THROUGH THE WIRE: It’s hard not to make a Kanye West reference when you hear about Ghost Tiger’s current conundrum. The Santa Barbara–based folk rockers, who’ve been winning over crowds in and outside of their hometown of late, are calling it quits — at least for the next few months. Why? Because their beloved frontwoman is taking a break from the spotlight to go under the knife.
Long before the band roared to life last year, singer/songwriter Alixandra Macmillan-Fiedel has been staring down a not-so-pleasant fate: an eventual and mandatory jaw surgery that would require her to take four months of vocal rest. Most recently, Macmillan-Fiedel and her Ghost Tiger cohorts have been diligently plugging away, playing shows everywhere from L.A.’s Homeroom to last month’s Lucidity Festival in the hopes of honing their chops before the big hiatus. And, now that the time has come, they’re planning one heck of a good-bye party to see themselves into the break. This Thursday, May 31, Ghost Tiger plays its first headlining gig at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club alongside some seriously stellar S.B. talent, including singer/songwriter Omar Velasco and surf popsters Dante Elephante.
“The goal was just to play and play and play before my surgery,” Macmillan-Fiedel told me last week over tea, “and to write. We’re playing two fairly new ones at SOhO, and there are more in the works. The hope is to really nail down enough songs for an album during my recovery.”
Built on a foundation of rich, honeyed harmonies and Macmillan-Fiedel’s penchant for poignant lyricism, it stands to reason that the time off will make for some interesting song fodder. And given the onstage hours the band has logged in recent months, the downtime might not be so bad either.
“I think playing so much has helped us a lot,” Macmillan-Fiedel said. “We haven’t been together that long — it’ll be a year in July — and we had some big goals that maybe we didn’t achieve, but I’m pretty happy with how far we’ve come in such a short amount of time. And we’ve got plenty of room to grow.”
In the meantime, catch them onstage tonight at SOhO (1221 State St.) at 8 p.m. The show is open to all ages. Call 962-7776 or visit sohosb.com for tickets and info.
COMING TO AMERICA: Every so often, an artist comes along and makes you do a double take. Using forms and formalities so common they’re almost trite, these music makers take your expectations and rewrite them, forcing you to listen from outside the umbrella of any specific genre. Enter Ben Howard. The young Brit with a trusty acoustic came to me armed with all the essentials: He’s an avid surfer, aligned with Mumford & Sons’ newly international record label, and enjoys making albums in converted barns. In short, he’s poised to be the next Jack Johnson/Gotye/Bon Iver if his publicists have anything to do with it.
Despite all of this, I took Howard’s U.S. debut for a spin. On Every Kingdom, the fresh-faced folksinger navigates a terrain that’s equal parts somber, triumphant, and palatable. He bends notes, embracing the imperfections that come with playing both percussion and lead guitar on a nylon six-string. His voice is powerful and lilting, reminiscent of José González, but with more guts. And his songs play a smart and enthralling game of tension and release. This Friday, June 1, Howard makes his Santa Barbara debut at SOhO with opener (and fantastic talent in his own right) Bahamas. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll make this one a priority. The show starts at 8 p.m. Call 962-7776 for tickets and info, and visit independent.com/benhoward for a full interview.