Another year has come and gone for local music. It’s seen better times for sure, but as we all know, it’s been much, much worse in the past. Here’s a look at the highs, lows and in-betweens of the year that sort of rocked.

The good
Nearly everyone in the scene seemed to agree that Spencer Makenzie’s End of Summer Blast was one of the year’s highlights. Taking place outdoors, over two days, with 20-plus local acts, the event was completely free, which likely explained the massive turn out. As the well-traveled singer-songwriter Syd summed it up, “Out of anything I went to this year, that felt like a real scene that you would find size-wise, vibe-wise in a bigger city.” Le Meu Le Purr drummer Robin Ryder, who played the event, said, “The event, and especially the after-party, which ended up being a massive all-star jam, made you proud to be a musician in this town.”

Another inaugural event of considerable size was GroovePhest, which took place on the scenic grounds of Lake Piru.

The well-organized and -attended event was chock-full of the county’s more jam-based acts, including The Divine Crime and the Situation and headlined by reggae legend Pato Banton.

The award for spontaneous show of the year easily goes to Adrian Romero, who invited the entire Sound and Fury Festival in Santa Barbara, which was prematurely shut down, back to his house. Despite the opinions of the Oxnard Police Department and his neighbors, the impromptu show was the stuff legends are made of.

The annual Halloween local music tribute band event, despite being held on a Sunday night, packed both of Bombay’s stages with a cavalcade of musicians who dressed the part in faithful renditions of Suicidal Tendencies, Danzig, Motorhead and more.

Tooting our own horn, The VCReporter’s first annual music-issue party was a memorable evening with appearances from a who’s who of talent including Dan Grimm, Shades of Day, Lovebird, We Govern We and Monster Hand who gave the great crowd a healthy dose of original music and camaraderie.

Zoey’s relocation to what had been Hush Lounge was cause for celebration for many. The small venue which symbolized perfection for the local singer-songwriter scene, simply outgrew its charming upstairs Main Street address. With significantly bigger digs, Zoey’s expanded its entertainment roster to bigger and louder acts, along with an already stellar acoustic roster.

When it came to pulling crowds, CD release parties for Shades of Day and Nathan McEuen as well as multibills like the Gavin Peters Benefit at the Lodge, saw great turnouts, but nobody came close to Rey Fresco, whose reputation for grooved-out good times and plenty of dancing girls drew a capacity crowd to the Ventura Theater for the second annual Halloween show.

As for record deals, in an era when that’s no longer one of a band’s main goals, there was one signing of note: T.F.W., arguably the area’s loudest and most ferocious band, signed with influential New York City indie label, Tee Pee Records.

Two transplant bands made a big splash upon landing in Ventura this year — from Philadelphia, New Liberty; and from Washington, the Shoemaker Brothers. While the buzz surrounding the Shoemakers has relaxed a bit, New Liberty, which made fast friends with the entire music scene and recruited guitar player and studio wizard Armand John Anthony, is working on a full-length record.  

In the acoustic world, new talent was abundant and on display at Zoey’s Ones to Watch Singer Songwriter series, which wrapped up with a packed finale last month. The top honor was taken by Mimi Gilbert, who promptly proceeded to relocate to Australia, which is probably a good segue way to …

The bad
Ventura County has long been engaged in the game of venue Russian roulette. No sooner does a venue come into being, than it’s gone. Dirty Vinyl, which took up residence in a dive bar building on Thompson Boulevard, recently changed its name and musical direction after being the premiere venue for the county’s vibrant rockabilly scene. Word has it that the space will continue to feature live music, but the venue’s, uh, new name, Pangaea 2.0, doesn’t leave much hope, as the previous incarnation of Pangaea was a full-fledged attempt to replicate an L.A. dance club.

Take 2, which rose from the ashes of Mai’s after it moved up the street, was loaded with entertainment but closed abruptly because of construction on the building. It went out with a bang when its final hardcore show left the room in shambles, including a literal tearing down of the ceiling.

Perhaps the cruelest blow of all was the closure of Nicholby’s. Despite one of the best sound systems in town, a killer stage and a history that dates back to the early ’90s, the club slowly fell on hard times, which eventually caused a complete shut-down. While many held out for a rebirth with new owners or management, alas, it’s now set to be the new location of Hollywood Fitness. Vinyl Studios owner and June Echo member Will Conant summed up the music scene’s pain: “Of all the things that it could have ended up being, a gym just adds insult to injury.”

The ugly
Breakups ran rampant in 2010. First and maybe foremost, Dirty Words called it quits when lead singer Kasey Herbison relocated to Washington. The band had showcased for several major labels, and the members’ youthful, impassioned performances were long considered a sure bet for success in the music business. Sadly, despite recording two albums, no full-lengths were ever released. As Army of Freshmen and Calamity member Aaron Goldberg, who also produced one of Dirty Words’ lost records lamented, “They had that something special. You just knew it the first time you saw them. [It was] a real loss.”

Members of the experimental Cheetahsaurus, one of the area’s most popular bands which played virtually everywhere in 2009, went their separate ways in 2010, but chief songwriter and frontman Wyatt Hull created Gypsy Death Star with Cesar Augusto (not an ugly occurance), a duo that We Govern We’s frontwoman Anna Karakalou hailed as “The most inspiring live show I’ve seen all year.”

Though there’s been no official announcement, sources say The Grandmas are reportedly done as well, with their CD release party at Billy O’s last month ironically being their last show.

If there was one sentiment that nearly everyone could agree on, it was that the area has never been brimming with as much talent as it has right now. For every genre, there’s a local act that could have national and international success, given the chance. What remain lacking are a consistent audience to appreciate such talent and a few more venues to showcase it. With one or two exceptions, local artists can shed blood, sweat and tears trying to pull a crowd but still only play to a handful of listeners. In this time of entertainment option overload and a society obsessed with social networking, as opposed to social living, it seems cliché but nonetheless necessary to say, make one of your 2011 New Year’s resolutions to be supporting more local music!

chris@armyoffreshmen.com