In this end of a momentous year, when the air is thick with 10 Best lists and year-end wrap-up mentality, a special award may be in order. I nominate Chris Shiflett for the Show-Must-Go-On resourcefulness award of Santa Barbara’s year in music 2022. Last week, in an SRO SOhO show, Shiflett — the longtime Foo Fighters guitarist and country-rocking solo artist — showed up with only a half mouthful of teeth, figuratively speaking.
The occasion was his second annual “Hometown Holiday Hoedown” show, but half of his own quartet was MIA due to COVID. There would be no pedal steel guitar, a signature part of his current sound on record, or bassist/singer on stage. But the show did go on, with Shiflett and his drummer joined by phantom sound of pre-recorded bass and occasional harmony vocals. And lo, the band did rock and twang in most all the right ways, although we did miss the pedal steel sauce.
Shiflett served up a steamy and tasty sampling from his now three albums under his own name, climaxing with three tunes of more or less local relevance. The Santa Barbara–born and raised but now Los Angeles–based Shiflett commented, “Even though I haven’t lived here for years, every other song seems to be about Santa Barbara.”
With that introduction, he launched into two new infectious singles from a forthcoming album, “Born & Raised” and “Long, Long Year,” going out with the alive and kicking title track from his debut album, “West Coast Town,” which, among other local notes, name checks East and Leadbetter Beach and a “little house on Salinas.”
Pedal steel was, in fact, in the house during the first of the evening’s three-act rock circus, as a key part of the impressive local band Logan Livermore, mostly composed of members from the band Mad Caddies. Singer-songwriter Livermore led the charge of a hot, taut group with country in its veins, along with other elements. Instead of drinkin’ and cheatin’ songs of C&W lore, Livermore cheekily joked that the band was there to “sing song about domestic violence and drug abuse for Christmas.” But they seem like nice guys, and talented.
This old and new home week triple-header evening was made complete by ‘90s sensation Nerf Herder in the show’s middle portion. Or as droll rock icon (and more recently, video star for children of all ages) Parry Gripp put it, “we’re the comedy portion of the show,” If you into country music, you may want to leave and come back in a half hour.” He then spewed what has become a hometown show kicker mantra: “Hello, Santa Barbara, booty capital of America!”
The band ran through a set of its short, punchy, and post-punky — and almost always comedy-lined — songography, taking on such subjects as Van Halen, Weezer, Mr. Spock, Portland, and the fleeting nature of fame (“one day, you’re Cary Grant; the next you’re Scott Baio”). Santa Barbara herself again made starring appearances in the lyrics, as in “On Haley” and “The Sportsman Bar” (“Everybody’s drunk, all hail the Sportsman bar”).
Shiflett, a fan in the Nerf’s ‘90s heyday and beyond, joined in on its greatest hit, “Sorry,” in which the protagonist is decidedly not in the holiday spirit, especially when he crashes through his girlfriend’s window on acid. In other irreverence news, Gripp sang about a mullet-ed Santa, and boners at Christmas.
All in all, this was not your father’s Christmas shindig — depending on your father and his sense of humor and twang.