Tuesday in Santa Barbara

02008-07-03 | Music, Touring | 7 comments

Our bus arrived in Santa Barbara in the early morning. Discovered that my usual café had been closed and walked down to their formerly second, and now only location, where I was soon joined by Jon Gagan, like me in search of coffee. At noon we were able to get into our hotel rooms. At 1400 the bus arrived at the Soho Club.

While carrying my guitars into the Soho I ran into a guy I had seen at the Kuumbwa Club in Santa Cruz on Monday afternoon. He asked me when showtime was and whether it was sold out. I told him that I did not know. I rarely look at the tour book and figure somebody is going to tell me when the show is supposed to start… and I don’t usually ask about ticket sales. (((and sometimes I forget to wear a laminate and have to use my driver’s license to get into a venue…)))

1600 – soundcheck. 1730 – a nice dinner on the Soho patio.

I arrived backstage at 1915, but dinner had started late at the Soho and the management asked us to delay the show by 30 minutes. So we started at 2030 and the first half ended at 2125 or thereabout. I thought it was our best performance of the tour, so far, but I am not the best judge of that. Show ended a little before 2300.

I had made plans to go out for a nightcap with a friend I had not seen in a year and when I greeted him, the above mentioned guy came up to me. He asked whether we could go out to which I replied that I had plans to go out with my friend. Can I come with you? No, you cannot. Can we take a photo together? No, we cannot. Up to now the man spoke fluent German, but I switched to English, because I didn’t like the fact that our conversation was private. Better to have witnesses. This seemed to upset him. He said something about having heard this said about me (((I am not sure what he meant by that))) and that he had not believed it, but now knew it to be true. At this point I was a little weary of the man. I said I had to go. My friend and I left, walked to a restaurant a few blocks away and had a nice conversation over a lovely glass of port. While we were talking I received several phone calls from my manager and others. The above mentioned guy had become irate and had thrown a pint glass to the ground at the stairs of the Soho Club, and since that did not calm him down he threw another at our bus, which sailed over the trailer connected to our bus. The glass barely missed two members of my traveling group as it landed and shattered right between them. The Soho security guard saw this happen and identified the guy.

What I have not mentioned so far is that the man is the guitarist of a band, a band that was scheduled to perform at the Soho in a couple of months, which is the reason why the management of the Soho allowed him to attend our sold out performance for free. The result of throwing two glasses at the club and at our bus was that the Soho management right away cancelled the band’s performance.

Let me say that understand how hard it is for new bands to survive in today’s scene. The cost of fuel, the lack of CD sales, the lack of record companies willing or able to develop an artist… these are very tough times for musicians. Some musicians seem to think that the answer lies in aggressive self-promotion. Mr. guy drove a car that was entirely covered with a custom paint job that advertised his band’s name and contact information. He drove all the way from Santa Cruz to Santa Barbara to press me about opening for us, even though I told him on Monday that that would not happen. He didn’t want to take no for an answer.

I have always believed that one should do what one loves, and not worry about the result. Or as Bashō wrote in his Diary over three hundred years ago:

Practice the way, maintain righteousness. Fame follows of itself.

Call it Karma, call it fate, call it luck – and there sure is a lot of luck involved – but to me it seems that composing and playing and recording music is the origin of one’s career. True, I can name a number of great artists, who have my sincere admiration but have never sold a great number of CDs, but still, it feels as though one best concentrates on refining one’s craft/art instead of promoting it. In today’s culture it often seems as though self-promotion tops everything else. Talentless stars and starlets become famous for no reason anybody can seem to remember…

When record labels called in the Fall of 1989 about signing me and releasing the album that became “Nouveau Flamenco”, they had heard about me via the Wave and KKSF. While obviously somebody sent “Marita: Shadows and Storms” to them, I did not contact those radio stations and did not send them anything. When a record contract was discussed I was adamant about having my way (e.g. I rejected demands to move to L.A. and to change my name to something less challenging), because I liked my life in Santa Fe. Karma? Fate? Luck? I have no answer.

I understand that the musician’s life has become far more difficult in the years since 1989, but throwing a glass at a tourbus – and endangering people standing nearby – is not acceptable behavior.

I should finish this entry by saying that our performance at the Soho was a lot of fun and the audience was perfect – well, except for one guy. And now I am going to enjoy our day off in Santa Barbara.


  1. Franklyn


    As a musician myself I find this story simply incredible because the man is in a band!
    What did he expect from you? The whole thing sounds like wife beater mentality where
    if the guy does not get his way then violence is the next step.

    He is lucky no one got hurt or the police would have booked him a gig,
    and what kind of person invites himself to some else’s dinner?
    Ottmar, I met you once in Marin and you were very polite and a gentleman
    so what does he mean by you’re like “that”, actually the way you describe the story you were very patient, I would have told him to buzz off and be more respectful of my space.

    So his point would “Ottmar Liebert is a jerk because”:
    1.He would not book me as his opening act and he has no choice or I’ll be pissed off
    2.He would not allow me to crash his dinner with a friend
    3.He would not speak German to me
    4.He would not become my “instant friend”

    WTF, this guy was way out of order! I think that artists owe their fans gratitude
    and if someone wants an item signed that’s fine but no one should allow their
    personal space to be invaded like that, I am trying to “make it” too
    but I would like to leave that to my talent and trying to promote yourself
    at the expense of others is wrong.

  2. eric

    Your words sound very compassionate. I’m glad you have the peace within to understand what this man must be going through. I wonder how his other band mates must feel after such a scene.

    I do agree completely with your summation of an artist and his craft. having grown up in LA and in particular with the brothas, i was raised with self-promotion in mind. everybody needing to sell themselves just to make it seem like they were hot sh!t. over time i’ve come to understand what you’re saying and because of that not only has my sound improved to a point that i’m satisfied but i’m also getting recognition for it.

    …always comes back to the basics doesn’t it? ;)

  3. v2or

    As some one who would love to be a musician but still working the day as a therapist it really sounds like this guy was demanding and had a blocked goal. He did not get what he wanted so like Franklin said up above he behaves poorly when disappointed and throws a temper tantrum. Oh corse you have a like and need to be at certain places and it would not be convenient or able to take time out. We can never please everyone but there are a lot of demeaning people who feel entitled to there way and when someone says no they act like a 2 year old showing there real maturity. Having said that, I have met you a few time and you have always been gracious to me and the fans. And we did get a pic with you. Thanks for sharing and enjoy Santa Barbara its one of my favorite places in CA. Hope to see you guys out East.

  4. dave

    Aphorism from Robert Fripp: Act always in accordance with conscience.

  5. Carol

    I really like your last paragraph. If it was fun, you must be feeling okay again.

  6. AdamSolomon

    1. Santa Barbara is beautiful, glad you enjoyed the time there.
    2. What a story – I don’t even get what he thought he could have gotten from you that throwing a glass would have helped. Ah, well, people do strange things when they’re angry….but inviting himself to a dinner with a friend *before* you do anything to make him upset? There’s just no excuse for that. Well, that’s what you get for being a rock star.
    3. A glass of port sounds amazing right now.
    10. If you’re ever around Pasadena during this tour of the West Coast, come say hi ;)

  7. KitKat

    Sorry to hear that my home town had any negative experience for you or your band. Your performance @ Soho was great~ Thanks. The venue intimacy was nice although my favorite venue for our area was the full moon concert at Lake Casitas some years ago in Ojai. The moon magically rose from behind the band- Happy people dancing of all ages. What ever did become of Calvin?
    The very best to you on your ventures.


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