Musical renaissances are funny things. The conventional wisdom is that they are linked inextricably to time. They’re perceived as something like the tides, or seasons. Untrue. Renaissances are dependent entirely on people — individuals — and not chronology.
Consequently, when new artists “emerge,” the life that breathes into the scene is not the result of some sentimental whim of nature but instead the direct result of the will of a few very driven individuals. This is directly opposed to the fallacies of the overnight success and the nine-day wonders. Suddenly, everyone thinks there’s so much happening around town. Likely it’s because they were just looking in a different direction.
In a different direction: Jason Bays, singer / songwriter / guitarist for Ventura neo-psychedelic band The Spires — along with drummer / wife / singer Colleen Coffey — founded Beehouse Records in 2004. The reason: to release music by The Spires and other towering bastions of Ventura’s left-field music scene. Think of it as the velveteen underground. The culmination — so far, at least — of this intention is the three-Fridays-and-a-Saturday Beehouse Residency at Zoey’s Café happening throughout January.
New Year’s Day brought the avant drone tones of Deep Magic and the singer-songwriterly murk of Seth Pettersen. In case you blew it and missed that, Friday’s Jan. 8 live action is by NPR favorites Tall Tales & the Silver Lining and the raucous rustic roots music of Cave Country.
Slightly more auspicious: 2010 also marks Beehouse’s new business deal with NAIL Distribution (a subsidiary of Allegro Music and not to be confused with Nail Distribution in Italy) in Portland (a subsidiary of the Pacific Northwest and not to be confused with Portland in Maine). In March, new records by The Spires, as well as hotly tipped local folk-psych merchants Tall Tales are due. Suddenly, everyone thinks there’s so much happening around Ventura County.
Other bands in the residency: The Sea Stones and their improv jam band mania that includes Bays and all the members of Franklin for Short, grizzled guitar guru Jeff Grimes and the “melodramatic popular song” stylings of Tommy Santee Klaws, the best thing out of Altadena since the dairy (Friday, Jan. 15).
The Spires themselves double with the faraway echoey jangles of The French Semester, hot off its own January residency at The Echo (Saturday, January 23), and the up-tempo Squeeze-ish harmonies of longtime locals Franklin for Short and Home Now on Friday, Jan. 29. Home Now may be playing its last concert under that name — currently known as Marquee and formerly Hindu Kush — at any rate, it’s a groovier, more folkish Strokes. This is not entirely a bad thing.
Beehouse Records represents a hidden side of Ventura life — the calm of the air and the mist off the waves, a shadowy peacefulness that’s not necessarily at odds with the demonstratively celebratory directions of Rey Fresco or Phooey or Raging Arb and the Redheads.
As Bays put it recently in an interview with the Blankland blog, “I’m really trying not to be influenced by music right now. It can clutter your mind — all those bands. It’s hard because I love listening to music. I find a lot of inspiration in old jazz, drawing, Kerouac and his ability to string words together, nature, my band. I am always trying to look around the corner, you know.”
It’s also that sense of intuition that’s bringing Beehouse to the forefront: like the zeitgeist of 2010 (the year, so the movie tells us, that we make contact), Beehouse is here and now.
So where have you been?
Three Fridays and a Saturday in January at 8 p.m.All-ages. Zoey’s Café, 451 E. Main St., Ventura. 652 1137,