Gardens & Villa showcased their new-found groove in front a of a sold-out crowd of friends, fans, and friendly fans at SOhO on Saturday night, succeeding in spite of recent criticisms thrown at their newly released second record, Dunes. It was, undoubtedly, a Gardens & Villa show; a social celebration of Santa Barbara’s favorite musical sons. Except, this time, the dancing better.
Despite some technical issues, frontman Chris Lynch was able to properly serenade atop the enhanced basslines and beats laid down by drummer Levi Hayden and bassist Shane McKillop. The set began, fittingly, with “Domino.” The first and synth-heavy track on Dunes felt much like the grand entrance it is on the record, setting a similarly pleasant tone for a set which Gardens & Villa had clearly spent time crafting. “Black Hills,” the band’s highest-profile track off their self-titled debut, was given a sensible and utterly pleasing post-Dunes makeover, and “Chrysanthemums” was lifted from a ballad into a some sort of velvety indie dance anthem.
By the end of the set (which was immediately met with a “one-more-song” chant), it was clear that Gardens & Villa had done their homework. One of the most interesting things about the band;s new record is the sense that each song could translate compellingly to the stage, and Gardens & Villa have ensured that’s the case.
The take-away from Saturday’s show was that it was, first and foremost, full of fun, and a fun that’s tougher to come by at Santa Barbara shows than we probably care to admit.