MUSIC : Man’s Storage Units Are Music to the Ears : ‘Godfather of Rock’ Provides Place for Musicians to Practice
Isla Vista is a nice little town, not very quiet, but nice. It has a reputation as the place where students from UC Santa Barbara pay the strictest attention to their favorite classes--Party 101, Beer 102 and Rock 103.
Bands play on campus, in the parks, at parties, but nevermore on Halloween quoth the cops, and the only rock venue in town, the Anaconda Theater, has been closed for a few months now. But doing his fair share to postpone any onslaught of silence, and keeping the I.V. music band scene viable is the local “Godfather of Rock,” 78-year-old Sid Goren.
Although it usually doesn’t seem like it, most bands actually do practice. Some bands need singers, songs, musicians, or fans, but all bands need practice. And they need a place to practice.
Goren just happens to own the only storage units in I.V., about half of which--almost 20--serve as practice units for the local bands. If the Isla Vista / Santa Barbara area ends up becoming the next Seattle, Goren deserves at least a footnote.
Around 1980, Goren picked up on the fact that Isla Vista was a town with a zillion densely packed apartments and no storage units. Since Santa Barbara County has traditionally worried about water, building permits were difficult to obtain, but not for storage units.
“My first year, 1980, I started getting requests from bands to rent spaces for practice,” said Goren. “Once they got in, they were reluctant to give them up. Now I rent to 19 or 20 bands and I’ve got a waiting list. It’s pages and pages long. One band, D.O.G. (Deadly Orgasmic Grooves), has been waiting for two years.”
Everybody who’s anybody in I.V. rock rents from Goren. He’s got Leadhead, Popsicko, Grizelda, Indica, The Gathering, and lots of others with funny names.
Some of his alumni are even known outside the S.B. area.
“I got a call last November from Ugly Kid Joe who were touring in Australia,” said Goren. “They called to wish me ‘Happy Thanksgiving.’ Toad the Wet Sprocket was here for awhile; and I used to have PMS--not personally--but the band, I mean, an all-girl band. They moved away but they sent me a nice letter the other day. They all kissed the letter wearing lipstick.”
Indica, a quartet of local hard rockers, won a Battle of the Bands on MTV a year ago, and seemed primed for the next step, but they’re still hanging around I.V. where a couple of them work at the local pizza parlor. But they do have a new CD. They’ve rented from Goren their entire loud career.
“When we started about three years ago, we took Ugly Kid Joe’s place,” said guitarist Kirk Laron. “Sid? He’s the guru. He’s so cool to all the guys. If it wasn’t for him, there wouldn’t be much of a band scene. Without a practice place, you can’t have a band. What are you going to do--practice in the kitchen until the neighbors call the cops?”
Liz Larin, a hard rock goddess signed to Atlantic Records and relocated to Santa Barbara by way of Detroit, was at Goren’s for awhile, sharing a spot with Leadhead. Getting her or anyone to say something negative about Goren is about as likely as Barney bashing at the preschool.
“He supports quite a scene here,” said Larin. “He says all this new music helps to keep him young.”
And Goren returns the compliment. Forget those who will tell you that every rock ‘n’ roller has an attitude, turns ‘duuuude’ into a four-syllable word, and trashes everything that can’t be eaten, drank, stolen or romanced.
“These are the nicest bunch of guys I’ve ever met--all of ‘em,” said Goren. “I’m very respectful of them, and I get it in return. We don’t have any problems, no thievery or anything like that. These kids all work really hard. I think there’s a subtle change coming in the music. It’s getting a little mellower; it’s not as hard as it used to be. A lot of this stuff, I can listen to. I think Leadhead is really good. But I can’t take the really hard stuff.”
Although he doesn’t go to their gigs, Goren still cares about his young charges with their MTV dreams.
“I’m a retired naval officer. I was in public health for 55 years,” said Goren. “I always give them a lecture first. The places have ventilation, but not enough for the kind of energy these bands produce. I tell them to practice 10 minutes, then open the doors and give the ears a rest. I check them to see that they’re wearing earplugs. If not, they could ruin their hearing and every answer they give the rest of their lives will be ‘Huh . . . ?’ ”
The majority of I.V. rockers are poor students who can’t even afford to put their funny band name on the drums. Yet, they have to practice. Goren’s rents vary, according to the size of the unit, from $105 to $300.
“Most of the bands don’t pay anything,” said Goren. “They pay the rent from their gigs.”
But Goren says it is worth it; it’s even a source of national pride.
“It just seems these bands just recombine and get better. You know, the French government spends 10 million a year for practice spaces for bands?”
Bill Locey, who writes regularly on rock ‘n’ roll, has survived the mosh pit and the local music scene for many years.
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