There was another very special concert at the South Coasts hottest new venue, the Carpinteria Plaza Playhouse on March 17th. The sold out show featured guitar legend Robben Ford, collaborating with local singer songwriter Jonathan McEuen, and the Mahlis/Pano Project with Dan Lutz. The tiny 200 seat theater, which already benefits from the best acoustics of any venue in the tri-counties now boasts a new upgraded sound and lighting system.
The evening began early with the Mahlis/Pano Project trio opening. The brainchild of multi instrumentalist Dimitirs Mahlis, the band also featured drummer Toss Panos and upright Bassist, Dan Lutz. The trio played a short impressive jazz jam of original material with a strong mix of Middle Eastern and Western influences. After a short break, well known local crooner, Jonathan McEuen took the stage for a short acoustic set. A child musical prodigy, McEuen began touring at the age of 12, with his famous fathers group, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Since then McEuen has had many successful musical collaborations. The Dobro playing singer was in peak performing mode, perhaps because it was St Patricks Day. McEuen has sited Irish jig music, as one of the original inspirations for his unique approach to American Bluegrass music. The clever singer songwriter is also known for his sarcastic wit as well as his musical abilities. When announcing that Robben Ford was about to join him onstage, he quipped that they always make him play acoustic in the venue but Ford gets to play Electric guitar. Sure enough, with the new sound system in place, this was one of the first fully amplified shows at the venue. McEuen himself, actually picked up and electric guitar and the two ax-men immediately began trading wailing riffs. The guitar duo were backed up by the opening acts, Panos on drums and Lutz on bass. Robben Ford, a self described harbinger of Blues music has been a musical force for five of the six decades that he has been alive. He has been a professional guitar player as far back as 1969, when his band with his brothers, the Charles Ford Blues Band, got a gig backing Charlie Musselwhite on a national tour. The Southern California Blues master, has long been a favorite of European fans of American Blues. In Europe he met many famous American jazz musicians. In 1976, Ford began to experiment with Jazz Fusion music which led him to many legendary collaborations, including a short stint with Miles Davies. But his guitar wizardry stretched across many other pop genres including hard rock. After contributing to the 1982 Kiss album “Creatures of The Night”, the band had asked him to replace lead guitarist Ace Frehley, who had left the band. Ford preferred to take a more hands off collaborative approach to the Kiss project, however and continued to experiment. His music catalog today is one of the most extensive of any recorded musician. Always evolving he has concentrated his recent energy on what he calls the new era of evolving Blues. The quartet in the old Carpinteria movie house on march 17th proved a fitting platform for Ford to showcase his talents. McEuen and the other musicians held their own with the masterful musician by their side, as they performed iconic slices from Fords extensive library. The foursome sounded a bit like the Eagles but with a more free form jam band feel, sometimes bordering on the jazz fusion sound that Ford long ago embraced. The vocal harmonies between Ford and McEuen melted into a unique and refreshing sound that riveted the audience throughout the entire set.
This new venue is fast becoming one of the hottest tickets in the area. For more information on upcoming shows at the Carpinteria Plaza Playhouse http://www.plazatheatercarpinteria.com