BRINGING THE LOVE HOME | The Thomas Fire Benefit Festival Promises a Star-Studded Lineup

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Kyle Harvey is coming home. The one-time Ventura resident and hip-hop star — formerly known as K.i.D., currently known as Super Duper KYLE or frequently just Kyle — returns this weekend to bring positive vibes, good times and great music to the fire-ravaged community when he performs at the Thomas Fire Benefit Festival on Saturday, Feb. 3, in Downtown Ventura’s Plaza Park.

Kyle and his good friend and manager Nolan Smith — another hometown boy — both live in Culver City now, but news of the December fire still hit them hard. Smith’s family had to evacuate from their home near Poinsettia Elementary. Kyle had lived in the Ondulando neighborhood when he was a Ventura High School student, and that house (along with those of several people he knows) was destroyed. (Kyle’s mother and siblings moved away from the area some time ago, and were not in any danger.)

“That’s the hardest part for me,” Kyle says. “I have friends and neighbors who actually lost their homes. When I think about the fire, it’s not how it’s affecting me. It’s about how it’s affecting everybody I know.”

After getting news of the fire, Kyle and Smith immediately drove up to lend a hand. “When this first went down, we started passing out water,” Smith recalls. “It became clear really quickly that there was plenty of water — the community needed something more. We decided we needed to do something we’re good at for the community.”

Smith promptly contacted John “JD” Drury of Surf Rodeo fame to “try to rally the troops.” Ventura City Councilman Matt LaVere, music manager Mark Hartley and California Beer Festival organizer Vincenzo Giammanco also came onboard, and the planning began for the star-studded fundraiser. Local organizations involved with the benefit include the Ventura County Human Services Agency, the Ventura County Community Foundation, Ventura Education Partnership, Ventura College Foundation, Help of Ojai, Downtown Ventura Organization and the World Central Kitchen. Local musicians Zon Candela and Rob Write will perform. One hundred percent of proceeds will be put toward recovery.

The big draws, of course, are the famous names who once called Ventura County home that will be attendance: Kyle, Kevin Costner (performing with his band Modern West), Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Colbie Caillat and swing revivalist band Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.

One of the most anticipated performances will be given by pop superstar Olivia Newton-John. Although she’s not a Ventura County resident, she notes that “we’re all connected. The Ventura fire affected everyone. Mark [Hartley] and his wife are dear friends, and were very affected by it. . . . That touched my heart.”

The singer from down under is no stranger to the destruction such natural disasters can cause. “We have devastating fires in Australia, too, of course,” Newton-John says. “It’s such a reminder of how vulnerable we all are. . . . It’s a difficult and emotional time. If I can do anything to help, I will.”

With a career that stretches back decades, there’s much to look forward to with Newton-John’s upcoming performance. She says that she’ll probably stick with the hits that audiences look forward to hearing — material from GreaseXanadu and some of her country albums as well. Newton-John is especially excited by the presence of Tom Scott in her band. “One of the world’s leading musicians. He was musical director on my Physical Tour — and I haven’t seen him since. It’s going to be an exciting night!”

Newton-John is impressed by the talent coming out for the festival, and is looking forward in particular to Colbie Caillat’s performance: “I think she’s got a beautiful voice.”

Like Kyle, Caillat does not currently live in Ventura County (she moved to Nashville a year ago), but she grew up in Thousand Oaks and her mom and several cousins are all from Ventura. One cousin lost a home, while several others had to evacuate — some for weeks at a time. The singer/songwriter was shocked when she saw the affected areas.

“When I saw the mountains and the neighborhoods [that burned], it was just unreal,” she says. “Seeing the road between Ventura and Santa Barbara . . . it’s just something you have to see with your own eyes.”

Caillat is grateful for the opportunity to help the fire victims, and is inspired by the resilience and generosity of Ventura County residents. “It’s so amazing to me that the community can come together to support all the people affected by the fire,” she says. “Everyone staying [together as] a community and helping each other — it’s the best thing. It’s going to be a really beautiful day.”

Kyle feels that taking part in the festival is the least he can do for Ventura, which he still considers “his” community.

“I still come up pretty often, maybe once or twice a month,” the rap artist says, noting that he has lots of friends and a girlfriend in the area. Favorite places include Corrales, Spencer Makenzie’s Fish Company and the downtown thrift shops. “And Lure, when I’m feeling fancy,” he says with a chuckle. Most of all, he appreciates the serene vibe, which is a marked contrast from the pressure cooker of Los Angeles.

Kyle’s schedule these days is more hectic than ever. In addition to frequent touring, he has a new album in the works (no release date has been announced, but some new music may be debuted on Saturday) as well as a performance at Coachella in April.

“This is my first year to perform, and I’m so excited!” Kyle says with obvious joy. “When you go to Coachella, it’s the best day of your life. [Performing there] is the only way to surpass that feeling.”

He’ll be in high spirits on Saturday, too. “I just want everybody to come to the benefit to come celebrate with us. We’re celebrating the strength of all the people in this community.”

Coming back to Ventura after touring all across North America, Kyle says that he now knows a few things for sure: “This is the best place there is. And Ventura High School is the best. That’s a fact, not an opinion.”

The Thomas Fire Benefit Festival takes place on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2-10 p.m. at Plaza Park, 651 E. Thompson Blvd., Ventura. For tickets and more information, visit

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