The Reignsmen may be the first rock band to be formed at a shoe store, specifically the Vans store on lower State Street. Seven years later, they’re no longer selling Chukka Boots, but are set to release their first, self-titled EP tonight at SOhO, with Dad’s Clothes and Yancellor Chang opening.
The band consists of Tommy Trujillo on bass guitar and vocals, Daniel Vasquez on lead guitar and vocals, Adam Duffin on rhythm guitar and vocals and Matthew Drake on drums. In their music you’ll hear the punk-country rumble of drunken brawls in the desert, nervous Bo Diddley beats, ’90s emo-rock, and even a bit of the Clash, Kings of Leon, Foo Fighters and the Strokes, among a hundred other shuffle-play hits colliding.
During the course of their long career — 15 years, almost — Dengue Fever has always included Santa Barbara in its touring itinerary. Not all bands deign to stop by on their way up to San Francisco from LA, but as bassist Senon Williams says, “I feel honored that we can . . . It’s nice that we get embraced by the town.”
They come to town — tonight, at SOhO — soon after dropping their seventh album, their first since 2011’s “Cannibal Courtship” — a 10-song, 47-minute journey back down the Mekong, with the exotic vocals of Chhom Nimol leading the way. There are elements of lounge, exotica, jazz, surf guitar and funk. And there’s no attempt to make a more alt-rock sound, a diversion that marred “Cannibal Courtship.” Dengue Fever has gone back to what made “Venus on Earth” (2008) such a breakthrough record, but added plenty new influences on top.
The California Honeydrops return to SOhO for a two-night stay this weekend. Two nights, because as founding member Ben Malament says, “We can spread about and give people a lot of different music. So people who like us for all different reasons can get their Honeydrops fix.”
Pretty good for a band that started with two guys busking at BART stations around Oakland. Mr. Malament played washtub bass — what they called the “soul tub” — and Polish-born singer Lech Wierzynkski played trumpet. They played everything from the Memphis Jug Band to Wilson Pickett, from Arthur Crudup to Big Bill Broonzy. And that continues to this day, with genre-spanning music that reflects the encyclopedic tastes of its founders and its newest members, with nothing off limits.
The proving ground for jazz musicians over the decades has been the nightclub stage, the chance to sit in with a group of pros and solo. It’s a high-wire act for the up-and-coming musician, proving themselves in front of a crowd as well as a group that’s heard it all. In Santa Barbara, the tradition is held by one man, Jeff Elliott and his Monday night Jazz Jams.
His name has appeared regularly on SOhO’s monthly schedule, and always on that Monday. So much so that it’s easy to take for granted what Elliot does, which is keep jazz alive in Santa Barbara at the grassroots level.
Modest success has not gone to the head of Kip Berman, lead guitarist, songwriter and vocalist for Brooklyn band The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. He’s also still amazed that journalists want to ask him questions about the band’s music. He’s certainly easy to get a hold of, compared to a multimillion-dollar artist.
“Kanye’s not sitting at his mom’s house eating chips,” he says. “Lady Gaga has better things to do. But The Pains of Being Pure at Heart don’t have better things to do! That’s our vibe.”
Henry Rollins inspires in many ways. There’s his work ethic, or rather his workaholicism, which sees him taking in hundreds of cities a year for his spoken word tour — Wednesday’s SOhO gig was one of them — then “bouncing” all over the world during his down time, and basically saying yes to any work offer. It’s his pure energy, which glows icy blue hot, a flame that hasn’t died down since his days as the frontman of the seminal punk rock band Black Flag. Seeing he couldn’t hold a tune or keep time, according to him, spoken word was his calling all along. At three hours, there’s no punk band that could keep up.
Without even a stop for a drink of water, Mr. Rollins held the SOhO audience in thrall the entirety of his storytelling. Part of that was from the power of his words, his charisma, and the feeling that terrible things might happen if, heaven forbid, one checked a text message or left for a toilet break. “This is going to be like the longest Jet Blue flight ever,” he said, referring to the cramped seating and his foreknowledge of our asses falling asleep.
“Party in the desert, party in the desert/Everybody wants to party in the desert.”
The chorus of Gram Rabbit’s new single/video “Candy Flip,” full of disco and distorto guitars, says it all about the Joshua Tree-based band. They have the good stuff and they know you want it, that psychedelic nugget, and their domicile is the only place it makes sense. They are the musical equivalent of the opening paragraph of “Fear and Loathing.” But sometimes, they venture outside the Rabbit Ranch and come visiting, which they will this coming Thursday, to SOhO Restaurant and Music Club.
A bit contemporary dance, a bit Vegas, a bit hip-hop, a whole lot of attitude and a dash of silliness. You can’t really pin down these Pin-Down Girls, but know this: SOhO loves them and is having the “variety dance troupe” back tonight for another evening of sexy dance routines.
“People like to jump to the conclusion that we’re a burlesque company,” says Devin Fulton, executive artistic director and one of the eight Girls. “And I like to say we’re not. At all.”
What is it about Portland that has made it such an incubator of great music? The scene is thriving, not just on a national stage (The Shins, Pink Martini) but on a local one, with a live scene that makes Santa Barbara’s look like an elementary school talent show and jumble sale. One reason, suggests Eric Stern, leader of the Vagabond Opera: money and time.
“Things are cheap,” he says. “Unlike California, the people have a lot of time to sit around and play music and play together. Portland is a great crossroads for that, it’s a musical laboratory.” Stern adds that the community is small — he attends school functions for his kid and runs into members of The Decemberists.