We'll Do It Live

New Noise Festival 2011

Santa Barbara, CA

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Words & Images by: L. Paul Mann

Deer Tick by L. Paul Mann

The 3rd annual New Noise Music Conference & Festival wrapped up its biggest and most successful event yet, showcasing over 50 bands at venues (including many that sold out) all over downtown Santa Barbara. The music festival, which stretched to four days this year, offered up great indie bands from many genres of music.

The highlight for live musical intensity may have occurred on Thursday, November 3rd, the first night of the festival. Around midnight, there were three separate shows at the same time with capacity crowds enraptured with three very different styles of music. The New York electronic dance music duo Phantogram had a sold out crowd at SOHO in a dancing frenzy by midnight. At the same time down on lower State Street, a crowd packed Velvet Jones to hear the bluesy jam band sounds of Rhode Island’s Deer Tick. All the while, a few doors up, the smaller Whiskey Richards was full of homegrown indie-punk music fans soaking in the sounds of Santa Barbara’s veteran punk group Code 415.

While the witching hour of the first night of the festival may have been the most intense, the venues, which included mellower indie bands at Muddy Waters, expanded to five the next night with the addition of the Savoy Club. On Friday night, music fans packed the newly remodeled three story club for Oregon-based alternative jam band Typhoon. It was a good choice of venues for this band as the club’s oversized stage helped accommodate the more than one dozen members of this musical tsunami of a band. Up at Soho at about the same time, former pro-surfer and singer-songwriter Tim Curran was following in the footsteps of Jack Johnson with simple, upbeat songs reflecting on a beach lover’s lifestyle.

On Saturday, the music conference took over the downtown Canary Hotel and offered a host of informative and well attended lectures. One of the most popular lectures was the “Live Show and Touring” panel made up of successful promoters suggesting ideas on how bands can get live show bookings. The panel offered a wide array of promoters, from the owner of the smallest venue in Santa Barbara, Muddy Waters Cafe, to Kevin Lyman, most famous for producing Vans Warped Tour every summer. Lyman was the most popular panelist and fielded an array of questions. Lyman, whose Warped tour is probably the most corporate sponsored event in the history of rock concerts (there is a separate sponsor for all eight stages at the festival, as well as countless giveaways) has been successful in getting the 1-percent to actually work for the 99-percent, for a change. The Warped Tour has given more unknown bands the chance to garner a national audience than any other annual musical event in history. When asked if there were any compromises to be made between accepting so much corporate sponsorship and advocating for so many alternative lifestyle, free thinking musicians, he responded with a resounding. “ No.” According to Lyman, bands booked on the tour are free to say and do as they like in their performances. His formula has been so successful and popular with young bands and music fans that he has expanded into other genres like the heavy metal Mayhem Festival.

Painted Piano by L. Paul Mann

By the time the conference wrapped, local bands were performing for free at a street party in front of the Arlington Theatre. Also for the second year in a row, colorfully painted pianos were placed along the sidewalks of State Street for several blocks. The idea proved so popular there were lines of people made up of locals tourists, homeless people and families all waiting to play a few tunes to the delight of anyone within hearing distance. The music festival continued into the night with groups like The Entrance Band
playing intense jam rock at Velvet Jones, and a late night set by veteran rock bass player Paz Lenchantin at Soho.

The music festival wrapped up on Sunday, with just one venue, Soho, offering a selection of mellower indie music like the folksy rock of Oregon-based Parson Redheads. It was a fitting end to what has become a uniquely Santa Barbara tribute to the independent music scene.