Cinco de Cuatro & Bilbo Baggins: Adventures in Santa Barbara.

Booking shows for my band is really not the best part of being a band leader. Booking gigs is labor intensive and keeps me on the interwebz longer than I prefer. I do it so that the band can maintain a presence as a working unit in the hope that people appreciate the fact that we are performing our recorded material live in venues that are convenient to get to.  After not performing in Santa Barbara for almost six years, I decided to shoot an email to Soho, a really fantastic music venue, to see if they were interested in booking us.  

Here is the content of the email I sent them:

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A week or so after I sent the email I got a response from Soho asking us to fill in for a last minute cancellation on August 1st.  I had already booked August 2nd at another SB venue called The Cold Spring Tavern (another venue I’ve not played in over six years) and so I was elated that I could book two back to back shows in an area that I’ve not performed in for a long time.  I contacted Joe and Paul (Mark was unfortunately out of town visiting his family in Kansas for these gigs) and we decided to do both shows as an acoustic three piece with simply two acoustic guitars and a bass.  Performing without a drummer is not without challenges, and I was a bit nervous about it because we had not played a gig without Mark driving the engine room in many moons. My fears dissolved after our first rehearsal and it became apparent that the three of us were going to do just fine. We had to re-work some of the electric songs and wrangle them into an acoustic state, but by the end of our rehearsing I felt that we had a great set prepared for the two day out of town mini tour to SB.

The night before the tour I loaded up The Spirit of 86 with my PA system and the rest of the music gear and drove it to Newbury Park in order to unload it from my car and re-load it into a larger rental that we were going to use to transport all 3 band members to and from the shows.  As I was loading the vehicle I must have accidentally left the dome light on because the next am, just as I was about to head back to hollywood to pick up the guys, as I turned the ignition key I got a steady stream of clicking noise and nothing more. Out came the AAA card and once the Roy’s towing guy got there the battery got jumped and I was on my way to hollywood to pick up the guys.

After collecting Joe and Paul we were cruising up the 101 north headed to the beautiful beach town of Santa Barbara. The guys wanted to hit the beach before our show at Soho, so I took them to Isla Vista to show them how the college students live and to hit the Del Playa beach for a few hours.  Joe was amazed at the scene…co-eds everywhere riding bikes and skateboards in a community that seemed to cater to incessant partying and a heavy drinking culture.  We kicked back on the beach until we got a little sun, and then we stopped at Woodstocks Pizza to get all day happy hour $2 beers.

After a few beers, we drove to Soho and unloaded our gear and took it upstairs.  As we were loading into the club I noticed a ton of colorful confetti all over the ground near State Street. After living in SB for about a year back in 2004, I knew that the confetti meant that we had stumbled into Santa Barbara during Fiesta week.  Fiesta Week is a community festival that happens every year to celebrate the roots of Spanish California culture. What this meant for us was that there were tons of people in the streets drinking and carrying on and a ton of colorful eggs filled with confetti that were being thrown and cracked onto people’s heads.

Once we were in the dressing room Joe and Paul began to warm up and go over the acoustic arrangements as I met with my favorite SB BTB fan, Ayla (who had offered to work at our merch table.) Her boyfriend Zac also offered to help and they set up one of the best looking merch tables for the BTB that I have ever seen.  Ayla’s big sister Shamata appeared and it was wonderful to see her again. James (the father of Ayla and Shamata) and his girlfriend also showed up, but out of all of the people I knew in SB, the people I’ve mentioned were the only SB locals who came out to see us.  I tried not to let that get to me, but it is hard when you prepare a good show and spend the $ to travel out of your way to go to an area where you’ve informed your friends to the fact that you will be making a rare appearance in the town where they live (a town that you’ve not performed at in over six years) and 90% of the people you’ve invited are absent.

We took the stage at 8:45pm and played for about an hour.  We ran through a smattering of songs from our new CD, The Coyote & The Crow with the addition of some audience favorites from our back catalog. There were about 15 people in the venue (most were there to see the band after us) and the first few songs got a weak response, but I stayed vigilant and professional and interacted with them from the stage eventually winning them over by the end of our set.  People seemed to really enjoy what we were doing onstage so that was a good feeling.  As I was packing up and transporting things to the car I was stopped by an adorable girl from Portland named Amber who told me that she really liked our music and she specifically complimented my singing voice telling me it was beautiful.  As a singer who has a lot of insecurity about my vocal skills, it was really nice to get complimented about my vocals.

After loading up we drove off to find Jame’s place up San Marco’s Road. I had set up a place for us to stay overnight at James house.  He lived up in the mountains above SB in a quirky/cool post apocalyptic space that he has fixed up complete with an outdoor shower.  I cannot say enough great things about his place…it was super cool and it was a total adventure staying there. I wish I had taken a picture. One of the best parts about staying with James was the incredibly clear view of the Milky Way Galaxy from his driveway! His place has a very clear view of nearly every star in the night sky. Looking out at that sea of light at the end of each of our evening adventures was quite possibly my favorite part of the trip.

Once we had all our gear loaded into his place, we sat around drinking tea and then it was off to Isla Vista again to visit Kelly, a friend of Pauls who was celebrating finishing her finals. We had a bit of trouble finding the party, but eventually we ran into her at an Isla Vista party just across the street from her place. It was a typical college party. A TON of drunk college students who were getting hammered. We found Kelly who was a total sweetheart and a bunch of people at the party started shouting that I was John Lennon.  There were a number of Irish people at the party which made me feel like I was back in Limerick playing at The High Stool.  Eventually the cops came and busted things up. Joe was actually the person who answered the door when the cops arrived. We fled the scene and ended up on a rooftop before Joe and Paul wanted to hit up downtown to see what there was to see during fiesta weekend.

Downtown was a bust…just a lot of drunk people being let out of the bars after last call.  We were starving by this point so we had AMAZING pizza slices from a late night pizzeria near The Wildcat.  After the delicious pizza we went back to James place, found our sleeping bags and crashed on the floor.

The next day James made us breakfast while we showered off the prior evenings shenanigans. Once we were fueled up with breakfast and coffee we decided to check out the fiesta parade.  It was at this point where I remembered to break out my camera to take some pics for this blog post.  Here are the pics from the parade and Fiesta events from last Friday:

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ImageThe parade (and the entire Fiesta experience) sort of reminded Paul and I of Cinco de Cuatro, the fictional Newport Beach holiday started by Lucille and George Bluth in as a way to destroy all Cinco de Mayo foods and decorations so Lucille’s Hispanic staff wouldn’t take May 5 off as part of their “war on May the 5th” as seen on the 4th season of Arrested Development.

After the parade we went to another beach. This particular beach was located across a large open field that led to a cliff. Once at the cliffs’ edge we had to descend down a long natural stairway path that took us to a long stretch of open beach. It was goddamn gorgeous! We plopped ourselves down and dug in to groceries and snacks that we had gotten from a local trader joes.

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We spent most of the day on that beach and were eventually joined by Olivia and Jennie who drove up from Thousand Oaks to catch our show at The Cold Spring Tavern. They drove out early to join us at the beach and we all had a fun time swimming in the warm ocean waves and chatting the day away sprawled out on towels under the sun. Around 5-ish we took a walk back to the cars and drove up to The Cold Spring Tavern where The BTB were booked to play our second Santa Barbara show.  We had to set up all the gear and be ready to play by 7pm.  Our barmaid was a sweetheart and the Cold Spring patrons were laid back and welcoming as always.  We started the show promptly at 7pm and played for about an hour.

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During our set break I was approached by a fellow named Greg Grimes who was telling me that he has heard my songs on a public radio station in Philadelphia. He gave me all their info so that I can follow up with them to see if indeed my music is getting some airplay.  Greg really appreciated our music and he was filled with good things to say about what we are doing musically. It was really validating to get that kind of positive feedback. Here is a picture of my new buddy Greg:
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Here are some pics from our second set at The Tavern:
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ImageJennifer Deirmendjian arrived with her fiddle and she performed I Need To Know and Gasoline with the BTB! It was really great to have her talent onstage with us again.

ImageOur second set at Cold Spring was one of those perfect musical experiences where we were in the zone and I was finding it easy to express myself by connecting with every word I was singing and feeling every strum of my guitar. It was possibly the best Cold Spring Tavern show I’ve ever done. We had a blast!

After the show we enjoyed a few drinks at a really chill local SB bar called Elsies. This was a great part of the night for me. I was hanging out with Jennie, Olivia and Jen D at an outside table in the back.  Joe and Paul were wandering around the bar all night…not really sure what they were doing, but they definitely did not join us at the table.  We were joined at the table by Bilbo Baggins from Bag End. He was a nice enough fellow, but he was dressed as a hobbit and was definitely a free spirit/hippy type.  After about 45 minutes Joe and Paul wanted to wander around state street for some Fiesta partying. I was remiss to leave Elsies, but I wanted my band to have a good time, so we wandered the streets and I was surprised to turn around to see Bilbo Baggins had joined us for the adventure…possibly to protect us from the ringwraths of Mordor on our quest.  After some shenanigans with confetti eggs we ended up at The James Joyce Irish pub.  I believe we lasted until last call and then we lost Jennifer D as she waived bye to us from across the street as she climbed into her car to call it a night.  The rest of our fellowship (minus Bilbo…I think we lost him at James Joyce) made our way to Isla Vista for late night Freebirds and a late night beach adventure back at Del Playa.

We spent about an hour winding down from the night’s activities and listening to the waves crash on the shore. Olivia and I were deep in conversation…but I was starting to feel the effects of the whisky and beer that I had consumed. We were all beginning to fade, and around 4am Olivia and Jennie made their way back to Thousand Oaks and Joe, Paul and I drove back to James house at the top of San Marcus Road.

We awoke the next am a little bleary from the night before. We were moving slow, but got all of our belongings back into our car and after saying our goodbyes to James, we made the long drive back to LA.  I dropped the guys off at Pauls place and then I dropped off the PA and music gear at my studio space. Another BTB adventure in the rear view mirror.  It was a great time.  I want to thank everyone who came out to see us play and I hope more of you make it out next time! I’m very much looking forward to returning to SB again with The BTB.

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