Underground Internet radio with purpose
by Emily Savage
On any given Friday night, you can find Tim Amoroso, 33, in his Oxnard garage, likely sidled up next to one of Ventura County’s most popular musical upstarts. His dad, Phil, and brother Daniel will be there too, along with a handful of friends.
Amoroso is the main man behind long-running Ventura County underground radio show Red Light District, which celebrates its sixth anniversary this month. He also runs the yearly Ventura County Music Awards. “Ventura County is a goldmine for great musical talent,” he says enthusiastically.
Tonight, Red Light District is alive with conversation between the three Amoroso men and crowded with the people who help the trio run the show: Brian Williams, Edgar Reyes, Jesse Conway, Luke Rimando, Ansel Bartley, Krystal Reynolds, Weston Wong, Vicky Voutis, and Alana Haro. Collectively, they present a brazen underground Internet mishmash of comedy, blunt inner thoughts, lively conversations and, almost always, pop-ins from local musicians.
While its current home is online (www.redlightdistrictshow.com), Amoroso’s radio show has been through many incarnations, as has Amoroso himself.
He grew up in Ventura County and went to Hueneme High School with his best friend, Brian Williams, who’s still on the show. Amoroso says their hobbies then included backyard wrestling, aiming to be the next WWE stars — which makes sense when you listen to the theatrics on air now.
When he was 18, Amoroso went straight to the military and traveled the world. He met a girl, had a baby, got divorced and made it back to Ventura County. He’s since remarried and has two children, ages 9 and 10.
Red Light District began in 2008 on its own pirate radio station, 89.7 KSSR, created by Amoroso and friends because they were sick of mainstream radio. A few years later, Amoroso took Red Light District elsewhere. His dad and brother also joined the show. “My dad’s pretty out there,” Amoroso says with a chuckle. “He’s very opinionated.” But he adds that his dad keeps him in check on the air. “It means a lot that he’s on there.”
The first local musician to come on the show was Ventura’s Ebony Ann Blaze in 2011. She sang a cappella on the show. “At that moment, I fell in love with local music,” says Amoroso.
He finds talent for the show in a variety of ways. Initially he put an ad on Craigslist, but now mostly it’s word-of-mouth — especially after Red Light District’s stint housed within the now-defunct local radio station Buzz Radio.
The station had heard the show on KSSR and invited Red Light District to Buzz, which just happened to be right by the Majestic Ventura Theater. With so much foot traffic in the area and Red Light District’s on-air comedic stunts (shock collars, stun guns, cattle prods to private parts and so forth), people walking by couldn’t help but notice.
At the time they had a wild reputation (see aforementioned stunts) and a more shock humor approach to interviews. Though in theory still raw — just last week Amoroso claimed he would invoke the cattle prod if they got 200 listeners that night — the show has grown as its host has, Amoroso says. “Something happened,” he explains, “when we went from being the punk kids to leaders in our community, and I think it’s irresponsible for us to criticize someone’s art.”
After Red Light District left Buzz, Amoroso started over again in his garage. He says he went through a tough time for a while, with some personal issues, but it was his passion for the radio show and local music that helped keep him positive.
There are a few performers in Ventura County that Amoroso says remind him how to feel. Ojai-born singer-songwriter Jade Hendrix is one of them. “I don’t know what it is about that woman, but there’s something about her that’s so captivating, it makes you forget about life.” He says Rising Sun and After the Smoke have the same effect on him. They’ve all been on the show multiple times now.
“I started it because it was fun,” Amoroso says of Red Light District, “but then when I saw how much it meant for these bands for someone to believe in them, that was a turning moment in my life.”
Watch Red Light District live every Friday from 7-11 p.m. at www.redlightdistrictshow.com.