The Ojai Women’s Center
Ojai, California; population: 7,000. Not exactly a thriving metropolis, but in the early 2000s, this little one-horse town was the hotbed for west coast hardcore. The town was synonymous with Carry On, and the southern California hardcore scene’s rise to awesomeness paralleled and symbiotically elevated that band, as the band elevated that scene. And the Ojai Women’s Center was thee venue for that exciting time.
There were other venues; The Chain Reaction in Anaheim, the Living Room in Goleta, Headline Records in Hollywood… but none of those venues quite rivaled what was happening in Ojai.
The Women’s Center was in the middle of nowhere; Ojai was probably a 30 minute drive from the 101, between Santa Barbara and Oxnard. No one was from the town, aside from Graham from Annihilation Time and the young skater kids that were pulled into the HC scene as a direct result of that venue; bands like Beartrap and Built to Break consisted of 13-16 year old kids from the town. But the location was somewhat centralized, as kids from Thousand Oaks to Anaheim called it home.
The first time Champion played there, we played with Whatever it Takes and there were maybe 30 kids there. But, every one of those 30 kids were moving the whole show. Fast parts; 30-man circle pit. Breakdowns; everyone scattered and 30 kids stomped the floor in unison; the Ojai Earthquake. The whole room shook.
Carry On’s “A Life Less Plagued” record release was held at that venue. American Nightmare’s first shows on the West coast were there. Some of Terror’s earliest shows were there. And Champion had a ton of memorable shows there.
The last time we played there was with Bane, 25 Ta Life, Over My Dead Body and more (can’t remember if Terror played that one…). There were easily 500+ kids in this venue that held 300 max. When Bane played, you couldn’t even walk into the room. It was so packed, you had to be floated in.
My favorite Champion set there was maybe our third time. Our van had broken down that morning; we were in Thousand Oaks jumping off cliffs and our transmission blew. It was our first transmission failure (of three!) and we found out before the show that the repairs would cost $2,400. I don’t want to get into exact numbers, but we didn’t have anywhere close to that kind of money.
We called Chris from B9 and he agreed that after the show, we’d figure out how much money we were short and he would float us the money we needed to repair the van. But it was still a depressing situation. We didn’t want to go into more debt beyond the money we owed for merch, not to mention, having to worry about figuring out how to get money wired to us (this was pre-PayPal).
We piled all our gear into the back of Corey Williams’ truck and headed to Ojai. That cloud over our heads was something you can only understand if you you’ve been in a touring band that experienced a breakdown, wreck or van break-in. And it’s not something you want hanging over you as you head to the show that you’ve been looking forward to the most for that tour.
It was definitely a dark feeling. As we watched and pitted for the opening bands we tried to put on a good face and leave the van problems at the door. But that’s a hard thing to do when you’re 1,000 miles from home and don’t know how you’re going to be able to afford gas to get to the next town. We set up our gear that night, still in the worst of moods.
From our opening note that night, the climate change was immediate. 150 kids simultaneously rushed to the front of the stage piling over eachother to get to the mic and to jump off the stage. To that point, it was the craziest reaction we had ever received… by a mile… For 30 minutes, the van and money problems were gone. It was an amazing feeling. While we’ve played many bigger shows since, to this day, that show is in my top favorite sets ever.
After our set, the money problems returned to mind, but the cloud was much might lighter. We were all so stoked on the insanity that had just transpired. Again, I don’t want to get into money numbers, but that night we sold probably 8 times as much merch as we’ve ever sold at another show. We actually made enough to pay for the van repairs and for gas to the next town. What an incredible feeling.
Looking back through my tour photos, I don’t have ANY pictures from this amazing venue… maybe because I was always having so much fun at those shows, I couldn’t be bothered to snap a single picture.. Most of the pictures and flyers from this post are courtesy of the homie, Marlon Moreno. I was also able to dig up some old YouTubes of some memorable sets there. Check them out below.
A few micro stories:
- One time, our roadie Mark Kelly was MIA. No one knew where he was. He wandered into the club at the end of the show. He had broken his finger moshing. I guess he didn’t want to be an inconvenience, so he walked a mile to the hospital to get his finger X-rayed and splinted, then walked back.
- Our drummer Todd once walked straight into the end of an open door, knocking himself unconscious. It was so abrupt and violent that I thought he was faking. Nope, he was out cold.
- When we played with 25 Ta Life, Rick took a Champion hoodie that a girl had bought and returned it, saying it was his girlfriend’s and she couldn’t afford to eat if we didn’t refund her. He then gave the girl a Comin’ Correct tape and her change from the refunded money. Haha Classic.
- Once a girl baked Jim a pie with X’s and hearts. Aram called it “The Straightedge Love Pie.” Jim had it sitting in the front seat and someone, not seeing the pie, flung a water jug into the front seat, smashing the pie. Jim lost it, to a hilarious level. He was so mad that it was impossible not to laugh… which made him even more furious.
- A million Graham stories… the time he realized his parents were wife-swapping (not really..); the time he told us about how he beat up a 13-year old at his work (the skate park); the time he chased some teenage kids who had allegedly squirted him with piss-filled squirt guns; the time he realized (audibly) “Double the tax, that’s the tip!!!” The time Aram convinced him that some indigenous cultures kill people and skin them, filling their carcass with feces, and using it as a poo-filled piñata. To which Graham responded, “That’s barbaric!”
I have way too many good memories of this place to include them all, but feel free to chime in on the comments section if you have any favorite memories or shows from this venue!
I have two memories off the top of my head. Being from Northern California at the time. We would make countless trips south. Stay at the house that would eventually become my moms home and go see some shows.
Breaker breaker played and at some point Dennis McDonald of In Your Face stage dove and ripped marks INXS shirt. Which apparently was a big no no because mark yelled at him while on stage between songs. Pretty sure Dennis and Mark got over it but I’m sure I’m still stirring shit by bringing it up.
That time Chris Williams broke my hand with a skateboard during a tickle attack. This was in Santa Barbara at the Living Room. Rode the whole way home with my hand in the air because it hurt so bad. Got my hand exrayed when I went in for a broken finger about four years ago. Broken hand healed fine but off set which is why my hand had a huge bump in it. Luckily no tendons infused or anything. Love Chris Williams. Though, probably part my fault.
The time We went to see Carry On and Matt Skones took Todd jones head stock I his dome. Knocked him pretty good. Went outside blood everywhere. But Skones was just pissed off because they stopped the show for it. God I love him. #coreasfuck
October 22, 2013 at 8:46 pm
By two I meant three.
October 22, 2013 at 8:47 pm
Skones got knocked out more times than Jahvid Best…
October 22, 2013 at 9:08 pm
@ John that was not Dennis, it was that kid who was friends with Graham. Fred Hammer. He was a bit older kinda short and not very nice to people. I hated that guy the moment i met him. I like Dennis, still do
October 22, 2013 at 9:32 pm
Hey Chris, enjoyed reading your article. Mark, I might be mis-reading your post but are you saying Fred Hammer ripped your shirt? I’m guessing it wasn’t Fred, he didn’t really get in the mix that much and he’s not really a “hated” person by really anyone.
October 22, 2013 at 10:27 pm
Glad you enjoyed Todd. I really don’t feel like this post does that time and place justice, but definitely worth trying. Marlon’s pix definitely help tell the story. Hope to see you soon!
October 22, 2013 at 11:19 pm
Yeah I really think it was that guy. I recall him giving me attitude the first time I met him. Perhaps its all in my head, regardless never saw eye to eye on him. Not saying he was hated by people just not liked by myself.
October 22, 2013 at 11:42 pm
Jim freaking out about the pie was one of the most amazing things I’ve witnessed.
October 22, 2013 at 10:50 pm
It was 25 ta Life not Comin Correct.
October 22, 2013 at 11:11 pm
Thanks Z, I’ll update! PS. Plz bring Retaliate to Seattle. Thanks!
October 22, 2013 at 11:14 pm
I feel like a Gabe band was on tour with 25 TA Life.
Also, no Rick TA Life story is better than Kyle’s.
October 23, 2013 at 12:18 am
Gabe was there because Lowlife was on tour with 25 Ta.
October 23, 2013 at 1:14 am
I miss 12 year olds flying all over the place and the Ojai stomp. Great post Chris.
October 22, 2013 at 11:48 pm
and how cool is it that Che Cafe still does shows?!
October 23, 2013 at 1:26 am
I was one of those 12 year holds haha
October 25, 2013 at 9:35 pm
That’s awesome. It’s cool how venues in small towns like that can really pull kids into the scene.
October 25, 2013 at 9:37 pm
Some memories of my own:
-Mark Mazza and me coming down from SF with some friends of ours for a Champion show (may have been the infamous 25 Ta Life one, which i did experience Rick spouting nonsense) and him and myself stage diving the entire time. Pretty much to the point where people were asking us to stop. One of my fav Champion shows ever.
– Some Still Believe playing the Carry On record release show. Def such an awesome show and we were stoked to be asked to play bc we were such a young band. Also, I am pretty sure it was Dennis, not Fred that tore Mark’s shirt. I even remember when I was in Internal Affairs talking to Dennis about it. Speaking of shirts, Matt Skones was more pissed about his shirt being covered in blood than actually being hit in the head by Todd’s guitar. I remember the show being stopped and thinking “what jackass hurt himself and got the show stopped.” Little did I know that i would soon find out that it was one of my best friends and singer of my band.
– Allegiance was on tour with Champion during the trip where the transmission was out. Such an amazing show it ended up being. I have no recollection of our set that night really, but Terror’s set was also great that night.
-A bit later in the Ojai era, but I remember when Allegiance was on tour with Embrace Today and we played there with the Warriors and some other bands. The Warriors set that night was so insane and up there with some of the Bane/Carry On/Champion sets which are legendary.
October 23, 2013 at 1:53 am
Allegiance was the coolest. I wish we toured with you guys even more than we did.
October 23, 2013 at 6:01 pm
I was 13 or so living in ojai when I started going to the women’s center (via razor scooter). Now I am a 26, and still go to as many shows as possible. I can say with absolute certainty that without that venue with awesome shows seemingly every weekend I would be a much different person, and that every time I smell roasting coffee I always think about ojai hardcore as the coffee roasting company would always roast as shows started. Great post!
October 23, 2013 at 2:22 am
awesome Hans, thanks for sharing!
October 23, 2013 at 4:00 am
What’s with my weird hair cut in that Panic vid!?! Also weird that I am still playing Hardcore 12 years later…although I am a little better at the drums and an old man now. Thanks for posting, Chris!
October 23, 2013 at 6:44 am
Jesse, What’s up with this new band? You have tunes somewhere?
October 23, 2013 at 6:00 pm
hahaha I remember that INXS shirt incident – I think he though Fred Hammer ripped it – and fred did not respond well when confronted after the show. I may or may not have broken itno the wonens center when Todd Jones forgot to put a deposit down for one of the shows. The doors were locked and no one would answer the phone when we called. Needless to say the building was not fort knox and the show went on. We cleaned up afterwards and relocked the doors. Wonder if anyone even noticed….
October 24, 2013 at 1:39 am
I like the part of the matt guitar face story where he’s out cold (or seemed like it) and tom tactic carries him off stage fireman style. Then TJ offered him money to replace his bloody diesel jeans or some shit. Not a quote but just remember something funny like that.
Everyone was friends, minimal violence at shows. Amazing bands played ojai and I’m sure prior to the show they all said “where the fuck am I !”
TJ maybe not single handedly but for the most part put that place on the map and in hardcore history. I have great memories of a lot of Cali venues, Ojai woman’s center and showcase theater are the most memorable by far.
October 24, 2013 at 8:11 pm
showcase was dope. prob my favorite venue to play ever. Set up was great, sound ruled, stage was perfect height. only thing that sucked was the merch area. Carry On and In My Eyes shows were my faves.
October 24, 2013 at 8:15 pm
Showcase was amazing! The staff were great and the promoter was the best guy to deal with!
My fav show there was Carry On with the Distillers. The punks lost their shit to CxO. The pitting was insane, and no core/punk beef came up.
October 24, 2013 at 10:40 pm
Oh, there was some b33f… if I remember correctly, 8Clip came out swingin… though, he claims the dude was a Nazi.. so, justified b33f
October 24, 2013 at 10:46 pm
That dude was a Nazi. I don’t think I took a swing, but I told him he was a piece of shit.
Definitely Dennis. So funny that all that hostility was placed towards Fred Hammer. I don’t think I ever saw that dude without a camera in hand, headset over his ears and a smile on his face.
No biggie. There is a bridge and we are talking about the water rolling underneath.
Needless to say, this time will be so special to me. I love that I pretty much know every dude that commented here because of Ojai or The living room. Miss those times but glad we got them memories.
October 25, 2013 at 1:26 am
Also. The CxO / Distillers show also had revolution summer play? I was so stoked to see them. Loved that band after never having heard them before that night and bought a CD and was into them ever since.
October 25, 2013 at 1:28 am
Love this post! Brings back great memories. This venue and the shows held here will always hold a special place in my heart.
I got my first speeding ticket on the way to see AN/Carry On, and Dennis ran over a giant rock (popped the tire on my car)on the way home from a Champion show. I remember pulling over and mooning people driving by while we fixed the tire (yes, because I was that immature at 16/17).
October 25, 2013 at 6:31 am
This is so awesome!! I grew up in ojai going to these when I was 12 I’m 27 now the other day I was going through old records and found my champion 7″ of come out swinging and thought how awesome and amazing these shows were I remember being hit in the face during carry on and thought how awesome it was haha really stoked on this
October 25, 2013 at 9:42 pm
What up rick I love you dude..
January 2, 2014 at 1:47 am
So many memories of this venue, and the ones that have come before and after. I was at most of the Champion shows there. OMDB and Reach The Sky always stopped by, and I think I caught Nerve Agents twice there, in addition to all the bands mentioned above. I was late to having internet so things were still word of mouth for me; flyers, catching opening bands, reading the thanks list surrounding those shows and bands expanded my world and gave me a much needed outlet during rough times.
The years that preceded Ojai becoming one of the best California venues at that time (along with Che Cafe and Bomb Shelter) were filled with great venues closing in SB and Ventura that I still miss a ton, and some schism with white power elements showing up at particular shows. The timing and location was perfect for this venue, and the right people were booking the right bands.
Big thanks for this entry, it was a special time I am glad to revisit in my happy memories.
October 31, 2013 at 2:27 am
Thanks for sharing Ryan, your comment about pre-internet sounds a lot like the “About” section of this blog. Check it out if you haven’t already. I think you’d relate 🙂
October 31, 2013 at 5:43 pm
The womens club was a second home for me. Craig gorris and I put the very first show on at this place and it was amazing to see how big it got. I sucked my first pair of titties in the back bathroom and found some of my closest friends their. After a few shows. Craig, wes, Graham and I started up
Bear trap, some of the greatest memories I will never forget the feeling that place gave me.
January 2, 2014 at 1:44 am
Ojai is small but violent.
November 23, 2015 at 11:57 pm
Speaking of crazy Champion sets outside the Pacific Northwest… one of the most memorable sets I’ve ever seen by any hardcore band was Champion at Posi #s 2003. From my perspective, that set confirmed Champion’s place in the upper echelons of hardcore. I’m having a tough time remembering who else even played on that Sunday, just the Champion set and all the AIAC covers. Thanks for the memories.
June 7, 2019 at 6:36 am
DiMagio! Good to hear from u. Hope youre well! That set was wild. Probably the craziest i ever played.
June 11, 2019 at 4:57 am