The Salt Martians Add a Dash of Flavor to UCSB’s World Music Series

Photo by Addison Morris | Arts & Entertainment Editor

Addison Morris
Arts & Entertainment Editor

Every Wednesday at noon, the Multicultural Center and the Ethnomusicology Program in the Music Department host a different musical group to play in the UCSB Music Bowl as part of their World Music Series. Last Wednesday, the Salt Martians, a Santa Barbara-based band, entertained students, staff, and other attendees with their tasteful and otherworldly bluegrass tunes.

With Ken Gaston on guitar, Doug Toews on mandolin, Tim Mullins on banjo and dobro, and Aaron Douglas on string bass, the Salt Martians produced their American-roots bluegrass by combining bona fide instrumentals with great vocals. In fact, all the members both sang and played an instrument. 

Plucking and trilling, the four old men started right off on Wednesday, playing fun country jingles that entertained awaiting audiences and even attracted initially uninterested passersby.

Second year environmental studies major Cambria Wilson told TBL, “I was just walking by and saw this. I didn’t know we had it; it’s so cute. My grandpa listens to stuff like this.”

Indeed, the band’s nostalgia factor undoubtedly charmed the crowd. Rose-tinted sensations like “Lord Won’t You Help Me,” “Please Don’t Break My Heart,” and “Cheyenne” reminded older listeners of the good ol’ times, providing a present moment of idyllic elation.

However, younger listeners could get down to the cheery songs as well. Many students showed up to do their homework in the carefree environment, using the band’s exuberance to fuel energy for their studies.

What’s more, the band did not just play renditions of other artists’ songs; they also played some of their own. One member cleverly and proudly announced that he wrote all of the lyrics for one of their numbers. Only once the song ended did the audience realize his wit — the song was purely instrumental.

Moreover, the band’s ability to play live music, completely unaided by mixing boards or enabling technology — aside from their classic instruments — appealed to many young listeners who felt tired with the overedited, inauthentic mixtapes of today.

Second year communications major Dalia van Zyll said, “I don’t often listen to bluegrass, but I love any music made with real instruments, not computers.” It seemed that across the board, from the old to the very young (some parents even brought their small children to campus for the event), The Salt Martians were a sensation.

Combining country bluegrass with California sun, a live performance with real instruments, and current excitement with old tunes — all while handing out Hershey’s candies — The Salt Martians and their MCC and Music Department hosts truly exemplified the Reese’s slogan: Two great tastes that taste great together.

All in all, the MCC and Music Department’s World Music Series is a wonderful addition to UCSB’s lineup of weekly events. Showcasing local artists who specialize in diverse regional genres, the performances expose students and other attendees to new musical flavors from both close at home and all over the world.

Today’s show spotlights the UCSB Gamelan Ensemble while next week’s features the UCSB Gospel Choir. Simply stop by the Music Bowl at noon to check them out.