If you’ve so much as glanced at a lifestyle magazine in the past six months, you know that our neighbors to the south are having a serious moment in the sun. Thanks to a laid-back vibe, an artistically liberal community, and an insurmountable dose of natural beauty, Ojai has become the go-to destination for L.A. and S.F. bohems looking to vacay on a budget. Turns out, it’s also becoming quite the hot spot for musicians looking to get away from it all (without really going all that far away).
In recent years, members of Wilco, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, and He’s My Brother, She’s My Sister have all taken up residence in Ojai, with more sure to follow suit. Lucky for us 805ers, this renaissance comes with a whole other set of perks, including sweet restaurants, killer shopping, and intimate musical experiences just an arm’s reach away. On most weekends, you can dip into the Deer Lodge or sit by the pool at the Ojai Rancho Inn and take in a show so small, so good, and so (usually) free that you’ll never want to step inside an S.B. nightclub again.
This weekend, one of Ojai’s resident musical children is making extra good on the whole community-revival thing. On Saturday, August 9, songstress Lissie takes to the stage at the Libbey Bowl for a benefit concert to support her fellow Ojai-ers at Changing Tides Orphanage. The cause is one that sits deep with the songstress, who’s headlined a similar show for the organization for the last two years. But it’s also a pairing that’s indicative of Ojai’s current state of mind. Lissie met Taffy Lowen and Vance Simms shortly after moving to Ojai from L.A. in 2009. Simms, along with a group of Ojai friends, had begun making monthly trips to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, building houses and helping young, displaced children get an education. Shortly thereafter, he founded Changing Tides and came to Lowen to help sell a book of images about the project. When Lissie heard about what her neighbors were doing, she immediately wanted to take part
“As a musician, you can get people to come together, and you can have this captive audience, so why not use that opportunity to inform them about something you believe in?” she explained back in 2012.
For the unacquainted, Lissie’s music is easily categorizable as the heartfelt singer/songwriter type, but it also goes a long way beyond the clichéd trappings of the label. Her voice is a full-bodied force to be reckoned with, powerful enough to belt the living daylights out of some Motown soul but subtle enough to pull off sweet, heartstring-tugging whispers. Her leanings, while sometimes sunny and California folk-inspired, tend toward the daring. In 2010, her big, Southern-rock-riffy take on Kid Cudi’s “Pursuit of Happiness” took the song from catchy to a full-on, chest-rattling assault. This year, she tackled Danzig’s “Mother” and proved herself a prime candidate for the role of new-school Janis Joplin. Add to that a blonde surfer’s mane and an immediately lovable girl-next-door personality, and you’ve kind of got the gist.
Come Saturday, Lissie will be joined onstage by friends Todd Hannigan, Sleeping Chief, Emy Reynolds, and Dasha. The concert starts at 6:30 p.m., and all proceeds benefit Changing Tides Orphanage. To purchase tickets, call (805) 207-6817 or visit libbeybowl.org