As Ventura and Ojai continue to reel from the effects of the Thomas Fire, members of the local music community have pitched in to increase the coffers for disaster relief, and lift the spirits of all Ventura County residents. From the group of musicians who held an impromptu concert at the fairgrounds to grand plans on the horizon from the Ventura Music Festival, bands and venues are tuning in to the needs of the public during a tumultuous time.
Bombay Bar and Grill (www.bombaybarandgrill.com) in Downtown Ventura has been a center of activity since the outbreak, providing updates, acting as a collection and coordination station for donations, and feeding first responders for free during the week of Dec. 4. It also hosted a benefit concert on Sunday, Dec. 10. The Green Art People Family Gathering featured live music by Jade Hendrix, Shelby Figueroa, 50 Sticks of Dynamite, Donna Lynn Caskey (who, by the way, also performed at a free Paint Night at Studio Channel Islands on Tuesday), Rachel Sedacca-Replogle and several other performers. The next event, Picking Up the Pieces, will be on Sunday, Dec. 17, and feature a raffle, silent auction and music by Bad Leaf, Blues Bullet, Road Brothers, Herbal Rootz, Danielle Stacey and others. Bombay hopes to organize future benefit shows, and interested parties should contact Bombay at 643-4404 or visit the venue’s Facebook page. A GoFundMe page (www.gofundme.com/thomas-fire-fund-donations) has also been created.
Ventura Coast Brewing Company (www.vcbc.beer) joined forces with Ventura Pop-Up Yoga, Downtown Ventura Partners and Bio Fitness Programs for a Ventura County Strong fundraiser at the brewery on Saturday, Dec. 9, with live music by The Midtones, a silent auction and #VenturaStrong merchandise (created by local design house Calvert Illustrations and donated by John Cole Marketing of Camarillo). The event raised over $30,000 for families affected by the fire.
The Majestic Ventura Theater (www.venturatheater.net) is likewise getting into the spirit of giving. The annual Holiday Sing-a-Long, originally scheduled for Dec. 9, was canceled, but the show goes on Friday, Dec. 22. Manager Loanne Wullaert says that the theater is working with the Red Light District Show, Ones to Watch Productions, producer and composer Terry Gorka and SoundGirls.org to put on the event. In addition to collecting toys and stocking stuffers, the Sing-a-Long will feature a musical instrument drive to benefit artists who lost valuable equipment in the fire. Talks with state and federal agencies are underway in the hopes of establishing a temporary nonprofit status so that the theater can accept cash donations.
Wullaert has been heartened by the many stories she has heard of common, ordinary people doing something extraordinary to help others. While she fully recognizes and appreciates the work and dedication of the first responders, “It needs to be pointed out that people are just really going the extra mile for each other,” she says. She plans to cover one wall of the theater with paper where attendees can share their stories. One final thing: Wullaert hopes to offer a Christmas dinner, purely because she thinks “People need a holiday pick-me-up.”
Ojai has been especially hard-hit by the fire, and the community is still recovering. Even so, a few venues are doing what they can.
Greater Goods (greatergoodsojai.org), a multi-use space that offers live music as well as community-building events, has set up a fire relief fund (accessible via a button on the website), and board members are organizing an advisory committee to determine how and where the funds will be allocated, taking both immediate and long-term needs into consideration.
The Ojai Deer Lodge (www.deerlodgeojai.com) survived the fire and opened again for business on Tuesday, with limited menu and hours but free food for all first responders. The restaurant also welcomed all local musicians to its stage for “whoever wants to get up and provide some jams.”
The Ventura Music Festival (venturamusicfestival.org) isn’t until July, but organizers are well aware that the the county is in need of some solace. Executive Director Susan Scott (who tragically lost her home last week) and Artistic Director Nuvi Mehta are planning something for music lovers to look forward to. “We will absolutely do a #VenturaStrong public concert,” she says with gusto — although probably not until after the New Year.
The hard work of rebuilding post-Thomas has already begun, with many organizations, businesses and individuals going into recovery mode. The events listed here are just a sampling of how this community is coming together — and undoubtedly, as the smoke clears, more events will be announced. Ventura County remains strong, and our song continues, one note at a time.