When the doors of the , its owners hope that the sleek new venue can begin to recreate the magic of its storied predecessor, which closed in September 2007.
But while the new venue’s arrival , Village Music, John Goddard’s legendary local record store that closed the same week as the original Sweetwater in September 2007, has stirred up quite a recent ruckus of its own on the Internet. And if all goes according to plan, the new Sweetwater will be home to a slew of live shows in early October in celebration of a Mill Valley Film Festival premiere of the documentary Village Music: Last of the Great Record Stores.
“We’re going to have the biggest after-party with John Goddard that this town can remember,” said Paul Winston, one of several Sweetwater investors who ponied up for a successful Kickstarter campaign to help filmmakers Gillian and Monroe Grisman raise enough money to finish the film. “All week of the film festival, we’re going to have shows celebrating Village Music.”
Gillian and Monroe Grisman, the grown children of mandolinist David Grisman and entertainment industry vets in their own right, began the self-financed film in 2007 in the months before Goddard closed the store in 2007. The project sputtered in recent months as they struggled to come up with the necessary funds to finish it.
They in December with the goal of $50,000. After a feverish final week that saw a slew of local residents, alums and a number of Sweetwater investors pledge money, the Grismans surpassed their goal, raising $53,000 and giving the project the momentum it needed.
“We had a very clear vision of what we want to do with this film,” Gillian Grisman said. “Our first big step was to raise the money to get it to a point where we want to show it to the world. In doing that, we built a community around this film.”
The campaign incited 316 people to pledge money in increments as little as $5 to more than $10,000.
“Every one of those people has a piece of this film and a vested interest in it,” Gillian Grisman said. “I was totally blown away and humbled by people’s generosity and enthusiasm. It truly became everyone’s film at that point.”
In particular, Grisman credited fellow Tam alums, particularly Gretchen Stagg and Sarah Fregulia Coleman.
“They were just relentless in getting the word out,” she said. “They are so proud of their town and they treasured Village Music.”
She also credited local resident Scott Bruman, Kickstarter campaign manager Carmen Osterlye and especially the team behind the Sweetwater, particularly Winston and the venue’s manager KR Holt.
Winston, a regular past patron to Village Music and the old Sweetwater, said the efforts to revive the Sweetwater and celebrate Village Music with a film are perfectly intertwined.
“When I heard about the Kickstarter campaign, I just said, ‘We’ve got to get this done,'" he said.
The additional funding will pay for editing and licensing an assortment of archival footage that Grisman said is essential to the film. Elvis Costello, DJ Shadow, B.B. King, Ry Cooder, Bonnie Raitt, Sammy Hagar, Bob Weir, Huey Lewis, Jerry Garcia, John Sebastian and Maria Muldaur make appearances in the film. The Grismans recorded interviews with many of them talking about obscure artists like Memphis Minnie or Sugar Pie DeSanto or old records they found at Village Music that inspired them.
Grisman will be bringing in an archivist, and will also lean on the encyclopedic knowledge of Goddard, who is also a producer of the film, to pull those photos and videos together to weave through the interviews and footage of the store’s momentous final week.
Goddard said he had no doubt that the film would get finished.
“I have always felt that this would get done,” Goddard said. “They put way too much time and effort and soul into it to ever decide that it wasn’t going to happen. I had faith in them all along.”
He said he still thinks it’s “weird” that Sweetwater and Village Music, Mill Valley’s two most famous musical institutions, closed in the same week in 2007.
“That was beyond bizarre right there,” he said.
Grisman said that while she’s thrilled that the Kickstarter campaign was a success and that the film will get finished, there’s no shortage of need for additional funding for licensing fees incurred between festival premieres and garnering a distribution deal. Those who want to contribute can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or mail a contribution to Hi De Ho Films, P.O. Box 2711, Novato, CA 94948.
“The big goal is really to have it done by the Mill Valley Film Festival this year so that it can take off from there and go wherever it’s going to go,” Grisman said. “Our hometown would be the first audience to see it.”