Lobero reopens with special concert in singer’s honor
Brian Wilson’s approach to music is fearless.
He showed that in Beach Boys albums such as “Pet Sounds” (1966), “Endless Summer” (1974) and his innovative 2004 “Smile” solo album.
Songs from those albums will grace the reopened Lobero Theatre Saturday when musicians from Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties sing Mr. Wilson’s music as a birthday tribute. Mr. Wilson, who has a home in Santa Barbara, turns 79 Sunday.
“Songs of Summer: Celebrating Brian Wilson and His Music” will begin at 7:30 p.m. at the Lobero, 33 E. Canon Perdido St. The show marks the first time the historic and intimate Santa Barbara theater has had a concert with an audience since the start of the pandemic.
And the concert will raise money for New Beginnings of Santa Barbara.
Musical director Sal Leonardo leads the program, which features Brother Sal and The Devil May Care with Glen Phillips, Garrison Starr, Will Breman, Chris Pierce, Shane Alexander, Leslie Stevens, Todd O’Keefe, Max Kasch, The Brambles, Jems, Derek Thomas and Dusty Rocherolle. (Mr. Phillips is well known as the lead singer of Toad the Wet Sprocket, a longtime Santa Barbara alternative rock band.)
Polly Hoganson, co-owner of Ones to Watch Productions, which is organizing the concert, said she doesn’t know if Mr. Wilson will attend the concert, but she noted word has been sent to him. (Mrs. Hoganson’s husband, Steve Hoganson, is the other owner of Ones to Watch Productions.)
Mrs. Hoganson explained how Saturday’s tribute came about.
“We’ve done shows at the Lobero before. I reached out to them and said, ‘Let’s do a summer concert,’ ” she told the News-Press. “I asked about available dates. They told me ‘June 19.’ Brian Wilson’s birthday is June 20, so we thought, ‘What better way to celebrate the reopening, summer fun and sun, and Brian’s birthday than doing this concert and dedicating it to him?’”
Mrs. Hoganson said she and her husband also recognized the importance of June 19 as the Juneteenth commemoration of June 19, 1865, the day black slaves were freed after the Civil War. So Mr. Pierce, one of the singers, will lead everyone in singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which is often regarded as the black national anthem.
James Weldon Johnson and J. Rosamond Johnson, two black brothers living in Jacksonville, Fla., co-wrote the song to celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s birthday in 1900. As president during the Civil War, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation freeing slaves and worked with Congress to ensure adoption of the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery.
“We’re going to lift up our voices,” Mrs. Hoganson said.
But the rest of the concert will be devoted to Mr. Wilson’s music, and Mrs. Hoganson said most of the songs are being kept as a surprise for the fans.
“We feel he’s such a brilliant songwriter. His arrangements are other worldly,” Mrs. Hoganson said. “He has a brilliant mind. We are in awe of his musicianship.”
Mrs. Hoganson said people who have grown up with the Beach Boys feel moved when they hear songs like “Good Vibrations,” and she did say that classic would be performed at the concert. “It just makes you happy.”
She noted fans will hear some women singing the lead vocals usually sung by men. “It’s a different take, but you’re going to still recognize the arrangements. It’s the same tempo.”
Saturday’s concert draws music from albums such as “Pet Sounds.” Mr. Wilson collaborated with lyricist Tony Asher on the album’s songs, which varied from “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” which has a fun beat, to the heart-tugging “God Only Knows.”
The concert will also feature music from Mr. Wilson’s 2004 solo album “Smile,” which consisted of new recordings of music for a 1967 Beach Boys album he didn’t finish.
The finished album is a unique blend of sweetness, fun, introspection and experimentation. There’s a ballad-like quality, and the music can touch your soul. But there’s also some playfulness. At one point, power and hand tools complement the music, and it works like magic.
The songs vary from “Heroes and Villains,” “Barnyard,” “In Blue Hawaii” and “Vege-Tables,” featuring celery noises, to a new recording of “Good Vibrations,” the classic that was released by the Beach Boys in 1966. Mr. Wilson wrote the music, and Mike Love, the lyrics.
Saturday’s concert marks another step toward a more normal world. During the pandemic, the Lobero was presenting virtual concerts filmed without an audience, which doesn’t have the element of musicians and fans feeding off each other’s energy.
On Saturday, musicians will again hear the sound of fans laughing, singing along and applauding, Mrs. Hoganson said.
“I think it’s going to be explosive with energy and excitement.”