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Live concerts return to Rohnert Park in magical night under the stars

After months of missing live music, concert enthusiasts eagerly gathered at the sold-out show Friday night.|

A sold-out show at SOMO Village on Friday night proved local concert enthusiasts are ready to get back to a favorite pastime after months of relying on streaming services and virtual events.

Two hundred tickets were sold for the Rainbow Girls’ performance at the Rohnert Park venue, kicking off Sonoma County’s largest concert series since the onset of the pandemic.

Vanessa Wilborne of the Rainbow Girls, winks at the crowd as she walks to the stage at Sally Tomatoes, Friday, May 21, 2021 in Rohnert Park.  (Kent Porter / The Press Democrat) 2021
Vanessa Wilborne of the Rainbow Girls, winks at the crowd as she walks to the stage at Sally Tomatoes, Friday, May 21, 2021 in Rohnert Park. (Kent Porter / The Press Democrat) 2021

As they were checked in, concertgoers formed a line through Sally Tomatoes restaurant to get a buffet-style meal, complete with pasta, salad and bread.

Outside, tables distanced a few feet apart from each other outside awaited groups of friends with blankets and warm food in hand.

The sun set behind the SOMO Event Center building and scattered heaters kept guests warm.

An excited buzz in the crowd signaled that for just about everyone, the show would be their first as Sonoma County continues to slowly reopen.

“It feels wonderful,” said Marilyn Stratford of Petaluma. It was her first time going to a concert since the pandemic arrived in March 2020.

Loud chatter from some groups suggested that they were seeing each other for the first time. Friends bumped into each other: “Oh my gosh, Tracy!” Others could be overheard gossiping about coworkers.

All in all, things felt just about as normal as they had in months.

“I love the Rainbow Girls ... I’m so hungry for a concert,” said Svea Norton of Santa Rosa. “And I’m fully vaccinated.”

Kristi and Chris Ellenwood of Martinez cheer as the couple  attend their first concert since the pandemic began, Friday, May 21, 2021 at Sally Tomatoes in Rohnert Park to hear the Rainbow girls. (Kent Porter / The Press Democrat) 2021
Kristi and Chris Ellenwood of Martinez cheer as the couple attend their first concert since the pandemic began, Friday, May 21, 2021 at Sally Tomatoes in Rohnert Park to hear the Rainbow girls. (Kent Porter / The Press Democrat) 2021

To keep COVID-19 guidelines in place, concertgoers could only remove masks while seated at the table. Most guests followed this protocol and remembered to pull their masks up when walking around the venue.

Two bars, one indoor and one outdoor, were busy well into the night as people ordered mixed drinks and red wine to keep warm.

Just about every seat at the banquet tables outdoors was filled. Some opted to sit in a tented area or by the fire further away from the stage.

A live concert brought out smiles to watch the Rainbow Girls at Sally Tomatoes in Rohnert Park, Friday, May 21, 2021. (Kent Porter / The Press Democrat) 2021
A live concert brought out smiles to watch the Rainbow Girls at Sally Tomatoes in Rohnert Park, Friday, May 21, 2021. (Kent Porter / The Press Democrat) 2021

A hush fell over the crowd as KRCB radio’s Brian Griffith took to the stage to introduce the musicians.

“Live music is back!” he shouted as the crowded whistled and applauded loudly.

As a few first chords were gently strummed by opener Daniel Steinbock, several members of the audience wiped away tears.

Few people made a peep during the opening songs, likely out of awe that live performances were once again a part of normal life.

The audience applauded loudly when the Rainbow Girls took the stage, a sound band member Erin Chapin said she hadn’t heard in a long time.

“It’s been a while since I’ve done this.”

The Bodega Bay-based folk band is made up of Chapin, Vanessa May and Caitlin Gowdey. The trio invited friends like Steinbock, Caitlin Jemma, and Eric Long to open.

They paused every so often to check their mics and monitors, having not performed live in many months.

The three women crowded around a single microphone, an evident lack of social distancing that would have been frowned upon months ago but was now being met with familiar smiles and cheers.

The Rainbow Girls perform, Friday, May 21, 2021 at Sally Tomatoes in Rohnert Park. (Kent Porter / The Press Democrat) 2021
The Rainbow Girls perform, Friday, May 21, 2021 at Sally Tomatoes in Rohnert Park. (Kent Porter / The Press Democrat) 2021

In between songs, they told stories of living together during the pandemic and sang new songs for the eager audience.

The Rainbow Girls concert was just the first of SOMO Village’s series of outdoor dinners and shows. The next concert will feature Kingsborough and King Dream on June 4.

Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 in the week or so before the show. $10 of the ticket goes toward your meal at Sally Tomatoes.

To see more about the Kingsborough and King Dream concert, visit kingsatsomo.eventbrite.com.

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