Sounding the 805

Sounding the 805

Ventura County’s extreme metal scene is still alive and speed-picking, and Sunday night’s packed deathmetal match-up at Knights of Columbus Hall was manifest proof of that fact. Upward of 250 metal fans showed up to support a seven-band ear assault headlined by San Diego’s Cattle Decapitation and hosted by DJ D-FLOx from The Dungeon Awaits podcast.                                                                                                                                    

Those who have difficulty grasping the musical merits of a genre that describes itself in such graphic and violent terms as deathmetal and its family of subgenres (brutal death, grindcore, gore-grind, etc.) — which seems obsessed with the morbid imagery that characterizes so many of its song titles and cover artwork — may ignore or quickly forget that the music itself, aggressive as it may be, without question displays some of the most impressive and astounding technical skill in music. Some without the stomach for its extremity, never discover that jazz drummers with decades of training, along with expert guitar players influenced primarily by classical music styles, are the people who lurk behind the whipping lengths of hair and black clothing as they viciously pound away on their instruments at light-speed, growling unintelligible lyrics in front of cult-like masses.

The talent in these these bands is, however, easily overlooked by skeptics, largely because the bands sometimes tune down to almost inaudible levels, nearly an octave below standard tuning, making a live performance sound somewhat closer to a tectonic plate disturbance underwater.

Sunday night’s deathfest featured a showcase of local metal in short, devastating bursts, and with a 25-minute cap on each band’s set, the night moved quickly from Ventura’s Scandinavian-style melodeath band Midnight Requiem who opened the show, all the way to the headliners, Cattle Decapitation, who stirred the crowd into a frenzy during the arresting performance, but who were abruptly cut off from finishing out their planned set list at 11:45 p.m. (much to the voiced protest of the audience) due to time constraints on the venue as well as encores by Port-Hueneme’s grindcore band Graveslut.

Sharing the stage with these were other brutal representatives of the active Oxnard metal scene, including Scourge, putting a slight thrash spin on blast-beat-heavy deathmetal, and Burning at the Stake, with a straightforward style reminiscent of pioneers of the genre such as Death and Morbid Angel. Inherit Disease, the Ventura- and Santa Barbara-based, highly technical death-grind act that is consonant with bands such as earlier Cryptopsy, took the horns next, followed by L.A.’s Fallen Figure, a high-energy, breakdown-heavy grindcore/metalcore outfit. Onstage, Fallen Figure frontman Sonik Garcia took the wavering crowd to task by demanding circle pits like a wedding DJ rallying participants for the electric slide.

Fallen Figure will return to Ventura on Aug. 30, for the 805 End of Summer Slaughter at Mai’s Café with Graveslut and touring bands Rose Funeral, Whisteria Cottage, the Anathema Portrait and more. Look out for more updates on the Ventura County metal scene as Graveslut and Mentacide both seek new vocalists, and Carnal Deity releases its first full-length 2012 on Megasound records.        

Sounding the 805

Sounding the 805

Rocking bands, lei necklaces, cocktail umbrellas and a towering palm tree canopy will definitely distract you from the fact that you’re standing in front of a grass-roofed bar in the middle of a parking lot in Ventura. That is what I learned this weekend at Bombay Bar & Grill, which for the 25th year in a row, created the illusion at the annual Indoor/Outdoor Beach Party. The four-day event showcased some of Ventura County’s finest bands on two stages. A clear separation between the newest indie, reggae and alternative rock bands outside, and live funk and R&B covers filling Bombay’s island-themed party interior, kept the steady flow of party people intermingling and testing the limits of maximum capacity.

Friday night guests caught a final performance before a month-long hiatus by Ventura’s extremely hard-working and talented electro-pop/ska outfit We Govern We. Alternative rock quartet Ayn Mor, who offer an impressive and meditative blend of rock structure, ambient effects and energetic vocal performance by lead singer Adam Gonzalez, also performed along with the good-times, crowd-friendly blues and rock sing-along-y-ness of Kyle Hunt and the King Gypsy.

But the tide definitely peaked on Saturday with headlining crowd magnets Rey Fresco and indie scene-stealers Lovebird and Cheetahsaurus — both of which had captivated  fans at the Elks Lodge the same day at Zoey’s Productions’ Indiefest. Lovebird is a new band on the Ventura circuit that is not to be missed, and with just a few shows under the belt, its exceptionally well-crafted guitar melodies and the velvety, hypnotic vocals of Nicole Eva Emery create a sound that already has all who listen lovestruck. Pick up Lovebirds’ debut CD on Blackbird Records and watch as this band rises to the ranks of indie stardom.

Also performing were local favorites Franklin For Short, Bye Bye Blackbirds, Arroyo Grande’s Threes and Nines and a revamped version of Ventura’s Land N Sea. Sadly, the enormity of the talent was not matched in attendance at the first-class venue, which offered an art show, spacious dance floor, food and cheap drinks for the adult attendees. Why there is not a bit more appreciation for the local scene outside of the beer-soaked haze of night life when this level of performance is available to all ages is, to me, confounding.

The party’s over — potentially forever — at Hush Lounge, which was dealt a devastating blow to its business by the city’s recent revocation of its entertainment license for a variety of alleged violations. The popular upscale nightclub in Ventura that catered to the DJ and hip-hop crowd is officially shutting its doors while legal issues are sorted out. Saturday was unofficially the last night, and the normally packed venue was comparatively subdued and sober, owing no doubt to the lack of an adequate DJ soundtrack. (Music was instead played unobtrusively through house speakers just above restaurant volume.)

It is unclear why Hush has been targeted while it’s business as usual for similar neighboring venues such as CandleLight and Karma Lounge. What is clear is that this case, unlike the venue itself, is not likely to close soon, and the possibility of increasing controversy regarding downtown Ventura’s night life is well on the horizon. All is not quiet on the western front. 

Chris is a rabid local music fan who spends more collective hours sifting thorugh CDs and vinyl at Salzer’s records than he does sleeping. He has played in several local thrash, punk and hardcore bands and enjoys an eclectic mix of auditory stimuli. If you have a tip for him — drop him a line.

cmastrov@yahoo.com 

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