Archive for February, 2010

February 25, 2010

Out of the ashes of Hush Lounge — Zoey’s 2.0

If you don’t already know, Zoey’s Cafe and Loft (the location for last year’s VCReporter local music issue cover)  is relocating to the old Hush Lounge location in about a month (if everything goes as planned).

The move is indicative of the mutability of downtown Ventura’s business district, which seems to get increasingly fragile every week.  Though somewhat iconic, in its cozy corner of the El Jardin Courtyard, it was only a matter of time before Zoey’s outgrew its tight quarters. Lucky for owners Steve and Polly Hoganson,  the roomy environs of the former Hush became available, but it’s a bittersweet development that finds Zoey’s growth in the shadow of Hush’s demise.

Before finally closing a few months ago, Hush weathered a punishing storm of adversity which put it much too squarely on the radar of local police. The biggest issue,  allegedly was  noise, but its proximity to other music venues made that accusation somewhat suspect. The owner walked around with a decibel meter and claimed to be extremely conscientious about noise levels in the venue.

Given that this was the chief reason cited by city authorities for Hush’s problems, it didn’t quite add up when another music venue was given a chance to do business in that location.

But, the Hoganson’s said that their lease of the property is contingent upon an absolute NO DJ, NO DANCING policy.  Since Zoey’s live entertainment consists of low-key singer-songwriter performances, the chances of a throbbing bass line nudging neighboring hotel guests out of bed, is slim to none. Plus,  Zoey’s plans to turn off before midnight.

The room where bands will perform at the new location is not much bigger than the loft at Zoey’s now, but the biggest change, and key reason for the expansion, is the kitchen/restaurant. The venue’s chef, the Hoganson’s son, once worked under Chris Watson (Nona’s Courtyard Cafe, Bodee’s) and along with another Watson protege is cooking up an expanded comfort-driven menu for the new Zoey’s.

The Hoganson’s, who have been credited with fostering a tightly knit community of singer-songwriters while bringing in critically lauded Hotel Cafe acts, are planning for events to spill over into the nearby Mission Park and Figueroa plaza.

The last show at the current Zoey’s location on Main St. will be Grant Lee Buffalo on March 28. Stay tuned for more info on the new venue as it develops. Let’s help the Hoganson’s and other downtown live music venues make a go of it.

Support the live experience.

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February 11, 2010

A little something by guest blogger B.Willing

Guest blogger Ojai singer-songwriter B.Willing, who also fronts Shades of Day, puts on his philosopher hat in this day-in-the-life essay about driving, football and following his bliss:

Peyton and me

I had one of those “what does it all mean?” moments while driving home this evening. I have these from time to time. There was something different about this one though. Weaving through the east L.A. traffic at a breakneck and most likely dangerous pace, I focused intently on the quarter mile of road and automobiles ahead, gauging, calculating, reacting, occasionally cursing. Not at the other drivers so much, but at myself for making the wrong decision. There it was… the fork in the road that marked the split from the 5 to the 134. Semi truck to the right coming up hard…slowing white van in front of me…brake lights…an opening to the left, but that meant I had to pass the van, then get over two lanes and make the split. The exit was on top of me. Busted a left, downshifted into 3rd, floored the pedal and my tacoma’s four cylinders screamed with delight… action! My calculations were correct. The van continued to slow, the taco had just the right amount of juice to clear the two lanes and hit the fork perfectly. YEAH! At that moment I couldn’t help but think of Peyton Manning. Why? I’m a football nut. Really though, it’s because I believe that I see the field the way that he does. Chaos surrounds us on a daily basis, akin to post snap on a football field. Often times we have tiny windows of opportunity and merely seconds to make the decision to go for it, throw it away, or take the sack. Like Peyton, I hate taking the sack. It’s just not an option.

I use Peyton as an example for numerous reasons, but he’s fresh in the mind because of his involvement on the big stage last night in the Super Bowl. I have been a voracious football fan this year. Couldn’t get enough. SI.com, ESPN, Sunday football, Monday Night football. There wasn’t a story I didn’t know about. I found myself constantly checking scores on my iphone at work. I played fantasy football, lost, and was bitter at some of my players for being injured. For the first time in my life, I truly understand the game…and I LOVE it.

But I’m a musician. I’m barely 6 feet, just clear 160 pounds, and can’t touch my toes. I can’t imagine being crushed daily by a 275 pound man that makes a living (a damn good one!) crushing other men. Sounds too painful for me. I would rather inflict a different kind of pain on myself. The pain of the artist.. Oh goodness.

The freeway jams up. The game, for now, is over. I see a tow truck up ahead backing towards a stopped cargo van in the right lane. Fair enough. At least I had that fresh victory back there at the fork to reminisce about, when all things freeway were flying along. I glanced down at the 9 empty bottles of vitamin water in the passenger foot well. I’m most certainly addicted to the yellow….and thought: I should probably recycle those at some point. The passenger seat is piled high with a sweatshirt, mostly eaten week old bag of mixed nuts, my sandwich wrapper from lunch, a banana peel, my white iphone headset, joey ryan cd, another stack of scratched cd’s that I wish I could listen to, my girlfriends hat, unopened mail from who knows when, and two chocolate chip cookies from 7-11. Don’t eat those. DON’T. I didn’t.

I had a funny day. Not so much the haha kind, though I do remember laughing a bit here and there with some co-workers. Laughter is the key to life. No joke. Nope. My phone was dead by 4:30, from a full charge at 9 am. I must have spent more hours today emailing, texting, listening to voicemails, reading blogs, Lefsetz, Peter King, football afterthoughts than actually working… sadness…football season is over. Basketball? Sure. Lakers are fun when the playoffs come around. Baseball? Yawn. Couldn’t care less. I think there are some other sports, but you’d have to convince me. When it comes to fanatics, I’m a football guy. Period.

My phone was dead at 4:30 because I am attempting to create a tour with 7 other musicians. No one in particular is in charge, though we all want the same thing. To travel together in one vehicle (obstacle #1), to have gigs that pay decent money to pay for #1 (#2), and to get to Austin and have the time of our lives. The decision has to be made yesterday on if we can get it together or not.

I am my own manager, publicist, writer, agent, and roadie. Yes, I actually like it that way. Most of the time, if not all, I am completely overwhelmed. I bend, but don’t break. Bring it on.

Peyton Manning. Here comes the blitz, again. Fires, completes, first down. OK! , Let’s see if we can score this thing. They say that when you stop thinking and start reacting, you are destined to lose. You play back on your heels. I like to see things before they happen, to predict them…and I like to be right. Like Peyton.

Yesterday, and all season I rooted for the Saints. I love the city of New Orleans. I have friends there. I have friends here, from there. I love their football story. I don’t know of a more deserving city for that super bowl win. They needed it, and the team delivered. But when Peyton threw that interception in the fourth quarter, I felt for him. Sure I stood and screamed with the rest of the Saints fans around me. Inside though, I felt this twinge. Everyone knew it was over, maybe even Peyton. Though to his credit, he sure didn’t give up.

In my life so far, I’ve thrown a ton of those interceptions. It’s late in the game, and I have to make a decision. People are counting on me to deliver. Many times, I don’t. I choke. I fumble. I don’t see it coming, even though I’m looking right where I need to be looking, predicting, calculating….

This was my lesson today, as it is everyday. Years ago, I chose music as my path. I dropped out of college to work a part time job and write and perform my own music. I have turned down management positions, I have resisted the urge to quit the game for many years. I’ve been told I don’t have what it takes. I’ve been told I’m destined to make it. I’ve told myself both of those things, countless times.

There are so many choices in life. We all know that it’s impossible to make the right call all the time. Even for Manning the consummate professional, the man at the top of the game, the man destined to break all the records and be immortalized as the best ever, the script is not written. Predict, gauge, calculate, execute! There is no way to predict life. You must learn each lesson as it comes, and grow. Stay hungry.

That very hunger for knowledge and experience drives me to get up each day and do a great many things I do not want to do. I’ve picked up trash, I’ve cleaned bathrooms, I’ve packed groceries, I’ve developed photos, I’ve delivered doors, I’ve dug holes, I’ve babysat, I’ve mowed lawns (ok that was a long time ago..) These are all generally mindless tasks. Things with little to no responsibility, and no lingering after effects once clocked out. Where could I be right now if I had finished school and left the guitar in the case? Don’t know. Don’t care. I love my life.

I truly and firmly believe I have chosen the right path. Maybe it was chosen for me. Dunno. That’s a whole other story. I see this life, my life, as a road. I feel at home on the road. We talk, we debate, converse… never fight. We sing together, the tires and I. I learned how to sing in the car, on the road. Years and years of driving, stereo blasting. Cornell, Glen Phillips, Steve Perry, Cat Stevens, Robert Plant, Jim Croce… the list is ridiculous long. Point being, I wasn’t born a singer. Dad was, I wasn’t. I willed myself to be one. I knew how I wanted to experience my life. I listened, learned, practiced, rehearsed, failed, got up, practiced, rehearsed, listened, cried, screamed because I couldn’t do it, screamed when I finally could… DAMMIT I WAS GOING TO BE THE BEST SINGER THERE EVER WAS. Am I now? Nope. But I’ve come a long way, and I’m still learning.

Peyton Manning is bumming today. He knows he had the chance to win it all, again. He also knows he as another chance to win it all, and then win it all again and again. He’s got years of good football ahead of him. And after that probably years of sportscasting, coaching, managing, owning, etc… He’s a football guy, from a football family, in a football town in a football stadium that he built. He trudges on, being great, getting even better. Seeing the field. 100 yards of glory, a man who will be immortalized in the digital files of the future. (enter music business parallel here)

We’re about the same age. He has millions of dollars, fans, the respect of everyone in the game. I can’t match his numbers on any level at this point. Maybe I never will. That won’t stop me. Doesn’t matter. I’m not in his game. I’m in my own.

Ultimately, at the core of this musician is that quest for knowledge. A desire to be better than I was yesterday. To know something I don’t. Yes, I do want to “make it” in the music business. Yes, I do want to have a “hit record”. I won’t lie and say that I don’t. But I see those as just a few bright spots along my road. I see those as one Super Bowl. The big stage where one can achieve immortality. Yeah, sounds great. I’m down. Sign me up.

It’s the little things though, the intangibles, the things that others don’t see. I shouldn’t have made that fork in the highway today, but I did, and was grinning like an idiot because of it. I predicted it would work, made the decision, executed it perfectly. Dangerous? Yup. Stupid? Nah. I knew it would work. These are the things that make me the happiest. The little victories. When something works exactly as you planned it. I may have been stuck on the 5 for another exit. I would have made it home just the same. Sure, I would have been upset I didn’t time it correctly, but then there’s always another move to be made. There’s another Super Bowl next year for Peyton to win. Another football season….

For me? A whole lot of things I haven’t done yet. Can’t wait.

February 4, 2010

The Grammy’s, local music and the trouble with awards

The Grammy’s have come and gone, leaving much of the year’s best music without mention–let alone accolades–while the usual pablum from the top-40 arena gets all the love. In terms of live performances, the Lil Wayne/Eminem number was embarrassing considering how much real talent was on that stage. Pink’s acrobatic number was stunning but somewhat distracting too. Is her voice not enough?  Talk about gilding the lily. Pink’s underrated vocal ability rivals that of every female singer who was  in the room that night, including Beyonce and Taylor Swift (ugh). She could have performed that song from inside a cardboard box and it would have been spectacular.

That all said, the Reporter’s main music writers, myself included, have finalized our choices for bands/artists to keep an eye on in 2010 in anticipation of our annual local music issue in late March. This year we are planning our first ever live event to showcase some of the musical artists we’ve chosen, and we’re pretty excited about it.

Someone in the Reporter camp raised the idea of music awards and it made me wince.  While I’m absolutely in favor of celebrating local talent, committed to it on every level, I find art too variable and personal to judge objectively. Competition, whether it be through an awards system or a simple battle of the bands, to some extent devalues the artist and creates division where there should be unity.

At the end of 2008, Ventura County experienced  its own micro-Grammy’s by way of the MAVRIC music awards. The end of ’09,  saw no repeat of the awards. I’m not entirely surprised given what a massive undertaking it was and the problems that are built-in to such a project like accurately categorizing genres and creating meaningful, valid criteria for judging.

In the end, I’d rather leave awards out of the equation and continue to find creative ways to give local music the attention and support it deserves.

Stay tuned for more info about the VCReporter local music issue and showcase.

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