Sounding the 805

If they book them, we will come

By Chris Mastrovito 07/22/2010

The more people I talk to, the more I hear about this era in the not-too-distant past (by some accounts, the periods from 1999 to 2001 or 2004 to 2005) when Ventura County’s music scene was ablaze with activity, a sort of “golden age” when great local bands flourished, venues were numerous, and people attended local shows in droves. Back then, places like Skatestreet (and its subsequent reincarnation as Alpine) and Lazerstar, places that could easily pack in 200-300 people, had all the good shows, and most were little more than a stage and floor space. Things are different now, and we are lucky to get 75 heads unless there’s a drink special.

Last Friday, I met Rick Gaynor of Blackearth Booking, a new promoter in town who belongs to a small class of visionary music fans in Ventura County looking to return the local underground music scene to its former glory. We were at Take 2 Cocktails in Ventura for Inherit Disease’s CD release show for its second full-length, Visceral Transcendence, and it was clear that Gaynor gets it.  The existence of great local bands with a great local following is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for a scene to get noticed. In order to reach that next profile, Ventura County needs to draw the attention of touring bands from outside the county, state and national lines who aren’t selling out the Ventura Theater, but want to play fun shows. And while promoters all over Ventura County do occasionally bring in big acts, Gaynor says there are still too many touring bands who visit the West Coast and only wave at Ventura from their tour vans as they travel from L.A. to their next gig in Santa Barbara. That’s all wrong. Bands from beyond need to know that they have real audiences here that will actually go see them.

If we want a return to amazing underground shows, akin to the ones of the past, there is a simple formula — well, maybe not simple, but it’s a formula, and it starts with a booker who is willing to take risks and put together a truly bitchin’ show that’s all about the bands: Find known headliners who are on tour, bring them in to a local establishment on the day they are in town, pay them what they’re worth, add three or four popular local bands in the same genre, and make the show for all ages, for a reasonable cover charge. There will always be a chance to see local bands, but Hot Band and the Headliners (or whatever) are only coming through once this year. People need to get stoked. What is needed is what I saw at the Inherit Disease show, which featured a metal band from Italy Italy, whose members were just as impressed by the local metal following as the audience was by the band. They marveled at how enthusiastic and responsive the crowd was. They were honored to be here, and that is the reaction visitors should have. That is the reputation that will allow the local music scene to become a viable industry, leading to more people willing to put up the money for awesome shows that draw hundreds to a medium-sized auditorium where bands are selling themselves, not just dozens to a local pub, where they are selling bar tabs.

Besides Blackearth, there’s also Ascending Chaos, Hourglass, Yay! Records, Stay Gold, Hi Hat and Viceroy — people who are making it happen —  and they need your support. Re-post a flier; send them a check, even. And above all, show up at the show.

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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