Has Mill Valley Regained its Musical Mojo?

Five years removed from the demise of both Village Music and the original Sweetwater, a documentary about the former and the success of the new iteration of the latter has gone a long way toward repairing cultural wounds.

“I don’t think music is very important to Mill Valley these days – but it used to be. It used to be the life blood of this community.”

“I don’t know what this town’s going to be like. The heart and soul of this town will have left.”

No better authorities on Mill Valley’s sonic roots than longtime locals Bob Weir and Bonnie Raitt, respectively, spoke those words in 2007.

The occasion was the filming of Village Music: Last of the Great Record Stores, Gillian and Monroe Grisman’s five-years-in-the-making documentary about John Goddard’s legendary Village Music, which closed on Sept. 30, 2007.

The sentiments were representative of an overall gloom that hovered over Mill Valley five years ago last month, as Village’s closure coincided, painfully, with the end of the original Sweetwater, the iconic local music venue with which Village long enjoyed a symbiotic relationship.

As the Grismans make clear in their film, the Sweetwater played host to many of the Village Music anniversary parties for which Goddard curated show-stopping collaborations between the likes John Lee Hooker and Carlos Santana or Jerry Garcia and Elvis Costello.

A lot has changed over those past five years. The Sweetwater Music Hall is nearing the one-year anniversary of its opening, and the Grismans’ film just made a spectacular world premiere at the 35th Mill Valley Film Festival followed by a star-studded Village Music All-Stars tribute concert. And 142 Throckmorton Theatre has further established itself as an arts and entertainment hub for which Mill Valley residents have reason to be proud.

So we want to know: Has Mill Valley regained its musical mojo? Is the 94941 closer to its proud musical heritage than it was during those gloomy days of late 2007?

Tell us what you think – and why – in the Comments below.

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steve redner October 29, 2012 at 08:08 PM
It's a new world. Let us be thankful for the blessings of Sweetwater and Village Records during our early lifetime and wish the new generation all the best.
Douglas Dolton October 30, 2012 at 01:10 AM
Totally disagree with Sean C. I've noticed how easy it is to have rose-colored glasses about the past while putting down the present. It IS a new world - the new Sweetwater is fantastic, let's patronize it (especially on Open Mic Mondays!), and continue to redevelop the new music scene....
Cito K October 30, 2012 at 04:37 AM
Does it make any difference that I hosted a rocksteady local three piece band which is up from the sweetwater and sing all the time and one of these days get enough guts to attend open mic? I agree it's hard even being a child of the seventies to not compare or get nolstolgic of what was California really used to be, but we are in a new and I can only hope the sweetwater keeps local music alive and at reasonable cost and exposure to upcoming musical genius- who knows maybe we will have another music renaissance and find grunge or Motown or classic rock all over again in a modern way.
L. Haugen October 30, 2012 at 06:40 AM
Don't get me wrong. I "LOVE" love love the new Sweetwater. The question was about the town having it's Musical Mojo back. The bookings have been pretty skewed to what James was saying and doesn't seem like they book outside a certain box of ideas, could be wrong but haven't seen it happen yet. Let's hope they will be open to some new sounds like Cito K says!
Guillaume October 30, 2012 at 05:19 PM
Sweetwater rocks!


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