Archive » May 31, 2007
On the Beat
By Steven Libowitz
The Miscellany of Glen Phillips
This might sound surprising, but Glen Phillips would just as soon not live in Montecito.
It’s not that the singer-songwriter doesn’t like it here. A Santa Barbara native, Phillips has spent more than a decade in the village, ever since marrying the former Laurel Franklin. The couple has raised their three daughters here, and they all attend local public schools. In short, Phillips loves the community.
The problem for Phillips is that he gets a lot more musical inspiration these days down in Los Angeles. The city is home to a club called Largo, which in turn is home to some of the most inventive singer-songwriters of our time. Phillips has spent a whole lot of time there himself, and has even recorded an independent live album at Largo a few years back. He’d consider moving to the metropolis just to be closer to the club if it weren’t for his family obligations.
“There is a community aspect to Largo that’s just amazing,” says Phillips, who was lead singer/chief songwriter of the popular hit-making jangle rock band Toad the Wet Sprocket.
“I’m outside of it because I live up here,” he goes on. “But it’s a rare thing, and it’s been home-away-from-home ever since my Toad days, when I was feeling alienated in general. The owner doesn’t care if you’re being hyped or if you’re hot. He hates the whole industry side of it. So he’s brought together an amazing group of artists where you don’t feel the irrational pressures, and where the local writers feed off each other and respond and develop things, often together. There have only been a handful of clubs throughout history that have created such a feeling – and that kind of environment makes good things happen.”
Since he can’t live near Largo, Phillips instead brings Largo to him. He was, for instance, the focal point of the January 2005 Sings Like Hell installment dubbed “Largo Goes to Hell.” The same core personnel, with a few key changes, also comprised the players for “An Evening with Glen Phillips and Friends” Sings Like Hell date that marked his return from a six-month European sojourn last February.
Now that lineup – Phillips, Sean & Sara Watkins (of Nickel Creek), Grant-Lee Phillips and singer-fiddler Luka Bulla – are hunkering down in SOhO on Tuesday, June 5, to kick off a short tour.
“We had so much fun at the Lobero, we just couldn’t let it go,” says Phillips of the last Sings Like Hell gig, which found the group performing an encore that ran nearly an hour. “When we finally finished that night, we all thought that it was just too good to do only once.”
The key, Phillips says, is that everybody respects each other both as players and friends, and the caliber of musicianship is so high that the players just relax and let go and enjoy the flow.
“I don’t surf, but it feels like I’m surfing when we’re on stage,” Phillips explains. “You’re just riding on this energy, playing off each other and excited about what will happen next, and how you’ll respond to keep the thing moving forward.”
The tour’s title, “Various & Sundry,” is also its description. The loose format calls for the players sitting on each other’s songs, tossing in a bunch of covers they all know, and not worrying about who has the most stage time.
“I love just playing,” says Phillips, who does the bulk of his post-Toad performances solo. “It’s fun to be in a position of being a contributor and not feeling like I have to sink or swim with me alone. Everybody sings and has such different strengths, which are so pronounced. The voices all have different and amazing takes and signatures. I have such a good time – it doesn’t feel like work at all.”
Tickets for the 8 pm show are $25, or $20 with dinner reservations. Call 962-7776 or visit www.sohosb.com.
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