There is ample evidence to suggest that 2016 has been a transformative year for San Antonio's music industry.
Popular joints like Limelight and The Mix have built new sound systems and stages, The Paper Tiger has earned its stripes hosting performances by a wide-array of local and national talent, and organizations such as San Antonio Sound Garden, Do210, and San Antonio Local Music Guild have combined forces to grow the local music economy.
The venue is owned by Michael Carrillo, singer-songwriter for Deer Vibes and Michael J. and The Foxes, and his business partner and girlfriend Brandy Rae Perez. They have utilized Local Music Week as a slow but steady unveiling of their new concept and philosophy for Venture located in the blossoming River North neighborhood, at 1011 Avenue B.
The former nondescript, punk-rock heavy venue will officially welcome the public for its two-day grand opening from June 24-25, featuring a solid music lineup including Hydra Melody on Friday and Lonely Horse on Saturday. A special VIP event on Thursday, June 23, will give friends and family a look into the joint while The Spiders and DT Buffkin take to the airwaves and La Botanica provides snacks. Tickets for the pre party cost $15.
Those familiar with the venue may have already witnessed its new face-lift and fresh feel, as Ventura has been hosting a slew of “Secret Shows,” that really aren’t secret. During Local Music Week, Carrillo and Perez brought in musicians from Tuesday onward through the week, with a Latin-heavy show on Saturday, June 18 to conclude the week’s festivities.
Carrillo and Perez said Ventura was a venture that they didn’t really see coming.
“We didn’t have a lot of time to prepare ourselves mentally, financially, or emotionally for the take-over,” Perez said. “(We're) working out of pocket day to day, everything we make is going straight to the bar.”
Perez is looking forward to giving the public a new perspective on a venue the community valued before, while introducing a number of quality improvements. “Nobody wants to go in to graffiti-ed bathrooms, they want something more comfortable,” Perez said. “So we’re taking it from a grungy punk venue and turning it into a place where people want to see good bands.”
Already the couple has made drastic improvements to the space, cleaning up the interior and decorating the walls with funky and mildly provocative new-wave art by Monika Rostvold, not to mention ditching the window units and providing central air-conditioning – a must if your grand opening is just after the Summer Solstice.
“We’ve been offered a lot of help, so it’s really turned into a community project,” Perez said. “People are donating their labor and skills. It’s really saved us.”
Carrillo, who started at The 1011 years ago as their sound engineer, has made his connections in the music industry through his time at the space, and is grateful for the next step forward in his musical journey.
“It’s along the lines of bigger goals, making a career out of something you love,” Carrillo said. “Once the business is up and running I want to be able to work comfortably on my music.”
If the quality of musicianship in Carrillo’s revered and resplendent Deer Vibes is any indication of the music to come, concert-goers can trust in knowing they will be getting their money’s worth. Deer Vibe's most recent CD release took place at the Empire Theatre, and solidified the band's relationship with Troy Peters and the Youth Orchestra of San Antonio (YOSA).
“All the parts were in motion for that show,” Carrillo said. “This is what the music scene is becoming more about.”
The ensemble has since expanded to include a four-piece orchestral session composed of YOSA members and alumni.
Ventura, which is the name of Deer Vibes’ first full-length album, will feature a higher standard of talent and will bring in the Latin movement that has resurfaced in San Antonio, as well as incorporate more jazz events to its offerings.
“I also have this idea for something called ‘Bach with Brunch,’ where YOSA members will play classical music while people enjoy bottomless mimosas,” Carrillo said, grinning boyishly at the thought of it all playing out. “Everybody wants to be classy, without really being classy.”
The conversation about “class” and adjusting to the neighborhood are high on the priority list for Carrillo and Perez, who still plan to keep the roots of the joint intact.
“We need to take advantage of this location, the daytime crowd that goes to the Luxury, Rosella,” Carrillo said. “Before, nobody walked down these streets, but now that things are going on here we have to look at it from a business angle.”
Carrillo and Perez don't intend for Ventura to become just another bar on the St. Mary's Strip, or stray from its mission of consistently providing live music.
"There are lofts being built right across from us on the River Walk, a huge apartment complex on Broadway,” Carrillo said. “We’re in a location that is still being built out, and I want to make the right moves to adapt to the changing area.”
Folks in the River North neighborhood have a multitude of entertainment options available to them with new joints like Burleson Yard Beer Garden on the Eastside, which adds to the craft-beer scene already institutionalized at Alamo Beer Company and Big Hops, as well as GS1221, which already caters to the apartment complex crew Carrillo previously referenced.
Alamo Beer Co. consistently hosts bands and GS1221 does so occasionally, but neither venue is a self-proclaimed live-music focused venue. This is an important distinction for Carrillo and his Ventura crew.
“I want to be able to walk into my bar and hear good music, and also be able to pay the bands,” Carrillo said, addressing an issue that has plagued venues like The 1011, which was known for big lineups but small band payouts. “I want to establish ourselves as that neighborhood bar so that we can make money, and then put that back into the acts and raise the bar for local music.”
Carrillo is very familiar with the history of the place and the pride San Antonio has in its establishments.
“We don’t necessarily want to lose the heart, we’ve always been local,” Carrillo said. “We want to take advantage of the potential this venue has, while keeping it as homegrown as possible.”
Disclosure: Adam Tutor is San Antonio Sound Garden's Community Outreach Director.
Top image: The Autumn Rhythm performs at newly reopened Ventura as part of Local Music Week. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone.