On Sunday night, SOhO became a hip, country music bar that yearned for a more appropriate setting (like Austin, Texas; or Nashville, Tennessee). There was singing and dancing, as well as a few enthusiastic “Yee haws” hollered from the crowd. However, don’t let Rikka Z, Wil Ridge, and Forest Sun fool you: They’re all California natives, proving that quality country and folk-rock music isn’t always conceived in the South.
Sun opened up with his alt country, folk-rock jams, creating a hodgepodge of comparisons that ranged from Jack Johnson to Ryan Adams to David Gray. He even ventured into Bob Dylan territory-a daunting place to tread-but pulled it off with the grace of a musical veteran. Ridge blew onto the stage like a hurricane with his boot-stomping acoustic guitar and harmonica. His vocals seemed heavily influenced by Bruce Springsteen, though Ridge’s blue jeans seemed to allow for a little more breathing room. (Sorry, Boss.)
By the time Rikka Z took the stage in her frilly brown dress and cowboy boots, the Ojai native was already thanking her faithful fan base for their support. The audience was treated to new songs like “Rodeo Heart” and older favorites such as “Room Full of Romance.” She even spoiled her fans by letting them be the first to hear her newest creation, “Matter of Time,” which carried a message of inspiration to her listeners to never give up on their dreams. A chameleon of emotion, Rikka’s vocals transformed with the mood of each song. Whether singing about her cousin in Iraq, her deceased father visiting her in dreams, or falling in love, Rikka got it right.
With a voice that isn’t overly twangy like some country singers, Rikka Z commands attention from the ears of the doubtful-country fans or not-yet she still conveys that warm, all-American feeling only country music can deliver. Rikka Z beckons to the down-home country folk in all of us, coaxing even the most reluctant sun worshipper to drop the surfboard and pick up a pair of cowboy boots.