The Aggrolites

Los Angeles quintet the Aggrolites play music that’s as tough as they look. It’s what they call “dirty reggae”: raw, street-level rocksteady slapped with a heavy dose of gritty urban soul and funk. Imagine James Brown fronting Toots & the Maytals. Or Toots Hibbert hollering over Booker T & the MGs. Suffice to say, these five dudes, each with experience in different trad-ska and reggae bands, know how to throw down. The group came together to perform on a tribute record for legendary Jamaican vocalist Derrick Morgan. They enjoyed each other’s company so much they decided to write some originals and began performing their classic-yet-utterly-L.A. version of island music at clubs around the city, where they quickly amassed a rude-boy following and attracted the attention of Hellcat Records, a subsidiary of Epitaph. With their self-titled label debut, these aggro misfits are continuing to testify for the old school while putting their own stamp on some durable, time-tested riddims. It’s bound to be a rugged set at the Drink on June 29.

Jeff Kaiser

Local musician Jeff Kaiser has long carried the torch for the avant-garde in Ventura County. He created the New Music Festival, an annual tribute to the freaky, far-out and plain weird players toiling on the fringes of the music universe, as well as the labels pfMENTUM and Angry Vegan. Even beyond those testament to the eccentric, however, is Kaiser’s own oeuvre as a trumpeter, which sits on the border between the classical and the iconoclastic. His award shelf is stocked, but it’s best to let the musical explorations speak for themselves. Hear them squawk at Kaiser’s CD release party at Zoey’s on June 30.

Phantom Riders

Cross an old school L.A. punk drummer with a pair of surf rock heads and what do you get? The Phantom Riders, Ventura’s own purveyors of saltwater-soaked guitar-bass-drums instrumental cool. Playing their own tunes as well as classic covers stretching back to those halcyon days of American pop music — the mid-20th century — this trio personifies what it means to live along the Pacific, and why there is no place else any rational person would rather be. The Riders have been quiet for a minute, but they’re bouncing back, performing at Good on June 30.




Since 1994, Los Angeles-based ensemble Quetzal has been carrying the torch of boundless Chicano-American fusion. Taking the traditional — son jarocho, cumbia, other variations of Latin American folk — and grafting it to the modern — rock, R&B, soul, jazz — the group is following in the great lineage of fellow L.A. mavericks Los Lobos, but leaping a step even further. The band is named after its talented founder Quetzal Flores, but its heart is singer Martha Gonzales, whose voice translates all the joy and pain of the working class citizens they represent. Quetzal has never performed in the decidedly blue-collar city of Oxnard before, and it’s about time they did: They’ll appear at the newly founded Ruby’s in the downtown area on June 25.

Kids of Widney

High The Kids of Widney High are more than just a band: They’re an inspiring story. In 1989, special education teacher Michael Monagan started a project to help his handicapped students discover the joy of creating music. Little did he know at the time that others would be able to feed off their joy. Membership in the group is, naturally, a revolving door, but no matter the personnel, the spirit remains the same. Good vibes shall abound for their performance at Billy O’s on June 24.

The Warriors

Oxnard has long been a breeding ground for adolescent hardcore bands, and with groups like Atreyu and Bleeding Through crossing over to a wider national audience, it seemed like only a matter of time before someone from this area broke out as well. Enter the Warriors. Actually, only one member — guitarist Javier Zarate, 20 — is a native of the fabled Land of No Toilets; the other four are from Tehachapi, a conservative teenage wasteland about two hours up the road. But considering the scene in Kern County is practically non-existent, the band made its name initially among the Nardcore faithful. The Warriors came together in 2001, with Zarate, then already a hardcore veteran despite still being in high school, joining six months later. After building a local following for two years, the band was all set to split up when Eulogy Records came calling. A subsidiary of Warner Brothers, the label bought them a van and put them on the road. Over the course of a year, the quintet’s popularity grew to the point where they can now sell out popular Southern California clubs like the Showcase Theater and Chain Reaction as well as 400-capacity venues in leftfield places like Boise, Idaho. In 2004, the band released its full-length debut War Is Hell, a crushing disc of pavement-punching metal with enough aggressive hooks to earn them comparisons to Rage Against The Machine. Now, they’re preparing to release the follow-up, and will celebrate that milestone with a headlining gig at Alpine on June 23



Leon Russell

If a game called “Six Degrees of Leon Russell” were ever devised, it’d make a hell of a lot of sense.  Because the bearded native Oklahoman has worked with damn near everybody in the rock’n’roll universe, from the Stones to Jerry Lee Lewis to George Harrison.  He initially earned his renown as one of rock’s most sought-after studio hermits, playing on everything from Ike & Tina Turner hits to records by the Byrds and Herb Alpert.  But beginning with 1968’s Looking Inside the Asylum Choir, the man made a second name for himself, as an acclaimed recording artist in his own right.  His career has had peaks and valleys since, but there’s no denying that Russell has earned his place as a vital connecting rod in the history of American music. Russell gives what should be a heralded performance at the strikingly intimate SoHo in Santa Barbara on June 18. SoHo, 1221 State St., Santa Barbara, 962-7776

Los Paranoiaz

Anyone who regularly peruses the entertainment listings in this or any other local publication has probably seen the name “Los Paranoiaz” dominating the bar scene in and around Ventura lately.  Well, it’s not your imagination.  This band of brothers (literally) is injecting a bit of youth, energy and original songwriting into the wilting late-night music community.  The group, born in an Oxnard garage years and years ago, has been gradually climbing up the ranks with a sound that fuses a classic sense of melody over some furious guitar and drum work.  Move over old timers — there’s a new generation of Ventura County bands are on the way, and Los Paranoiaz is leading the charge.  The future comes to the Ventura Theatre on June 17, with Simulakro and It’s the Bleeding.

Brendan James

Most successful musicians can recall the moment of their personal big bang — that explosive instance where the path of their lives suddenly appeared before them, beckoning them to follow. Brendan James, the 26-year-old frontman for Ojai-based quintet Shades of Day, is no different. Only, he’s not quite sure there was any single catalytic experience. Music is certainly burned into his DNA: His mother plays guitar, and his father replaced Sammy Hagar as the vocalist for ’70s proto-metallurgists Montrose. But up until his mid-teens, James virtually ignored what appeared to be his birthright, preferring sports and other, more “traditional” adolescent activities. Then, at 14, he picked up a bass, and nothing else mattered.  Call it “immaculate inspiration.” Since then, the LA-born songwriter has been chugging straight toward his goal of becoming a professional rocker. And he just recently crossed a significant mile-marker: Last month, his band celebrated the release of MAYDAY!, their first self-produced disc of driving, Southern-tinged hard rock.  But on June 17, James will find himself back to where he was in his mid-teens: Alone, with an instrument in his hands.  His solo show at Zoey’s should be just as intense as those with his rocking quintet




Summer Roundup It took them a damn long time, but finally, Santa Barbara’s premiere modern rock station has its own big-time radio festival. The KJEE Summer Roundup — sort of a downsized, more interesting version of the KROQ Weenie Roast — debuted last year with a lineup that included mostly of-the-moment stars. For the second edition, the station has managed to score some bands that’ve already proven to have a degree of staying power. On top are the Strokes, the group that unintentionally ushered in the so-called “indie rock” revival with their jangly, monumentally infectious debut Is This It back in 2001. Two albums and one New Wave phase later, the shaggy New York quintet have shown themselves to be resilient to the “here today, trivia question tomorrow” music press hype machine and now stand as one of the pop’s true top acts. Also on the bill are Scottish fashion plates Franz Ferdinand, the twitchy, critically acclaimed dance-rock foursome known for their sweaty, high-intensity live sets. Joining those two at the Santa Barbara Bowl on June 11, are Ventura County-based pop-punks Yellowcard, nu-wave young’uns Panic! At The Disco, goth-y electro-rockers She Wants Revenge and groovy Brits Hard-Fi.

Gregory Isaacs

Loverman, Rastaman, roots radic, ex-con — Gregory Isaacs has been them all in his storied 30-year career. The velvet-voiced Jamaican singer practically invented lovers rock — a brand of reggae focused on the bedroom lyricism of American R&B — but he is equally adept at vocalizing the suffering of the island’s underclass. Released from prison in 1982 after serving time for a drug offense, Isaacs’ productivity increased dramatically; he’s released so many albums since, the exact amount is a point of debate. Isaacs performs at the Ventura Theatre on June 9.


As the county’s local rock fans prepare to say goodbye to Sunday night concerts at the Livery Theater, they also must get ready to send long-running indie (mostly) instrumentalists Monroe off into the sunset as well. Forming a couple years ago from the ashes of never-heard Oxnard group the People Factory, three of that band’s four parts hooked up with former Bad Judgment member Ryan Hitchings to form a new project. Named after a street, not a dead movie starlet or an ex-president, the band specialized in angular, occasionally atmospheric tunes reminiscent of Sonic Youth and Radiohead. Naturally, they quickly acquired a following, which they’ve maintained to this day. But, apparently, it’s time for the individual components to move on, and that they will — but not until celebrating their demise with a final show at Billy O’s on June 10.



Rachael Sage

New York singer-songwriter Rachael Sage compares her earliest compositions — written when she was in kindergarten — to Elton John, “if he’d been a nice Jewish girl from a long line of Russian cantors.” Today, Sage’s music runs closer to folky mavericks such as Suzanne Vega and Ani DiFranco, with a dose of vaudeville tossed in for good measure. After spending the majority of her teenage years in her bedroom recording songs on a four-track, the self-taught pianist cut her teeth as a working artist in the East Village, independently releasing a slew of albums before gaining national exposure with a slot on the Lilith Fair tour. The appearance afforded her the opportunity to continue performing, now for a wider audience. She went back into the studio in 2005 and emerged with The Blistering Sun, 15 tracks that run the gamut of Sage’s influences, from Patti Smith and Laura Nyro to Elvis Costello and Peggy Lee. Sage gives a free in-store performance at Salzer’s Records on June 5

Ashlee Simpson

All right, look, before you get all upset by having this show listed as a Pick of the Week, just hear me out: Pop music — as in the synthesized, sugarcoated, rolled-off-the-assembly-line kind — has essentially been dead ever since Justin Timberlake released a credible solo album, Christina Aguilera dropped her trashy prostitute look and Britney Spears retired to a life as a barefoot-and-pregnant trailer park queen. And admit it, there’s been a void in your cold, snarky heart — a void for something that’s easy to hate. Kelly Clarkson is almost interminably loveable, Avril Lavigne’s songs are too catchy to really despise, and all those Backstreet Boys and N’Syncers have retracted from the spotlight. So who’s left to catch all that excess vitriol? Enter Ashlee. Her infamous SNL lip synching debacle, coupled with her screeching, most definitely not lip-synched halftime performance at the Orange Bowl, has made her a kind of target not seen since the heyday of the boy band phenomenon. Look at this invocation to attend her show at the Santa Barbara Bowl on June 5, not as a nod of approval but a seal of disgust that’s too terrible to ignore. Come early — and bring tomatoes.

Le Meu Le Purr

When local hard rock juggernaut Psycho Café went on hiatus a couple years ago, it allowed singer-guitarist Aaron Johnson and drummer Robin Ryder to try something new. That “something” ended up being Le Meu Le Purr, a forceful power trio rounded out by ex-Bad Judgment bassist Scott Okuma. Almost from their inception, the band has been the talk of the Ventura County music scene for their unique stylistic amalgam: jagged guitars careen into winsome keyboards, whispered laments slam against larynx-bursting screams. After quickly taking over the local scene, the group — whose name is a reference to the Pepe Le Pew cartoon — has been eyeing the national stage. But for right now, catch them every Monday night this month at Billy O’s, starting on June 5








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