Imagine a music venue with no dress code, no $6 cover and no bouncers who give more thorough physical exams than most doctors. Imagine a place with a zillion kinds of beer, all sorts of drink specials and serious rock 'n' roll. Check out the Deer Lodge in Meiners Oaks. Rick Reeves will be at the joint on California 33 on Friday and Saturday nights.
At the Deer Lodge, everyone seems to have fun except for the deer, whose heads decorate the walls. There are two pool tables, good food, a patio, plus a sit- down bar and an adjoining room from which the band wails.
Not surprisingly, the officers in black lurking on the highway know what's really going on--that's why the Deer Lodge offers free limo service to those who have had too much fun drinking dinner. But the venue is a pretty laid-back place, with a mellow party scene, at least according to guitarist Reeves, who offered a glowing testimonial.
"The place is really busy--usually, we just take one break and we play until 1:30 a.m.," he said. "The staff there is great, too--no attitudes--they're like our co-workers when we're there. They have great food, too. Nacho and Salvador are the cooks. Man, I'd go in there for breakfast just to get eggs royale."
And Reeves has a very extensive repertoire of over 500 covers, including a bunch of Jimi Hendrix, ZZ Top and Cream songs plus an hour and a half of originals. Besides that, Reeves plays behind his back better than most guitarists play the ordinary way.
"Well, I saw a lot of those old flicks of Jimi Hendrix, plus it's easy to do with one of those stretchy straps. I dunno, I'm real big-- 6-foot-4--so I think it looks sort of clumsy, but it's just part of the moves."
Formerly Rick Reeves & the Future Blues Band, but now just Rick Reeves, the band's members actually do have names. There's Glade Rasmussen on bass and Scott Slicton on drums. They average over 20 gigs per month, which is a lot even by old-blues-guy standards.
"This is what you do when you're in a band," said Reeves, a former Marine. "You have to have a following, and show that you can move product, and that you can handle 300 dates a year.
"Only the seasoned veteran can do that. That's why a lot of these bands that get signed, you never hear about six months later. We're either a blues band that loves to rock 'n' roll or a rock 'n' roll band that likes to play blues."
The 40-year-old Reeves has been in this area since around 1980 and has pretty much seen and done it all. He has opened for famous rock stars and has played 48 gigs at the Ventura Theatre alone. And he played a party for the Oakland Raiders. Needless to say, Reeves can handle that last set when some drunk insists on hearing a particular song.
"First, I try to reason with them. I'll tell them I can't do 'Free Bird' with a trio because you need a second guitar for that song, but I'll tell them that we know 10 other Lynyrd Skynyrd songs. If they keep at it, one thing is certain--my Marshall amps are louder than they are."
Locally, Reeves performs at the Deer Lodge several times a month, also at Maxie's in Oak View and Joe Daddy's and O'Leary's Side Bar in Ventura. He has seen the venues come and go in Santa Barbara, the most recent casualty being Alex's Cantina.
"In Santa Barbara, it's tough. We play calypso about once a month, and we did have the honor of being the last band that played at Alex's. There are so many bands from Isla Vista--don't get me wrong, some of those bands are good--but a lot of them have five rehearsals, then release a CD.
"A lot of Santa Barbara bands are getting signed. There's a lot of competition to get gigs these days, and some of those bands will work for five bucks and a pitcher of beer, which makes it hard on people like me."
It's even harder to get a gig if you're a local. Reeves and the Upbeat, the two most famous bands residing in Carpinteria, scarcely play in their own town.
"It's tough to be appreciated in your own backyard," said Reeves, who lives with his wife in Carpinteria. "We played at the Palms for years, then the couple that owned it retired, and the son took over. . . . We haven't played there since 1988.
"I still do play the Avocado Festival--I was the emcee and we were the headliners for the ninth straight year."
Reeves has an album recorded a couple of years ago during a European tour, copies of which now reside in jukeboxes throughout Austria and Switzerland. The next one probably won't be an import.
"We'll make another CD soon, probably with some live stuff recorded at Toes Tavern in Santa Barbara," he said. "Club owners appreciate us. We show up on time and never play too loud. We've got a very strong selection of songs, plus I have a ton of new songs I've written. I'm thinking maybe two albums--one with band, then an acoustic album with some ballads."
If I had a faster car, a richer girlfriend or both, here's where I'd be this week:
TONIGHT: Teresa Russell (Hungry Hunter, Thousand Oaks), Urban Dread (The Stage, Camarillo), Conscious Souls (Victoria Pub, Ventura), Papa-Nata (Bombay, Ventura).
FRIDAY: Teresa Russell (The Shores, Oxnard), Jon Lawton (Ash Street Coffee House, Ventura), Ska Daddyz, Papa-Nata (Bombay), Raging Arb & the Redheads (Nicholby's, Ventura), Danny Timms & Jodi Siegal (Cafe Voltaire, Ventura), Randy Rich & the Ravens (Joe Daddy's, Ventura), majority DOG (Two West Coffee Company, Ventura), Rick Reeves (Deer Lodge, Meiners Oaks).
SATURDAY: Teresa Russell (The Shores), Blue Stew (Hi Cees, Ventura), Jones & Jones (Ash Street Coffee House), Ska Daddyz, Papa-Nata (Bombay), Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (Nicholby's), Melbourne Moon (Cafe Voltaire), Rick Reeves (Deer Lodge).
SUNDAY: Blue Stew (Hi Cees).
MONDAY: Jon Lawton (Cafe Voltaire).
* WHAT: Rick Reeves.
* WHERE: Deer Lodge, 2261 Maricopa Highway, Meiners Oaks.
* WHEN: 8:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
* HOW MUCH: Free.
* CALL: 646-4256.