Sounding the 805

Sounding the 805

For some unknown reason, indie rock and alternative comedy go together like shovel and pail. If you are into bands such as Yo La Tengo or The New Pornographers, chances are pretty good you can be seen watching stand-up by David Cross or Patton Oswalt every other week. So the idea that local indie rock band Franklin for Short would be invited to perform at L.A.’s alternative comedy breeding ground, UCB Theatre, to play a few songs and subsequently become the helpless subject of improv comedy sketches is not surprising.

“Apparently, Matt Besser is a fan of the band,” explains lead singer/guitarist Seth Pettersen. Besser was one of the original quartet that made up The Upright Citizens Brigade television show on Comedy Central in the late ’90s. The band is expected to play roughly four songs, after which the sketch team will interview the members and perform improvised sketches based upon actual events that have happened to the band. Pettersen predicts that it’s “gonna be killer.”

Records don’t sell themselves, but in the case of Ventura’s Softsilence, its records actually buy themselves, at least for what’s left of the month of September. In the latest promotional tactic from a band already quite skilled at selling itself, the alternative rock/pop quartet has been just giving its CDs away. Not content to simply hand them out at shows, the band actually worked out a deal with the top local record stores to offer its newest release, The Innocence EP – Deluxe Edition, at the check-out counters (that’s prime record store real estate), for the low, low price of free, for all of September.

Painfully aware that even your grandmother could potentially pirate its music, lead singer Bryan Dixon says part of the goal is to get people into the record stores that could use the extra business and, of course, to “just saturate Ventura with Softsilence.” The band members are not known for being squeamish in their promotion: these are the same guys who cold-called L.A. recording studios last year asking for free recording time, and actually succeeded with little more than brass balls. If you’re curious and have never heard the band’s music, now is a good time to sample it in the few days left of the giveaway.

Last weekend, many patrons of The Dirty in Ventura were surprised to be graced with the humble presence of So Cal punk legend Steve Soto (original bass player of surf punk pioneers Agent Orange and founding member of legendary OC skate punk band The Adolescents) performing with his band Steve Soto and the Twisted Hearts. The fact that the Twisted Hearts, a distillation of the best elements of Americana, country and rock, bears almost no perceivable resemblance to Soto’s punk résumé is irrelevant, and it’s clear that there is very little in this world that Soto can do willfully to make him less “punk,” short of selling seal pelts to purchase Hot Topic stock shares.

Sounding the 805 is Ventura County’s only biweekly local music column. If you have a tip, a suggestion, a complaint, some dish or just a kind word, shoot Chris Mastrovito an e-mail.

Sounding the 805

Sounding the 805

After the disbandment earlier this year of one of VC Reporter’s 2009 bands to watch, Cheetahsaurus, frontman Wyatt Hull is back on the scene with his newest collaboration, Gypsy Death Star, which debuted last week at San Souci.

Electronic music composer Cesar Augusto, the essential musical force behind Hull’s signature emotive, howling vocals, dials in much of the down-tempo electronic pulse that drove Cheetahsaurus, without the live instrumentation, focusing the sound into a concentrated beam of trance-inducing energy from the dark side of ambient techno and postpunk/new wave. As the name implies, this power duo probably could actually destroy planets. Catch Gypsy Death Star again at San Souci on Sept. 15.

The joke goes, how many Deadheads does it take to change a lightbulb? They don’t change it, they just follow it around for 30 years until it burns out. For many, however, the spirit of the Grateful Dead is a light that never goes out. Just ask local bass player Evan Grosswirth (The Preachers Blues Band), who, after six years, has by popular demand, begun reassembling the elements of Groovehound, Ventura County’s premier jam band dedicated to the music of the Dead. The capable collection of local talent from Ventura’s jam/blues community includes the guitar skills of local music teacher and member of The Ventura Jazz Orchestra Hans Ottsen and Josh Davis of The Hours Before who is also lead guitar player for award-winning country singer Kacey Cubero.

A Groovehound show is a rare occurrence reserved only for special occasions, in this case, the reunion at J’S Tapas Saturday, Sept. 18  foreshadowing the visit by former Dead members Phil Lesh and Bob Weir at the Santa Barbara Bowl two days later. As for what to expect, the setlist includes more than 22 songs covering the catalog from the mid to late ’60s to the late ’70s, including B-sides and more obscure songs. Reluctant to label it a tribute act, don’t expect over-the-top Jerry Garcia wigs, costumes or scripted banter. Groovehound is billed as a “celebration” of the Dead, with arrangements and chord progressions used as a template and in the true spirit of the band, everything else improvised.

For an already locally established band that has gained the vast-devoted fanbase necessary to headline the lion’s share of local music events such as Spencer Makenzie’s End of Summer Blast and Bombay’s annual Beach Party, one might expect Rey Fresco to use its sophomore record to fine-tune the definitive document of its original sound, establishing the progression of the band members’ capacities as songwriters, as follow-up releases by upcoming bands often do. But according to producer Joe Baugh, the band is in the studio polishing, surprisingly, a five-song EP of covers. It’s a bold statement for a band in this stage of its career, as such a move usually marks one of two scenarios: a debut demo designed to demonstrate a new band’s technical skill and bookability before it has had the opportunity to establish its artistic chops, or for a veteran band so late in its successful career that its vast catalog of timeless original music justifies the authority of its own interpretations of others’ work. Since Rey Fresco fits neither, this covers EP, which reportedly includes such stock songs as Steve Miller Band’s “The Joker” and Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid,” is a risky venture and had better feature some game-changing revisions of these songs, (I’m talkin’ Devo’s version of “Satisfaction” different) done as never before. While we can’t be sure until the release, we may be looking at either a stroke of genius, or a band potentially risking cementing its seat on the fast-track to perpetual “house band” status. Here’s hoping it’s the former.   

Sounding the 805 is Ventura County’s only biweekly local music column. If you have a tip, a suggestion, a complaint, some dish or just a kind word, shoot Chris Mastrovito an e-mail.






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