The Non profit Carpinteria Plaza Playhouse Theater has become the Santa Barbara areas newest live music venue. The tiny 83 year old little movie house has recently been remodeled as a community playhouse and concert hall. The theater sits in the center of downtown, in the little beach town of Carpinteria. Originally named The Alcazar, the theater was built in 1928 by, Henry J. Muller, and run by Hollywood movie star, Oliver Prickett, famous for his movie roles in the “Ma and Pa Kettle series”. Jake Shimabukuro, master of the Ukelele, played the first big show of 2012 in the tiny 200 seat theater, on February 13th. The maniacal Ukelele master has become a well known name in the Indy pop music world over the last few years, playing relentlessly at big festivals like Bonnaroo, tiny venues like the Plaza Playhouse, and venues of all size in between. Shimabukuro is also well known for working with non profit music associations, and is the spokesmen for the “Music Is Good Medicine” organization, which led him to his gig at the non profit playhouse. The masterful musician embraced the sold out crowd and praised the superb acoustics of the structure. The sound at the venue benefits from a near perfect acoustic geometry, with low ceilings and solid square walls. Local rock veteran Brian Auger, master of the Hammond B3 organ was so taken with the quality of sound in the tiny theater that he has become the DE Facto volunteer sound engineer. A rock star since he formed Brain Auger and The Oblivion Express in 1970, with no less than 30 of his own albums under his belt, Auger has become a a well known music producer and engineer, and in fact is in discussions with Shimabukuro to collaborate on a new project.
Shimbakuro gave Auger frequent kudos during his extended concert, featuring two sets of some of his well known classic covers like, Queens Bohemian Rhapsody, and newer material reflecting his Hawaiian roots. Shimabukuro is most famous for his explosive renditions of rock classics, where he can be heard playing lead and rhythm sections at the same time by strumming with one hand while picking strings with the other. But his musical career began in a much more traditional mode, playing the Ukelele in the traditional style of his native Hawaii, with the group Pure Heart. The ukelele master had an appreciative crowd enthralled with renditions of classics like ,George Harrison’s, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, creating a a huge crescendo of sound with his tiny instrument. Many in the crowd drove hours from cities further south to join lucky Carpinterians for the very special show. In fact Shimabukuro gave a shout out to one Japanese couple who had apparently flown in from Japan to attend the show. In keeping with the community spirit of the venue, the local beer brewery, Carpinteria Island Brewing Company, and a local winery donated some of their best alcoholic offering that was sold for a paltry $5.00, for a very large glass, as part of the fund raiser. After the nearly three hour concert, a gleeful Shimabukuro hung out in the lobby for another hour. Dutifully greeting each fan who waited to meet him, signing autographs and patiently posing for pictures, he remained in the theater until the very last fan had a chance to approach him. I had a chance to chat with him about the first time I experienced one of his concerts. I was at the 2008 Bonnaroo music festival in Tennessee. I was hanging out in the beer tent far in front of the massive main stage, while Metallica played their ear shattering three hour marathon set. As the veteran metal band ended their show, I noticed a little guy with a ukelele setting up his equipment on the tiny stage of the beer tent. Suddenly Shimabukuro erupted in a frenzied flaying wall of sound and Metallica fans began flocking to the little stage to hear the Jim Hendrix of the Ukelele play a mercurial set. Shimabukuro smiled at the memory and noted that he played louder at that show then any he could remember. He also indicated that he was ready to return to Bonnaroo anytime that they want him back. The concert at the Plaza Playhouse was a huge success and several big name acts are in the works for upcoming shows. Even buying tickets at the venue can be an unexpected pleasure, with no fees of any kind. You can purchase tickets directly at the box office or online using Paypal, The only downside to the remarkable little venue is that tickets sell out fast as local residents know a good thing when they see it. For more information about the the venue. http://plazatheatercarpinteria.com