Sounding the 805

Ballroom metal and yoga studio indie: innovating all-ages venues

By Chris Mastrovito 05/27/2010

Even when you’re seeing a great band, some of the biggest factors in the quality of a live performance experience involve everything but the actual performance. There’s a spatial aspect to music that is only affected by the people at the show with you, and the performance space. Those are what make a show unique, which is why two identical sets by the same band in two different settings are often two drastically different shows. Every venue has its own character, and having access to a variety of different spaces helps keep the live music experience fresh for both the performers and the audience.

In Ventura County, the music scene has expanded, but the available number of venues to support all the new emerging bands has not completely caught up. While Rock City Studios in Camarillo, Epic Ventura and coffee shops like Java Joe’s in Ventura where Dirty Words played last Saturday, still put on great shows, there’s room for more. So the scene itself just adapts. On top of the tried and true local pubs, some promoters and bands have started getting more creative by setting up all-ages shows in nontraditional venues.

They are where you least expect them. Last Saturday about 70 people saw Tall Tales with Lovebird, Crippled Puppies and Jeff Grimes in the basement floor of the Center for Spiritual Living in Ventura. Tall Tales vocalist Trevor Beld-Jimenez said he’s been passing by the Religious Science church for years, and finally just asked if he could play a show there. Now dubbed The Nest on show flyers (sort of like The Pad, another church venue in Ventura at the College Heights Worship Center), the spot has a welcoming atmosphere that lives up to its name, and could be one of the newest all-ages venues in Ventura, as long as bands keep the attitude positive and their sets finished by 10 p.m. — which is not all bad for those ready to hit the bars after the show.

A new café at the Woolworth building on A Street in Oxnard, called Fresh and Fabulous Café has teamed up with Eric Bello of Oxnard pop/indie label Yay! Records to put on Pop N’ Fresh Fridays, a show on the first and third Friday of each month where Bello has found a regular venue for the Oxnard bands on his label, such as Catwalk, Watercolor Paintings and Sea Lions. The Friday shows are all-ages but the place also serves a limited beer and wine selection in addition to coffee and food.

The yoga center Zanzilla is offering more than hip openers and gong baths: italso hosts live bands on a semi-regular basis. Ever since Experi-mental Café (now Fresh and Fabulous Café) closed in 2008 and owner Zan Ferris had the shows moved over to her studio, Zanzilla has been home to a series of sporadic shows and fundraisers, a rehearsal space dubbed the Underground Musicians Alliance, and today Zanzilla still takes in bands on Saturday nights, as long as the vibe is mellow enough. You can catch Softsilence, Westbound, Vincent Falcone and Idiosyncratic Routine there this Saturday. Rules? They’re on a sign at the door: “No Food. No Alky.”

At another new local destination last Monday, metal bands including locals Sanguinary Disfiguration, Bermuda and Burning at the Stake supported some touring grindcore and deathmetal bands at the Cabana Banquet Hall, a high-end reception hall and ballroom dance studio in Oxnard replete with hardwood floors and mirror-lined walls, which Gaby Sandoval of Ascending Chaos Productions recently started renting for some of her all-ages metal shows. It’s a delicate balance having extreme metal in a fancy ballroom, but if people continue to respect the space the shows just may go on. What 805 bands will come up with next — retail store shows (like the new in-store shows at Buffalo Exchange in Ventura where Whiskey Glass Eye just had a CD release event), abandoned warehouses — is anyone’s guess. But those ideas seem to be expanding possibilities for the all-ages scene, and that is something all of the area’s musicians and fans alike can use.   

Sounding the 805 is Ventura County’s only biweekly local music column. If you have a tip, a suggestion, a complaint, some dish or just a kind word, shoot Chris Mastrovito an e-mail.


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