Love at Muddy Waters: Rey Villalobos and Blind Pilot

Here is a blog post I wrote for One Night Music (onenightmusic.com) featuring one of my favorite venues in Santa Barbara — Muddy Waters — and the Portland, Oregon-based band Blind Pilot.  Please visit the official blog post for additional videos, mp3 downloads and artwork.  And if this commingling of music, media and writing interests you, join the One Night Music email list for updates when we launch new music on the site.  No spam, guaranteed.

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Love at Muddy Waters:

Rey Villalobos and Blind Pilot

A dear friend of mine back in Santa Barbara recently wrote an essay on love and was kind enough to share it with me.  It was poignant, drifty, one of the most beautiful things I’d ever read.  Loving your friends, loving your lover, everything, everyone — people you’d never have and the ones you probably could.  I laughed so hard, I cried, and I realized: I am just like Candice.  I am falling in love just about all the time.

In August, I fell in love twice in the same night.  I came solo to Muddy Waters Café in downtown Santa Barbara with a field mic and a pocket camcorder to record Rey Villalobos (formerly of The Coral Sea) for One Night Music.  Oh Rey, number one:  I can’t say I wasn’t expecting it.  I’d met Rey a few nights earlier, and he was as charming as they come.  We decided I’d come to the show (Rey was opening) and record his set, but — lighting not so good — we switched gears, set up at the end of the night in Muddy Waters’ storage closet for the most intimate One Night Music recording session I’d experienced yet.

Thing I Cannot Recall

Earlier, while the second band played, I sat outside and tried to get myself drunk.  I did this sometimes on dates with myself.  I had exactly one week left to reminisce the meanings I found in various Santa Barbara spots.  Great shows aside, Muddy Waters’ back patio was my favorite thing about the place. Years ago, my ex’s brother first brought me there.  He’d sit out back for hours drinking redeyes and smoking spliffs he’d made earlier by pulling tobacco out of his Camel Lights with tweezers and stuffing a mixture back in.  He wrote a novel doing this.  I still marvel that it took someone far away visiting to introduce me to the locals’ spot that would become my favorite.

Drifting. It’s when I heard Blind Pilot that I thought to go back inside.  Rey, a former Santa Barbara resident, was now living in Portland, but I think it was maybe by coincidence that he opened for the Portland-based Blind Pilot that night.  There’d been a lot of hype around this band recently, and Ian had excitedly contacted them about recording with One Night Music.  Israel Nebeker, who formed Blind Pilot with college friend Ryan Dobrowski, told me he never saw that email.  Israel is dreamy — curls and curls, like my boyfriend but taller.  He gave me the go ahead to take some impromptu videos of Blind Pilot during their set and added, “I can’t promise anything about the sound.”  Your modesty, number two! It gets me every time.

We Are the Tide

Standing at the back of the crowded café, I could hardly see the heads of the five or six bandmates.  Guitar, drums, bass, banjo, trumpet, vibes, even harmonium. And vocals, man, oh man.  I spotted a friend near the stage and pushed my way up front.  It was there, perfectly positioned under a single light, that I captured these four videos.  Sometimes watching them I get chills.  Blind Pilot played their hits, to be sure, but they ended with “We Are the Tide,” an upbeat, drum-laden, lose-yourself-to-dance song not featured on their debut album 3 Rounds and a Sound. As the room erupted in dance, I held my arm and camcorder steady, and still the collective energy coursed through my frame.  These songs, they ached of love and loss, of triumph and jubilation and skinned knees, tender and raw.  And longing: my love through the telephone wires and Rey at the back of the room and Israel, closest, but far far far.  The words became drums, the drums became claps, the claps the sounds of flinging arrows, breaking hearts.  Glory night!  I am in love, I am in love, I am in love!

Driving away from Santa Barbara seven days later, packed car, is like this: tight squeeze and quick kiss to each love — the music, Jeffrey Shuman of Club Mercy, your band and friends, places like Biko and Cold Springs Tavern and Muddy Waters, fires and ash, the best farmer’s markets. You trade this because several months ago you dreamt all of your teeth were falling out, crumbling into your cupped hand as you sat terrified, idled by some waiting room.  You trade this, oh shit, for a grieving mother, a pining for change a desire to upturn things, a love somewhere upstate you hope sticks.  The road home is golden burnt by August.

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