Positively State St: Super Chick-Rock Bonanza!

Originally from the Santa Barbara Independent. Reporting live from the front lines of disposable-income distractions…

FRANKIE, SAY WAR: Santa Barbara’s latest (well, okay, ongoing) battle of the bands isn’t actually between musicians but, in conjunction with today’s ultra-corporate times, the joints that host them. Two in particular, new kids The Edge and 634, seem intent on mutual assured destruction—bad for the loser, but good for the rest of us who live for the good rock. The surge in excellent live music over the past six months is refreshing; it’s about time I had trouble choosing where to spend my Saturday night downtown.

HOWZAT? Well, despite its recent blunders (the tepidly bland Jonas/Cool Water Canyon snooze-a-thon and the well-meaning but unfortunately truncated Sugarcult release bash), the Edge made up ground on March 10 and presented a good case for itself with the fabulous Chick Rock Bonanza. Getting ahold of the Mades or the Titsofrenix (pictured above) is a good bet in itself, but the lethal combination of both with Rilo Kiley (but alas not Gush) destroyed all Saturday night competition. 634, to its credit, has previously scored with El Jefe and Ozomatli, and this last weekend came back with a great show…is it me or is pub-rock coming back? Among the multitude of indie bar bands risking Hootiefication (albeit with much more class) is the Mother Hips (from darkest, dankest Chico), who cruise right down the straight and not-so-narrow path of feel-good, California semi-cowboy rock. The Hips’ great strength is their tight songwriting, which translates extremely well live in part because of their refusal to jam excessively. Their latest effort, Green Hills of Earth, pours on the old Pet Sounds/Rubber Soul harmonies to great effect, augmenting a few one-dimensional (but not bad) lyrics that are also more than made up for by great songcraft and good playing, two virtues not often introduced to each other so elegantly.

All of this was on display Friday night at 634, where Green Hills songs were received enthusiastically by the die-hard crowd, much to the pleasure of vertically-unchallenged frontman Tim Bluhm. San Clemente roots-rockers 5 Foot Tuesday built up enough energy and adrenaline to whip the Hips faithful into shape, accomplishing that rare opening act feat: threatening to upstage the headliners in front of their own audience.

YOW. Yeah, but what with all the recent wild, rocking, and rainy nights filled with orgies of guitar-rock and pop (thank you Lance Parker and Cory Sipper), you may want to make with the road trip thing to see the Queen of Santa Barbara, Jennifer Terran, diplomatically conquer Cambria on Saturday, (or catch one of her home concerts this Friday, March 23rd). If not, you can take refuge in the Mercury Lounge with Vancouver’s maniacal Big John Bates; apparently even the far-flung colony is coming in from the wet, cold winter. Hallelujah!

SO WHERE ARE YOU GOING? Uh, isn’t John Lee Hooker playing in Ventura? Damn right, on March 29, and it’s gonna be a revelation. Also at the Ventura Theater will be the Fat Wreck Chords Humanitarian Intervention Tour on Monday, March 26, bringing with it Canada’s Propaghandi, melodic hardcore greats Avail, cactchy pop-punks J Church, and (you gotta love this) lesbian overkill-core rockers Fabulous Disaster. It’s only ten bucks, and all ages are welcome.

CHECK IT OUT: The S.B. band of all sorts, Claude Hopper—led by singer/guitarist David Cowan, and influenced by “The Jayhawks, Steve Earle, Neil Young, Counting Crows, and the Wallflowers,”—is releasing its CD this Sunday, March 25 at SOhO (with Janet Robin) and again next Friday, March 30 at the Jolly Tiger Lounge (with the sliding rock-blues of the Alastair Greene Band). It’s bluesy songwriting from the heartland of the heart.