BACK AT IT AT THE BOWL

The Santa Barbara Bowl has opened its season as early as mid-March, but this year the first concert didn’t happen until Brad Paisley honky-tonked the amphitheatre in late May. There weren’t any construction delays. No unusually bad weather. So what gives?

“There was nobody touring. It’s as simple as that,” says general manager Sam Scranton, who has run the Bowl for more than two decades.

So is this further proof that the music industry is in a downturn, the delayed start just one more bad omen for the industry?

“I don’t think so. It’s just an anomaly,” says Scranton, who lives in Montecito. “You’d have to ask the managers why nobody was on the road earlier. But whether it was a function of recording schedules, vacations or what have you, artists just didn’t get out on the road in March and April.”

Don’t look at the Chumash Casino for an explanation either. When it first opened two years ago, the Santa Ynez resort’s Samala showroom – which at 1,300 seats is less than a third the size of the Bowl’s 4,400-seat capacity – provided some stiff competition for the amphitheatre. The Chumash booked such acts as Chicago and the Gipsy Kings, who had played the Bowl in recent previous summers. But now, Scranton says, the two rooms have settled into their own comfortable niches that rarely conflict these days.

“There’s a limit to how much they will pay, and even then they have to have a good reason to do it,” he explains. “What’s happening now is that they mostly book shows that make sense for them to book there, and so do we. The twain doesn’t meet so much.”

The proof, says Scranton, is in the balance sheet.

“They did a lot of shows last summer, and it was the biggest year in the history of the Bowl, so there seems to be room for everybody,” he says. “Each has its own role, so we don’t feel so fiercely competitive as we might have two years ago.”

Still, one can read between the lines when you see the Gipsy Kings and Chicago returning to the Bowl one year after they jumped ship for the Chumash.

“The facts speak for themselves,” says Scranton. “The bands are back. Draw your own conclusions.”

Despite the late start, the Bowl still plans to present its usual allotment of 25-plus concerts, which means cramming more shows into a shorter time frame. Which is why you see more than a dozen concerts jostling for space in the facility’s weekly ad in local newspapers.

As we mentioned last issue, the season lineup boasts its usual eclecticism, including the first Bowl dates in a long, long time from both Linda Ronstadt (July 14) and Mark Knopfler (with Emmylou Harris on June 29.) But we neglected to tell you about a rare local show with former Creedence Clearwater Revival singer-songwriter-guitarist John Fogerty, who headlines in an inspired double-bill featuring Lucille Williams on September 3. No on sale date for tickets yet.

Up this fortnight is a June 5 Bowful of Pop with teen idol Ashlee Simpson, who has yet to fully live down the embarrassing episode on “Saturday Night Live” where she was caught lip-synching to one of her songs. Get there early for The Veronicas, twin sisters from Australia who make even more catchy pop and are even cuter than Jessica’s little sister…. What to expect when Chicago shares the stage with Huey Lewis and the News? Perhaps the power of love makes it hard to say I’m sorry. Craft your own clever cross-match combos when the two former powerhouses launch an attack of the Eighties on June 10…. KJEE’s Summer Round-Up on June 11 boasts a full slate of alternative acts whose very names – Panic! at the Disco, The Strokes, She Wants Revenge, Hard-Fi – could strike fear into the hearts of parents. Yet it’s all good, clean fun, and just about anybody will enjoy the clever rock of Franz Ferdinand (which is a band, not a person, and doesn’t have anybody by either name in the group).

Meanwhile, the Bowl’s capital campaign for the final phase of its refurbishing keeps chugging along and is just over halfway to the $12 million goal. The most pressing aspect of the forthcoming project – which includes an on-stage pavilion and upgrading the seating – will “even the playing field and help the Bowl remain competitive,” says Scranton. “It will let us hang all the weight bands can bring in – giant video walls, what have you – without any question or limitations. We’ll have the ability to do the same thing they do at the Staples Center or the Hollywood Bowl, so bands know they can book a show here and bring it in intact.”

For information on the Bowl, call 962-7411 or visit www.sbbowl.com.

Judge for Yourself

Chris Judge’s name wasn’t in the big bold type when Goleta-based Brazilian singer-guitarist Teka and French violinist and one-time Santa Barbara resident Gilles Apap got together for a joint concert to benefit the Santa Barbara Charter School earlier this year. And he’s not in the limelight now that Apap (who lives in Atascadero) and Teka are doing it again, this time at the Center of the Heart on North Turnpike on June 9. But Judge, a fine jazz guitarist who teaches and performs all around town, was the connection between the stars for the first night, and he put the second one together himself.

Judge is the link because he was a member of Apap’s late, lamented Transylvania Mountain Boys and he currently shares the stage with Teka in a regular weekly gig at Cava on Coast Village Road. Teka’s daughter is a Charter School student, and she asked Judge to see whether Apap would do a benefit for the school. Apap agreed, but only if Teka also performed.

Thus was born a magical night of Brazilian meets gypsy, jazz and more from two of the area’s most gifted musicians who had never even met before.

“Everybody had such a great time that they immediately said yes when I asked if they wanted to do it again,” reports the soft-spoken Judge, who has played for the Sunday morning services at the Center. He booked the upcoming gig to inaugurate a new music series at the location. “It was so much fun, it almost doesn’t even seem like work,” he adds.

The Center of the Heart has far better acoustics than the Unitarian Church, where the sound muddied the acoustic blend in the thump of the percussion.

As they were on the last gig, the musicians will be backed by their frequent associates, Apap with Judge and bassist Brendan Statom, Teka with Judge and percussionist Kevin Winard (although a late substitution might be necessary for Winard, who has a conflict). But you’re likely to see them in various combinations on any selection throughout the evening, as Apap is especially found of sneaking in for a lick or two during a song. Also on the bill: Los Vientos del Sur, a Mexican music outfit that features members of Somos Son and other bands, and which has been accompanied on some recent tours by none other than Chris Judge.

Tickets are $15 on sale in advance at Santa Barbara Sheet Music or at the door. Info: 964-4861.

Around Town

I must admit I’ve never heard of either of the acts on the next installment of Sings Like Hell, at the Lobero on June 10. But who could resist the tagline for the Google listing of Greencards: “A group of expatriates from Australia and the UK playing traditional acoustic music...with an afterburner.” Plus, both Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson have enlisted the band to open their summer tours. Opener Caroline Henning hails from Oxford, Mississippi, the same small Southern town that spawned Steve Forbert, which is good enough for me, but she also sings sharply written country-folk songs with a divine sense of knowing.

The riveting jazz singer Tierney Sutton – whose two Lobero shows were highlights of their respective seasons – returns to town to reprise her other role, as guest singer of the Chris Walden Big Band, at SOhO on June 12. The club sandwiches New Age guru Ottmar Liebert & Luna Negra on June 13, between Walden and another jazz gig, this one of the lite variety, Acoustic Alchemy on June 14.