Santa Barbara’s beloved troubadour Spencer Barnitz can always be counted on to get the party started, and he’ll be doing just that at the Lobero on Friday, November 18. But this won’t be any regular old Spencer the Gardener show (as if there really is such a thing).
The festivities are the culmination of more than a year’s worth of work on a documentary film celebrating Barnitz’s journey from surf-fueled lead singer of the ’80s band The Tan to riding the waves of the music industry for the past 40 years.
In the documentary Hello Santa Barbara!, “we tried to not only tell the story of his life but also show what perseverance is and what keeps him going, and also show the power and beauty of music,” says Executive Producer Emile Millar, who is producing an album in conjunction with the film. The documentary addresses the ups and downs of Barnitz’s life — entertaining untold numbers of fans, but also surviving a major car accident, open heart surgery, and kidney failure.
Millar says that while working on the film, “I feel a little bit closer to not only Spencer, but also to myself. I feel like we need to see people who’ve had struggles. … It’s a story of how dedication to a craft and love of music and community can keep your heart beating — no matter how many times it tries to stop.”
The Lobero show is a thank-you to supporters who have funded a Kickstarter campaign but also will be filmed to become part of the documentary itself. “One of the things Spencer does is he involves the audience as a big participant in his shows,” says Production Manager Terri Wright. “It’s not just time spent up there performing; it’s denser; he’s engaging the community. … So, it’s perfect for celebrating locals because everybody’s celebrated with him for all these years.”
The production team, which also includes Director Robert Redfield, has big visions for future projects under their Hello Santa Barbara! label. “What really makes the community here is all of the creative talent and the hidden talents that have really created the whole lifestyle here. We want to celebrate that,” says Wright.
As for Barnitz himself, he admits his first reaction was, “Why would I want to do that?” But making the documentary has been a time of reflection for the singer-songwriter. Asked what it will be like to see his life up on the big screen (premiering at Santa Barbara International Film Festival, if the producers have their way), Barnitz says, “The beauty of age — and I know you know this too — is I actually don’t care that much. I just hope that people like it. And I hope that I like it. … I’m stoked for these guys. Because there’s no doubt that I am the guinea pig.”
He continues, “I truly believe this; I think everybody could have a movie about them. … All of us have strange things happen. Bad things. And if you’re looking at the human condition, you know, look no further than your own hand.”