and also in his solo artist garb.
Tuesday, October 25, he pays a repeat visit to the favored hometown venue of SOhO. The difference this time out: Phillips is releasing his first new solo album since 2016’s “breakup” album Swallowed by the New, a reflective and rocking fruit of pandemic labor called There is So Much Here (on the Compass label). In general, the pandemic-flecked album has the feel of an appreciation of life as it unfolds, in and out of catastrophic and affirmative events and emotional states, as conveyed on the Rufus Wainwright-esque pop ballad “Call the Moondust.”
On the refrain of the opening track, “Stone Throat,” Phillips sings about the effort of “trying to find the balance between the sacred and the street,” nestled into the comfortable flow of a back- beaten groove. The line, and the sentiment behind it, might reflect a recurring theme of his songography so far.
Also at SOhO, the Santa Barbara Acoustic series is back in motion, this Sunday night (October 23) spotlighting Christie Lenée. The singer-songwriter also possesses a wickedly fine handle on fingerstyle guitar playing, for which she has been duly revered in guitar-nerdy and general music appreciator circles.
Pink Floyd fans alert: drummer/co-founder Nick Mason is headed to the Arlington Theater on Wednesday (October 26), bringing his project Saucerful of Secrets to the theater’s famed faux interior, set to be transformed into a psychedelic fantasyland for a night. The band, launched in 2018, focuses on the spacier and more experimental repertoire of early Pink Floyd, before Dark Side of the Moon turned them into box office boffo.
You may not immediately recognize the name coming to the Arlington Wednesday, October 26 — Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets — but this is Pink Floyd co-founder and drummer Nick Mason, Spandau Ballet guitarist Gary Kemp, longtime Pink Floyd touring bassist Guy Pratt, guitarist Lee Harris, and keyboardist Dom Beken. Fans won’t want to miss this opportunity to experience Pink Floyd’s celebrated and significant early body of work.