Don Friesen Have you ever had a time when everything just seemed to click in your life? Standup comic Don Friesen is living through one of those periods right now, thanks to the national release of Inexplicable, his first CD/DVD, and his first appearance on the hot nationally televised show Comics Unleashed, to go with prior appearances on NBC’s Martin Short Show, Later and Friday Night. Add in his recent debuts at powerhouse L.A.-area clubs the Laugh Factory and Ice House, and a gig last month opening for the Goo Goo Dolls in front of 8,000 people, and you’ve got one happy guy. Now, Friesen is taking his show to Ventura, making his headlining debut at Comedy Esquire on April 27 and 28. And as the only two-time winner of the San Francisco International Comedy Competition, he is sure to have audiences rolling with his manic Jim Carrey-style energy and hilarious tales of marriage and fatherhood.

Dead Rock West X meets Wilco? A dream combination for fans of roots-inspired, punk-spirited rock, and one that somehow congeals in Dead Rock West, a San Diego-based outfit with a John Doe-Exene Cervenka style vocal harmony duo up front and a band venting influences ranging from garage to power pop to folk and country backing it up. Formed in 2002, the band, made up of several touring and session vets, quickly became a local favorite, winning a San Diego Music Award and having two albums released in the U.S. and Spain. Their most recent release, Honey & Salt, features contributions from members of the Section Quartet and behind-the-boards work from Grammy winner Richard Dodd, who has worked with everyone from Steve Earle to George Harrison. Not bad company. Dead Rock West performs at Zoey’s on April 27.

The Tubes If your musical output is going to be overshadowed by your onstage theatricality, you might as well eclipse yourself in style. And the Tubes did “outrageous” with more style than just about anyone else in their ’70s heyday. Led by the incomparable Fee Waybill — possessor of perhaps the least rock’n’roll name in the entire idiom — the band is infamous for its gloriously ridiculous live shows, which prominently featured its brand of satirical performance art, including Waybill embodying a number of different characters (Dr. Strangekiss and Quay Lewd, anyone?). While their hits were limited to the radio staple “White Punks on Dope,” their status as one of the country’s enduring cult bands persists, even to this late date in the group’s career. Catch the insanity at the Canyon on April 27.



Stephen Marley Stephen Marley first appeared on wax in 1979, at the age of six. The second son born to reggae kingpin Bob Marley, Stephen recorded the charity single alongside his brother Ziggy. Amazingly, it took Stephen almost 30 years to put out his debut album — amazing, considering most of the Marley clan seems to have sprung from the womb with at least a couple songs already at the mixing stage. Which isn’t to say Stephen hasn’t remained in music during that time period. Quite the contrary: he played guitar in Ziggy’s Melody Makers, did remixes for hip-hop heavyweights the Fugees, worked with Eve and Erykah Badu, executive produced a remix compilation of his father’s material and manned the boards for his brother Damian’s Grammy-winning Halfway Tree and last year’s crossover smash Welcome To Jamrock. But now comes his time to shine in front of the mic instead of behind it. Mind Control, released in March, marks the end of a long journey for a record that started to come together in 2002, and the beginning of what should be another long journey for Stephen toward fulfilling his family’s legacy. See him, along with Jr. Gong (a.k.a. Damian) at the Ventura Theater on April 24.

Ashford Gordon The first time Ashford Gordon heard music, he knew it was his destiny. He began singing gospel at midnight Mass at the age of 8. He began writing poems at age 16 and, after being turned down by a fellow classmate he’d asked to put music to his lyrics, decided he’d try writing the tune himself. He played his guitar for eight to 12 hours a day, until his fingers bled, and listened to artists like Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan. Though he performed throughout the ’70s and ’80s, it wasn’t until 1992 that Gordon formed his first blues band, Too Late Tomorrow. The exposure eventually led to the band backing the great Louisiana Guitar Red and Gordon’s formal, on the road, blues education. Among the troupe’s gigs was the famed Monterey Blues Festival. In 1995, Gordon formed the Ashford Gordon Band in Ventura and recorded three CDs. But the string of successes stopped suddenly when Gordon underwent quadruple bypass surgery and began the long road to recovery. It was difficult for Gordon to leave the stage behind. Now he’s back on the stage and ready to unleash his passion on new and familiar audiences. Catch him at Franky’s Place on April 24.



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 for full time music superstardom may be gone, their focus on solid songwriting and the occasional (but always stellar) live gigs are still intact. The band performs at Zoey’s on April 14, along with Arrica Rose & the …’s. 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.

Shawn Wayans It ain’t easy being born into a family that also includes Keenen, Damon, Marlon and Kim Wayans, but Shawn Wayans has somehow found a way to stand out. Teaming with brother Marlon on such cinematic masterpieces as Little Man and White Chicks, the second-youngest Wayans Bro has become known as a writer and performer of over-the-top comedies that, while not being the most praised films critically, are about as consistent box office performers as you’ll find today. But stand up is where Shawn truly shines, and attendees at Comedy Esquire on April 13 are sure to find that out.

Comeback Kid Maybe you’ve seen or at least heard of American Hardcore, a documentary out last year about the underground phenomenon that burbled up in the wake of punk which sought to ratchet-up the already powerful music’s extremes. Well, Comeback Kid is Canadian hardcore, and if their three-album discography is any indication, it may rival its southernly cousin for pure ferociousness. The band exploded out of Winnipeg in 2002, taking the punk world — and the world in general— by the throat: They even managed to receive raves in the British press, an institution not exactly known for praising the heavy and the hard. Singer Scott Wade left in 2006, with guitarist Andrew Neufeld stepping over to the mic and proving equally adept at the larynx-bursting. These dudes are known as one of the best live bands in the underground rock scene, so attempting their show at Alpine on April 14 is a must.



Jason Luckett Folk singer-songwriter Jason Luckett looks young, but the man has already recorded and released six albums, all of which have quietly received critical praise and allowed him to tour the U.S. and Europe, not to mention perform at the U.K.’s massive Glastonbury Festival alongside Coldplay, the White Stripes and Bright Eyes. It is not surprising that this relatively new artist already has so much under his belt. He started writing songs at age eight, and was introduced to the music that would shape his aesthetic — jazz and soul — by his father from practically the second he left the womb. He was born in Hawaii but grew up in Irvine, California. After graduating from UCLA and bouncing the music industry as an A&R guy, Luckett wound up in a management stable that also included Dolly Parton, Neil Diamond and Michael Jackson. Uh-huh. His first album, 1993’s J Masala Griot, comprised everything he had seen, heard and learned up to that point, with songs brimming with “residual suburban angst and a healthy dose of urban consciousness.” His latest collection, Adjusted Expectations, Vol. 1, is all about L.A., filled with references to Los Angeles literature, neighborhoods, car culture and, of course, “the need to get out of L.A.” With just his voice and an acoustic guitar, Luckett is leaving his stamp in the pavement, and at intimate venues such as Zoey’s Café, where he’ll perform on April 7.

Slum Village Long before the Midwest became known as a breeding ground for rap talent, Cleveland’s Bone Thugs-N-Harmony were helping put the region on the hip-hop map. Discovered by late gangsta icon Eazy-E in the mid-’90s, the group’s tonal, rapid-fire delivery and harmonious hooks set them apart from other rappers of the day. Their first smash was the anthemic “Thuggish Ruggish Bone,” off their first EP for Ruthless Records. Bone quickly capitalized on that unexpected hit with 1995’s E 1999 Eternal, which yielded the unavoidable single “Tha Crossroads,” a sorrowful lament to their fallen friends and family that became a tribute to their mentor when Eazy-E died of AIDS that same year. A Grammy win and an appearance on the MTV Video Music Awards followed. Unfortunately, legal problems, poor record sales and the firing of member Bizzy Bone derailed the group’s path to true superstardom. 2000’s BTNHResurrection didn’t do what its title hypothesized, and neither did 2003’s Thug World Order (although the latter did produce an, um, interesting collaboration with Phil Collins). And it remains to be seen if their 2007 effort Strength & Loyalty will do the trick. But Ventura still seems to have a taste for the Bone Thugs, which is why they’ve performed here several times over the last few years. The group returns to the Ventura Theater on April 6.






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