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MUSIC: Ventura County

'RockFest' on the Rocks

4 Ventura bands plus a fifth will play among the boulders and splinters on the edge of town.


This is a scenario that probably won't happen in Your Town: Rock bands arrive and get to play outside for a long time, and without those party-ending neighbors, or the inevitable visit from law enforcement.

That's the plan at Art City II in Ventura on Saturday night when five bands play real loud to the consternation of absolutely no one. Located at the extreme west end of the Poinsettia City, the stage faces the Ventura River, and the closest neighbors would be the campers at the trailer park.

"No one has ever complained about the noise," said gig promoter Walter Stowe. "Even the trailer people haven't ever said anything. All they hear is freeway noise. We've had shows there off and on for years, but there hasn't been a regular schedule. Now I'm looking at a monthly showcase for interesting bands that you probably won't see anywhere else."

This all-ages gig, named "RockFest '97," will be held at a classic hard-rock venue: Art City II has rocks in all sizes, shapes and colors stacked everywhere, which they sell to area sculptors. The site also serves as a work place and a gallery.

"You'd think, 'Who'd buy a rock?' but they sell tons of them," said Stowe. "A lot of the rocks they get themselves. They get a truck and go out to the desert. This place is a trip."

Forklifts will move tons of rocks out of the way the day of the gig, leaving a hard dirt dance floor. The stage as well as the deck of the gallery itself are made of railroad ties and other coarse lumber creating abundant splinter opportunities. Bare feet at Art City II is a really stupid option.

"Decent shoes are necessary," said Stowe, in the mother of all understatements.

Four of the five bands, all members of whom will probably be wearing shoes, are from Ventura. Sexy Death Soda is actually the resurrected Tommy & the Demons, except without Tommy and with a new name doing some warped garage-style blues. There's alternative rock from Enok and the reformed Clamshoe (Stowe's band doing "ambient troubled pop"), plus Dada Muncha Monkey, which, according to Stowe, is some sort of two-piece electronic weirdness.

The tourists--coming all the way from Santa Monica--are Brazil 2001, the self-proclaimed "salt water damaged power trio." Frantic front man and resident guitar god Bernard Yin is familiar to locals for his work in Samba Hell, a band as quirky as the Roadrunner learning to drive a stick shift. Samba Hell used to play the defunct Bermuda Triangle, a Ventura venue that more than lived up to its name.

Yin's current band, which fortunately plays absolutely no Brazilian music, plays surf music as relentless as a 20-foot-day at the Wedge. And their rendition of the Pyramids' biggie "Penetration" is powerful enough to kick up ridable waves on Lake Casitas. The guitarist discussed the yin and yang of his current project during a recent phoner.


So the band is named for a couple of weird movies?

Yes. Thank you. Fortunately, a few people get it and focus on the sci-fi references. Then again some people still ask us if we do Brazilian music like Sergio Mendes and Brazil '66. We don't.


What's up with surf music these days?

Surf music as a genre is on a major comeback. It's impossible not to cite the use of "Miserlou" in "Pulp Fiction;" in fact, a lot of kids don't know who Dick Dale is, and call it "the Pulp Fiction song." Despite the success of the movie, surf music is still not a big youth movement. There's a revival going on, but not by kids. There are surf bands from all over the world, and all of those influences came from Southern California.


So Jimi Hendrix was wrong when he said " . . . and you'll never hear surf music again."

Well, he probably wasn't much of a swimmer. The origin of surf music was a real white thing. It was all those guys from Orange County and the South Bay just twanging away. Personally, I get a lot of influence from Jimi Hendrix with all that distortion and feedback.


Where does Brazil 2001 fit into the cosmology of surf music?

It's crunchy pop rock with this beach thing going, and beach themes when there's lyrics. Maybe we're sort of post-punk Beach Boys. We like to throw in some left hooks. Also, I'm a surfer. I love the ocean. I'm a Pisces. I'm trapped in the world of the aquatic. I'd play 24 hours a day, seven days a week if everyone else was equally obsessed. I've surrendered to the urge--I'm going to play.


How is Brazil 2001 different than Samba Hell?

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