At the SOMO Village Event Center in Rohnert Park, it’s not just about the music, said Bryce Dow-Williamson, CEO of Second Octave Media, which markets and helps produce the SOMO concerts.
The venue, about a mile south of Sonoma State University, hosts great bands, but he said much of the appeal is enjoying shows outdoors.
There are art installations, crafts for sale, beer gardens, and a variety of food vendors with healthy dishes.
For its fifth season, SOMO has a diverse lineup, launching with the melodic punk band Social Distortion on June 2 and featuring reggae shows with Toots and the Maytals on July 17 and Steel Pulse on August 16.
The laid-back venue focuses on sustainability, with more solar panels than any facility in the county, Dow-Williamson said. SOMO is adding a reclaimed-wood tiered deck this season and is providing free water stations to discourage use of plastic bottles.
Several 1980s bands, such as the Psychedelic Furs with opening act X (July 25), are on the roster.
The Ultimate Party on Sept. 8 features four cover bands: the ’80s tribute outfit Tainted Love, Super Diamond, Petty Theft, and Foreverland (Michael Jackson songs).
Today, so much music is nostalgia-based, Dow-Williamson said.
“Concert-goers are not reliving the glory days of the 1960s and ’70s anymore,” he said. “They’re reliving the ’80s and ’90s, and this music goes along with that.”
He noted that the Psychedelic Furs sold out Petaluma’s Mystic Theatre in March and that many fans there thought it was “the best show they saw all year.”
During the past three seasons, SOMO’s concert series roughly broke even, he said.
SOMO was on track to make a profit last year, but due to the North Bay fires, the organizers had to cancel their final show, called Funkendank and scheduled for late October, that was to feature Dragon Smoke and The Motet alongside a beer festival.
This year, SOMO plans to stage up to 15 concerts, and tickets are selling twice as fast as in previous years, he said. And SOMO is trying out new types of events.
“This year we’ll be experimenting with food-focused events with different themes,” he said. They will include music, “but the food will be the headliner.”
For Dow-Williamson, promoting bands he’s admired since his teens is gratifying.
“I am working with bands that inspired me to work in music,” he said. “When I was 14, I saw Michael Franti,” who appeared at SOMO in previous seasons. “Now I am putting on shows with him.”
Here is Dow-Williamson’s take on the musicians who have been announced for the 2018 SOMO season:
Social Distortion, June 2: “These punk rock legends have achieved one of the most non-punk things possible: They’ve failed to burn out. We couldn’t pass up the chance to bring them to Sonoma County.”
Psychedelic Furs, July 25: “This band brings you all the nostalgia of watching those Brat Pack movies and consistently gives a truly astounding live performance.” Opening is L.A. punk band X.
Toots and the Maytals, July 13: “One of the best-loved groups in Jamaica’s history, they also have the distinction of their song ‘Do The Reggae’ being the source of the word ‘reggae’ itself.”