Ventura Rocks in the Ventura Breeze 2/18 – 3/3

Ventura MusVentura Breeze logoic Scene
Music in the Round Rocks!
by Pam Baumgardner

Shawn - Suzie - Sam - JeffGrapes and Hops downtown has been serving up more than a stellar offering of wine and beer lately.   Rufus Philpot has put together top-notch musicians calling themselves No Mad Trio featuring his mad bass beats and Steve Hass (Manhattan Transfer) on drums and Matt Rohde (Associate Music Director from American Idol) on keyboards; they’ve been playing just about monthly on early Sunday evenings.  But one cooler than cooler night of music was a singer songwriter music in the round which featured our very own Shawn Jones (along with Sam Bolle) playing host to Suzie Candell (whom he’s been producing), and Jeff Silbar who won the Grammy for song of the Year when he wrote “Wind Beneath my Wings” (Bette Midler had the huge hit with it and it was featured in the movies “Beaches”). I asked Silbar if he ever gets tired of playing “Wind”, but he said he never does because he never plays it the same way twice.  It was a great night watching the camaraderie and talent and hearing great stories behind the songs.

Country star, Lacy J. Dalton, played a fundraiser for the Santa Paula Animal Rescue Center at Discovery on Friday, February 13; upcoming Reggae shows to watch for include a night with Hirie and Arise Roots on Thursday, February 19, and then on February 26 it’s Tribal Theory with Dirty Rice opening.

Bombay’s will be hosting a Johnny Cash Birthday bash on Sunday, February 22 from 1-6 pm featuring live music from Hard Six, Big Tweed and the Mighty Cash Cats. Proceeds benefit the Ventura County Animal Services.

Golden China will feature live music on Thursday, February 19, when the Vic Moraga Band will get the swing dance crowd swinging, then on Saturday, February 21, Coven will bring their own brand of Goth Rock to the big room.

Hi Hat Entertainment continues to bring on the best of the blues to the Ventura Beach Club; shows to watch for include Lightnin’ Willie on February 20, The Forty Fours on February 27, and always a crowd favorite Billy Vera and the Beaters on March 13.

The good folks at Green Art People have been bringing live shows weekly in a family environment for over six years every Wednesday and now they are offering their weekly shows in the privacy of your own home for as low as $1 a show which you’ll receive Monday mornings.   You can contribute more per show and cancel at any time.  It’s a great way to support this non-profit who will be splitting the donations with the bands. Upcoming shows include GrooveSession on the February 18 and Rooster Ra with Kyle Swan opening on the 25.

Loving social media?  You can follow us on Twitter at VenturaRocks1;  Instagram at VenturaRocksWebsite and on the granddaddy of them all Facebook at Ventura Rocks-Website.

If you have any music related news or upcoming shows you want help publicizing?  Send all information short or long to

Nathan McEuen – Side by Side

Nathan McEuenNathan McEuen recently wrapped up production on his sixth solo album called, “Side by Side.”  I’d been hearing about a pending upcoming release for the past year after he started a Tuesday evening residency at Amigos in early 2014.  I made it a point to stop in on a dozen or so occasions to check it out; Nathan has this sort of shy, witty charm about him that is quite endearing.  I quickly came to know by heart the inspiration behind the banjo he played.  In a nutshell, it’s a gift from Russi Taylor, the voice of Mini Mouse.  The banjo belonged to her late husband Wayne Allwine, the voice of Mickey Mouse.  It’s a lovely story with a delightful song written in thanks for the honor of being the recipient of this gift.   But as quaint as that is, you really need to read the liner notes behind Taylor’s inspiration and the song, “Pictures of You in My Heart”.   There’s no doubt about it, Nathan has heart and it certainly comes through in his writing and music.

Of course some of the basics on Nathan are good to know.  He comes from a very talented family of musicians; I’m sure you’ve seen his brother Jonathan McEuen play around town either with his own shows, contributing to other artists or joining Nathan for a tune or two from time to time.  And of course, there’s pops, John McEuen from the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.  I was lucky to be at Amigos the evening both Jonathan and John joined Nathan for a couple of songs.  When I mentioned to Nathan you could see the genuine affection his family has for one another, he just looked down with one of those shy smiles and said, “Yes, it runs deep in our family.”McEuen Family

Nathan’s record, “Side by Side” features six tracks out of ten on the banjo, an instrument he said he just picked up a few years ago (I did mention he has talent, right?). The remaining four songs are Folk – Americana and not only feature his guitar work, but he brings to the table the amazing Jesse Siebenberg, who helped co-produce this one in part at Brotheryn Studios.

Other musician credits to note:  Randy Tico on upright bass; Jesse Olema on fiddle; Ashley Broder on mandolin; Samantha Harvey on accordian; Craig Eastman onfiddle, Chris Caswell strings and piano; Marcy Vaj on violin and viola; Jeness Johnson on cello and as mentioned previously Jesse Siebenberg B-3, bass, drums, slide guitar and BG vox.

My own personal protocol when it comes to reviewing an album is that I spend some time with it.  A lot of time.  I’ll listen while driving around, I’ll listen while working at my computer, and I’ll sit there doing nothing else but paying attention to detail.  The great thing about Nathan’s “Side by Side” is that I was already familiar with most of his songs and now I had the chance to learn the lyrics and hear what his songs sound like with a full band behind him.  But I know an artist has passed my own personal acid test when I find myself whistling or singing a line from one of their songs. “Side by Side” has passed with flying colors.

Nathan has a way of writing clever lyrics:

“They say I’m always up to no good
I’m the best at bad decisions

But am I always up to no good?
Well if you stand where I’ve stood
Your high horse might be broken
What’s so bad about feelin’ so good?”

 “Up to No Good” is my favorite track but I’ve found myself humming to all his lyrics and I have a new found love for “Pictures of You in My Heart” after learning the true life back story on it.  Nathan does justice to their love story.

I recommend picking this one up the next time you see him or on his website.  The CD will get a broader distribution in a few months.

The Interview

Nathan McEuenI sat down with Nathan at Amigo’s the night before leaving for a few weeks taking his new material on the road for shows in the Colorado Rockies, Idaho, Utah.

Ventura Rocks:  How long have you been working on material for this one?

Nathan:  Probably about a good year and a half.

VR: What inspires you to start writing?

Nathan:  I started writing as a child when I was about eight years old simply because I was surrounded by a bunch of people who wrote songs and it was such a cool thing to create something out of nothing.

VR: Are you always writing material?

Nathan:  Absolutely. Today before the show, I had a songwriting session in Thousand Oaks even though I just released an album, I’m already working on my next one, actually two of them.

VR:  I recall when we spoke last year you had different types of material, some harder than others, like the Foo Fighters?

Nathan:  Well, in the stylings of…I didn’t want to release an album with five different genres on it; that would be too difficult to explain to people, so the first one I ended up putting out an album with banjo and guitar. Half of it’s banjo instrumentals and joined with a bunch of other musicians that range from an upright bass, mandolin, fiddles and a little bit of percussion that go around the banjo.  The other half is singer songwriter fully produced full band material.  so this album is a cool complete contrast. half of it’s instrumental and the other half singer songwriter.  That was a lot of fun and it seems to be going over really great at live shows playing the banjo then singer songwriter thing. It’s a fun blend.

VR: I don’t know that I was a fan of the banjo before, but watching you play the past year it’s in my realm of reality now and I’ve really begun to appreciate it, even dig it.

Nathan: It’s definitely an acquired taste.

VR: I sit there and watch you picking, it’s amazing. Let me see your fingers!.

Nathan: Okay.

VR: (Inspecting Nathan’s fingers) Oh my god (impressed).

Nathan: Yeah they’re calloused a little bit.

VR: Yeah they are!

Nathan: I’m constantly playing.

VR: How long have you been playing the banjo?

Nathan: A solid four years. I grew up with a banjo playing father which a lot of people know, and some people don’t. People might assume I started playing it at a young age, but no, we kind of out of respect for my father, my brothers and I, and even my sister, we kind of decided to not play the banjo for a long time for various reasons.  But four years ago I started finding my own voice on the banjo and I started writing a bunch of songs.

VR: What does your dad think about that?

Nathan: When we talk about it, he’s told me things like, “I don’t know Nathan, you’re finding a bunch of notes that I never had.”  Or, “I can’t play that like you.”

(we laugh)

Nathan: And it’s nice because I can’t play like he does. It’s fun thing because it’s not like I’m copying him.

VR: Right, it’s your own style.

Nathan:  And there are some things that I think he’s very proud of just to say the least.

VR: Well I was here (at Amigo’s) that night when your brother Jonathan and your dad joined you for a couple of songs.

Nathan: That was so much fun, and that was a very rare moment.  He just happened to be passing through town.

VR: I was just sitting there watching the three of you and it was clear, you could see the genuine affection that you all have for one another.

Nathan: Yep. (pauses) It definitely, runs deep in our family.

VR: So where did you record this one?

Nathan: Mainly I recorded it in Southern California between the Valley and LA; it’s simply a guy who has a studio in his back yard. And I recorded the majority of the banjo instrumentals there. The majority of the singer songwriter part was in Ojai at Brotheryn Studios, and a couple of studios in between. Once tracked needed a string quartet so I recorded that in Venice. The first song that I ever tracked for this album actually was tracked in Atlanta, Georgia called Tree Sounds Studios. So I started in the East Coast actually and then brought it to the West Coast.

VR: When mixing the album did it sound like it was recorded in different places?

Nathan: Well the whole point is to have contrast.  I didn’t want the banjo to sound exactly like the produced singer songwriting stuff.  So there’s a continuity between the songs, but there is a drastic change halfway through the album people will notice, but it seems to flow.

VR: Who produced it?

Nathan: I produced most of it.  The last half I co-produced with a friend of mine, Jesse Siebenberg. I had other executive producers, but they took care of financing. But Jesse was producer with me the last four tracks, and I produced the rest of it.

VR: He plays on it as well?

Nathan: Yes. Jesse is an animal in the studio; a lot of people who work with him know him to play everything it seems. But on this album in particular he is playing – between the four tracks – some slide, the bass the drum, keyboards, and singing background vocals even!  We had a great time, we just got a lot of work done.  A majority of those songs we got done very quickly and once we got to the point where we needed to add strings, it was just very easy because we worked so well. He’s easy to work with.

VR: He’s a pro. Very talented.

Nathan: For sure.

VR: And you have your own label?

Nathan: Yes, my own label with six solo albums out now. I’ve been acting as my own label for the whole thing; some days it’s answering the phones, and some days it’s emptying the trash and other days playing songs on the stage.  It’s been fun keeping it going, but I am looking to partner up with people who see the vision and the grand picture but I can still act as my own label and pay for all the recording, but partnering up with a distribution company will be very beneficial for me.

Kelly’s Lot French Connection

If you know Kelly Zirbes, then you know she’s one of the hardest working women on the music scene. She’s forever booking, promoting, playing, writing, and breathing music. She’s awesome; plus, she’s got the talent!  Calling their brand of Blues, “Roadhouse Rockin’ Blues” Kelly’s Lot features amazing musicians including Kelly’s husband Perry Robertson.

I caught up with Kelly to get the low down on the band’s upcoming Valentine’s Day show at the Patio at Player’s Casino.  Not only is the Patio pulling out all the stops to make a night of romance with some of the most delicious dishes in town, but Kelly’s Lot will have a special guest player all the way from France, Jean Francois Thomas.

FrenchTrioVentura Rocks:  What’s up with this international exchanging of Blues artists Kelly?

Kelly Zirbes:  It’s all about meeting and playing with other musicians who love the blues.  What I love about this genre is ‘The Jam’. During a blues jam you will play with total strangers and find that you connect. Music is a universal language with the Blues being a universal bridge and language. Even across the world we can all relate to each other when we play the blues. Jean Francois Thomas shared us with his friends and fans in France and we will share him with ours in Ventura

How did you meet?

We met Jean Francois in France on our 3rd tour in European in 2011. We had played at a record store together and became fast friends and he invited us back to his house for dinner. There was 6 of us so that was rather generous. We all fell in love with him, his energy, his songwriting, his guitar playing but mostly just him. We talked at dinner about coming back and doing a few concerts together and in 2013 Perry and I decided to take Jean Francois up on his offer and emailed him. He was thrilled. We all three decided just Perry and I would travel there and start with an acoustic trio adding Jean Francois. He booked some shows and we flew to France. It was a fantastic trip and our bond became even stronger. We repeated the same thing in 2014 but with many more shows and bigger audiences. It was then that we invited him to come to America and play with us. He wasn’t sure he could because he was afraid to fly. But after a couple weeks he changed his mind and told us he would come.

Jean Francois ThomasTell me about Jean Francois Thomas.

He’s a multi-faceted guy. He’s a a teacher of Economcs and Law in Auvergne, France and a touring musician. He discovered blues the age of 30 and was a boxer when he was younger.  He has one of the most giving spirits of any musician I have ever met and he loves the Blues more than any person I have ever come across.

How big is he in France?

I’m not really sure but he has performed at many large festivals in France land has opened for Tommy Castro, Patrick Verbeke, Shemekia Copeland, Nina Van Horn. He has released quiet a few CDs since 1995 and has been given lots of accolades by the French press and media.

This is a Valentine’s Day gig.  How romantic will it get?

Jean, Kelly & PerryThe Patio will be doing a French themed menu and serve French wine. I know Jean Francois will warm everyone’s heart and he will get the crowd going.  I think that in itself will bring romance to the room. The French are some of the most romantic people I have met and it is fitting to share Jean Francois with our Ventura fans on Valentines. You know, he didn’t want to play a lot on this trip. Just one or two shows. It’s a vacation for him, his wife and a few friends and they want to have time to enjoy the sights. Of course Ventura was my first choice to book a show because of all the music lovers that we have discovered in the 3 years of playing here locally. Needless to say there will be lots of love to go around.

Reservations are highly recommended (805) 658-8975, or go high-tech and get your reservations online:

Kelly’s Lot on Facebook.
Kelly’s Lot Official Website.

Ventura Music Photos: February 2015

Squashed Grapes – February 18, 2015
Bruce Foreman with Marvin Smitty Smith on drums.
Bruce Forman

Peirano’s – February 18, 2015
Warren Takahashi – Representing!

Grapes & Hops – February 17, 2015 – Fat Tuesday
Hot Roux
Hot Roux

Peirano’s – February 17, 2015 – Fat Tuesday
Gil Valencia & Friends
Gil Valencia & Friends

Ventura Beach Club – February 17, 2015 – Fat Tuesday
Swing Cheese
Swing Cheese

Prime – February 17, 2015 – Fat Tuesday
Danny D (Sinatra impersonator)
Danny D

Squashed Grapes – February 13, 2015
Doug Webb Group featuring Danny Carey of TOOL
Danny Carey, Doug Webb

Bombay’s – February 13, 2015
The Velveteen Band
The Velveteen Band

Bombay’s – February 13, 2015
50 Sticks of Dynamite
50 Sticks of Dynamite

Discovery – February 7, 2015

Padrino’s – February 7, 2015
Lola Haag
Lola Haag

Grapes and Hops – February 6, 2015
Shawn Jones, Sam Bolle, Suzie Candell (Switzerland) and Grammy Winner Jeff Silbar (“Wind Beneath Your Wings”)
Shawn - Suzie - Sam - Jeff

Saloon BBQ – February 6, 2015
Big Tweed
Big Tweed


Bombay Bar and Grill – February 5, 2015
Robin Bacior (Portland, OR)
Robin Bacior


Erik Emanuelson of Grand Lake Islands (Portland, OR)
Erik Emanuelson
The Brave Kind (Ventura)
The Brave Kind

Majestic Ventura Theater – February 4, 2015
Willie Nelson and Family (Many thanks to Gary Best for photo!)
Willie Nelson

Amigos – February 3, 2015
Nathan McEuen (joined by brother Jonathan)

Nathan and Jonathan

Ventura Rocks in the Ventura Breeze 2/4-2/17

Ventura MusVentura Breeze logoic Scene
New Music Abounds!
by Pam Baumgardner

Nathan McEuen
Let’s talk new music, local bands with new records include The Barrelhouse Wailers, Night Demon,  and Nathan McEuen who just got distribution through Fontana (Universal) and will be under the Mesa Blue Moon record label this spring.  Nathan just hit the road for his Rocky Mountain Tour through March.

If you were smart, you caught the Global Guitar Greats showcase last year during Ventura Music Week at the W Gallery.  These three amazing guitarists (Stephen Inglis, Thomas Leeb and our very own Shawn Jones) have gotten together to produce an EP called “Common Ground.” These guys are truly masters at their craft.

Records darn close to being released, “Butterflys and Snakes” from Crooked-Eye Tommy (Tommy Marsh) and “The Ballad of Johnny and June” from the Mighty Cash Cats. Michael Jay tells me the CD has several duets and originals on it; they’re in the processing of mixing it now, they’ll also be touring soon leaving for Ireland in March.  A hip hop release from Double Dragon is in the works featuring Ronnie Rivera and Joaquin Cortez.  Kyle Hunt is back on the scene and back in the studio with a new project called Brothers Fortune.  Phil Tibbs from Curtsy told me they’re in the mixing phase of their first release and they’re looking for an early summer release. Rene Ponce let us know that the Stoneflys are working out of Colourbox Studios recording their second release; Jeff Evans producer.  And it looks like KC Mobley (Nylus, Catwalk) has been working with Armand John Anthony (New Liberty) in the studio; that should be interesting!

I also got wind that Peter DiStefano (Porno for Pyros) has a new project; he confirmed yes he’s working on a new EP out of Camarillo.   Jessie Rhoads (Stegosaurus) who’s also done a ton of songwriting and composing for film and TV has been working on his latest the past couple of years but he’s pretty close to releasing it; he’s also looking to perform locally here in Ventura.

And finally, what’s up with the new TOOL record?  Well you can personally ask Danny Carey, drummer, next time he plays with Doug Webb at Squashed Grapes which is Friday, February 13.

Just so you know, the good folks behind the Open Jam Night at Billy O’s have moved their jam night from Tuesday to Thursdays starting February 5 to The Garage on the east end of town and will continue marketing it as “Music Club”.  The first rule of music club:  No pre-existing bands.  The second rule of music club:  No Douche Bags.  Sounds right to me.

And finally, Riot Act Records gave me the head’s up that they booked a last minute show at Bombay’s on Thursday, February 5, with one of their acts out of Portland, Grand Lake Islands.  She said to think “Radiohead with a slide guitar.”  Touring with them is Robin Bacior whose new record “Water Dreams” was just premiered on CMJ (College Media Journal, THE indie bible).

If you have any music related news or upcoming shows you want help publicizing?  Send all information short or long to