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San Francisco music venue The Lost Church plans Santa Rosa location

TLC stands for “tender loving care,” but it also stands for the Lost Church. While some might think it’s a coincidence, the amount of devotion for close-knit spaces the venue inspires is proof that it’s an apt anagram.

As a hidden speakeasy in a major metropolitan city, the Lost Church has become a must-see intimate venue capable of hosting up to 65 people at a time while celebrating up-and-coming artists in the heart of San Francisco’s Mission District. Since opening in 2011, the venue’s mission statement boasts support for the arts and is a beacon for music while affordable music hubs like the Hemlock Tavern and the Elbo Room cease to exist.

A San Francisco legend, the Lost Church not only endures but is expanding soon to Santa Rosa, after testing the waters here with an open-house performance earlier this year in a ground-floor space at the back of The Press Democrat building downtown.

Founded by Brett and Elizabeth Cline after spending years touring in a punk band, the pair understood the need for intimate performances and applied for the necessary permits to turn their living room into a venue as they settled down to raise a family. “People need a place to perform, it’s such an integral part of our society,” Lost Church co-founder Brett Cline said.

For Cline, who grew up immersed within the local punk scene, “Do It Yourself” (DIY) concerts were a way of life.

“House shows were just called parties,” he said. “I went to so many warehouse concerts growing up, it was just our scene.”

It was this love for underground shows that made Cline want to create a public space for music as venues like Viracocha (a basement venue under an antique store Valencia Street) were going out of business.

Though few venues are able to crowdsource the necessary money to go from underground pop-ups to becoming a licensed operation, the Lost Church managed to draw nearly $50,000 dollars in donations to stay in business and now, expand to the North Bay within the first few months of 2019.

Before becoming the powerhouse savant who organizes large events like Rivertown Revival or the Railroad Square Music Festival, Josh Windmiller started his career performing at impromptu barn concerts.

While these performances might not be as glamorous as the type found at large venues, they are part of the delicate ecosystem composing the Santa Rosa arts scene and fall in line with the type of performances the Lost Church is known for.

“Their mission is to create, sustain and defend places for live performance and that’s something I can get behind,” said Santa Rosa Lost Church director Josh Windmiller. “To set up a nice habitat like this, I think artists will find a place to develop here.”

After meeting Cline through local musician John Courage, with whom Windmiller collaborated on “The Out There Tapes” (mixed at Courage’s recording studio Gremlintone), Cline knew he wanted Windmiller to help him expand the Lost Church to Santa Rosa. The pair hit it off instantly and before long, Windmiller signed on to curate a community-driven space he hopes splits the difference between a house show and a large theater.

“This takes those two together and makes a place that’s intimate and cheep. A lot of people are going to have their first show be at the Lost Church and that’s great. It’s going to be a perfect place for people who love house shows,” Windmiller said.

But his main priority, once the project is up and running, is to make sure the North Bay knows it’s a space built with locals?in mind.

“It’s about the community having a space here and that’s why I’ll be directing,” Windmiller added.

For Bryce David Dow-Williamson, marketing director at the Mystic Theatre and SOMO Concerts, it’s exciting to see a new venue come to life.

Though Dow-Williamson has helped coordinate events with big-name artists like The Growlers, E-40 or Against Me! in Sonoma County, he recognizes how much local talent the area boasts, and wants to see new artists flourish.

He volunteered to perform at the Lost Church’s open house fundraiser because he knows the venue will bring a positive change for the community and allow local musicians to perform at places other than open-mic nights before hitting larger stages at places like The Phoenix Theater or Mystic Theatre.

“I care very deeply about the music within Sonoma County, and Santa Rosa is particularly starving for venues,” Dow-?Williamson said. “Having a venue that has music every month, much less every week or multiple times a week that doesn’t host a majority of cover bands, is a big deal.”

While the San Francisco Lost Church currently books mostly singer-songwriters, the new space is already adapting to its townspeople.

The night of the Santa Rosa open house saw local hip-hop artist Damion Square take the stage between The Real Sarahs’ lively Americana set and Dow-Williamson’s tender acoustic performance.

“It’s super fun to have a hip-hop performer in the midst of everything. It was a surprise on a number of levels but you know, it’s supposed to be a community space and it should be more than just artists like me,” Dow-Williamson said.

It’s not just locals who are excited to see the Lost Church expand. Travis Hayes, who hosted quarterly Fog City Songwriter nights at the Lost Church for more than four years after Viracocha closed, is among the list of San Francisco artists who appreciate the beauty of performances at the Lost Church.

While punk houses and spaces that host rock bands are fairly common, Hayes loves the quiet setting and undivided attention the San Francisco Lost Church provided for the songwriter nights he facilitated.

“Every community can benefit from a listening room and it’s really cool that the North Bay is getting one,” Hayes said.

Although Hayes has headlined at venues such as the Independent in San Francisco and performed at renowned venues like The Fillmore, there’s a soft spot in his heart for small venues.

“Some of the most magical nights I’ve had in the music community have been at the singer-songwriter nights I’ve put on at the Lost Church,” Hayes said.

As of now, there is no official grand opening date, but Cline hopes to have the venue up and running by the first quarter of 2019. Much like the first Lost Church, this one is also mostly crowdfunded.

While Cornerstone Properties, a commercial real estate investment company that owns a number of North Bay properties, has already donated a location for the venue on the first floor of The Press Democrat building, the Lost Church still needs to raise money to get through the final phase of construction and approval with the planning department.

Although the project’s GoFundMe page is less than a quarter of the way toward the $10,000 it hopes to raise, Cline is confident the space will be up and operating in no time.

“We’re not the house of blues - which is cool in its own way. But, we’re not some outside corporation. This is a scrappy DIY group,” Cline said. “People are going to love it.”

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