Camerata Pacifica | Credit: Timothy Norris

This edition of ON the Beat was originally emailed to subscribers on September 7, 2023. To receive Josef Woodard’s music newsletter in your inbox each Thursday, sign up at

Especially in the long shadow of COVID’s insurrection on the cultural calendar just a few concert seasons back, there is a reassuring back-to-business buzz in town this time of year. After Labor Day (sometimes referred to as Non-Labor Day), the yawning stretch of August yields to the promise of live music action worth making plans for. Gears start meshing, seasonal cultural order returns, and calendars for music-lovers get inked in.

In Santa Barbara, the traditional late-summer hiatus of classical music from public houses is a sleeper awakened. Next week, veteran chamber music champion Camerata Pacifica’s 34thseason jumps the gun and/or starting gun with its season-opening concert at Hahn Hall on Friday, September 15 (see season preview story here). Opera is in the offing, as the intrepid Opera Santa Barbara prepares to launch its lean but powerhouse season with Carmen at the Granada, September 29 and October 1.

October brings it on in its own dense, usual way, with openings from CAMA, the Santa Barbara SymphonyUCSB Arts & Lectures (arts division), and more to commit calendar ink to. More on that as the calendar turns.

Tiger Hoisted by Their Own Tale

The next week finds the folk-rock sensation The Lumineers hunkering down at the Santa Barbara Bowl, for not one but two shows, on Tuesday and Wednesday, September 12 and 13. The band quickly outlived and outgrew its humble “indie” status, propelled by the power of its signature hit “Ho Hey” and a friendly, anthem-in-a-box sound akin to Mumford & Sons, Of Montreal, and that ilk.

But in a broader sense, the real superstar act on the week’s Santa Barbara music calendar is Los Tigres del Norte, the band that has been dubbed “the Beatles of Norteño music.” Los Tigres has thankfully made Santa Barbara a fairly regular stop on its busy, bustling tour schedule, playing at the Chumash Casino, Santa Barbara Bowl, and at the Arlington, where the band lands on Sunday night, September 10.

Los Tigres del Norte | Credit: Courtesy

As a testament to the band’s ability to be both embraced as superstars in Mexican music culture but reach beyond standard demographic borders, The New Yorker devoted a lengthy feature on Los Tigres back in 2010, still relevant today (link).

Though founded in RosamoradaMocoritoSinaloa, by leader, singer-accordionist Jorge Hernandez, in 1965, the band launched in earnest once the family moved to San Jose. Cousins and brothers joined the fold, and the saga began, resulting in countless albums (the most recent being 2021’s La Reunión) and a hefty Grammy collection (seven Grammy Awards and 12 Latin Grammy trophies to date). An interesting factoid: Of the many artists seeking permission to follow Johnny Cash’s lead and record an album in Folsom Prison, only Los Tigres was granted access to that legendary space, resulting in 2019’s Los Tigres Live at Folsom Prison. The album is actually the soundtrack to a documentary available on Netflix.

Los Tigres del Norte | Credit: Courtesy

Lyrically, the band has been known for, and sometimes braved controversy, with their narcocorridos — chronicling exploits of outlaw narco-traffickers — but is also known for their songs steeped in political commentaries and leftist leanings.
But for those of us language-limited fans, with only a passing understanding of Spanish, what jumps out is the melodic gleam and polka-phonic pumping of accordion, two-beat grooves and saxophonic energy in their music, especially live. Their message, in purely musical terms, transcends language and culture.


On the SOhO front, this week’s pickings range from a three-act Banda and Norteño night on Saturday (for those prepping for Los Tigres); the monthly meeting of the Santa Barbara Jazz Society on Sunday afternoon, featuring Kim Collins; and the premiere live-Dead tribute band Grateful Shred, hunkering down for a two-night stand on Thursday and Friday, September 14 and 15. Jam on, whatever your preferred genre flavor.


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