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VENUES: MUSIC AND MORE

Green Music Center: Sonoma State University, 1801 E. Cotati Ave., Rohnert Park. 866-955-6040, gmc.sonoma.edu

HopMonk Tavern:

— 230 Petaluma Ave., Sebastopol. 829-7300, hopmonk.com/sebastopol

— 691 Broadway, Sonoma. 707-935-9100, hopmonk.com/sonoma

— 224 Vintage Way, Novato. 415-892-6200, hopmonk.com/novato

Luther Burbank Center for the Arts: 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. 707-546-3600, lutherburbankcenter.org

Mystic Theatre: 23 Petaluma Blvd. N., Petaluma. 707-765-6048, mystictheatre.com

Phoenix Theater: 201 Washington St., Petaluma. 707-762-3565, thephoenixtheater.com

SOMO Concerts: Sonoma Mountain Village Event Center, 1100 Valley House Drive, Rohnert Park. Second Octave, 707-664-6314, somoconcerts.com

Twin Oaks Roadhouse: 5745 Old Redwood Highway, Penngrove. 707-795-5118, twinoaksroadhouse.com

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See what's going on this summer at www.pressdemocrat.com/specialsections/summer.


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.

Jim Agius
Title: Board Member
Age: 33
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.

VENUES: MUSIC AND MORE

Green Music Center: Sonoma State University, 1801 E. Cotati Ave., Rohnert Park. 866-955-6040, gmc.sonoma.edu

HopMonk Tavern:

— 230 Petaluma Ave., Sebastopol. 829-7300, hopmonk.com/sebastopol

— 691 Broadway, Sonoma. 707-935-9100, hopmonk.com/sonoma

— 224 Vintage Way, Novato. 415-892-6200, hopmonk.com/novato

Luther Burbank Center for the Arts: 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. 707-546-3600, lutherburbankcenter.org

Mystic Theatre: 23 Petaluma Blvd. N., Petaluma. 707-765-6048, mystictheatre.com

Phoenix Theater: 201 Washington St., Petaluma. 707-762-3565, thephoenixtheater.com

SOMO Concerts: Sonoma Mountain Village Event Center, 1100 Valley House Drive, Rohnert Park. Second Octave, 707-664-6314, somoconcerts.com

Twin Oaks Roadhouse: 5745 Old Redwood Highway, Penngrove. 707-795-5118, twinoaksroadhouse.com

___

See what's going on this summer at www.pressdemocrat.com/specialsections/summer.

___

Anita Wiglesworth
Title: Director of Programming
Age: 42
Venue: Luther Burbank Center for the Arts, Santa Rosa

What do you think characterizes your venue and makes it different from the rest?

The hallmarks of the LBC are intimacy and comfort. Even though we have roughly 1600 seats, no seat is more than 75 feet from the stage, so people feel like they are in a much smaller hall, and get to have an up close and personal experience with their favorite artist. It’s really something you can’t get at other venues of this size. And artists love it, too. We regularly get great feedback from the artists that they love playing the LBC because of that relationship with the fans. We also work hard to give the artists a VIP experience and really show them wine country hospitality.

What upcoming show this summer (at your venue) are you most excited about and why?

Of course I am excited about every artist that I book, but there are two shows this summer that I am really looking forward to. Move-Beyond-Live Tour, featuring Julianne and Derek Hough on June 17. The last time they were here it was one of the most sensational performances that I have ever seen and I cannot wait to see them again. It is so popular, we had to add a second show this time.

The other concert that I am excited about is the hot, up-and-coming artist, Sabrina Carpenter, making her Sonoma County debut on July 16th. The LBC has a history of getting great artists as they are gaining popularity before they start playing huge arenas such as Pink, Blake Shelton and Keith Urban to name a few. I love watching talent and careers evolve and being part of that history.

What kind of other acts or genres do you think have the most potential to grow in Sonoma County and why?

The great thing about Sonoma County is the ability to program an incredible spectrum of diverse talent, and what I love about the LBC is that in the same week we can have a young comedian, a country legend, a pop singer, etc. With that said, an area that I think has the most potential and I would like to see grow, is emerging and up-and-coming artists.

What’s your favorite music performance of all time (that you personally attended, anywhere) and why:

This is the hardest question you could ever ask a promoter. There are so many shows that I have seen and loved but I truly feel there is nothing like experiencing a concert at the LBC because you are so connected to the artist and the audience. One of my favorite shows would have to be John Legend at the Luther Burbank Center. I was standing in the balcony feeling like John Legend was singing to me when I looked around and could see everybody in the theater felt the same way. The energy was overwhelming. Being able to bring artists of this caliber to my town and seeing the enthusiasm of our fans is one of the reasons that I love doing what I do.

___

Dean Biersch
Title: Founder/Brand Manager
Age: 59
Venues: HopMonk Taverns, Twin Oaks Roadhouse. My office is above the Tavern in Sonoma, but I get around to all the locations. I’m at the top of a steep staircase in the former ‘little kids room’ in a circa 1888 farmhouse.

What do you think characterizes your venues and makes them different from the rest?

All our spaces have beer gardens, bars, rustic dining rooms — but we like to assemble them in different ways. Sebastopol’s stone/timber construction (1905) is simply beautiful, but it’s the Abbey’s relationship to the adjacent beer garden that makes seeing a show there special. Pre-show socializing — set breaks — artist meet-and-greets, kids, dogs, meals — everything goes down in the beer garden.

Patrick Malone, Bill DeCarli and I book all talent, coming together when we need to — clearly Patrick is the man in the middle. Memorable shows for me: Meat Puppets, Cracker, Blizen Trapper, Leon, Charlie Hunter, Jackie Greene Christmas shows, Pete Yorn, Jefferson Starship acoustic, Lee Rocker, Citizen Cope, New Mastersounds … (so many more).

In Sonoma, it’s our little ‘listening’ room series — 50 theater style seats w/amazing regional talent. Seriously good music in an intimate setting, 2016 included John Craig, Matt The Electrician, Tim Flannery, Tim Bluhm. The Tavern bar there is post-show fun spot too.

In Novato, we produce outdoor shows in a surprising setting (under the Oaks) with an Austin-style stage and vibe. We also have the 200+ capacity Session Room for regularly featured shows. Our 2017 Cookout Series — promoted by KC Turner Presents — this year will include performances by Diego’s Umbrella, Chuck Prophet, Steve Poltz, John Doe and many more.

Twin Oaks is a circa 1924, continuously operating California Roadhouse and we’ve done our best to keep the bones. We bought it from local booking legend Sheila Groves Tracey who’s blazed a trail to our stage with talented, mostly local musicians, so we had a running start there for sure.

We’ve added a dance floor, air conditioning, improved the sound and made sure quality craft beer is on tap at all times. We have the Blue Defenders — local standout Donny Maderos with special guests every other week, line dancing, Sunday bluegrass jam, karaoke and a Sunday Funday Music / BBQ Series coming up in June.

You’re really missing something if you don’t try our Fried Chicken Sando and a lot of other simple, affordable, tasty dishes coming out of our new kitchen.

All the venues have free, weekly open mics and 4-to-5 free beer garden performances by local artists every week.

What upcoming show this summer (at your venues) are you most excited about and why?

I’m looking forward to G Love and a full two days of amazing talent on the HopMonk Stage @ Novato Art + Wine 2017. And later this fall (Saturday, Oct. 21) we’ll be producing fünkendänk — our second annual beer and music festival at SOMO Village in Rohnert Park. That lineup will be announced later this month. I’d also recommend catching that John Doe (X) show @ HopMonk Novato Cookout Series — that date will be announced soon.

What kind of other acts or genres do think have the most potential to grow in Sonoma County and why?

I’d like to hear more bluegrass. I love the pass-around instrumentals and the general vibe. For me it’s the defining sound of the American beer garden.

What’s your favorite music performance of all time (that you personally attended, anywhere) and why?

Not even close: Thanksgiving weekend, 1979. Bob Marley & The Wailers Survival Tour at Pauly Pavilion, UCLA. General admission, up front with a full horn section. “One Drop” brought the house down. Truly unforgettable.

___

Bryce Dow-Williamson
Title: Marketing Director
Age: 31
Venue: SOMO Concerts, Rohnert Park

What do you think characterizes your venue and makes it different from the rest?

We have pop-up festivals that are solar powered and feature national acts, local stars, vendors and artists for beautifully communal events. Our team is made of local high-level music executives working alongside grassroots Sonoma County young professionals.

What upcoming show this summer (at your venue) are you most excited about and why?

Funkendank Oktoberfest. It’s got a lineup that’s going to blow people’s minds. Last year’s inaugural was our model to build from with using two stages, integrating Sonoma County talent and working with our Community. Dean Biersch is the partner and what he’s done with Gordon Biersch and HopMonk greatly inspire me.

What kind of other acts or genres do you think have the most potential to grow in Sonoma County and why?

Royal Jelly Jive, Felix Astroblade, Lungs & Limbs, Sol Horizon, David Luning, Oddjob Ensemble, Sharkmouth and John Courage. They’re all from here and have shown a commitment to strong professional creativity in a place where it’s hard to survive on art and build a dedicated audience. Their music makes people dance, their songs get in your head while being genuine and they’re entertaining to watch.

What’s your favorite music performance of all time (that you personally attended, anywhere) and why?

Saul Williams in Golden Gate Park, Power to the Peaceful 2005 opening for Anti-Flag, then Michael Franti & Spearhead. It inspired me to write more poetry, which inspired me to perform, which inspired me to put on shows, which inspired me to get educated in it, which made it possible for me to make this my work.

___

Tom Gaffey
Title: General manager
Age: 62
Venue: The Phoenix Theater, Petaluma

What do you think characterizes your venue and makes it different from the rest?

I think what best characterizes the Phoenix Theater is that it is an “all ages” venue. As such, many of our performers are teenagers under the age of 21, and in many cases this is the first stage that young players perform on.

What kind of other acts or genres do you think have the most potential to grow in Sonoma County and why?

In my market it seems to be going digital to a great degree, with a lot of DJ stuff. Hip hop would still be where we find our biggest youth market in this area if we could live with it, which at this time I’m not sure I am willing to do.

YouTube is a place that the Phoenix should be seeking a lot of its youth market talent. It seems that more and more young acts are getting out there online first and then making it to the stage and tour part of performing, and their audiences are already with them.

What upcoming show this summer (at your venue) are you most excited about and why?

A show that I am excited about this summer will be the Manzanita Falls release show. Manzanita Falls is a thoughtful, Sonoma County band fronted by a legacy Phoenix skater/piano player that I have been remiss getting to perform here and I need to right that oversight.

What’s your favorite music performance of all time (that you personally attended, anywhere) and why?

Growing up in the ‘60s and the ‘70s, I caught shows at the Fillmore, Winterland, Golden Gate Park, the Cow Palace, many of the Days on the Green, etc. and most of the greats that performed those places. In my mind mostly incredible shows. Most of those shows I have largely forgotten or missed from too much youthful partying (except Keith Moon falling over backwards, that one I remember).

The shows that I remember fondly nowadays would be any show that featured Mr. Bungle, any show featuring the Conspiracy, The Mac Dre “get out of jail show”, Shock G and Ray Luv had an incredible performance here one night, any Primus show, Greenday, Disciples of Ed, Adrian Belew, Gatemouth Brown, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, The Chrystal Method and any Victims Family show all are still joyous memories in my mind.

There are actually many more but, I assume, too little space for all of it. All of those shows were on the Phoenix stage.

I think if you know any of those artists, the reason they stand out to me would be obvious: energy, skill, performance, audience, pits, stage dives, fights, puke, laughs, tears, the full package — many of the best ways to spend any time, anywhere.

___

Thomas Cussins
Title: Talent buyer
Age: 32
Venue: Mystic Theatre and Music Hall, Petaluma

What do you think characterizes your venue and makes it different from the rest?

The community vibe and intimacy of the room. You can see amazing artists right down the street and everyone is friendly and the sound and experience are top notch. For me its all about the experience!

What upcoming show this summer (at your venue) are you most excited about and why?

Hard to choose just one but I would say Lee Fields & the Expressions, its going to be a funky soul dance party. They don’t call him Little James Brown for nothing!

What kind of other acts or genres do you think have the most potential to grow in Sonoma County and why?

Country music seems to have the most growth potential. Country acts always play the festivals, but I think there is a demand for those artists in the club environment. And of course, being a reggae head I always want to see more reggae shows everywhere, as the positive vibe is infectious and good for the world.

What’s your favorite music performance of all time (that you personally attended, anywhere) and why?

Manu Chao at Stubbs BBQ in Austin. An amazing performer, that night he played for three hours and beat his chest bloody with the microphone he was so into the music.

The Lumineers at the Greek in Berkeley also blew me away. The Bean ran through the crowd and played three songs at front of house in the middle of the set, it was an electric atmosphere no video or cellphone could ever capture.

Live music can only be experienced live!

___

Jacob Yarrow
Title: Executive Director
Age: 45
Venue: Green Music Center, Rohnert Park

What do you think characterizes your venue and makes it different from the rest?

The Green Music Center’s setting and incredible acoustics set it apart. Our summer indoor/outdoor set-up allows for audience members to select the experience that’s best for them. Whether you’re bringing a picnic basket and blanket to sit on our lawn, or getting front row seats inside Weill Hall, you’re sure to enjoy your Summer at the Green!

What upcoming show this summer (at your venue) are you most excited about and why?

I’m very excited by the wide variety of shows we’ll have this summer so it’s hard to narrow it down to one. In some ways, I’m most excited about the Fourth of July Fireworks Spectacular because it will be the first show I’ll attend after I start work there in June. I cannot wait to see and hear how artists and audience come together in that space.

But there’s something special about each show so I’ll list some other highlights. The Bluegrass Festival on July 9 has an incredible lineup. Diana Krall always sounds amazing. The saxophone player from St. Paul and the Broken Bones is an old friend of mine and he’s been in a lot of great bands over the years.

I’ve been wanting to present the multitalented Common for many years. And finally, Los Tigres del Norte is an iconic norteño band and they’ve made so much great music in their storied history.

What kind of other acts or genres do you think have the most potential to grow in Sonoma County and why?

I don’t have much of a sense of these possibilities, as I’m just about to move to Sonoma County. I look forward to learning about the area and determining what artists will bring us together for great music, good times and inspiration.

What’s your favorite music performance of all time (that you personally attended, anywhere) and why?

This is a challenging question for someone who sees a lot of performances and loves all types of music. I have a different answer every time.

Today I have two: Tower of Power in the early 1990s at a club in Detroit, and Punch Brothers featuring Chris Thile at The Living Room in NYC about 6 years ago.