Our Ventura music scene
The Ventura music scene is an enigma, and the paradox is that you may either be listening to Jack Johnson to help save our hills while sipping merlot, or watching Social Distortion at the Ventura Theater for $79 (now that’s expensive in contrast with Indie West Fest’s $25 ticket price) while sucking down a Pabst Blue Ribbon. I guess I could also have said sitting at the top of the Watermark compared to Billy O’s. I know we cannot be pigeonholed so easily, and it might be an exaggerated generalization, but nevertheless there is some truth to it. So with that in mind, it makes promoting in Ventura difficult waters to navigate.

Capitalism in our music scene
Sometimes people have no motivation to solve a problem unless money can be made. So in these times of such heightened awareness of environmental and ecological issues, maybe capitalism is the only thing that really works. A wacky analogy is the Bengal tigers in India or gorillas in the Congo. Capitalism, in the form of poaching, has been a constant threat to these endangered species’ existence. That’s until locals found out that tourism is far more profitable than poaching. Capitalism is now saving and protecting these animals with the same weapons that once threatened them, through new tourist dollars.

The city of Ventura is finding out the same thing with our burgeoning art/music scene. Saving and approving our artistic and musical endeavors adds to the city’s bottom line in the form of tourism dollars. Eric Wallner from the city of Ventura’s community development department is making some steady effort to change this through his Ventura Music Week project.

Unifying our music scene or unity through diversity
There have been many attempts lately to unite our local music scene. There are now so many social media pages/sites directed at bringing together Ventura’s music and arts scene that in some ways it has become more divisive than unifying. I am so confused these days about where to even post or not post a show. So now I list gigs on eight different pages/sites.

With everyone in the scene separated by two degrees, and sometimes one degree, of difference, and in our current economic climate, it’s more important than ever for all of us to get along. It is a very difficult undertaking to unify our Ventura music scene when key players are purposely left out due to petty differences, accusations or who knows what reason. A line is then drawn in the Ventura sand, and you are made to decide which side you are on and who your allegiance is with. It’s like a bad divorce.

Maybe the problems are not as big as we all think, but we can still make efforts to improve. Case in point is how many bands have relocated to Ventura just for the music scene that maybe we take for granted. New Liberty is a great example of this as they moved here from a once thriving scene in Philadelphia.

Having said all of this, I am very optimistic about the future of Ventura’s music scene. I feel there is a musical resurgence, a renaissance of sorts, in our small town. People are meeting in organized groups to discuss new and innovative ideas to bring people out of their homes on a Friday or Saturday night. You could go out almost every night of the week and see a great band at any number of venues. There are not many small towns that can say that. We may never be a Silverlake/Echo Park or an Austin, but I definitely see some true signs that things are changing for the better.

Michael Jones is a Ventura musician who has been part of the local music scene for nearly two decades (Jumpin’ Jimes, Jackass, La Vonettes). He is also the brave promoter who put together this year’s Indie West Fest at the county fairgrounds. When he’s not playing and booking shows (most recently at Crave Lounge), he is busy being a dad.