Trombone Shorty returns to the Bowl on August 4. | Credit: Matt Perko

The sublime sensory pleasures of an evening under the stars at the Santa Barbara Bowl speak for themselves, and they’re made even more special because no matter how many times we chant “Open sesame,” this magical musical universe only opens its doors to us for 36 shows between the months of April and October. 

Moss Jacobs | Credit: Paul Wellman (file)

Programming that 36-show puzzle is, as you can imagine, an incredible balancing act — and Moss Jacobs is the ringleader at the helm, leading all the bookings and promotions for the Bowl. “Most people don’t think about the balancing of shows, which may be one of the hardest things that I do. That’s one of the keys,” says Jacobs, whose official title is Goldenvoice senior vice president.

There are certain shows that you absolutely have to go for if they’re available, he explains. For the 2023 season, he puts the classic rock artists James Taylor (May 31), Van Morrison (Sept. 16), and Diana Ross (June 13) in that category. “James Taylor and Van Morrison have been holding their dates at the Bowl for many months, probably since the fall of 2022. … This year, Diana Ross was a late find, if I can call it that way. She not only is a classic artist … [but] she is a legendary artist. And she’s not playing L.A. proper at this time, so when that came up, I jumped on it really quickly and got her in there.”

He also has another classic rock artist for the fall who can’t yet be revealed. 

“What becomes difficult sometimes is there could be acts that work on a given year, but it’s not fitting into the balance, and given that there’s a limited amount of shows that we can do, one has to be very cautious and plot to make it all work,” says Jacobs.

Also on the bill for this season are The Lumineers, which Jacobs calls “a true find” for a different age group than the classic rock fans. “They play bigger places, typically, but they like it here enough to give us two days [Sept. 12-13], which is unusual in my world — a band wanting to make a two-day event out of it. Economically, for many bands, that’s not possible.” 

Jungle will perform on September 6 | Credit: Courtesy

In terms of the younger-skewing shows, on the electronic music end are FKJ (Apr. 19), Odesza (Sept. 30), and The Chemical Brothers (Apr. 16). Then there are newer bands like Goose (Sept. 29), “which leans more to the, for lack of a better term, jam band world,” and he also mentioned Jungle (Sept. 6), putting these acts into the realm of “all really good shows that click with a younger demo.” 

Jacobs credits his team at Goldenvoice — “who are as adventurous with their ears as anyone I’ve ever worked with; we have a really amazing talented group of people” — for helping to stay on top of up-and-coming talent. Being part of massive musical festivals helps too. “A key part of the bands that are working at Coachella (which Goldenvoice runs) become a key part of what we work with and the foundation for the rest of the year in a certain way.” 

In addition, they have people who are focusing on club shows and smaller places. “We start seeing and hearing the younger, newer, fresher talent early on. Being in Santa Barbara, if I was just in Santa Barbara, there was no way I’d be able to be as, if I can say tuned in, as much as I am with my amazing co-workers,” says Jacobs.

The Black Keys [May 4] is another act that I’m not gonna say no to. That’s a great show that did really well last time here,” says Jacobs. Then there’s the category of alternative music from the ’90s and 2000s, which “does well here because of the longtime presence of KJEE that has educated a generation of music listeners.”

Booking Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue and Ziggy Marley with special guests Mavis Staples and Robert Randolph Band (Aug. 4) was another priority show for Jacobs, who says he booked it the next business day after last summer’s Shorty show, because Santa Barbara is “in a party mood on Fiesta week and weekend. So I convinced the agent to kind of shift his routing slightly, so we could grab a day that was part of that time period. Because I believe people want to do different things in a party mode.”

Goose comes to the Bowl on September 29 | Credit: Courtesy

Also notable: “Tyler Childers with Charley Crockett [Apr. 26] is an amazing show.” Jacobs describes it as “very, very unique. If I had to write it down [under a genre], it would be country, but it’s extremely unique in its musical component.” It is and it isn’t country, he explained at some length: “It’s actually closer probably to Father John Misty and The Head and the Heart [Aug. 13] than it is to Brett Young [May 19] and Billy Currington [May 6].”

One of the other fun — and funny — things we’ll see at the Bowl this summer is comedy, starting with a two-night gig for Trevor Noah (June 2-3) and then Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias (July 8). If he had an unlimited number of shows, “I would drop in more comedy,” Jacobs says. “Typically, comedians don’t like big places, but they particularly don’t like outdoor big places because they don’t feel there’s any connectivity to the audience.” But the Bowl is an exception, and Jacobs credits some of its success as a comedy venue to George Lopez, who had great success in Santa Barbara and loved the audiences. His agent also represents Jim Gaffigan and Chelsea Handler, who have had great shows at the Bowl since then. “The nature of the Bowl, and the nature of our local audience … the engagement makes the comedian happy, and I feel that that’s why we get comedians.”

In addition to the friendly audiences and a beautiful, state-of-the-art facility, the other thing that brings great artists to the Bowl year after year is Santa Barbara herself, Jacobs says. “When you’re on the road, you can be staying in some real shitholes. But then you can come to Santa Barbara. … To be at the beach when you’re on tour and stop in Santa Barbara for two or three days — it’s heaven. It’s frickin’ heaven for them.”

Jacobs still has a few puzzle pieces to complete the schedule, and there are more show announcements to come, including a “really big wonderful surprise that will be announced in June, as well as a few more.” 


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