Lobero Theater Reopens in Santa Barbara
With Monumental Jam Session to Benefit Notes For Notes
L. Paul Mann
California’s oldest continuously operating live production theater reopened after it's most recent renovation, on Friday night December 6th, with a benefit concert for Notes For Notes. The theater was originally founded in 1873, as the only opera house south of San Francisco. It was rebuilt in 1924 and has undergone several renovations in recent years. The latest project featured a redesign of the seats, removing 70 of the 670, tiny old seats designed for the little people who apparently inhabited Santa Barbara in the 1800's. The new plush seats are larger and more comfortable. The renovation also enlarged the bathrooms to handle a full house and added central air and heating. Thankfully the original ornate interior was left mostly untouched, and most importantly the near perfect acoustics of the building remain intact. The grand reopening was made all the more joyous spectacle with the production of the third annual Notes For Notes benefit concert and auction. Notes For Notes raises money to provide instruments, education, and facilities to teach music to aspiring young musicians, who may not have the funds to pursue music on their own. The Lobero benefit is the brainchild of local guitarist Seymour Duncan, who is somewhat of a legend in the electric guitar world for his production of custom made guitar pick ups.
The show featured a three hour jam session anchored by Jimmy Vivino and the Basic Cable Band. The house band for the Conan O'Brien television show, the group proved the perfect backdrop for an ever changing collaboration of an army of well known rockers. The Basic cable Band began the festivities with some smoking, horn-driven numbers, ending with James Brown's "Sex Machine," sung by the band's dance crazed trumpeter Mark Pender.
Seymour Duncan then took the stage with L.A. guitarist Johnny Hawthorn for the first guitar jam of the night. They were then joined by singer Shari Puorto for the thundering Jeff Beck version of "Going Down." The first surprise guest of the night came next, with English rocker and long time local resident Alan Parsons performing "Sirius," "Eye in the Sky" and "Don't Answer Me." Parsons, who now calls Santa Barbara home, has been a generous supporter of local charities. He sponsered a benefit concert two years ago for the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Barbara at the same venue, a charity that has strong ties with Notes for Notes. Parsons' longtime guitarist, also now a Santa Barbara local , Alastair Greene, joined in.
The biggest surprise of the night came next with the unexpected arrival of Eagles guitarist Don Felder, who played a cover of Stevie Ray Vaughan's "Pride and Joy" and one of the Eagles biggest hits, "Hotel California," which Felder co-wrote. Felder's amazing solo at the end of the latter song, was a highlight of the concert that had many others.
There was an intermission for people to check out the great items up for silent auction including some classic signed guitars. Patrons also took advantage of the expanded selection of beverages available at the outside bar, including local microbrews and wine selections. Thankfully the theater has relaxed the rules and now allows beverages to be brought inside the venue.
The second half of the concert began with Robert Randolph, who may be the best living Blues slide guitar player in the world. He played a ferocious medley, wildly swinging his sit down slide guitar and even playing with his feet. He had the crowd on their feet dancing wildly by the end of his jam. Then there was Slash, who next to Keith Richards may be one of the most revered rock guitarists of all time.
Slash first gained prominence as the lead guitarist for Guns N' Roses, and he played with Velvet Revolver, Slash's Snakepit, and is currently pursuing a solo career. With his signature curly hair and black top hat, he was a commanding presence at the Lobero.
Slash began in a funky blues mode, starting off with an acoustic duet cover of Robert Johnson's"Ramblin' On My Mind" with Vivino, then going electric for a cover of The Temptations' "Papa Was a Rolling Stone."
The covers continued with Chuck Berry's "Back in the U.S.A." and Jimi Hendrix's"Red House," and climaxed with Sly and the Family Stone's"Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)."
During the latter, while the band kept the funky groove going, Slash's guitar was signed by the legendary guitarists onstage and was auctioned off. When the bidding stalled around $5,500, Randolph decided to up the ante and throw in his guitar as well, bringing the winning bid for Notes for Notes up to $8,000.
This song also featured one final guest solo some from 15-year-old Notes for Notes Hall of Fame inductee Chimaway Lopez.
Just when it seemed the evening was over, Slash decided to play one more song, and the band launched into a cover of The Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter." Special credit goes out to Puorto for nailing the background vocals made famous by Merry Clayton.
What an awesome welcoming back party for the Lobero made all the more festive knowing that the kids will benefit the most from the concert. Thanks guys for a wonderfully perfect evening.