Ventura's Best Music Venue

By Larry Wines (Acoustic Americana Music Guide)
special to FolkWorks

Zoey's Cafe, the beloved and landmark acoustic music venue that had often been named "Best Live Music Venue in Ventura," closed its doors for the final time following Saturday night's performance, October 19, 2013. Owners Steve and Polly Hoganson's friendly, intimate venue hosted national acts that usually played only large music halls, and it played a key role in launching many musicians to fame and world tours, most recently The Milk Carton Kids.

Zoeys jammin
The photo, taken not long ago, on September 6th, hints at why everyone loved Zoey's. On stage in a big jam are Old Man Markley, Versus The World, Danjo & The Silent Treatment and Amy Hedberg.

Just a week ago, Delaney Gibson had played Zoey's. Grammy-winning songwriter Jesse Harris had played the night before that. The Salty Suites were regulars. Ronny Cox was coming up soon.

As always, a fine show filled the stage this Saturday night. Shane Alexander, a favorite there, was welcomed back from his tour of Europe, and Alicia Murphy opened. But then came word that it would be the final curtain.

Late Sunday night, Zoey's posted this: "Thank you Ventura, California it's been a great run. We are profoundly sad to say we have closed our doors. We will miss our friends and fans who have enjoyed what we've done the past 8 years. Much love and appreciation to the musicians who have graced our humble stage, our terrific staff & our loving family. xo ZOEYS."

Zoey's will be profoundly missed and lovingly remembered. It was music central in Ventura, and for a big stretch of the California coast, and for a considerable distance inland from which all roads led down to the sea and Zoey's.

Zoeys outside

When the venue moved from Main Street, a few blocks away to East Santa Clara Street, it gained far larger and better facilities, a spacious second music room, a very capable restaurant kitchen, a visually impressive and friendly full bar, and its own parking lot. All was ascending. Musicians from near and far sought to play there, where they were always treated right and the whole vibe was welcoming and fun. Zoey's had seemingly survived the national economic collapse of September 2008. Sure, there was that stillborn "Ventura Folk Festival" they tried to launch, and the two big nights of showcase performances by headliners booked for the festival who had already bought plane tickets. That one hurt financially, but it was salvaged with class, and everyone appreciated that

There was the night-to-night dependability that Zoey's would always deliver, that no night there was wasted, that the music would always be good, and perhaps even wonderful.

There were the joyous gatherings at the bluegrass jams hosted by Phil Salazar. There were the big folk stars you were shocked to learn were playing an intimate venue, where you could sit 20 or 30 feet away. There was the fine tribute to the late Kenny Edwards, for whom the venue's larger music hall was named.

More than anything, there was the dedication, respect for artists and patrons alike, endless care, concern, attention to detail, and countless days, months, and years of hard work by owners Steve and Polly Hoganson.

And now, all gone. Such a stunning sudden end occasions much mourning. Zoey's will be profoundly missed and lovingly remembered.

Wonderful memories. And somewhere the ghost of Mr. Poe, bespeaking the raven, darker than night, concise and final, Nevermore.

Steve and Polly, the love of many more than you realize goes with you in whatever awaits. We thank you for everything. We miss you already. You cared so much for everyone you hosted. We care about you. We must believe that your fundamental goodness will bring you through this personal devastation and bring you to new happy times. You earned your way into our hearts. Stay in touch. Don't disappear.

You can read Larry's Acoustic Americana Music Guide with its extensive descriptions of upcoming folk-Americana and acoustic renaissance performances, and its companion, the Acoustic Americana Music News; both are updated frequently. He contributes regularly to No Depression. Contact Larry at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..