When you glance at the marquee outside your favorite live music venue, you see what acts are coming to perform.
But what you don’t see is the talent, work and planning it took to make those shows happen. The people who make those decisions are mostly invisible to the public.
We asked the talent bookers at some of Sonoma County’s best-known venues what acts they were proudest of lining up for local audiences, and what acts they wish they could get.
We got candid, revealing, knowledgeable and enthusiastic responses.
Here are the thoughts of some of the people who bring you live music. They range from local veterans like Tom Gaffey and Jim Agius to newcomers such as Jacob Yarrow, who takes over as executive director of Green Music Center next month. Meet the quiet ones who work behind the scenes, like Anita Wiglesworh at Luther Burbank Center for the Arts, and the better-known figures, such as Dean Biersch of the HopMonk Taverns.
Title: Board Member
Venue: The Phoenix Theater, Petaluma
What do you think characterizes your venue and makes it different from the rest?
The Phoenix is a building unlike any other in a variety of ways, and one of those is the accessibility to the community. The operating philosophy behind this nonprofit venue is that it belongs to anyone who needs it. It has not been uncommon for the Phoenix to host a sold-out show with world-famous musicians on a Friday night and follow that up with local teens playing their first concert on a Saturday. The building belongs to everyone and this is a remarkable thing.
What upcoming show this summer (at your venue) are you most excited about and why?:
My relationship began promoting major shows at the Phoenix, but I’ve been more into supporting the local scene in recent years. As a result, I’m most excited about some of our more local shows coming up.
One great show we have coming up is the Manzanita Falls record release show in August, which will be a great Sonoma County indie rock showcase (also featuring Trebuchet and Lungs & Limbs). I’d like to see us get more punk shows going too this summer, given how exciting the Santa Rosa punk scene has gotten and how good the music is.
What kind of other acts or genres do you think have the most potential to grow in Sonoma County and why?
I don’t book as many concerts nowadays, but it seems to me like Sonoma County is becoming more receptive to acts that formerly would’ve only worked in a major market like San Francisco. Sometimes it has felt like Sonoma County gets mostly the same artists cycling through in regular intervals but I’ve seen signs of that breaking over the last few years.
What’s your favorite music performance of all time (that you personally attended, anywhere) and why?
I think it would be a tie between Arcade Fire at the Henry Miller Library in Big Sur in 2010 & Neutral Milk Hotel at the Phoenix in 2015. These were both major acts playing music that I love in small spaces that I love. As an added bonus, the Neutral Milk Hotel show was the last concert that the band plans to play for the foreseeable future. No cameras or recording were allowed and, for that reason, it was a special experience that existed only in that moment.
See what else is going on this summer at www.pressdemocrat.com/specialsections/summer.