Just as rumors of the end of the world were greatly exaggerated, so was chatter about Ventura County’s robust music scene losing steam this year. Musicians and venues weren’t without their challenges, but for the most part we continued to cultivate creativity at an astounding rate, and visiting musicians were incredulous as always at the level of talent, hospitality and (gasp!) pay they encountered here.

A few of our own singer-songwriters received national attention when they competed on the popular TV show The Voice. Monique Benabou, Lee Koch and Orlando Napier didn’t make the final cut, but they should have, dammit! (There’s no accounting for taste). Jeff Hershey and the Heartbeats, New Liberty and Aaron Orbit may not have lunched with Christina Aguilera but they did make it to SXSW via the VenAustin Tour, and the Heartbeats went all the way to Europe, where they were very well received. Even as many local artists were crossing county and state lines to share the love, a few of our own left for greener lawns (or more interesting weather), and others we sadly bid a final farewell to. The always fashionable boys in Softsilence moved to Nashville as did Bruce Kimmell. Josh Hayes (No//Sé) and Bobby Wilcox (ex-Pretty Uglys and Radio Threat) moved to the Bay Area. Champagne Sunday left California for Washington, where they’ve found a more enthusiastic audience. Beloved singer-songwriter Jimmy Adams passed away in July and was properly memorialized with a concert organized by Jonathan McEuen; and last month, Enrique Candioti (DJ Ambassador Jr.), who worked as art director for VCReporter, lost his year-long battle to cancer.

Though we suffered some hard losses, we also welcomed new arrivals: Tania and Trevor Beld Jimenez of Tall Tales and the Silver Lining and Chris Mastrovito of Hiding Inside Victims and his wife Tiffany, welcomed their firstborn children this year. Promoter Jon Shimer and his wife, Candace, added a second baby to their growing family. New venues popped up and others closed. The Tavern came onto the scene like gangbusters, ruffling some feathers as it settled into its location where Candlelight had been. The Sandbox Coffeehouse and Amigos opened, while Bernadette’s on Main and Crave Lounge closed and Bombay did some redecorating and added a gourmet burger bar.

Other changes in the music scene included the heroic comeback of 8stops7, the resurrection of The Volume Knockers, Shawn Echevarria leaving Rey Fresco and Gargantuan changing its name to Wooden Nomad. And who could forget the saga of The People’s Radio, a pirate radio station that was shut down by the feds, but not before it rocked the socks off Ventura. If this year was marked by anything, it was the events. By most accounts, there have never been so many events — music and otherwise — in this area in one year. Some flourished, others not so much. Spencer Makenzie’s End of Summer Block Party, The Roadshow Revival and Scheideck were successful. Indie West Fest organizer Michael Jones gave it the ol’ college try but failed to attract enough people to make the event viable, and the Monster Jam Fest had so much potential yet all but disintegrated.

Of course lots and lots of new music was made in 2012. Some of the artists to release new material were Neal Casal, Tall Tales and the Silver Lining, Aaron Orbit, Stop Breathing, Army of Freshmen, Julie Christensen, Sharks and Cobras, Massenger, No//Sé, Rocky Gunderson, Shaky Feelin’, Alexandra and the Starlight Band, Zachary James and the All Seeing Eyes, Todd Hannigan, D on Darox and the Melody Joy Bakers, Dan Grimm, Eli Bejar, Captions, Riley Real, Rubberneck Lions, Seth Pettersen, Gentlemen, Matt Zeltzer, Tony Ferrari, 8stops7, Alastair Greene and The Pullmen.

There’s so much live music and so little time to catch even a portion of it. We asked a few people who are closely involved with the scene what their favorite shows were this year. Here’s what some of them told us.

Martin Ayala/Alexandra and the Starlight Band, Sutratma: Nasum reunion at Billy O’s. Swedish badasses in a Ventura dive bar?

Jodi Farrell/TresCoustics: The artists I most enjoy seeing and hearing are Shawn Jones and Preston Smith. Shawn is such a good singer-songwriter-musician and Preston Smith is a one-man band who is fun to watch. I also love seeing the Army of Freshmen. Chris Jay and the rest of the guys give 100 percent at every show they play.

Lisbet Frey/Green Art People
: Black Party Politics at RAW night at Bombay. This band is just unlike anything we have seen in Ventura. That kind of charisma was just mind blowing. Also Wayleons and Lissie at Deer Lodge. They are putting on once-in-a-lifetime shows up there.

Amy Hedberg/Billy O’s: The No//Sé album release party at Billy O’s. The KSSR [People’s Radio] show because it was fun and went off without a hitch. Seth Pettersen and the Undertow, the night they played with Pretty Wife. The Dwarves show, and anytime T.F.W. played.

Jaison Henderson/Rubberneck Lions: Scheideck Music Festival had a ton of awesome Ventura talent and the whole thing was DIY grassroots style. Everyone shared everything. Every band was talented and cared about their performance and responding to the crowd, not how they looked or what gimmicks they could use. The night went off without any problems and there was so much potential for trouble. I made so many new musician friends there and the subsequent friendships have blossomed into a myriad of fun shows since the event. That’s why I think it was the local event of the year.

Anna Karakalos/We Govern We: Howlin Woods at Green Art People.

Nick Minasian/T.F.W.: Any No//Sé show. Those dudes know how to punk rock’n’roll.

Brian Parra/Saturday Night Sound
: My favorite show of the year was Camper Van Beethoven at Zoey’s. To see such a tremendous band in Zoey’s intimate side room was something I’ll remember for the rest of my life. The sound was incredible and they killed it with their rendition of my favorite Camper song, “All Her Favorite Fruit.”

Cassie Purtlebaugh/Rock City Studios: Tweak Bird at Zoey’s.

Riley Real: The DJ Quik and Suga Free with Bone Thugs N Harmony show at the Ventura Theater in June was great. Quik and Suga Free had a band and live instruments with them, they looked so in-sync up there interacting with the crowd, playing all the hits.

Ezra Robison/Divine Crime: Kyle Hunt’s Camp Scheideck Festival was a total experience and a hometown success. Everyone was ecstatic for months about it. I still hear people talk about it. Also, I’m grateful that the Ventura Theater is still here bringing us all the national and international acts. Enrique Candioti Afternoon of Hope was amazing in how many people in the community supported it. I had a blast at The Roadshow Revival: A Tribute to the Music of Johnny Cash. I think in the future it could expand and allow for more stages and promote more of Ventura culture now that it has momentum.

Erin “Syd” Sidney/The Pullmen: KSSR 89.7 night at Billy O’s. A packed, high-energy crowd that completely supported every single band that played. It was the kind of night that made me think that we very well may look back on it and recognize it as the zenith of a certain kind of music moment here. And indeed, just a few months later KSSR is gone. I hope that next year we find a way to rally around something like this again. Dr. John was absolutely transcendent at the Hillsides Festival. I enjoyed the set, but felt for him a bit.

Josh Slavin/Love’s Secret Domain: My personal favorite was probably Creature Feature at Golden China. It was their first show in seven years in Ventura and the level of energy was impressive — and it was just two guys.

Matt Zeltzer: All of Scheideck.

Photo by Michael McGrath
Todd Hannigan performed at the Scheideck Music Festival this summer alongside a who’s who of  local talent.