Venues come and venues go. It’s been a solid year since Zoey’s closed, and even though owners Steve and Polly Hoganson are using Bombay to showcase up-and-coming artists, that particular gap still remains. Fuego which previously was Crave Lounge and before that The Drink, and who can even remember before that, is now Ventura Beach Club which is only a music venue on Fridays since Hi Hat Entertainment relocated there from Yolie’s. VBC is a much better space for Hi Hat’s well-attended roots shows and hopefully one where they can grow what has become a beloved destination for music fans near and far. Meanwhile, in a secret (midtown Ventura) location, well below the radar, Megasound Studios continues to plug away at the super awesome reboot of its recording studio/live music venue. Stay tuned for more on this.

The Village Jester in Ojai is closed through winter for repairs following flooding and other construction issues earlier this year. Nearby, The Vine is generating buzz among locals who find it a very welcoming place for the hamlet’s storied music community. Operated by Nigel Chisholm, (owner of the Jester), the Vine is a musician-friendly spot where artists and fans can enjoy quality music by top shelf players. Though not exclusive to any particular genre, jazz, blues and fusion seem to be the order of the day there. Chisolm likens the vibe to the original Zoey’s: an intimate, high-end listening room.

Country music lovers have a new place to practice two-stepping: Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar. With regular live music, live band karaoke and occasional appearances by popular artists, this place could soon be the go-to for the boot-kickin’ set.

Discovery recently had a little hitch in its giddy-up when a nearby resident appealed its entertainment permit. The venue was forced to put the brakes on live music for a short time while the city helped resolve the matter. A slight change to its hours of operation and all is well again in Whoville.

As you may have read in a recent issue of VCReporter, jazz has returned to Ventura with Squashed Grapes, Grapes and Hops and Peirano’s at the forefront of the welcome rebirth. Highly respected regional jazz players have been showing up and blowing people’s minds on a fairly regular basis and no one is happier about it than well-connected Davey Miller who has been instrumental in bringing exceptional talent to the area.

Kyle Swan has been busy collaborating with guitar great and fellow Ojai resident Robben Ford on new Ford material. Swan also recently released his own record, Gossamer, which features Karl Hunter (sax and clarinet) and Brad Buley (percussion). Crooked Eye Tommy has been spending time at Brotheryn where it is recording its first full-length. Bandleader Tommy Marsh says the record’s hallmark will be the guitar and vocal harmony work between himself and his brother Paddy. Marsh says recording at Brotheryn is going along smoothly thanks to producer Dan Grimm. The band’s drummer, Tony Cicero is excited about working with engineer Jason Mariani. “He is an artist himself, and truly understands how to get the sound you want,” he said. The band will perform at the Ventura County Blues Society’s Christmas Concert and Toy Drive to benefit Casa Pacifica on Dec. 7 at the Arena Sports Bar in Simi Valley. Also on the bill are Coco Montoya, B.B. Chung King, The Delgado Brothers and Mikey Mo.

Nerd rock outfit The Velveteen has been picking up steam — steampunk that is. The band has been invited by infamous steampunker Phineas T. Kastle to perform at the first annual Steamathon in Las Vegas, Feb. 6-8.

Ventura County’s music scene lost two major talents in the past month: Mark “Torch” Tortorici and Thom Thomas. While Tortorici wasn’t a local resident, he was extremely involved in the regional swing scene and performed here countless times, most recently at the Yeah, Man swing nights at Golden China. During the swing revival’s heyday, Tortorici played in Michael Jones’ (Jackass, Mother of Dissension) group Jumpin’ Jimes. Jones told VCReporter that he’s still coming to terms with his former bandmate’s tragic passing (he died in a car accident) and that they were planning a 20th anniversary live album. “Mark was an entertainer and a bandleader from an era gone by.  He touched so many lives and was loved by so many, and his memorial was a testament to this as it drew more than 800 people. He was a great and talented person and he will be missed by many.”

According to friends and bandmates, bassist Thom Thomas (Champagne Sunday, Blues Bullet) struggled with various demons before shuffling off this mortal coil earlier this month from an extended illness. The gifted musician was remembered on Champagne Sunday’s Facebook page: “Thom was a great friend, a brilliant, artistic and expressive musician, and staunch band member that taught us nearly everything we know about how to be professionals in the music industry.” Joe Billingiere who played with Thomas in Blues Bullet regarded him as a “teacher, peer and mentor.” He told VCReporter, “He came into my life when I was at an all-time low. He lifted me up and helped me find my mojo again. Thom was a kind man who was a catalyst for progress and development.” During the sessions for Champagne Sunday’s album North, they recorded a song by Thomas called “Dark River.” The band has kindly made it available online at soundcloud.com/champagne-Sunday/dark-river.


NoteWorthy is a monthly column dedicated to developments in Ventura County’s music scene. If you know something we don’t know, write to michel@vcreporter.com.