On August 8, 1982, the American rockabilly-punk band The Blasters came to Lobero and brought down the house. Literally.
Though it’s hard to distinguish legend from truth, stories were told of fans leaping from the stage into a punk mosh pit; wooden armrests on velvet fabric chairs being broken off by kids dancing on the seats. Some blood may have been shed. It was rock ‘n’ roll at its most energetic – and loudest. As the Los Angeles Times wrote of the band’s Hollywood Palladium concert the following night, “Forget nuclear war. Just hire The Blasters.”
The Blasters were formed in Downey, California in 1979 by brothers Phil and Dave Alvin. Their sound combined 1950’s rockabilly with elements of 1970’s punk – an energized rock & roll which led them to be billed with emerging Southern California acts like X, The Cramps, and Black Flag.
But compared to the snarling nihilism of hardcore Southern California punk bands like Black Flag, The Blasters sound was much more good-time rock ‘n’ roll. With Dave Alvin’s songwriting and twangy lead guitar, and brother Phil’s rhythm guitar picking and vocals, The Blasters high-spirited, driving energy had the unique ability to trigger crowds into swing-dancing or heading to the stage-front mosh pit.
The Lobero evening opened innocently enough with a set by Huntington Beach’s Red Devils, led by cowboy-booted Emmy Lee on vocals. Check out this footage. http://ow.ly/G7L950AWOPY
Then out came The Blasters. In retrospect, the Lobero management should probably have read more into the title of The Blasters’ summer tour – “Work up a Sweat on a Summer Night.” The venerable Lobero was a theater where polite, well-dressed ushers escorted guests to their assigned seats – and expected them to stay there. Blasters’ fans had other ideas.
When Dave Alvin returned to the Lobero to play in 2011 he jokingly reminisced about the 1982 concert,
“Different kinds of people showed up to our show at the Lobero, some wanted to swing dance, but others wanted to dive off the stage and make a mosh pit…Funny how 28 years ago that caused bloodshed, damage, chairs flying, windows busted, helicopters policing. Now, I don’t see one person dancing.”
The Lobero management was not amused by the evening’s antics, and they banned The Blasters from ever again appearing at the Lobero. Even more significantly, all other rock and roll bands were effectively nixed from the Lobero stage for the next 20 years. Amped up rock ‘n’ roll didn’t make its way back into the Lobero until the 2000s, when new Executive Director David Asbell booked acts like INXS and Smashing Pumpkins, and more recently when Neil Young and Promise of the Real appeared for three rocking nights in 2018.
- Special Thanks to Memories of Old Santa Barbara Facebook Group https://www.facebook.com/groups/159226190820935/
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