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VENTURA COUNTY WEEKEND | ROCKTALK

Songs of Lovers, Loners, Losers and Lunatics

Former Wall of Voodoo crooner Stan Ridgway plays Saturday at Nicholby's, a nightspot that has made a name for itself.

February 29, 1996|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

"You're just a little too smart for a big dumb town," croons Stan Ridgway in his wry, nasal tone on the opening cut of his latest album, "Black Diamond." Ridgway, a solo kind of guy since leaving Wall of Voodoo in 1983, may as well be singing about himself. For the last four albums, he has amassed a vast repertoire of songs about lovers, loners, losers, lunatics and Los Angelenos in general.

Hear for yourself when Ridgway and his five-piece band play old and new stuff Saturday night at the happening nightspot in Ventura, Nicholby's. The Duke Daniels Band will open the proceedings.

Ridgway and Wall of Voodoo first hit the charts in 1979 with an EP most remembered for a positively surreal version of Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire." The band's biggest hit, however, was "Mexican Radio" and an accompanying video that would make any bean lover happy, as Ridgway was covered in the protein-rich veggies. Since then, Ridgway has taken a shower and been making records, doing short tours and writing movie music.

Nicholby's--which attracts the top local acts, such as Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and Spencer the Gardener, and the up-and-coming or not-too-big national acts, such as Ridgway or Dave Wakeling & Bang--has in a few short years achieved the status of a destination. People go there to hang out and/or shoot pool because it's Nicholby's and they like it there. Even if the Romanian Chainsaw Yodeling Alley Cats were headlining, the place would be crowded. Nicholby's is located at 404 E. Main St. in Ventura. Call Nicholby's at 653-2320 to find out more about this $7 show.

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Blue Monday was a local weekly blues showcase that went on for five years before contracting a fatal case of dem blues due to poor attendance. It has been reborn as Sweet Thursday at the place where it had its greatest success, Alexander's in Ventura. Blue Monday was a hit for its first three years at Alexander's, but new management gonged the event and replaced it with the seldom-successful nothing. Blue Monday then bounced around for a while before going away last year.

The first gig will be March 7, featuring the Calire-Marx Organ Trio, with John Marx on guitars, Mario Calire on drums and his dad, Jim Calire, on organ and everything else. The young Calire, by the way, recently returned from a national tour with Bob Dylan's kid, Jakob, and his band, the Wallflowers.

"We're going to try to make this work," said promoter Mike Kaufer. "The owners, the Wong family, are hip and totally community-oriented. They're putting in a new sound system and helping out with the advertising."

Upcoming Sweet Thursday shows include Santa Barbara blues band the Pontiax on March 14 and Texas guitarist Steven Bruton the following week. The venue will also be the site of a fund-raiser for the Ventura County Library on March 23, starring Chris Hillman and the Johnny Nocturne Band, but more on that later.

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Simi Valley--mostly known as the town rock bands are from (April's Motel Room) but rarely get to play in--will host a Nocturnal Rock Concert on Friday night at the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center. Doing the rockin' at the 8 p.m. show will be Wooden Circus and Katja's Dream, a pair of bands made up of Simi Valley locals.

Curt Pair, guitarist for Katja's Dream, clearly summed up the musical situation in his area during a recent phone conversation.

"Basically, there's nothing around here that caters to the 15-to-25-year-old crowd, so we're gonna blow the roof off the place."

In Beirut, that statement would be cause for alarm, but in Simi Valley, it's only rock 'n' roll and it remains to be seen who likes it.

The band just released its debut album, "Dancing in the Starlight," on its own Rain Records label, and doubtless will be selling it at the gig. Originally Starfish, until finding out that a band from Texas had the same moniker, the trio recently changed its name to Katja's Dream, named for a Russian girl who, well, dreams.

"We're extremely Beatles-oriented, guitars and harmonies," Pair said. "We started here in Simi Valley, then we all moved to Portland. Our singer still lives up there, so he does a lot of flying."

The venue, a renovated church with a capacity of around 300, is located at 3050 Los Angeles Ave. Call 581-9940 to find out more about this $12 show.

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