Go Where You Wanna Go

By Steven Libowitz   |   July 4, 2019

Echo In The Canyon, Andrew Slater’s documentary about the 1964-68 era in Laurel Canyon when folk-rock bands formed in the neighborhood that offered both seclusion and proximity to Hollywood studios before giving way to the psychedelic and singer-songwriter movements, may well prove to be the most commercially successful movie to have emerged from this year’s Santa Barbara International Film Festival. The 82-minute doc – which features Jakob Dylan as narrator, interviewer, tribute concert bandleader, and co-producer – was a huge hit at SBIFF, earning extra screenings, one of which concluded with a live four-song reprise of the concert captured in the film on stage at the Lobero. Now Echo is ensconced at the Hitchcock Cinema in town, where it continues for a fifth week through July 11.

The film evolved out of a 2015 tribute concert at L.A.’s Orpheum Theatre put together by Dylan with Regina Spektor, Fiona Apple, Cat Power, Jade, Beck and others paying tribute to the influential songs of the era. Dylan and longtime friend Andrew Slater – the former Capitol Records CEO, journalist, and producer who once managed the Wallflowers frontman Dylan – shepherded Echo into a recording project and eventually the documentary that features stories, memories, and anecdotes from Roger McGuinn, David Crosby, Michelle Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas, plus Brian Wilson, Stephen Stills, Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Graham Nash, and famed producer Lou Adler.

“We started out making something about the migration of folk musicians from New York to California, and the electrification of folk music, but wound up in Laurel Canyon where we learned about the collective energy of bands, what made them great, and what broke them apart,” Slater explained in a post-screening interview back in February. “These bands with multiple singers and songwriters were living out a dream that was inspired by the Beatles, but the California canyon version, It was the collective energy that made the amazing music. [When we did the interviews] they gave us stories they hadn’t told before, which made this more than a snapshot of the time.”

There won’t be any post-screening concerts at the Hitchcock, but the filmed music is riveting enough, and, at the very least, it’s fun to watch the interview with Crosby that was filmed surreptitiously at a private home in Santa Barbara in a quick 45 minutes. “Then we all went over to La Super-Rica,” Slater said.

Cinematic Splendor in the Grass

Break out the blankets and (low-backed, low-to-the-ground) beach chairs and pack up the picnics – it’s time for the Santa Barbara Summer Cinema series from UCSB Arts and Lectures and the Santa Barbara County Office of Arts & Culture. Those Fabulous Fifties! features seven iconic films from the decade ranging from silly fun to serious dramas, on consecutive Friday evenings at 8:30 pm (save for Fiesta week) outdoors under the stars at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse Sunken Gardens. The 10th anniversary season gets underway on July 5 with Roman Holiday starring Audrey Hepburn in her Oscar-winning American debut opposite Gregory Peck in a storybook romance. See next week’s column for an interview with UCSB’s Roman Baratiak and details on the other movies. Visit www.ArtsAndLectures.UCSB.edu for details. 

Chinese Challenges and Triumphs on Film

Also celebrating its 10th anniversary is the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation’s annual Asian American Film Series, a four-part event also held each Friday in July (at 7:30 pm) indoors at the Alhecama Theatre. The series explores the history and cultures of the Asian communities that once thrived in and around the Santa Barbara Presidio area, featuring films that speak to the Asian American experience in the Western U.S. by addressing a broad range of historical and modern topics.

Patsy Mink: Ahead of the Majority, which screens July 5, traces the story of Patsy Takemoto Mink who battled racism and sexism to become the first Japanese-American and woman of color in the United States Congress in 1965. Seven years later she ran for the U.S. Presidency and was the driving force behind Title IX, the landmark legislation that transformed women’s opportunities in higher education and athletics. For the Sake of the Children (July 12) explores the legacy of Japanese-American internment, its impact on current generations who are descendants of families that were incarcerated, and the complex interplay of culture, racial prejudice, history, and inter-generational differences. ULAM: Main Dish (July 19) is the first food documentary following the rise of the Filipino food movement via the chefs crossing over to the center of the American table. The series closes July 26 with Bittersweet Roots: The Chinese in California’s Heartland,whichfocuses onthe California Delta, the only place in America where the Chinese have maintained and sustained a presence for nearly 150 years, as immigrants transformed swampland into one of the richest agricultural regions on Earth. Dinner will be available to purchase an hour before the screenings, and Q&A sessions with filmmakers and a reception will follow each film. Admission is by $5 suggested donation for non SBTHP members. Call (805) 961-5374 or visit www.sbthp.org/aafs.

Elvis is Back in the Building

Sure, Elvis Presley passed away more than 40 years ago, but the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll remains very much alive in the hearts and minds of music lovers all over the world. This week, you have two opportunities for a trip down memory lane, beginning with PCPA’s production of the Tony Award-winning musical Million Dollar Quartet at the Solvang Festival Theater. The audience basically gets to sit in on what was one of the greatest jam sessions in rock ‘n’ roll history as the musical recreates the night of December 4, 1956, when an extraordinary twist of fate brought together Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins at the famous Sun Records studio in Memphis. The score includes a generous scoop of rock ‘n’ roll, gospel, R&B and country smash hits, including “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Fever,” “Great Balls of Fire,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” and “Hound Dog,” among others. But the show goes beyond the concert as the story reveals how Sun Records owner-producer Sam Phillips helped some very “green” musicians find their true potential. Cash initially wanted to just sing gospel songs and Elvis came in mimicking Dean Martin. Phillips pushed them to find the unique voices that would transform them into the legends they became. So Million Dollar Quartet captures the contagious spirit, freewheeling excitement and thrilling sounds along with broken promises, secrets, betrayal, and celebrations that are both poignant and funny. Kitty Balay directs the musical – which was nominated for three 2010 Tony Awards including Best Musical and Best Book – at the outdoor Solvang Festival Theater July 5-28. Tickets cost $49-$62, with discounts for seniors, students, children and the military. Call (805) 922-8313 or visit www.pcpa.org.

Presley Presses On

Back in town, a one-night-only show pays tribute to another famous Presley performance, the 1968 NBC-TV “Comeback Special” that marked Elvis’ return to live performance after seven years during which his career was centered in the movie business. The King put on his black leather jumpsuit and relaunched his music career with his first televised performance over that span. The Tribe band – a collective of Los Angeles-based session and touring musicians and singers including such big names as Rosemary Butler and Maitland Ward – is commemorating the show with a concert at SOhO on Wednesday, July 10, that celebrates his life and work and includes such hits as “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Burning Love,” and “Blue Hawaii.” Tickets for the 7:30 pm show are $15 in advance, or $18 at the door. 

Cookin’ at the Cabaret 

Back in the theater world, but sticking with the one-night-only theme, Ensemble Theatre Company closes out 40th Anniversary Season with a special Birthday Cabaret at its home turf of The New Vic on Sunday, July 7. The event features appearances by performers from past ETC productions, including Misty Cotton (who appeared in A Little Night Music and Tell Me on a Sunday), Frank Lawson (Porgy and Bess), Tiffany Story (Woyzeck),and LaVon Fisher Wilson (Cookin’ at the Cookery), plus the legendary songwriter and singer Amanda McBroom, who returns from London for the show. Admission to the 6 pm cabaret is $40, which includes the cake-and-bubbly after-party in the courtyard. ($140 Donor Tickets include a VIP pre-reception and special seating). Visit www.etcsb.org/cabaret or call (805) 965-5400 ext. 104.


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