Ventura Music Scene
Folk fest to Metal fest
by Pam Baumgardner
High at the top of my list of things to do over the next few weeks is the Topa Topa Folk Fest being held at the beautiful Libbey Bowl in Ojai on Saturday, October 1. Ticket sales have been brisk, which is great because I’d love to see this one sell out as it also helps to benefit the Turning Point Foundation. Headlining the folk fest will be Jake Smith better known as The White Buffalo whose music has been featured on such TV shows as “Sons of Anarchy” and “Californication.” I’m also excited to see Grizfolk after watching local talent Brendon Willing share his adventures via social media after joining the band over a year ago. Actually, the whole lineup is pretty cool with Jaime Wyatt, Todd Hannigan, Shane Alexander, Lee Koch, Bryan Titus and so many more talented folks. Find out more at www.OnesToWatchProductions.com. You can help make a difference while enjoying a great day of music, hope to see you there!
Another Turning Point Foundation fundraising was held at the Traveler’s Café on Thursday, September 22 when Shawn Jones entertained the room. It was the perfect opportunity for people to check out one of Ventura’s newest restaurants offering up live acoustic music on select days. Shawn by the way heads back to Europe the first week in October for about a month with shows in Italy and Ireland.
The highly anticipated return of Cirth Ungol (their first show in 25 years) is finally upon us as they headline Frost and Fire II at the Ventura Theater on October 8, and to sweeten the deal even further, Metal Blade Records released the band’s classic “Paradise Lost” on CD and vinyl. Frost and Fire II actually spans three days (October 7-9) and three venues (Bombay’s, Sans Souci and the Ventura Theater). This heavy metal festival isn’t for the light of heart and will most likely sell out (Day one already sold out at press time). To get the full line up of bands and schedules go to www.FrostAndFireFest.com.
Plan B will be celebrating their 4th anniversary with their popular Second Sunday Supper for October (on the 9th), featuring The Vonettes. The venue is also working on Friday nights for live music on a regular basis.
Squashed Grapes is excited to welcome Ronnie Hudson on Saturday, October 8. Hudson is most notable for his hit song “West Coast Poplock” which would later appear on Dr. Dre and Tupac Shakur’s song, “California Love” and Snoop Dogg’s “Poplock 2”. Hudson also played bass on the legendary Grammy-winning soundtrack “Shaft” by Isaac Hayes, and his work is featured in other films including “The Social Network”, “Iron Man II” and “South Central.”
Do you have any music related news or upcoming shows you want help publicizing? Send all information short or long to Pam@VenturaRocks.com, and for updated music listings daily, go to www.VenturaRocks.com.
The White Buffalo a.k.a. Jake Smith has had a very good year. A successful tour with Chuck Ragan and Jonny Two Bags, playing summer festivals and the ever increasing legion of fans due to successful song placements (TV show Sons of Anarchy) he was in a great mood. So, on a recent phone conversation with the upbeat, talented singer/songwriter he was multi- tasking as usual. Pounding away on his handmade leather WB coasters in this humor filled chat we discussed his music, his crazy loyal fan base, playing the big room (Majestic Ventura Theater) and his college baseball career.
Polly: Hey Jake, how’s it going? You’ve been busy.
Jake: Pretty busy, yeah, been a pretty cool summer…
Polly: Your last record came out in 2013 (Shadows, Greys and Evil Ways) and it actually charted on Billboard how did that make you feel to get more people to recognize your music?
Jake: I don’t know if that’s entirely true. I guess it did chart huh? Ha-ha, I don’t really keep track.
Polly: Ha-ha, it was number 164.
Jake: Really? Well that’s pretty cool ha-ha. I don’t think it changed my life very much but, that’s cool. I mean it’s cool… to be 164th Ha-ha.
Polly: I’m a fan of your music and I see when stuff pops up on facebook and I’m so excited for you. Like Jimmy Kimmell! How cool was that?
Jake: Yeah, that’s super cool. It’s great to get these little things that do get some recognition. I think a lot of it kind of legitimizes what I do in some people’s eyes. For me, I feel like I’m kinda doing the same thing.
Polly: But on a broader platform which is so cool.
Jake: Yeah, it’s cool. I think it’s great that we’re reaching a few more people and that’s kind of the goal, to get it quicker rather than slower.
Polly: It took you about ten years to be an overnight success…
Jake: Hahaha, that’s great.
Polly: What do you think the key is? What did you do different last year and the year before? Just more records coming out?
Jake: I think so. I think it’s a matter of just building it and keep building up the fan base. I think the majority of it is touring and getting the occasional licensing… all the Sons of Anarchy stuff and all the other licenses I think help hugely. It’s great that people don’t stop at those songs. They go deeper into the catalog, not everybody does obviously, but some people do and you actually get fans out of that.
Jake: So it’s just a matter of staying at it and not doing anything stupid ha-ha.
Jake: I don’t know it’s just staying true and writing and trying to write good songs and playing hard and performing with passion.
Polly: Right, definitely, because you know when your first EP came out, gosh that was like 8 or 9 years ago and it didn’t seem like there was anything out for 4 or 5 years after and then all of sudden boom we get EP’s and records almost every year. I think a key to your success has been doing something new and fresh every year.
Jake: Yeah, and we’re going to start recording again shortly.
Jake: Yeah, I always had a bunch of songs I just didn’t have the means to record stuff. You know what I mean? And it wasn’t necessarily a lack of material it was a lack of focus, ha-ha…
Polly: And resources.
Jake: Yeah, resources and funds. My first couple of records I made from nothing you know, it was friends who helped, but I don’t think those records are worse or better or anything less than the current albums. It was a different schedule we had to work with and it was a different time but you know?
Polly: And on a shoe string.
Jake: Yeah, but in a way it makes you dig a little deeper.
Polly: It keeps you humble.
Jake: Yeah, as far as being on a different label that’s probably been the biggest luxury and you know, there’s still not any of them telling me what to do. Like I’ll tell say, I’m going to make a concept album of this fucking crazy story, and they’re like alright, let’s do it. Ha-ha.
Polly: That’s nice. So who influences you these days? Is there somebody out there new or old that kind of grabs you these days?
Jake: Umm, musically? I don’t know. Not really.
Polly: OK, that’s fair.
Jake: I don’t know. I don’t think inspire is the right word. A lot of times people ask who inspires you, and rarely… because I try not to be derivative of or inspired by… but as far as people I like… I like the last Jason Isbell record called Southeastern. I thought that was fucking pretty great. Super emotional and I just got part of that new (Jeff) Tweedy album pretty cool so far. You know there are lots of great people that I like. I really like Dr. Dogg… I like Deer Tick.
Polly: What’s been your favorite show experience so far?
Jake: My favorite show experience?
Polly: Was it Kimmell? Was it when you went out with Jonny Two Bags and Chuck (Ragan)?
Jake: That was cool. I don’t know if I have one thing. I mean there are places I like to play, cities I like to visit. I think people you know, are pretty spirited and we always seem to have good people come out to our shows.
Polly: Yeah you do.
Jake: I don’t know why. I guess we’re just lucky in that respect that we have pretty nice fans that are respectful of other people. Other than those couple of fights at Zoey’s ha-ha!
Polly: Ha-ha holy cow! I was hoping you weren’t going to bring that up.
Jake: Ha-ha. Right? I mean have you had many fights at solo acoustic shows?
Polly: Geez no! And it was during one of your freaking ballads that they started pounding each other. It was because one guy was really getting into it and he couldn’t hear and the other guy’s – well F you and fists started flying and I thought, well thank God you kept playing.
Jake: People are serious about it! I got it going on…
Polly: Yup they love you.
Jake: Ha-ha. You know I probably had my eyes closed.
Polly: Yeah, there you go. Ha-ha. Has there, ever been, other than the fight at Zoey’s, a bad experience? Like you pulled up to some place and it was totally not what you thought?
Jake: Yeah, but I’ve been doing this for a long time. There have been times we’ll go to some place and nobody would be there. Now it’s a little different. Now we can go to a place where we’ve never played before and people will be there! We went to Des Moines and there wasn’t a whole lot of people but there was maybe 150 which five years ago it wouldn’t have been like that.
Polly: Well, that’s cool.
Jake: I’ve had some funny experiences and heckling and all kinds of stuff.
Polly: How dare they heckle you!
Jake: Right? It happens though people get drunk…
Polly: He must’ve been drunk ha-ha.
Jake: He was drunk Ha-ha. He was drunk as shit Ha-ha!
Polly: Ha-ha! So you’re writing. You’ve got that old-west sensibility in your music and your songs could be like the sound track to a Deadwood film…
Polly: Are you a fan of westerns? Is that a lifestyle that kind of intrigues you or that’s just where the music takes you?
Jake: Yeah, I mean, some of my songs have that kind of western feel and some are entirely different. I always just let the song dictate whatever it does. I don’t ever set out to- now I’m going to write a country song here. Or okay that song feels more folk or that one feels more bluesy you know? So the songs go where they may and I just let them. Just let it happen.
Polly: So tell us something we don’t know about you. This is the boxers or briefs question.
Jake: Boxers or briefs…
Jake: Boxers or briefs…um I don’t know. I’m fairly athletic I had a baseball scholarship…
Polly: Oh Really?
Jake: I got a full ride in college. Played Division 1 baseball. I still enjoy playing golf and tennis.
Polly: Oh that’s cool. Where did you go to school?
Jake: It’s St. Mary’s college in Moraga, in the East bay. Same league as Pepperdine and Santa Clara.
Polly: Sure, wow.
Jake: That’s a little known fact. There you go.
Polly: That’s a cool fact.
Polly: Is there a card or something with your picture on it?
Jake: Oh you want some proof of it? No, there’s no proof anywhere. Ha-ha.
Polly: Ha-ha you burned the pictures right?
Jake: Ha-ha, that’s good. I’m sure my mom has something but I don’t know.
Polly: Oh I would love to see that. You know you should do a throwback Thursday with you in your uniform.
Jake: That’s pretty clever. Alright, I‘ll consider that Polly. And I’ll give you a shout out if that happens.
Polly: Oh that would be awesome. People are amazed that we are friends, like my brother, now thinks I’m cool.
Jake: Ha-ha. Nice, that’s funny.
Polly: What advice, and this is your generic interviewers question, would you give to somebody that’s looking to be in the music business other than find a second job or make sure you graduate from school?
Jake: Um, I think that’s important but at the same time I think the biggest thing is to play as much as you can. Play live as much as you can. At least that gives you a fighting chance. To really hone your craft, to really write good songs that mean something to you and feel it. I think that’s the only way to approach it and to just stay at it, you know? I think a lot of it is trying to write songs that touch people, at least for me, and try to write something that moves somebody in any way. Whether it be something nostalgic or happiness, love, fear, heartbreak or you know there’s so many things. And don’t limit yourself. And if you do something that’s pure I think in the end other people will relate to that.
Polly: That’s so true.
Jake: And I think you have to kind of be talented to start with ha-ha.
Jake: Not that I’m saying I am particularly, but that probably helps ha-ha. Yeah, for me it’s fucking keep it honest, keep it real. You know there’s so much bullshit out there these days that people do. And don’t do something totally stupid. Ha-ha.
Polly: Like every other YouTube pop song that comes out.
Polly: Is there anyone that you’d like to collaborate with or go on tour with. Like if you had your wish right now, would it be like go on tour with Jason Isbell or… ?
Jake: Well for me I am a songwriter but I do have a family and I’m a businessman as well, so I have to… when I look at tours there’s got to be some way that I can capitalize. I’ve never had that career changing tour where I get to open for fucking Neil Young or somebody like that.
Polly: But would you want to?
Jake: Tom Petty or Neil Young and play in front of fucking 10,000 people a night that are going to get it, would be the ultimate kind of thing. For me that’s the kind of tour that I would love. There are bands that I love but I think there’s a balance to those things. To check your finances, seeing if you can do it and seeing if at the end if it makes sense. In order to break into other markets and stuff like that, summertime especially, you just have to bite the bullet and you have to say okay I’ve never been to this place so I better support somebody and get there to these places. So I’m not starting out and I’m not playing in you know, Nashville, for 3 people. That you’re getting in front of somebody else’s crowd and hopefully converting some of those people to your Church and hope they come out the next time. The headlining tour with Chuck (Ragan) was cool. And I thought musically and our approach to songwriting and performing were similar. We just kept on getting after it, on and off stage every night giving our all. You know. I think I might have gone off topic…
Polly: No, I like it when you riff. How is the family?
Jake: Rilo and Tanner, the wife. Everyone’s good. Rilo is in 2nd grade. Crazy…
Jake: I know, yeah, he’s so big. Doesn’t want to hold my hand in the street anymore. Ha-ha, but he’s still a sweetheart. Yeah, it’s good. Everything’s good.
Polly: Is Tanner still into his music? Is he going to carry on the family business you think?
Jake: Ha, I don’t know I hope so. I heard him playing guitar today. Not sure if he’s going to be in Ventura but he’s sat in with me every once in awhile. I think I’ve got this other guy out which it should be fun.
Polly: Nice. So speaking of Ventura you’re doing the big show. They’ve called you up from the minors and you’re playing in the big leagues now, the Ventura theater.
Jake: Yeah, right? Well they shut down the best place in town (Zoey’s).
Polly: Ha-ha that’s nice of you to say.
Jake: Yeah, I think this is going to be a good jump. You know, but what else do you do? It’s like we play in Santa Barbara all the time. There’s really not that many great mid size venues. Soho is what it is, there’s the Lobero Theater in Santa Barbara. It’s all seated but it kind of doesn’t totally vibe with our drunken crowds. Ha-ha. But, Yeah, I’m excited. I’m little nervous. Hoping we make it feel good and fill the room up.
Polly: Well we want to get your fans out. It’s been awhile since you’ve played Ventura so that’s what we’re aiming for.
Jake: I hope so.
Polly: Have you thought about where you want to be in 5 years or is that too far into the future. You have goals?
Jake: In 5 years?
Polly: Or in 2015 you’ve got this album coming out…
Jake: Yeah, I’m always looking closer into the future than that. But I keep my expectations small so that hopefully next year is better than the year before. Partially it’s the nature of how I’ve built my business and how I’ve built the fan base. It’s just slowly and surely I just keep churning out songs and keep playing and performing. And you know it just keeps getting a little bigger and a little bigger and it seems like more people come every time. That’s just how it’s been which has been good.
Polly: As it should be.
Jake: Yup. I’ve been lucky.
The White Buffalo www.thewhitebuffalo.com, at The Majestic Ventura Theater Saturday Sept 20th 7pm doors/8pm all ages show. Tickets www.venturatheater.net
The concert was held at Bombay Bar and Grill in Ventura, CA, on Sunday, November 24, 2013.
Sometimes it just feels good being able to help someone else. But, it feels even better when you’re giving back to someone who has done so much for others; and that is why the music community came together for Polly Hoganson. They came because she needed assistance. They came because they felt indebted for what she and her husband Steve had done for them and for the music community. They came because they wanted to help.
There were over 100 items donated for the Silent Auction and Raffle. The items were as small as Blenders in the Grass gift certificate, to a custom-made Willing Guitar. We had t-shirts, and CDs as well as house concerts from our local artists (Shane Alexander’s went for $250); we had wine, gift baskets, dinners, artwork, jewelry, drum hardware kits, voice lessons, drum lessons, violin lessons, trips to the Channel Islands…we had great stuff!
But more than the stuff? We had the talent in the house. The White Buffalo was the headlining act and he brought down the house. Surf pro/musician Timmy Curran was amazing; Nathan McEuen was outstanding; and we also had Zoey favorites like Shane Alexander and Justine Bennett. 50 Sticks of Dynamite played, I heard one of their first gigs was at Zoey’s. Tommy Marsh did a set with Steve “Smokey” Hinojosa. Guy Martin played with longtime friend Lee Koch. The rest in no particular order were simply fantasitc, there wasn’t a single bad act all day and night; they all shone: Kyle Hunt, Todd Hannigan, Ray Jaurique and the Uptown Boys, Jade Hendrix, Jamie Drake, Shelby Figueroa, Pi Jacobs, Xoc Moraza, Roger Keiaho, Salty Suites, Max Kasch, Seth Petersen, Calico the Band and many of them brought additional talent to back them up! They all played for free. They all played for Polly.
And of course there is the back story of those who help to pull this event together, making the callings for auction items and picking them up, putting up posters (thank you Where2Print.com for donating them), gathering all materials for the day, rallying the troops, contacting the media, writing the stories, going on the radio. And let’s not forget Diego and Bombay’s for offering up the day for the event! Two sound guys who worked their asses off (Thank you Robin and John), security, and offering up either gratis items (thank you Firestone 805) or seriously reduced items for the bands.
And the volunteers showed up. Some for a few hours, but others all day long from 10:30 until midnight, plus, there were only a few minor hitches! No matter what was thrown at us in the middle of trying to get through the day, we did our best to keep smiles on, and keep everything in perspective.
It was truly a night to remember for many reasons. But what I took away from the day was the love and generosity this community showed for one of our own. Polly feels the love and support and is so very appreciative.
Thank you Ventura Music Community. It was a great day indeed!
Photographers who donated their time and photos: