Roots radicals: Thievery Corporation returns to the Santa Barbara Bowl with a bossa nova evening

Rob Garza, left, and Eric Hilton are the duo that make up Thievery Corporation, spinning bossa nova beats and vocals with a twist. Courtesy photo
Rob Garza, left, and Eric Hilton are the duo that make up Thievery Corporation, spinning bossa nova beats and vocals with a twist.
Courtesy photo

Just a few weeks after the Eighteenth Street Lounge club opened in Washington D.C., Rob Garza walked through its doors to the sounds of “Aguas de Março” by Antonio Carlos Jobim coming from the DJ booth, and he knew he had found his new home. He also found the lounge’s co-owner Eric Hilton, whom he would soon team up with to DJ and make music under the moniker Thievery Corporation. On their new album “Saudade” (released in April on ESL Music, the duo’s label), they return to the bossa nova rhythms of their early days and have produced what is for the band a very straight-ahead album filled with songs. They’ll be bringing this new work and their dub-heavy back catalog to the Santa Barbara Bowl on Sunday.

“We feel this album is a kind of palate-cleanser before our next sonic expedition,” Mr. Garza says. “It started with me and Eric in the studio trying to make a few songs in this genre and then at one point we thought, ‘Why don’t we just make a whole record that goes back to our bossa nova and Brazilian influences?’\u200A”

Continue reading

The passion and the fire: The 14th Flamenco Arts Festival promises performance, talks and workshops

Flamenco is part of everybody in Spain," says organizer Vibiana Pizano. Paco Villalta photo
Flamenco is part of everybody in Spain,” says organizer Vibiana Pizano.
Paco Villalta photo

If your only experience of flamenco is watching it every Fiesta on the steps of either the Courthouse or the Mission, well, the Flamenco Arts Festival has some news: that’s only the beginning. For three days the Festival brings in some of the most daring artists in the world of flamenco not just to perform, but to hold master classes in the art form, from dancing to guitar playing. It’s only three days, but the Festival hopes that for some it will stoke the flames of flamenco passion.

“This is a very high level professional production,” says owner and organizer Vibiana Pizano. “These are the people who have made flamenco what it is. These are the people who are the masters, who the kids in town learning flamenco aspire to be. We’re really fortunate that we can bring them here and inspire the kids who are learning flamenco now.”

Continue reading

Soul, majestic: Clairy Browne and the Bangin’ Rackettes bring R&B and girl group power to the Blind Tiger

Clairy Browne and the Bangin' Rackettes bring their popular, long-running tour to the Blind Tiger.
Clairy Browne and the Bangin’ Rackettes bring their popular, long-running tour to the Blind Tiger.

Clairy Browne and the Bangin’ Rackettes may sound like they grew up playing the beer-soaked barrooms of Memphis, but in reality this group hails from Melbourne, Australia. You’d never know that from their songs, one of which, “Love Letter,” got major play in the U.S. when it became the soundtrack to a clever Heineken commercial two years ago. The song, a mix of Amy Winehouse-style retro soul with nods to Phil Spector and Otis Redding, sounded both modern and straight out of a 1966 jukebox. From Melbourne cabarets to the artistic greenhouse of SXSW, the group has been touring incessantly, and now they arrive in Santa Barbara, to play at Blind Tiger, a most appropriate venue for their glamorous show.

In the early 2000s, Clairy Browne was in a band called Jacket, “a bad version of Black Eyed Peas,” she groans. “It was hip-hop in as far as Australians can do hip-hop. I wasn’t dropping any rhymes, I was always singing.”

But that’s where she met bass player and future collaborator Jules Pascoe. She called on him in 2009 with a special request. A promoter called Hannah Fox was putting on a special night.

“I was thinking I wanted to get back on stage, nothing major, just perform,” she says. Ms. Browne had an idea to form an R&B girl band, sing five (quite obscure) covers, get dressed up in vintage outfits, and deck the stage with candlelight. “It was raucous on stage the minute we did it. It had that hysterical feeling of 1966 television.”

Overnight Ms. Browne had a thing on her hands and a promoter who wanted her and her band to do more.

“I love that cathartic emotive sense that (soul music) songs give you,” she says. “It’s all about celebration and community and politics and heart. All those themes were important to me.”

The band, which at one point featured Clairy’s sister as a back-up singer, became very popular around Australia, but it was the Internet that helped them go international. In 2012 their manager got a late-night call from someone in Europe who not only wanted to use “Love Letter” in a commercial, but wanted to fly Ms. Browne to Prague to be in it. Soon she found herself strapped to a stage and being turned upside down in a production that did not use any computer effects. (Search YouTube for Heineken and “Love Letter” to find the commercial.)

That was 2012 and soon the band was touring internationally, just “dipping our toes in the market,” as she says. Clairy Browne and her music were continuing the work started by Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, Amy Winehouse, Adele and others in this retro R&B movement.

“I feel like what we’re trying to do is slightly different,” she says. “We have more edge and drama and dirt, you know what I mean? More unpredictability.”

On this tour they’ve taken time to record new material for their follow-up to “Baby Caught the Bus,” their debut album. They did so at Atlanta’s Stankonia Studios, owned by the members of Outkast. “A lot of hits came out of that room,” Ms. Browne says. “And I did get to meet Big Boi. He came into the studio while I was doing vocals, and scared the s— out of me! I was like, okay, now I get to sing in front of you! We don’t have those kind of opportunities in Australia, so this was a big deal.”

The band will end its current tour at the Troubadour in Los Angeles, and then focus on the next album.

Ms. Browne’s dad was a musician too, although he never got as far into the business as his daughter. However, he did have some advice for her. “‘The cream always rises to the top,’ he’d say. You have to have that attitude of — you cannot fail.”

Clairy Browne and the Bangin’ Rackettes
When: 8 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Blind Tiger, 409 State St.
Cost: $15
Information: clairybrowne.com or 957-4111

Cycling for a cure: The first women’s ride for diabetes kicks off at Leadbetter Beach

Whitney Davis, center, begins the Tour De Cure with her mom, Linda Davis, left.VIC NEUMANN/NEWS-PRESS PHOTOS
Whitney Davis, center, begins the Tour De Cure with her mom, Linda Davis, left.

VIC NEUMANN/NEWS-PRESS PHOTOS

Fancy a bike ride? Saturday morning around 200 women and a smattering of men — husbands, brothers, friends, lovers — gathered at Leadbetter beach for the first annual Tour de Cure Women’s Series.

The ride was created by the American Diabetes Association t raise awareness and funds to stop the disease “one ride at a time,” according to the event’s poster. It was also a way to directly encourage a more healthy lifestyle by taking to the streets on two wheels and seeing Santa Barbara and Carpinteria up close.

Continue reading

Closing the books: MCA asks what will become of libraries in new exhibit

"Lament," Nancy Gifford
“Lament,” Nancy Gifford

Will there be print in 20 years? Will people still want to hold books and magazines and newspapers in their hand? Or will they be getting information in other ways? And in whatever future scenario one imagines, where is the place of the library in all this? These are the questions examined with humor and smarts in the new group show “Requiem for the Bibliophile,” which opened last week at Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA).

Co-curated by MCA’s executive director Miki Garcia and J.V. Decemvirale, a UCSB PhD student, this collection of seven artists from Santa Barbara, New York, Mexico City and beyond all riff on the idea of the library and by extension the museum as well, both repositories of culture…but for what?

Continue reading

Bouncing back: After some setbacks, George Lopez returns to make Santa Barbara laugh

Comedian, actor and talk show host George Lopez performed his stand-up comedy June 27 at The Fox Theatre in Atlanta, Ga.
Comedian, actor and talk show host George Lopez performed his stand-up comedy June 27 at The Fox Theatre in Atlanta,
Ga.

This has been a rollercoaster year for comedian George Lopez. He’s already been humbled and made much late-night fun over his drunken fall at a Canadian Casino. And then his latest sitcom “Saint George” on FX got the axe after only 10 episodes (more on that later). All that has turned him back to the one thing that he can do with absolute confidence, with no interference, and that’s stand-up. This Saturday he returns to the Santa Barbara Bowl for an evening of hilarity and soul-baring. While his stand-up has often been about family and culture and the effects of an abusive upbringing — told with devastating humor and honesty of course — Mr. Lopez says that he’s going to get even more personal for this new tour.

“We’re going to deal with the private George, not the public George,” he says. “Which I think is more compelling . . . The thing with the next special is to get more personal and dig deeper.”

Continue reading

Experimental visions: MCA premieres On Edge Festival, four days of performance art

"This World Made Itself," Miwa Matreyek

As a frequent attendee at the Museum of Contemporary Art’s “Forum Lounge” over the years, it would be fair to say the events — every First Thursday at 7 p.m. — were unpredictable and just as often brilliant as they were half-baked. Sometimes there were short bursts of stunning performance, clocking in at a friendly 20 minutes; sometimes audiences found they had signed up for two hours. It was an experiment that had run its course in a way, but it was also pointing to something bigger, more consistent, and better defined. The On Edge Festival opens this Thursday, and promises the best of the performance art scene.

In its four days, the Festival, curated by Forum Lounge’s Heather Jeno Silva, will put on productions at MCA, as well as at Center Stage Theater, Municipal Winemakers, the Courthouse Sunken Gardens, and a gallery/event space on Canon Perdido.

Continue reading

DRINK OF THE WEEK: Chase Bar & Grill’s The Al Capone

Photo by Nik Blaskovich
Photo by Nik Blaskovich

We thought our bartender looked familiar when we stepped inside the Chase the other night. That’s because Tony Rincon used to bartend over at Uptown Lounge and we met him last time we checked that place out. It’s a small town, for sure. The Chase offers twists on classic cocktails, and we settled on the Al Capone because we’re fascinated with that time in history. (Although we wouldn’t necessarily want to live during that time.) The Feds finally caught Capone for tax evasion, but Rincon says this drink is a way to avoid the overly sweet taste of vermouth. Clever, isn’t it? The Campari gives a bitterness to what started as a simple Manhattan, and the orange peel twist gives every sip a citrusy aroma. (The cocktail started out as a creation of Brooklyn mixologist John Bush, and has spread across the country in the years since.)

Capone and his gang reportedly preferred gin and lime, but this cocktail is more an embodiment of the attitude of the man: strong, with an underlying bitterness.

THE AL CAPONE
1 1/2 oz. Bulleit Rye whiskey
1 oz. Cinzano sweet vermouth
1/2 oz. Campari

Add all ingredients over ice, shake and strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with orange peel twist.

CHASE BAR & GRILL
1012 State St.
965-4351 or www.chasebarandgrill.com

Eating and drinking the best of SB: Taste of the Town benefits Arthritis Foundation

Armando Salazar, Opal Restaurant and Bar general manager, right, serves up a shrimp dish to Trevor Green during the 33rd annual Taste of the Town on Sunday.
Armando Salazar, Opal Restaurant and Bar general manager, right, serves up a shrimp dish to Trevor Green during the 33rd annual Taste of the Town on Sunday.

Hundreds of Santa Barbarans gathered yesterday to sample food, wine and beer from the county’s finest restaurants and wineries and it was all for a good cause other than a full stomach. Taste of the Town, now in its 33rd year, returned to the Riviera campus for a fun afternoon and to raise money and awareness for the Arthritis Foundation of Santa Barbara.

Along the halls of the Riviera Park Garden, and out in a separate grassy area to the east, some of Santa Barbara’s best-known eateries set up booths where guests could sample food. They included Opal’s famous phyllo-wrapped tiger prawns, the Palace Cafe’s well loved jambalaya, Enterprise Fish Co.’s lobster bisque, Arlington Tavern’s indulgent mac’n’cheese, and more, numbering about 40 in total.

Continue reading

One-man show: Host, stand-up, personality…Ben Gleib does it all

Mr. Gleib, left, and producer Barry Katz at the premiere of "Dumbells".
Mr. Gleib at the premiere of “Dumbells”.

Stand-up comedian, game-show host, and actor Ben Gleib has just returned from Burning Man and is holed up for an extra night in his Reno hotel room, nursing something that sounds like a cold.

“It was amazing, very, very cool,” he says of his week on the playa. “Very introspective, very survivalist, and I’m so, so tired. Hopefully I can sleep, get this dust off of me, and wake up a new man, because I’ve got a special to record.”

Continue reading

Writing on the Arts, Santa Barbara, and Beyond!