While Sally Jaye is by no means a stranger to the musical enclaves of Ventura, when she and her friends return to town the weekend of Sept. 27, not only will she be exploring new musical terrain, but so, too, will the city itself. Along with fellow Zoey’s Café regulars Chris Pierce and Lee Koch and her constant road companions Brian Wright and the Waco Tragedies, the collective will be christening the expansion of Zoey’s musical mission into the historic environs of the former Elks Lodge on South Ash Street.
The transformation of the Lodge is being overseen by an arm of the San Buenaventura Conservancy called Project Encore. The organization is charged with revitalizing downtown structures through establishing them as viable artistic residencies. The musical offerings at the Lodge are being coordinated by Zoey’s owners, Steve and Polly Hoganson, whose program will not only assist in creating a thriving venue for the arts, but also help assist in raising funds for a planned renovation that will ensure that yet another unique Ventura landmark doesn’t disappear from our landscape forever.
“The building has been sitting there vacant for five years,” says Project Encore’s David Armstrong. “We got a one-year lease prior to the building being renovated to try and establish it as a venue for the arts. When the city abandoned its plan to build a cultural arts village last January, as part of that process in selecting sites they rejected historic buildings, feeling that they should be torn down instead. Our idea is to re-utilize these buildings because we can do it a lot cheaper than building new and will give us a lot more creative spaces, cheaper.”
With various performing arts activities having already been staged at The Lodge, Saturday night will see the debut of its foray into live music. While Armstrong and his colleagues at Project Encore have a clear vision for the site, he is the first to admit that his expertise resides with the planning and development side of things rather than its artistic content. So when the possibility of staging music arose, he instantly turned to Zoey’s, whose proven artistic commitment to downtown Ventura and standing within the music scene made it the perfect candidate.
“It is a great opportunity for us for a few reasons,” says Polly Hoganson. “We have been looking to do bigger shows with a bigger draw for a while. There are lots of artists we would like to put on whose draw is too big for the loft. So
Zoey’s at the Lodge will let us do that. And, in doing that, we will be able to introduce people to both the place and the organization and to help in raising funds to make sure the Lodge remains as a permanent artistic venue.”
In pulling together their first musical undertaking at the Lodge, the Hogansons turned to a diverse collective of favorites that have graced the stage of their Main Street venue. From Chris Pierce’s cool and soulful rock, the timeless roots-tinged storytelling of Sally Jaye, the country-esque confessions of Brian Wright and the Waco Tragedies, and the blues-infused folk of local Lee Koch, the evening might very well be exploring numerous musical tangents, but it will also be tracing some intimate musical connections.
“The very first musician that I went to see play when I arrived in Los Angeles was Chris Pierce,” says Jaye, a Georgian transplant. “I was one week into town, and I went to see him, and we have been friends ever since. And I have been doing a lot of touring and recording with Brian Wright this past year. He has a seven-piece band called the Waco Tragedies and, in addition to my solo career, I have become a member of that. I went out on the road with them, opening up for their shows, and they as a band also backed me up.”
Having now been in Los Angeles for eight years, an insight into Jaye’s musical adventures and cross-continental meanderings can be found on her debut album Amarillo. In regularly returning to her hometown in Georgia, the title of the album is drawn from the half-way point of such trips. And with her recent adventures up the 101 now leading to the progression from Zoey’s to the Lodge, playing in the historic hall is not just something she is looking forward to, but offers an experience that she cherishes.
“I am actually getting ready to go to the mountains in North Carolina to record a live gospel record in an 18th century church,” Jaye says. “I decided to do this when I was touring and saw some of the old churches around there and thought how wonderful it would be to sing in one of them. Any venue that has some sort of age and history to it adds something to the spirit of the music. And it also makes the experience of playing much more fun.”
Zoey’s Café presents its first concert at the Lodge (2126 Knoll Dr., Ventura) on Sept. 27, featuring performances by Chris Pierce, Brian & the Waco Tragedies and Lee Koch. For more information, visit www.zoeyscafe.com.