Loads of sunshine and an awesome lineup made West Beach this past weekend an undeniably festive affair. Coming off some serious city council-related drama from last year’s West Beach Music Festival, Friday started off slow but picked up momentum as the sun set over the palms in Santa Barbara.
With catchy melodies and a dance-worthy tempo, Through the Roots played an awesome reggae-rock set in the late afternoon to a small but enthusiastic audience. On the smaller stage, hip hop crew Zion I came out strong but lost momentum quickly as a slew of guest appearances, brand-new material, and a lack of decibels rendered them less entertainment and more background noise.
The highlight of Friday’s lineup was Betatraxx, a Los Angeles DJ/drummer duo. While they drew only a couple dozen fans, they threw down funky beats and had their small following dancing hard from the get-go. These guys killed it. They describe their music as “electro grunge sleeze house disco,” which is a great summation of their sound. Think more rock than GirlTalk, more flow than MilkMan, and more talent than Pretty Lights.
Other noteworthy performances of opening night were Rebelution, who never fail to lay down a great show, and Katchafire, who have successfully worked their way onto my go-to playlist of fun, feel-able grooves.
Saturday dawned sunny and beautiful, but the “no in and out” policy deterred me from arriving closer to the noon start time. Armed with my reusable West Beach water bottle (they won the Greener Festival Award last year), cash (they failed to put money in the ATMs), and my shades secured with a croaky (music à dancing à lost sunglasses), I was ready for multiple libations and good vibrations.
After a couple $7, 8 oz. beers (ouch) I braved the already dense crowds in search of the sex appeal that is Australian singer-songwriter Mat McHugh of The Beautiful Girls. These guys are reminiscent of a Josh Ritter/Police/Donavon Frankenreiter medley of rock, pop, and reggae with a tinge of blues and lots of delicious acoustic guitar.
Old-timers UB40 put on a great show, but with well over a century of combined musical experience, I expected nothing less. The Pretty Lights set was a frenzied dance party, but I was disappointed to realize how much of DJ Derek Smith’s spins were prefabricated and his musical elements pre-mixed. The night ended with the Easy Star All-Stars who performed Dub Side of the Moon, their reggae cover of Pink Floyd’s classic of a similar name.
The event wrapped up around ten, and a cool ocean breeze chilled the sweaty, dancing masses. Thankfully, after-parties and DJ sets at several local watering holes promised to warm bodies and carry the good vibes into a beautiful Santa Barbara Sunday sunrise.