Why is live music in Sonoma such a hassle?

If you’ve been following us for any length of time, either in this space, online or on the local radio when we were on the air, about every six months or so you would hear our rant about local live music, or the lack thereof. Our intention for this week was to include a piece about the local act Burning Broadway and the recording of their latest single, courtesy of the band winning first place in last summers “Battle of the Bands,” but because life has its challenges, we just didn’t connect in time, so you get our rant. Almost every small town in this state, especially ones that attract folks from out of town, have that dusty bar that even on a rainy Tuesday night in January, will have some old local blues artist looking disgusted and playing just because it’s what they’ve always done. Sonoma does not have that character. Even Cotati has four clubs with regular live music, yet, with all due respect, Cotati is not Sonoma. Sonoma should have that character as well. We can picture old cowboys playing guitar on the balcony of the Swiss Hotel from years back. There’s no reason we can’t bring that spirit back. Folks from out of town will ask “Where’s the live music tonight?” and are shocked when the answer is “nowhere.” So what exactly is the problem?

Currently, and let me just say the intricacy of the details are being left out, just for the spirit of discussion, a live music “permit” is actually a zoning permit for the property, that can’t be revoked without a zoning hearing, and it goes with the property into perpetuity. So, just because “Joe Barkeep” that owns the property now is a good and respectful tavern owner in regards to the neighbors and live music, the next owner may not be so much. That is why the City is reluctant to grant music “permits” to venues. Currently there are several on the plaza that have the permits, a couple you would be shocked to know, but think of the venue that was there years before and there lies the crux of the problem.

The Planning Commission is currently looking into a “license” type of approval, one that could be reviewed and revoked if necessary if certain conditions are not met, similar to many other towns and cities in the area. This makes sense, and hopefully, will allow the City Council and the Planning Commission to be a bit more lenient with the granting of licenses, knowing there is control and consequences for violating the license agreement. Our take is that there needs to be certain levels of license types, and not a blanket “music license.” Some venues are obviously not suitable for a full blown amplified rock band with drums, but might be perfectly suitable for an acoustic guitar with amplified instruments and vocals through a small P.A. Hopefully the commission will come up with a set of guidelines soon for a license type model to allow some of the venues that would love to have live music to provide exactly that within city limits.

Now, on to the weekends music. Sue Albano, Mark Dennis and Bob Edmondson (someone please help name the band, there’s even a contest going on Facebook) will be playing an artist reception tonight, Feb. 4, at the Sunflower Caffe at 5 p.m. for photographers Rick Bolen and Susan Loesch, who will be showcasing many of their images in a presentation called “Through Their Eyes.” Vicki Mulas will be there pouring the families wines as well. There is no cover for the event.

Little Switzerland in El Verano will have another “No Cover” night on Saturday, Feb. 5, at 8 p.m. with local dance favorites Plan Be. The band plays songs from bands like the Beatles, Santana, Ben E. King and many original compositions as well. Head out and support some free live music.

Showcase the Band will be laying down dance grooves tonight, Feb. 4, at Steiners Tavern, kicking off at 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 5, the tavern has the sounds of DJ Sweet Lou, for a 10 p.m. performance. There is no cover for either show.

The Blue Moon Saloon has karaoke on Saturday, Feb. 5, with Crazy Noisy Music, kicking off at 9 p.m. Also, don’t forget about the best kept musical secret in the Valley, the Sunday night blues jam which happens every Sunday night at the saloon and kicks off at 10 p.m. There is no cover and local musicians are encouraged to attend and sit in with the house band.

The Rich Little Band will be providing the entertainment for a crab feed at Cline Cellars on Saturday, Feb. 5, that is a benefit for the Sonoma Valley High School Boosters, which will also include a silent auction and a 50/50 raffle. The night kicks off at 6 p.m. Tickets, if still available, will be at the door.

Adam Traum will be at Landmark Winery and Vineyards on Saturday, Feb. 5, for a 1 p.m. solo-acoustic show in the tasting room. There is no cover.

Don Trotta and Chris Caselli have teamed up with drummer Kim Ewadinger to start a new band and are bringing back the name the Free Radicals. The trio is currently in the studio and plans to be playing out soon.

The Plaza Bistro has the debut of the J. Kevin Durkin trio tonight, Feb. 4, for a show that kicks off at 7 p.m. Born and raised in San Francisco, Durkin is influenced by Nat King Cole, Chet Baker, Mel Torme and the sound of “West Coast Jazz,” and sings smooth jazz, spanning standards and ballads. There is no cover.

Murphy’s Irish Pub has closed for the month of February for a large remodel, which will include an expanded stage and audience area in the snug, and in true spirit of neighboring business cooperation, the venue across the alley, the Taste of the Himalayas, has offered up their back room for the pub to continue to pour beer and have live music during the construction. Hats off to Taste of the Himalayas, and starting next week, Thursday, Feb. 10, the music will resume. Stay tuned for details.

The Cork Pullers will be on the road to Cafe Azul in Santa Rosa for a 7:30 p.m. show on Saturday, Feb. 5. Band spokesman Tim Curley has implied that coffee will be involved.

Hot 45s – Shows within a 45 minute drive from the Island

Jackie Greene – Tuesday, Feb. 8.
Mystic Theatre – Petaluma
765-2121

Pride & Joy – Friday, Feb. 4.
Last Day Saloon – Santa Rosa
545-2343

Danny Sorentino – Friday, Feb. 4.
HopMonk Tavern – Sebastopol
829-7300

Crazy Famous – Saturday, Feb. 5.
HopMonk Tavern – Sebastopol
829-7300

Cat Power – Friday, Feb. 4.
The Fillmore – San Francisco
415-346-6000

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