Let’s face it: live music in Ventura County is, if not dead, certainly in a coma. Ever since Blackbird Productions ended its run at the Livery Theater two years ago, nothing has stepped up to take its place. Oh, there’s the Alpine, but that’s about it, and even at its size, it’s not exactly satisfying the needs of what was, not that far in the past, a vital little rock’n’roll community. The sad truth is, a lot of people don’t care about going out to see homegrown bands anymore.
But you know what? The sooner you acknowledge this fact, the better. That’s what Jose Serna did. And now, he is working to pump some life back into the music scene through over means than simply booking shows at random venues and hoping people show up. Namely, the Internet.
Recently, Serna’s upstart promotion group, Fillmore-based Songs from a Window, recognized that, try as they might, kids were just not coming to the concerts they put on. So they moved online. Now, the group is doing everything but putting on shows — a literary magazine, weekly local music Podcasts and, most importantly, a Web-based television program — all through their MySpace page.
“Nothing is really going on for shows, period,” says Serna, a former member of Hope Dies Last and the soon-to-be-defunct Anidiom. “After Blackbird, people went back to the bars. Even kids have a feeling there’s nothing gone on anymore. Still, I’m trying to promote local music, but you have to understand the reality of it. Renting a building [for a show] is too much money … The Internet is the new thing, and MySpace and YouTube. You might as well take advantage of it while the scene is sleeping.”
Every few weeks, Songs from a Window invites bands from Ventura and Santa Barbara counties to the small CAPS television studio in Oxnard, which, for a $25 per year fee, allows members to use its facilities and equipment. The bands play a set, sit down for an interview, then the show is spliced together and uploaded onto YouTube, Google Video and other video Web sites (as well as being aired on public access). They have already worked with Oxnard natives Maria and Santa Barbara’s Watercolor Paintings, and are scheduled to film segments with Ventura stalwarts Le Meu Le Purr and Franklin For Short next.
“We talk about what’s going on with them and get to know the bands a little bit more,” Serna says. “When you go see them at a show, you don’t know them as people. But all the bands I’ve met are really funny.”
Serna isn’t completely done with live concerts: He is helping promote an all-day festival in Fillmore which will serve as both a benefit for a local family whose son recently passed away and a farewell show for Serna’s group Anidiom. But he admits his focus right now is the online content.
“Venues are hard to come by. There’s only coffee shops, and kids don’t want to go to coffee shop shows,” he says. “If they’re not going to come to us, then we’ll go to the Internet.”