The Isla Vista Community Services District hosted its inaugural “Open Groove” on Jan. 30, inviting local bands, DJs and performers to use the Isla Vista Community Center as a free rehearsal space.
The Open Groove nights take place weekly on Tuesdays from 8 p.m. to 12 a.m. at the community center. Performers can reserve the space to practice for up to 60 minutes within the four-hour time frame, with more extended rehearsal time slots available upon request.
The Isla Vista Community Services District (IVCSD) plans to post a Google form for performers to sign up every Thursday, according to IVCSD community spaces program manager Myah Mashhadialireza. The form is accessible through the IVCSD Instagram account.
Local and campus performance groups have previously practiced at parking lots on the UC Santa Barbara campus, but reports of noise disturbance and administrative pushback barred groups from continuing to use parking lots as rehearsal space.
“We know that practice space is limited, and we also know that it’s hard to find a space where you can be as loud as you want and not get any complaints,” Mashhadialireza said. “Because the community center isn’t in a residential area — it’s in the commercial zone — we’re allowed to have music late, and so we want to be able to open that up to the community.”
Justinas Memenas, guitarist and singer for local band Eternal Wave, commended IVCSD for considering musicians’ needs.
“I applaud [IVCSD] for doing this and undertaking this project because it helps fill a huge need,” Memenas said, who graduated from UCSB in 2023. “There are so many bands and to have a space where bands can practice for free is super important and huge, and really gives people an opportunity to express themselves and explore themselves creatively.”
“There’s a lot of cool history with the bands and the music that has been in Isla Vista, and there’s gonna be a lot more to come in the future,” he continued. “This helps that happen.”
In addition to providing a location for local performers to rehearse, Mashhadialireza said that a principal goal of Open Groove nights is to encourage performers to collaborate and support each other. She hopes inviting bands to practice at the community center will help them gain exposure within the Isla Vista community.
“The goal is to kind of open up the bands to work together, uplift each other, promote each other, support each other,” Mashhadialireza said. “The second goal is just to provide exposure [and] get the community involved and excited about it.”
“Maybe people walking by can hear your music and will want to come in and hang out,” she continued. “We just want to foster this space where everyone’s welcome and everyone is there to enjoy and support each other.”
Mashhadialireza added that practicing during the Open Groove nights could potentially lead to opportunities to perform.
“On the back end of this, we’re going to be encouraging event organizers, local leaders, events, in general, to come check out these events to maybe scout out some performers for their next gig,” Mashhadialireza said.
Memenas pointed out that while collaboration and community are major aspects of the music culture in I.V., some groups might prefer to practice in a private space.
“I know it’s like a public thing which is cool, but practice usually wants to be a little more private because you’re gonna make mistakes and that’s the whole point, to improve your musicianship together,” Memenas said.
Mashhadialireza said that IVCSD initially struggled to get local performers to sign up for time slots.
“I would say the biggest challenge is just getting people to sign up,” Mashhadialireza said. “We can tell the bands are interested, we’ve had people who are excited about it, but we want people to sign up on our Google form so that we can accommodate them and we can create a schedule.”
“Also, it’s a challenge just that it’s new. It’s a brand new thing. We’re trying something new. Anytime you do something new, something’s gonna go wrong,” she continued. “We’re just trying to be as accommodating, inclusive, open as possible and we’ll just see how it goes.”
Mashhadialireza said that if the Open Groove nights are successful, she envisions the community center becoming a concert venue in addition to a practice space.
“I see this growing into a social hub for music and for art and culture — that’s what we want for the community center,” Mashhadialireza said. “We do want this to grow into a concert venue. We want to mount lights, we want to mount speakers, we want to make this a truly fun space to perform, and we start doing that by just getting bands involved.”
A version of this article appeared on p. 4 of the Feb. 1, 2023, print edition of the Daily Nexus.