The Santa Barbara area, sadly, is not a stranger to gun violence, including the following tragedies:
» On Jan. 30, 2006, six people died from gunshots at the Goleta postal facility, with one more killed by gunshots beforehand.
» On May 23, 2014, three people died and seven were wounded from gunshots in Isla Vista. Three more were stabbed to death and six more were injured when they were struck by the killer's car.
» On March 23, 2016, all three members of the Han family, including the 5-year-old daughter, were discovered to have been killed by gunshots.
Regardless of your views on the Second Amendment, it's clear that too many people in our community and across the nation die from gun violence. As was pointed out at the Arlington Theatre on Sunday night, at the Santa Barbara edition of the Concert Across America to End Gun Violence, the number of gun fatalities in the United States each year amounts to as many people as it would take to fill the venue for 17 sold-out performances — a total of 33,000 people. Let that sink in. The fact that nearly two-thirds of gun deaths are suicides in no way diminishes the collective tragedy.
The concert, one of 250 such shows across the nation that day, was a celebration of the lives of victims of gun violence, a call for more meaningful dialogue among all sides of the issue, an encouragement for people to make their voices heard to elective officials and their community, and a reminder of the importance of voting.
The music was absolutely top-notch throughout the evening. The show kicked off with Lois Mahalia, Patrick and Rick Maiani, and the One Voice Children's Choir. This was followed by "A Song of Peace" and "Revolution" dedicated to the Han family by DMK Studio and the Santa Barbara School of Performing Arts, and an a cappella take on Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" by UCSB's Naked Voices.
L.A.'s Ozomatli then brought some Latin heat to the already roasting Arlington Theatre, which got some people up and dancing in the aisles. They were joined by guest vocalist Rocky Dawuni for a cool cover of Bob Marley's "Stir It Up."
The music was punctuated by various speakers, including moving testimonials by Dr. Jason Prystowsky, who was on duty at the ER the night of the Isla Vista rampage and asked the audience to think about questions like, "Why is it easier to acquire a gun than it is to acquire a psychiatrist?", and Bob Weiss, whose daughter Veronika died that awful night in Isla Vista. Weiss was followed by family friend Daniela Spagnola, who dedicated her heartfelt song, "Peace Will Light the Way," to the memory of Veronika.
Next up was Venice, whose magical brother/cousin vocal blend wowed with "End of the World" and "Family Tree." Venice singer Kipp Lennon introduced the latter song by revealing that his father was a victim of gun violence. Venice stuck around and served as an amazing house band for the rest of the evening.
Zach Gill then hit the stage. He joked that he came all the way from northern Goleta — with an accordion and an infectious spirit, playing "The Cricket Song" and a Venice-sweetened cover of Twenty One Pilots' "Guns for Hands."
The rest of the show was a yacht rock dream team of Christopher Cross, Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald. All three have local connections — Loggins and McDonald live in town, and Cross used to — and personal connections, having played and written songs together in various combinations over the years.
Cross pushed off with the classic "Sailing," a song about transition, then he played the escape saga "Ride Like the Wind," joined by McDonald on backing vocals just like the original recorded version.
Arguably the highlight of the evening came next: Loggins performing "Danny's Song" with the whole audience joining in for the chorus. Loggins then brought out Santa Barbara High School senior Jackson Gillies for the stompin' song "Home" by Johnnyswim. This was followed by "Conviction of the Heart," with Loggins' daughter, Hana, adding her vocals.
McDonald then joined Loggins for the I-love-the-'70s hit "This Is It," which they co-wrote. Introducing the next song — appropriately it was "I Keep Forgetting" — McDonald joked, "We hope that you remember this song. At our age, I hope we remember this song." Next up was the first song that Loggins and McDonald wrote together, the ear candy Doobie Brothers song "What a Fool Believes." McDonald and his wife, Amy Holland, then did a pretty duet of "To Love Somebody," followed by Holland's new song, "Walking on a Wire."
Cross and Dawuni came back out for an all-star version of "Imagine" by John Lennon, who lest we forget was a victim of senseless gun violence. The evening wrapped up with a full stage of performers singing the rousing "Taking It to the Streets."
All told, it was an incredible night of music. And while people may disagree on how to reduce gun violence in our community and in our country, perhaps these concerts across the nation will help spark a movement to find enough common ground to at least start solving the problem.
— Jeff Moehlis is a Noozhawk contributing writer and a professor of mechanical engineering at UC Santa Barbara. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his web site, music-illuminati.com. The opinions expressed are his own.