Santa Barbara, Jane’s Addiction and a Great Escape from Los Angeles


I’ve written many times about the incredible musical experiences I have had over the past two years with the Los Angeles Beat in glorious Santa Barbara that I thought it about time to do a travel piece around a mind blowing concert experience with one of my all time favorite band’s, Jane’s Addiction.

We covered Jane’s Addiction earlier this summer when they headlined Doheny Days in Dana Point earlier in the summer. In support of their most recent album, “The Great Escape Artist” Jane’s Addiction brought it’s mind blowing act to the Santa Barbara Bowl on Saturday Night. This time they brought with them two hot opening acts, thenewno2 and Airborne Toxic Event.

We would have loved to see newno2, fronted by the late George Harrison’s son Dhanni Harrison, but we had to pass in favor of Santa Barbara’s culinary delights at our new favorite SB Restaurant “Jane” on upper State Street.

Back in the late 1980’s when I was an undergraduate at UCSB, Santa Barbara was a sleepy, funky, hippy kind of town. The main drag, State Street, which runs through the middle of town was a low budget strip of cheap and wild college bars, authentic Mexican restaurants, thrift shops, record stores and phenomenal looking people. The community was an odd mix of old money highly conservative rich folk, a solid middle class, and an awful lot of very liberal hard partying college kids. I belonged to the latter class.

Photos of Santa Barbara and “Jane’s Addiction” after the jump.

Today, and in large part due to the influx of big spending real estate investors and Entertainment Industry folk the middle class in Santa Barbara is no more. It’s now rich folks, house poor folks, and hard partying college kids who show no signs of any sense of the liberal political activism that I was a proud part of.

There is no such thing as a cheap weekend in Santa Barbara anymore unless you are willing to spend the night in a sketchy looking Motel, and even then, the word cheap is not a word you would use to describe even those properties.  The long held no growth politics in Santa Barbara means that the rich are getting richer in Santa Barbara and the not so rich just can’t afford the place anymore.

While Santa Barbara now has a Pinkberry, a Mac Store, and every high end clothier you can think of, it is still charmingly quaint, and stunningly beautiful. Only 90 minutes north of Los Angeles, Santa Barbara feels more like an old world European village now. Traffic happens there now, but is measured in Santa Barbara terms. Even in full blown rush hour it takes no more than 15 minutes by car to get almost anywhere you want to be in town or on the beach. That is, for those who actually want to get in their cars.  Santa Barbara is still a bike town and if you live close enough to downtown, riding your bike to work is easily done.

Santa Barbara is and always will be a beach town. The few big chain hotels are all on the ocean. Within the town itself there are a handful of elegant and tasteful small hotels and bed and breakfasts. If you can afford it, our favorite bed and breakfast is the Inn of the Spanish Garden, only two blocks behind State Street in downtown Santa Barbara. This one will set you back more than $300.00 a night peak season. If you like a bigger property with all the amenities, the beachside Doubletree Hotel and the newly renovated Hyatt Santa Barbara might be your cup of tea. Be prepared to pay no less than $250.00 per night mid week and more for the weekends at these behemoths.

We tried a brand new boutique hotel this time in the Hotel Indigo. At the risk of it being found, this is now our favorite Hotel in town. Only one block from the train station, you can leave your car in L.A and train it door to door from L.A’s Union Station to be let off one block from your hotel. We thought with the train traffic so near to the hotel that noise would be a problem but we didn’t notice it. The train passes through town only one time early in the morning and the Hotel provides earplugs if you need them.

While the rooms are European small, the location, décor and hip feel of the place makes this a terrific option. The Indigo is just getting it’s legs under it so you can still manage to get a room of high quality at $200.00 a night or less which is cheap by Santa Barbara standards. The hotel is pet friendly, and lacks the stale feel of the corporate hotels nearby.

We spent a lazy couple of days sunning, shopping, biking and boozing a bit before catching the show at the Santa Barbara Bowl, which is a 10 minute cab ride from the hotel or from any beach side location. Must see things in town include a visit to the historic court house, the botanical garden, the Mission and the pier. If you are in town on a Sunday be sure to visit the weekly art walk on the beach, as we did.

Concerts at the Santa Barbara Bowl always start early since the County requires all concerts to be over by 10 p.m due to its proximity to residential neighbors who really don’t like all the commotion. The concert season at the Bowl is short as a result. The Bowl sits in an idyllic location in the hills overlooking the ocean. If you are catching a show earlier in the summer all shows start before sunset.

By October the weather is still perfect, though we had a few early morning drops of rain. We passed on the first opening act so we could enjoy a great meal and a couple glasses of wine before show time. “Jane” is our new personal favorite eatery but there are so many great eating and drinking options in town. “The Palace Café” is everyone’s favorite authentic Cajun Restaurant, which I highly recommend, and if you’re in the mood for a terrific steak try “Holdren’s”

For a late night cocktail and a serious burger “Joe’s Café” is an institution which is one of the few old establishments that hasn’t left, although the inside has been gutted and no longer has the authentic SB tattered feel that gave the place it’s character. But it’s iconic signage and notoriously lethal cocktails remain. Santa Barbaran’s like to get their drink on and “Joe’s” pours the best in town.

Jane’s Addiction took the stage right around 8:30. Their set list was similar to the set they played earlier in the summer. The band covered songs from all 4 of its studio albums. 90 minutes was far too short of a set but rules are rules and when the venue says 10 o clock, it means 10 o clock. The price the band has to pay for playing over time is substantial so the show ended abruptly. We left the show less than satiated due to the time limitations so we plan on seeing them at their Los Angeles gig this Saturday night at the Wiltern Theatre where I would expect “Jane’s” to blow the roof off the place for it’s homecoming show. We’ll be there. If you can find a ticket Jane’s Addiction is still one of most powerful acts in rock and roll. Don’t miss them. It may be awhile before they come back.

As this is our last show of the year in Santa Barbara special thanks to our pal Jesse Lee Weiss and Nederlander for all their courtesy over the last year.

See ya next summer Santa Barbara!

Brian Michaels

About Brian Michaels

Brian Michaels is grew up in the Fairfax District of Los Angeles in the glory days of the late 1960s and 70s. Only a stone's throw from the Sunset Strip, Michaels had an early education in rock music. Michaels attended his first punk rock show at the age of 14 at the Whiskey a Go Go and has been going strong ever since. Brian is a defense attorney by profession but adds photography and writing to a list of his many passions outside of the his job. Brian can be found on the web at
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