What day is it? Well, if it’s summertime it must be live music day.
All over Sonoma County on just about every evening there is great live music and entertainment on town plazas, parks and greens. The crowds are great — happy, appreciative and of all ages. Friends and families spread blankets and share picnics and drinks. What could be better because it’s all free. Except that it’s not. From Cloverdale to Healdsburg, Windsor, Sebastopol and Guerneville — our open air summer music could not happen without many hours of volunteer work, some local government subsidies and local business donations. We want to thank all of them right here and right now. Please remember to do the same.
Each of the summer concert series is slightly different from the others, with different mixes of partners and stage talent. All we know is if this is Tuesday then we want to be in Healdsburg. If it’s Wednesday, we need to gather at Sebastopol’s Peacetown. Thursdays are a challenge because we can either meet up on the Town Green in Windsor or rock out at Rockin’ on the River in Guerneville. A week of summer is not over until we enjoy the street food and live music at Cloverdale’s Friday Night Live. (Complete season lineups are published each week in the community newspapers of Sonoma West Publishers. With four different newspapers, we don’t have to play favorites.)
Sonoma County is not unique by staging ‘no admission’ summer live music series. Thousands of hometowns have their own versions of plaza concerts. In lots of places the live music can be found at a fireman’s carnival or a summer church outdoor social. San Francisco has free concerts at Stern Grove and there are even free concerts every summer in New York City’s Central Park.
We bet no other place has anything quite like Sebastopol’s Peacetown. Created by Jim Corbett to support his Mr. Music Foundation for local school music programs, the Wednesday evening gatherings under Ives Park’s majestic redwoods are a sanctuary of harmony and delight. Every week a crowd of about 1,000 gray-haired old hippies and other locals join together in a long moment of absolute silence before the music begins. It is truly magical. It is really a Peacetown.
Up north on Friday nights, the scene in Cloverdale is almost the opposite of a peacetown. Most Friday Night Live evenings are a bit funky. The Downtown Cloverdale Plaza makes for a great dance floor and the space doesn’t go to waste. The performance series is coordinated by the Cloverdale Arts Alliance and supported by “community angels” Bob and Candi Bialon, David McChesney, Delores and Gary Arabian, and Geoff and Nancy Dalwin. Mark Tharrington is Friday Night Live’s program manager.
As soon as the Town of Windsor completed its Town Green in 2002, it began hosting Summer Nights on the Green on Thursdays from June to Labor Day. The town’s park and recreation department coordinates the series and a handful of Windsor businesses donate additional funds as sponsors. This year’s headline sponsors include Russian River Brewing Company, Silveira Buick GMC, Staubli Electric and Vintage 99 Label. Windsor is where the big crowds gather to hear favorites like Wonder Bread 5 and tribute bands to The Beatles, Prince and The Eagles.
Tuesdays in the Plaza is a mix of Healdsburg small town charm and tourist curiosity. The blanket spreads of wines, cheeses and foods match Healdsburg’s world-class reputation. Earlier in the day every Tuesday, the Healdsburg Farmers Market surrounds the plaza before the music begins at 6 p.m.
On alternate Thursdays (next is June 27) the Guerneville Plaza is the location for Rockin’ on the River. Basically, it’s a street dance and party with all of the town’s eateries offering wide open doors.
Here’s to another cool, jazzy, rockin’ and rolling summer in our very own hometowns.
— Rollie Atkinson