As kids growing up in Oxnard, we would constantly see a mysterious, diamond-shaped O with an X through it, plastered on walls and sidewalks throughout the city. Through a little investigation we were able to learn from some of the older kids that this stood for something called “NARDCORE.” This didn’t really shed a whole lot of light on things. What the hell does that mean? In a city full of gangs, it sounded a little bit suspect.
Then one day, an older kid from around the corner gave me a tape he had dubbed for me. Written on it in permanent marker were the words “Dr. Know: Wreckage in Flesh,” with a very familiar O and X drawn on it. This tape would completely shape my musical taste for the rest of my life, and send me on a soul-searching mission that eventually led to my discovery of the history of hardcore culture in our local community.
In those days of the early1990s, the entire state of music seemed to be experiencing rather bleak times, and the local music scene seemed to be taking a hit as well. Most of the pioneering Ventura County bands had since dissolved. Mystic Records, the Los Angeles label responsible for printing almost every album hailing from Ventura County and Santa Barbara at the time, stopped printing and distributing copies. There was no Internet to speak of to look up bands or share files. If you were even interested in hearing a band to discover whether you liked it or not, you’d have to shell out up to $10 for a tape or LP at Record Outlet, Wild Planet or Salzer’s. The only way you could get a copy of a local musician’s body of work was to know someone who knew someone in the band.
Fast-forward to today, and I feel that we are essentially experiencing a musical renaissance in Ventura County. There isn’t a single day that goes by when I don’t find out about a talented new (at least new to me) band or artist from the area. While there haven’t been many places for the kids or younger-than-21 set in recent years, a few venues are beginning to step up. For those of us older than 21, there is absolutely no shortage of live music, most of it being offered for free, any night of the week around Ventura.
With so much going on, and with the ease of accessibility to people’s work, I fear it’s getting easy for local music supporters to become jaded and begin to brush off musicians who fall outside of their comfort zone before even leaving the house to see something different and give people a fair chance. The bands are out there, working harder than ever, and most of them getting less than ever for their efforts.
Considering the hard times we are all going through these days, I think we are actually doing a fairly good job of appreciating and showing pride in our budding music and art communities. That being said, I plead with all of you not to become lethargic. Show up and support your friends, as well as the venues that are providing you with a place to hang out and watch them. Thank the musicians and the promoters who are sometimes paying out of pocket to provide you entertainment; perhaps even get to know them. Who knows, it could mean a lot to them. If you think things could be improved, by all means, do something about it! Believe me, no one will stop you.
Joel Perkins is a Ventura County filmmaker and music promoter with Mute on the Floor.