A few years back, Judy Valencerina was a fixture on the local singer-songwriter circuit. She gave it up for career-related pursuits in the urban jungle of Los Angeles. A few months back, she returned and began playing music again. Now, she wants to invite everyone to Wide Open Wednesdays, which she will soon be hosting at the Experimental Café, located in the renovated Woolworth Building in newly rebuilt downtown Oxnard.
On the surface, it’s an open mic night, but don’t let that scare you (or tantalize you, depending on where you’re coming from). Anyone expecting off-key renditions of James Taylor songs or third-rate Joni Mitchell wannabes will surely be disappointed. Valencerina has more ambitious plans.
“It’s not so much an open mic night as it is a free-for-all,” she said. “I called it ‘wide open’ for a reason.”
Among the local artists booked include rockers Le Meu Le Purr, rocker-turned-folkie the Ashtray Life (a.k.a. Derek Jennings, once of the Return), and local mainstay Susan D.
Valencerina wants everyone, from singer-songwriter types to rock bands, but she would also like to see other kinds of artists get involved.
“I really want to open it up to spoken word artists and comedians, but not too many of them have come forward,” she said.
Another departure from the traditional open mic night is the timing of the artists’ sets. Instead of the usual “play-your-three-songs-and-get-off-the-stage” pattern, Valencerina allows the artists to perform half-hour sets. The shows will begin at 7 p.m. and go until midnight. This sort of pacing, plus the logistics of setting up for bands, will also do away with the usual open mic tradition of signing up at the beginning of the evening. The Web site says it best: “While it’s true that there is a casual Open Mic ‘feel’ to Wide Open Wednesday nights … it is a well-organized showcase for the artists. We expect punctual, professional, talented performers to grace our stage!”
Open mic, music showcase — whatever you want to call it, part of the fun will be hanging out at the Experimental Café. It was once the lunch counter in the old Woolworth’s, but it has now been transformed into a living, breathing tribute to 1960s kitsch, and serves an eclectic mix of sandwiches, salads, appetizers and coffee. Many local and not-so-local bands have been playing gigs there, and it has quietly become one of the cool places to catch live music in the county. General Manager Pete Boulouks is as fired up about the Wide Open Wednesdays as Valencerina is.
“There’s no cover (charge), and you get a combination of great food and beverages and enjoy a wide gamut of music,” he said.
When Valencerina got back into music, she played a few shows at the café, and according to Boulouks, she liked its energy and vibe.
“I had just got back into [performing]. I played a couple of shows there, and I fell in love with it,” she said. “I told Pete that we should get some really cool music and get the word out about this place.”
Wide Open Wednesdays begins Nov. 7 at the Experimental Café, with performances by Cynthia Wang, Watercolor Paintings, Susan D, the Ashtray Life, Michael McDermott, I Was a Lover and Spartacus. 401 S. A St., Oxnard, 385-3605. For more information,visitwww.myspace.com/