Anatomy of a music scene
A thriving music scene can appear to be serendipitous — a happy accident of talented minstrels who just happen to flip open their guitar cases in an area rich with music-hungry locals and music-friendly venues. The truth, however, is that for every artist who takes the stage, there has been some kind of deal struck — a contract signed to secure a site, nail down set times, length of each performance, minimum ticket sales, payment, and some kind of destruction-of-property waiver. While the right-brained creative set can muddle through such things, it is in the hands of the local promoter, expertly stitching it all together in a lavish patchwork of bands, solo acts, media, promotion, bars and nightclubs, that a scene truly becomes user-friendly. So when Camarillo local Mike McGrath paused a few years ago to take inventory of his life, it only made sense that his passion for live music, a handful of local club contacts and his list of friends — most of whom were musicians — would dictate his next career move.

If you build it, they will come
As a bouncer and bartender for the better part of a decade, McGrath has had his finger on the pulse of Ventura County’s nightlife for years. And while that on-the-job education has now culminated in one of the area’s best-known promotion companies, VC Sound, the beginnings of that venture were more a twist of fate than some cleverly hatched plan. “The whole thing actually started as a blog,” McGrath chuckles. “I would go to a bunch of shows and post my picks of the week.” Armed with nothing more than a cell phone camera and a critical ear, McGrath quickly outgrew the blogosphere, with his rabid readership all but demanding more. Mike eventually found himself on tour with Camarillo reggae rockers The Situation (now Tonight’s Bag) — an opportunity that not only prompted a sudden photography equipment upgrade, but served to solidify his vision for what would become VC Sound’s unique brand of show promotion.

Start small and see where it goes
With a business model based more on people than purpose statements, and local acts than action items, McGrath is an anomaly. There is no clearer evidence of this fact than VC Sound’s contract with Roadrunner Shuttles to offer a free ride home to showgoers who may have had too much to drink. “I just want people to enjoy the show, have a couple of drinks, and know that they will be taken care of when they need to get home,” says McGrath. In similar unorthodox fashion, the VC Sound founder is happy to spread the wealth and work with other promoters. Exercising the same start-small-and-see-where-it-goes philosophy that turned a blog into a promotion company and a cell phone camera into a side career in professional photography, McGrath has taken what was a regularly occurring garage party at his friend Lee’s house and given it a VC Sound makeover. Simply called Lee’s Garage, the shows have since outgrown their original location and found a new home at Zoey’s Café in Ventura.

The next Lee’s Garage will be Friday, May 27, at Zoey’s Café in Ventura. To learn more about VC Sound or see a list of other upcoming shows, go to