Fashionably late at the Santa Barbara County Bowl is good for a Red Forman Moment of Dumbass. On Saturday as it always does and as advertised, the show started on time with a German Army of Capricorns precision. When Fitz kicked off his opening set at exactly six-and-a-half o'clock, I was still sweating, walking the several uphill blocks to the tree-lined venue. Right away as I finally settled into my seat, several things were different than the band I wrote about in last Friday's Time Out on 29 June.
So much for the snappy dresser - I outdressed or at least matched Fitz by wearing a Ziggens t-shirt - he wore Levi's and a dress shirt not tucked in. He was as skinny as six o'clock and had a competition stripe on his dome - the Pepe Le Pew look maybe or way back to Marshal Troop on "Lawman," which yet lives on the Western Channel. And the horn section was a bit smaller than anticipated - it was one guy - James King - with a sax two thirds his size.
More than holding her own on the Sartorial Splendor Scale was Fitz's alter ego, front gal Noelle Scaggs with a spray on red dress who danced around and teased the crowd as if she'd done this sort of thing before. Meanwhile, Fitz said all the right stuff - not only did he plug the band's new one, due out on October, but he evoked the obligatory cheer for the headliner, Ben Harper. Evidently not there to work on his badly needed tan and with the complexion of Bill or Eric from "True Blood," Fitz noted, "Thank God that sun went down."
Most obedient were all those standing in front - the lawn seats are way gone, replaced by concrete and standing. They clapped when told to and sang along on cue if not on key. And so it goes at the rock show. Fitz and the Tantrums are a mildly entertaining soul band - they're into it but like most bands, could use better songs. Their rendition of "Rich Girls" (of which there were plenty at this one) was solid but their best song was a cover, "Sweet Dreams" from the Eurythmics long ago.
They could've actually started late as what followed was the traditional free BMW - Basic Monotonous Wait - but not to me, I brought a book. Wherever you go - always bring a book. Do you have a strange sense that maybe something isn't quite right with our democracy? Densely written but a non stop shocker using unassailable logic, Henry Giroux tells us what's really going on and how bad things really are in "Zombie Politics and Culture in the Age of Casino Capitalism." The chapters are short and mindbending - I was able to read two in between salivating at the ubiquitous trophy wives and those in training or still on the market.
Grammy Award winner Ben Harper arrived in due time to a hearty cheer by the now half liquored crowd. Harper came out low budget - just him sitting plucking this lap slide guitar like thing called a weissenborn and a violin player, Jesse Green maybe. It was a slo mo and mellow instrumental and the chattering Santa Barbarians were much louder, having evidently, spent a lot of money to hang out and chat. On the next one, Harper added his high quivering voice and at the onset of the third song, the full band joined him on stage. I listened to about half of his set of mellow tunes and then headed for Mac's for all the beans, rice and green chile burritos I could afford - the real reason to ever go to Santa Barbara.