Posts tagged ‘ventura music scene’

September 18, 2014

Best of Ventura County 2014

VCReporter’s most popular issue of the year is now on stands and online. Traditionally, those of us on staff as well as freelancers create our own categories. These are called Editor’s Picks. This year, one of my picks didn’t make the final cut due to space allowance, so I decided to post it here.

rock trivia

Best place to prove your metal: Music Trivia Night at Bombay Bar

Think you’re the biggest Beatles fan? Who was the third Beatle to tie the knot? Consider yourself well-versed in ’90s radio hits? Guess what artist spent 60 weeks at the No. 1 position on the charts and had 14 No. 1 singles?  Sure, your skull may be teeming with music-related minutiae, but do you know which George Jones love song is often referred to as the best country song of all time? For about the last year or so, every other Wednesday night (give or take a week) a motley crew of music nerds have been filing into Bombay Bar’s back room to answer these and other burning questions for the chance to win cash money and laugh at stoners trying to remember stuff.  Hosted by local rock band Rubberneck Lions, the questions range from fairly obvious to nearly impossible and cover a spectrum of genres, eras and categories. Teams of 3-4 with names like Jalapeno Face, Pollos Hermanos, Bono Sucks and Ice-T Baggers toss $20 in the pot and the winner takes all. Teams have 30 seconds to write their answers on mini white boards until the final round when the top two teams face-off with a bell. Everyone is welcome, and you never know who you might be competing against, but when it’s the bass player for a popular metal band who also happens to work at a record store, be prepared to lose. — Michel Miller

June 3, 2010

The NEW new art city

Long ago in a galaxy far away, some people in that cool old building on Poli and California streets, decided it would be a good idea to give the city of Ventura an identity.  At the time, (pre-911, pre-economic disaster) cultural tourism was a fairly new concept and people governing the city were beginning to realize how dominant a force the arts were here.  Two plus two equaled California’s New Art City and a marketing plan/identity was born.

Not coincidentally, this came at a time of redevelopment downtown– the Laurel Theater (Rubicon Theatre Company), Ventura Music Festival, the Artists Union Gallery and the Century 10 movie theater, materialized during this period.  At the same time, historic preservation was being embraced as a crucial element of downtown Ventura’s cultural, and was folded into the cultural tourism plan.

All these years later, we have some amazing accomplishments to show for this change in direction: most notably: Bell Arts Factory/Vita Art Center, Working Artists Ventura (WAV), Ventura Film Society and the ongoing county museum expansion (which will partially unveiled on July 3).  Add to that a couple handfuls of art galleries and studios, festivals and a local music scene that if properly fertilized could yield big dollars and national recognition for Ventura, and it becomes difficult to understand why there  is so much empty commercial space downtown.

Clearly it’s time to reassess and reimagine.  We should be proud, we’ve accomplished much, but if we are to survive this economy and a changing market, we need to wise-up.

Recent changes within city government reflect both the need to reshape our vision and the willingness on the part of city officials to adapt. Eric Wallner, formerly the Cultural Affairs Manager for Ventura, is necessarily molting in order to respond, to this somewhat urgent need for a new phase. Wallner, along with others, will be turning his focus to the creation of jobs that will help sustain us culturally and economically. This means finding ways to court businesses that employ creatives and others.

This will undoubtedly be a big part of the discussion at the second annual economic summit “Partnering for Prosperity” to be held Saturday, June 12 at 8 p.m. Anyone interested in taking this city to the next level, artistically, culturally and economically, should consider attending.

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.

January 17, 2010

Ventura’s music scene banding together for Haiti

MARK YOUR CALENDARS FOR MONDAY, MARTIN LUTHER KING DAY, for a HEAL HAITI FUNDRAISER to be held at Charline’s. Also, VCReporter along with Zoey’s is organizing a concert for Haiti to be held at the Lodge on Sunday, Jan. 24. Stay tuned for details.

Heal Haiti Fundraiser

Charline’s Urban Tapas & Wine Bar
546 E Main Street
Ventura CA 93001
805.652.2255 or
805.815-7272 for more info.

2PM till Midnight
10 dollar minimum donation at the door
plus 20% of sales will go to Direct Relief International (

We will have bands going hour by hour

RAW SILK will be opening up our fundraiser at 2pm followed by….

Teresa Russell
Billy Davis (formerly of Emilbus)
Michael Menchaca(Legalizers)
The Preachers
Deja Blu
Ray Jay
Raging Arb and the Redheads and friends

October 8, 2009

VCReporter one year later . . .

behind the curtain

behind the curtain

It’s been one year since I returned to VCReporter to reprise my role as arts editor. It’s a labor of love and I’d be loath to find a more perfect fit.  I feel I’ve accomplished much of what I hoped to, yet there’s so much I wish I could do with the section (art & culture, music/after dark, film/media).

Some things I’ve changed:

  • Added a music column and a gaming column
  • Ceased all coverage of events or people outside the Ventura County line (including CD reviews and “worth the drive.”)
  • Brought some new writers into the fold (Jim Scolari, Claudio Pardo, Erik Hayden, Chris O’Neal, Chris Mastrovito and Alex Field) and kindly waved goodbye to others.
  • Expanded music coverage and brought back the annual music issue.
  • Highly recommended shows in the “after dark” section plus more band photos and weekly picks.
  • Expanded theater coverage, assisted in a “happenings” overhaul and put theater back into arts listings along with additional visual art listings.
  • Arts briefs

What’s still being imagined:

  • A condensed, more magazine-like art & culture section
  • TV column
  • Local music podcast
  • Reporter sponsored music and film events

I hope you continue to read and enjoy the arts and entertainment section of the Reporter and let us know what you like, what you don’t like, what there’s too much of and what there’s not enough of.

Cheers to the year ahead . . . an even better year.

August 20, 2009

CNN at Zoey’s Cafe

The video is courtesy of Missy Ellis. Thanks Missy!

Technically CNN’s Headline News taped a segment at Zoey’s Cafe in Ventura this week to spotlight the venue’s popular “bluegrass jam” that’s been held twice a month for seven years. Why is little ol’ Zoey’s getting attention from CNN? Because Phil Taggart, a longtime poet and artist in Ventura, is also a producer for Time Warner Cable, and as such has been showcasing Ventura County hotspots and points of interest for CNN’s local version of Headline News.

The jam routinely draws upwards of 50 musicians and fans to the cozy venue for top-shelf finger pickin’ and all around good vibes.

For something totally different file, the jam is getting ready to evolve into a “Swing Jam” beginning Sept. 1 and every first and third Monday thereafter from 6:30-9:30 p.m. The jam is hosted by Gene Rubin, Zoey’s Cafe (Steve Hoganson) and Phil Salazar.

July 23, 2009

New Art City vs. New Bar City

In the midst of decreased funding for the arts in Ventura (the “New Art City”) and the subsequent slow death of ArtWalk, the local music scene is, as I’ve reported previously, exploding. At the same time, the bar scene–if you can call it a scene–has recently been plagued by violence which has led to what appears to be a crackdown by Ventura police on nightclubs.

This of course casts a shadow on downtown nightlife , nightlife which like it or not, the city is quite dependent on for revenue, especially considering the decrease in TOT revenue this year.

Yesterday, Joe Cardella, publisher of the now-defunct (but not irrelevant) Art Life magazine, left a very kind message on VCReporter’s Facebook fan page, but also mentioned his distaste for what he called the “New Bar City.”

I’m not exactly sure what I’m trying to say here, but I suppose the overarching theme idea is that there should be a way for all sectors of the arts and nightlife to work together for our common purpose.

As one local band’s name says, “Adversity Breeds Creation.” I tend to agree with this although I’d prefer “Creativity.”

July 9, 2009

Cal Music Mess: the final word

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Well . . . it’s come and gone, and unfortunately my instincts were spot on.  Before I get  into the  gory details, I want to let it be known that even though many have called it a failure, i don’t think it was entirely. I had a good time as I know others did. I saw a handful of great bands, chatted with lots of people from the music scene, hung out with Chris Mastrovito our music columnist and appreciated the overall vibe.

So far I’ve received three letters expressing dissatisfaction (I’m understating) with the event. Two were from bands–one out of town, one local–and one was from a vendor. Words like “disaster,” and “debacle” were used.  The chief complaints were about lack of organization, closed communication channels and confusion among event staff.

Apparently Nicholby’s is only permitted to have live entertainment after 8 p.m., so all the bands who were scheduled to play there earlier than 8 (and there were many) were moved to other venues in the 11th hour.  One band arrived early to its venue to find their venue had changed (after distributing a shit ton of fliers  and sending email blasts with the original venue’s name) and there was no sound system. They had to scramble to their rehearsal space and grab a PA literally minutes before their downbeat. One local promoter decided to step in just two days before the fest and assist Rasmussen who had failed to handle basic details like ordering wristbands. There was also much confusion and inconsistency regarding wristband prices and colors etc.  I could go on but I won’t.

Mark Rasmussen will hopefully learn from his mistakes,  and he probably did other would-be event promoters a favor by making them.  Most  people I  talked to agreed that he bit off more than he could chew, but bless him for trying.  Sure the scale he attempted is something one grows into, not a starting point. Yes he used some deceptive tactics to attract sponsors, vendors and bands. But he meant well. You have to give him credit for putting it all on the line.  You have to take risks in life, it just sucks when other people suffer in the process.

June 11, 2009

Conspiracy theories and downtown Ventura’s nightlife

Violence, drinking problems, encounters with the “authorities.”

No, it’s not my teenage son—it’s the fear and loathing in downtown Ventura of late.  I heard tell that it’s all part of a plot by a certain developer to take over the city’s nightlife by sabotaging competing venues.  Actually, it was more like the paranoid fantasy of a bored musician . . .but since when is that not a valid source?

The skinny: fighting outside Hush Lounge, Ventura PD changing the rules on entertainment licenses, foot patrol cops on weekend nights and ABC coming down on at least two venues.

Those in favor of conspiracy theories are convinced that the timing—the live music scene in Ventura is thriving like never before—is suspicious and that someone must have it in for local music.

A more subdued and logical explanation is probably that as the numbers of people partying (drinking alcohol) downtown grows.. the odds of violence and general shenanigans occuring,  increases.

As these occurrences increase, so does response from people in authority. It’s only natural and in a sense it’s a good thing. It also means that in this economy, people are still spending money on entertainment, that people are creating music and interesting venues in which to hear it and that the plan to revitalize what was once a cruddy few blocks of trashy nothingness has actually become an appealing, lively cultural district.

Let’s be grateful and continue to support everyone who contributes to making this possible.


May 7, 2009

Rey Fresco sells out

This band is getting the big push and I’ve been reluctant to believe the hype, but with a little help from their friends, they managed to sell out the Ventura Theater last weekend. This clip really captures their energy and their signature coastal Cali sound.

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