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MUSIC : It's the Street of Sound : The five-block area of Santa Barbara's State Street is a slice of rock 'n' roll heaven.

April 22, 1993|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Unless the three remaining Beatles decide to play on your deck, the best source of live music for Ventura County fans remains up the coast in Santa Barbara. Don't misunderstand. Ventura County rocks here and there, but in about a five-block portion of State Street it's as close as it gets to rock 'n' roll heaven. Nothing around here comes close.

From the Dolphin Tavern to Alex's Cantina, there's about a hundred venues where a thousand bands are playing a million new songs.

Pep Boys and the Scientology place don't have a band, but if you want to see Spencer the Gardener, Tao Jonz, Munkafust, Woodburning Project, the Tearaways, Los Guys and all the rest, here's where:

* Dolphin Tavern, 35 State St., 564-1208: This place, which used to be Rocky Galenti's, is the live music venue closest to the beach. It's right underneath the Californian Hotel, which has inexpensive rooms to let for anyone who wants to drink and not drive. Music Thursday through Sunday tending toward the bluesy.

Cover: Cheap or free.

* Brewhouse, 202 State St., 963-3090: It's a restaurant in front where a gainfully employed Fermentation Sciences major brews three kinds of beer--Mean, Meaner and See Ya. The small back room, which doubles as a dart/TV room, is also the rock room. One side of the room is glass, bordering on another of those S. B. streets with a funny name, Yanonali. There's a brick wall behind the stage and the sound is OK, but the place gets crowded quick.

Outside, there's a patio where you can sip in the sunshine. There's a stage at one end surrounded by yellow hibiscus and a red begonia vine. The music outside is usually of the weekend afternoon variety. Overall, the Brewhouse hires hard-edged I.V. bands, but the lineup is pretty eclectic. Toad the Wet Sprocket played there in early April.

Cover: Up to three bucks.

* Toes Tavern, 416 State St., 965-4655: It used to be an auto detailing place, but now it's the third in a chain of "Classic Surf Bars." There are old-time surf pictures all over the wall, immortalizing the time when the surf was better, the parking was free and you hadn't moved here yet. There are five pool tables, a Ping-Pong table, one of those fake barroom shuffleboard games, pinball, more than 25 kinds of beer and a big stage. There's a giant, yellow plastic rearing horse on the stage with a UCSB logo on it. There's music here every night, reggae on Sunday and "Starving Student Night" on Thursday, which translates to free pizza.

Cover: Cheap or free.

* Joseppi's, 416 State St., 962-5516: It's S.B.'s oldest club offering jazz, R & B or blues every night. It's also one of the smallest clubs. The band is playing, you show up with a date, and now the joint is packed. It's hard to imagine that this place used to be the home for the Wedding Band, an outfit that regularly packs the Beach Shack. This month, it's rockin' blues with the Pontiax on Thursdays. Also between 5 and 9 p.m., Joseppi himself will sell you a plate of spaghetti for a buck.

Cover: Cheap or free.

* Beach Shack, 500 Anacapa St., 966-1634: A block off State St., at Haley and Anacapa, this is the happening S. B. venue for the dancing fools among us. There's a large hang-out room, a large patio with chairs under the trees, then a large band room with the best sound system in town. The venerable Wedding Band plays Tuesdays and there's alternative rock on Thursdays. Owner Gary Baldwin has the weekends down to a fine science. He has about four bands that do fine and play endlessly: Common Sense, Lion I's, Spencer the Gardener and Tao Jonz.

Cover: Up to five bucks.

Hot tip: Great burritos across the street at Mac's.

* Calypso, 514 State St., 966-1388: This place used to be the Ketch, but now it's a rock bar that serves Cuban food. The patio, where you can slug and slurp under the palms and the tupidanthus, is the coolest patio in S. B. Inside, the horseshoe-shaped bar has been straightened out against one wall, but the dance floor and the stage remain tiny. Also, the same problem remains as before: too much beer and not enough bathrooms. The bands are the usual suspects that play everywhere else.

Cover: Cheap or free.

* Club Iguana, 525 State St., 962-1432: Most of the time this is Felix's Cantina, a Mexican restaurant. But since the middle of March, it offers alternative S. B. rock bands every Thursday night as Club Iguana. This place has a good sound system and a big dance floor. The original Club Iguana began here more than a decade ago.

Cover: A few bucks.

* Zelo, 630 State St., 966-5792: This place was voted local favorite club for five years in a row by the Santa Barbara weekly paper, the Independent. Great food, tall Sapporos, but DJs most nights of the week. Occasionally, there's live music on Sundays, but usually alternative rock night is on Wednesday.

Cover: A few bucks, nothing serious.

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