Far From Kansas When not busy inspiring the youth, teacher Joel Levin has one seriously cool after school job. Mr. Levin, as the kids call him, fronts the local rock band Far From Kansas with his brother Matt and friends Frank Cruz and Chris Dixon. One of the county’s best kept musical secrets, their sound is as much alternative country as indie rock. The band has been playing in various incarnations since they were teenagers. While their aspirations of full time music superstardom may be gone, their focus on solid songwriting and the occasional but always stellar live gigs are still intact. They’ll be celebrating the release of their new CD, The Ghost Inside Of You, with an all ages show at the Alpine on Jan. 26, where you can expect Hohner harmonicas, Hammond organs and some extremely literate songs sung by the super-cool teacher everybody wished they had in high school.
Shades of Day Most successful musicians can recall the moment of their personal big bang — that explosive instance where the path of their lives suddenly appeared before them, beckoning them to follow. Brendan James, the 26-year-old frontman for Ojai-based quintet Shades of Day, is no different. Only, he’s not quite sure there was any single catalytic experience. Music is certainly burned into his DNA: His mother plays guitar, and his father replaced Sammy Hagar as the vocalist for ’70s proto-metallurgists Montrose. But up until his mid-teens, James virtually ignored what appeared to be his birthright, preferring sports and other, more “traditional” adolescent activities. Then, at 14, he picked up a bass and nothing else mattered. Call it “immaculate inspiration.” Since then, the LA-born songwriter has been chugging straight toward his goal of becoming a professional rocker. And he just recently crossed a significant mile-marker: Last year, his band celebrated the release of MAYDAY!, their first self-produced disc of driving, Southern-tinged hard rock. This year, they’re bringing it to the masses, starting with a performance at Sans Souci on Jan. 27.