If there’s one consistent fact in the local music world, it’s that no matter what the scene is going through, economically or sonically, the Bombay Bar & Grill will be there. From long-time war horse cover bands to original acts that have broken nationally and internationally, Bombay’s contribution and loyalty to the live music scene remains immeasurable. With the beloved and always growing Pilic family at the helm, Bombay is gearing up to celebrate its 25th anniversary with a weekend extravaganza. The event will feature a bevy of bands and DJs on indoor and outdoor stages, including a Psycho Cafe reunion as well performances from some of the biggest names in local music, including Jeff Hershey and the
Heartbeats and Cheetahsaurus. To celebrate the milestone, we asked members of the local music community to recall their most memorable Bombay experiences.
DJ Also: “Back in the day, seeing the Ska Daddyz there when they were like the house band. They had these wooden beams above the stage, and one night the lead singer, Jesse, grabbed onto them and was swinging and singing upside down. So insane. Almost shut the place down. That was probably the most rocking show I ever saw there.”
Armand John Anthony, Le Meu Le Purr: “Lately, what stands out to me are their amazing tacos. I always end my weekend nights there for the food alone. As for the people that own it and work there, it goes without saying how amazing they all are.”
Adrian “AJ” Burke, We Govern We: “My memories of Bombay are always the time I spent there playing with Colyzion. Such an amazing, drunken, belligerent, good time. There was even a shot we invented that was named after the band.
Occasionally, it still gets ordered there. Not a bad way to be remembered.”
Frank Barajas, singer-songwriter: “When Rod Stewart showed up. This was at the height of his fame in the ’80s. Rumor was going around he was gonna be there hanging out for some soccer after-party event. We just missed him when we got there, but the fact he was even there is something else.”
Adam Gonzalez, Ayn Mor: “My thoughts on Bombay as a whole is a sense of freedom. People are there to release and break through. They come for the right purpose: the music.”
Aaron Goldberg, Army of Freshmen: “One of the front room R&B cover bands stopped the set, and the guitar player made some impassioned and maybe inebriated speech about how he loved the lead singer. Then he got down on his knees in front of the packed bar and proposed. The singer looked terrified and the rest of the band looked panicked. She never answered but he kept asking. Then to get him to stop, she agreed to a slow dance. Some people were moved. Others were terrified. It was incredibly uncomfortable, but the place was glued to the on-stage drama. To this day, I have no idea what I really saw. It was like the Twilight Zone meets Soul Train.”
Brian Parra, Blackbird Productions: “Cool thing about any time you go to Bombay is, they go out of their way to make you feel at home. I remember it had been a year or two since I’d been in there. Synthia greeted me and got me in for free, Diego gave me a free drink, DJ PJ gave me a shout-out over the PA. I just felt so welcome. I think of any local venue, it’s really a family affair there.”
Diego Gamba, bartender: “When we’d put together a float for the St. Patrick’s Day parade. Ska Daddyz would play it. People would be in the bar at 5 a.m. drinking Jagermeister, and everyone would head over to the parade.”
Jeff Hershey, Jeff Hershey and the Heartbeats: “Last year when I was doing guest vocals with the Big Band, it was crowded and I couldn’t get to the bathroom in time so I pissed outside on the patio right before I was gonna go on. I was thrown out immediately. The show was delayed, but they finally let me back in and it rocked. These days, I’m best friends with the security. Says a lot about how good the people are there. They can forgive a public urinator like myself.”
DJ Jazzy Johnson: “I’ve played so many shows there, and had so much fun, that quite honestly, it’s one massive beautiful blur.”
Bill Locey, music writer: “I’ve seen countless shows there over the years but sometimes it’s the bad that sticks out. It was really hot in the back room. I took off my Raging Arb sweatshirt, and a bouncer said I couldn’t be there with only a T-shirt on. I put the sweatshirt back on. Couple minutes, later I took it off again. I was immediately kicked out. Funny thing is, I was there reviewing the show.”
DJPJ: “There was this completely drunk girl that kept hitting the guy she was with, making a scene. Finally, the guy raises his hand like he’s gonna hit her back. Three bouncers jump all over him, and the girl screams out in the most over-the-top hysterical way possible, “No, Alejandro! Don’t hurt him!” Then she passes out. Instantly, that phrase became a classic to anyone there. Best part is, later that night one of the bouncers that tossed the guy out was going to sleep and heard from the house next door a girl yelling out, “No, Alejandro! Don’t hurt him.” Turns out the girl lived on the same street. To this day, I still say that and get a laugh out of it.”
Robin Ryder, Bombay music booker: “The first time Gwen Mars played there. They were an upcoming L.A. band, and it was their first show in Ventura. They had lights, bubble machines, it was just a really pro show. Still stands out for me as one of the best I’ve seen there.”
TK, Lion I’s: “A printable memory? The night we did our CD release party. We played the Ventura Theater and announced on stage that we were doing the after-party at Bombay. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy was playing it, too. Miller sponsored it and gave us a bunch of free kegs. So when we showed up, we couldn’t get in to our own party. It was like the whole theater just walked down the street. People were falling out of the back doors. Dominka was mad ’cause the place was packed, but they were all drinking the free beer.”
Evan Sula Goff, 8STOPS7: “The night our video premiered on MTV. They let us and all our friends hang out after hours. They put MTV on the big screen. I don’t think it came on till 1:30 in the morning, but they stayed open. There was no way we could have found a place where we could have watched it all together like that. It meant even more that we got to see it at a venue that we came up playing. One of the best moments of our career.”
Zeke Berkley, End Transmission: “The first time we ever played there was with Le Meu Le Purr. We were always huge fans of theirs, and Bombay was always a place we wanted to play. It was like two big steps for us in one night. Locally, we felt like we made it.”
Bryant McLemore, Custom Made: “I think why Bombay has lasted so long is that the management is always trying to improve the place from the entertainment to the look. They stay current.”
Michael Kohli, promoter: “I always felt Bombay is the gathering spot of the scene. It was one of the first venues I went to after I turned 21. I love how the place is family run. Diego, Cynthia, Dominka and Mary have always made it a fun, welcoming place.”
Martin Ayala, musician/soundman: “I’ve had so many memories there from playing and doing sound, it’s hard to pick one specific memory, but what stands out to me is it always feels like home there. I can’t say that about any other venue ever.”
Joe Baugh, musician: “When I was a young kid just starting playing, I can remember being downtown with my parents and I’d stand on the side walk and watch the bands play through the window. That’s the only place I can remember being able to watch a band from outside. Years later, I’ve gone on to play with some of the same people on the same stage that I once watched through the window outside.”
Bombay Bar and Grill’s 25th Anniversary takes place Thursday, Oct. 1, through Sunday, Oct. 4. 143 S. California St., Ventura. For more information, call 643-4404 or visit www.myspace.com/bombaybarandgrill.