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Local News

West Beach Music & Arts Festival Sees Smaller Crowd, Fewer Problems

Alternative location, tighter security and new policies contribute to diminished West Beach experience

While thousands of people attended Santa Barbara’s third West Beach Music & Arts Festival on Friday and Saturday, it didn’t draw the crowd or buzz that came with last year’s spectacle.

The three-stage festival moved a few hundred yards east to Chase Palm Park from West Beach, capping attendance at 8,500 per day (compared to 13,000), and was cut to two days from three. But the two-day experience that featured reggae headliners UB40 and Rebelution, along with a healthy mix of hip-hop and electronica performances, nearly didn’t come to fruition.

“I couldn’t believe the s*** the (Pemberton) twins had to go through to put this together,” Jacob Hemphill, lead singer and guitarist for the reggae band Soja, said of the organizers, Josh and Jeremy Pemberton.

“I’m glad they got to pull it off one more time, but it seems like the Santa Barbara City Council doesn’t appreciate it.”

The Pembertons, event coordinators and founders of Twiin Productions, had to jump through plenty of municipal hoops to organize this year’s festival. Whether it will be the last is yet to be decided, but there were issues at last year’s event the city didn’t take kindly to. The Pembertons addressed countless noise complaints, vandalism, underage drinking, unruly crowds, forged parking permits and obscenity-laced performances by revoking re-entry passes, enforcing cleaner lyrics and curbing sound.

To little surprise, not everyone followed the rules. Hip-hop DJ Sabatage was escorted from the premises after one too many f-bombs and many marijuana smokers were kindly asked to refrain or had their contraband confiscated by police.

But some party-goers and bands made a conscious effort to adhere to the more stringent rules.

“We have a couple curse words in a couple of our songs and we didn’t sing them today; I want to make it a family environment suitable for kids,” said Moises Juarez, lead singer of reggae/rock band Tomorrows Bad Seeds.

Police manning the event largely agreed that there were seldom, if any, citations and minimal disruptions.

“I’ve been to nearly every big event in the past three years around here and this is one of the most tame,” one Santa Barbara police officer said.

But most attendees didn’t take to the tamer atmosphere. One Santa Barbara resident said if someone lives near West Beach, they should expect some noise.

“(The venue) is all constricted, it makes it a lot worse,” said Rick Nevins, 48, of Santa Barbara. “It’s important to have a festival like this, but there needs to be a better atmosphere to draw bigger acts.”

But the mellow crowd and quieter accommodations might mean West Beach will be hearing the music in 2011.

Noozhawk intern Alex Kacik is a graduate of Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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