Soho is without a doubt one of the coolest places in Santa Barbara. Named for the cultural district in New York City, Soho is a small restaurant venue that allows its audience to drink and dine while enjoying first class music in the perfect atmosphere.
For Christmas I took my dad to see Sean Watkins (of Nickel Creek and Fiction Family fame) at Soho. It was both of our first times. We got to sit front row and everything about the night seemed to go perfectly. The ambiance was great—brick walls, lights stringing across the ceiling, light turns down low. We enjoyed a delicious dinner before hand, and had world-class gelato in between the opening act and Sean Watkins. It was a great time to enjoy the scene before enjoying the music.
The opening act for Sean Watkin’s solo tour was Lauren Shera. I had never heard of her before that night, but I was blown away by the strength of her voice. A modern mix of Joan Baez and Emmylou Harris, her voice never wavered. Her songs had a folk feel to them while still remaining relevant, and she played the guitar and banjo very well. I bought her newest album after the concert and I’ve been listening to it nonstop in my car. She’s on her way to becoming one of my favorite artists and I only just heard her music. Listening to her is an amazing experience. It makes you feel like you’re back in the 1970s.
I had seen Sean Watkins perform once before when I saw Nickel Creek during their reunion tour. He is an amazing guitarist, songwriter, and singer. I love how all of his songs are so different. Some are happy and funny, others are sad and nostalgic, and some are bitter and angry. He taps into all of his different emotions for his songs, and his guitar picking is amazing. I could have listened to him all night.
The cherry on top of the cake, especially for my dad, was that Glen Phillips (of Toad the Wet Sprocket) was in attendance that night. He lives in Santa Barbara and performs often at Soho. He also happens to be good friends with Sean Watkins, who invited him up on stage for several songs. (My dad was also ecstatic that he got to talk to Glen after the show, just hanging out like a couple of regular guys.) Glen and Sean jammed with their other musicians, performing songs from Sean’s new solo album, a couple of Nickel Creek songs, and some great covers. The music was absolutely amazing, every song an incredible listening experience.
I would go see just about anybody at Soho. It is the perfect environment for music, but there is something special about seeing your favorite musicians live. It’s different than listening to the album in the car or on your iPod. There’s so much rawness and ambiance to a live performance. And a life performance at Soho is just that much more amazing. I cannot recommend this place highly enough. If you are in Santa Barbara, go to Soho! It doesn’t have to be your favorite musician performing, or even a musician you’ve heard of. Go for the food and the setting and the fun. The music is bound to be amazing no matter what.