We built this city
Camarillo venue has stayed strong six years on
By Chris Jay 08/29/2013
With the advent of the Internet in the late 1990s, booking rock shows became vastly easier, and a touring boom occurred that saw bands of all levels and genres littering America’s highways in vans and trailers. In addition, the economy was healthy, gas was considerably cheaper than now and going to see live music was a viable and popular entertainment option, especially for teenagers.
As a direct result, all-ages venues began popping up across the country as well. When we say “all ages,” we’re not talking about clubs or theaters that sell booze but can also have the younger-than-21 crowd in the venue at the same time. And we’re not talking about a hall or space that’s temporarily rented to put on a show. We’re talking about a venue that exists solely for kids to go see live music in a safe environment where parents don’t have to worry about alcohol or drugs.
Santa Barbara had the now legendary Living Room. Ventura had Skate Street. The list of bands that played at both venues reads like a who’s who of the punk, rock and indie scenes. It was toward the end of this period that Dan and Jan Peyton took their mutual love of music, education and kids and threw their finances (not to mention blood, sweat and tears) into their very own, multifaceted all-ages venue: Rock City Studios, located in a nondescript strip mall in the heart of Camarillo.
Not long after the Peytons put their hearts and wallets to work creating a positive place for area youth, a combination of the country’s financial collapse, the music industry’s downloading-inspired meltdown and a new generation of endlessly connected teenagers caused the all-ages scene in the United States to nosedive.
Somehow, some way, Rock City Studios weathered the storm.
Now, almost six years into the venue’s existence, the little club that could is not only surviving against all odds but it’s actually thriving.
A lot of the venue’s recent success is due in part to the Peyton’s son Doug, and his wife, Rebecca, who took over day-to-day operations of Rock City and have helped build on its all-ages philosophy.
“This past February we started construction to expand the stage and make the venue bigger,” explains Doug. “We finished in June and this summer basically had a re-launch. We’ve all our classes. From the normal vocal, guitar, bass, piano, drum lessons, we’ve also added rock band workshops, musical theater and acting classes, audition workshops, songwriting workshops and we even have a hip-hop class coming. We strive to have a community feel, as opposed to just a place that has a show once or twice a week.”
As for lessons, it’s a long way from an elderly teacher coaching kids through “Chopsticks” in there living room on an archaic upright piano. Rock City has a collection of energetic and experienced staff with professional backgrounds, including Doug, who once played in the popular touring band Halifax. The teachers encourage the students to learn and experience all facets of the venue’s offerings from the stage and recording studio to holding performances at the venue, truly helping to create a community.
Several bands such as Galvanized Souls and Bird Brain first met, formed and performed at Rock City, helping to foster their own all-ages scene from the ground up.
Beyond education, the staff at Rock City supports local music in the county, no matter the genre or age. Besides booking shows, it rents the venue at reasonable rates to other promoters to use, offers recording services and rehearsal space at hourly rates with bands able to use the full and recently expanded stage, PA and backline.
It’s a one-stop shop for artists where they can take lessons, rehearse, record and perform, all under the same roof, a nearly unheard-of amazing scenario.
Ultimately, what makes Rock City Studios special, and any all-ages scene for that matter, is the people involved. It needs to be a family affair and the Peyton clan continues to build theirs one show, one lesson, one kid at a time. They care about the kids that pass through the doors and they take great pride in watching them grow and experience music, be it hardcore or musical theater.
“This is our life. I can’t tell you how great it feels to see a kid come up through Rock City, learn their first song here, perform for the first time at one of the student-only shows or open mics,” says Doug. “To be able to pass on the knowledge and love of music we have. That’s what I think has made Rock City hang in there.” The goal, he explains, is to be in business for at least another six years. “This is definitely where and how we want to spend our life — couldn’t be happier.”
For more information, including upcoming shows and lessons, call 383-3555 or visit www.rockcitystudios.org.