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.

Here's what else is happening on Mill Valley Patch

  1. Commission Backs Marin Horizon’s Toddler Program on Miller Ave.
  2. A Neighborhood Dispute and a Dog Gets Attacked By a Raccoon
  3. Local Suspects Among Boy Scout Leaders Accused of Sexual Abuse
  4. Prop. 39 Seeks to Close $1B Tax Loophole for Multi-State Corporations
  5. PHOTOS: Local Artists Honored at 2012 Milley Awards

For local news like this wherever you go, follow us! And don't forget to sign up for our daily e-newsletter, delivered straight to your inbox.

"Like" us on Facebook | Follow us on Twitter | Sign up for the daily Mill Valley Patch newsletter | Start a blog

Jack October 29, 2012 at 01:39 PM
Absolutely, thank you Sweetwater, the new, real and integral community center of downtown Mill Valley (and we miss your shop/museum, John).
Sean C October 29, 2012 at 05:32 PM
The new Sweetwater is not that big a deal, kinda an average Nor Cal suburban music venue catering to 50-somethings like you could find in Fairfax or Humboldt County. The magic of the past is gone forever. Sausalito was once an even bigger music town than Mill Valley and look at it now. Musicians generally are not a wealthy crowd and its basically impossible to live here without being wealthy. It would take a mammoth, cataclysmic downsizing of the national economy to bring our 'edge' back. With our prosperity comes our loss of soul. Its an old story. I shopped at Village music my whole childhood, learned so much from John, and admire Monroe's creative determination to get his movie done. I am grateful to have witnessed the good old days, but they are gone and they aren't coming back.
L. Haugen October 29, 2012 at 06:19 PM
I agree with Sean C, not the same at all, but everything changes. I feel like I've been in a long state of mourning with Sweetwater, Village and Charlie all at once and the film was like the Memorial to that time, finalizing the end. I'm still glad to see John doing his thing, although a smaller scale, just seeing him zip around town makes me happy.
james thomas October 29, 2012 at 07:19 PM
I agree with Sean as well, but have to admit that getting contemporary music that is outside the jam band genre, was hard in the old sweeetwater and remains so far in the new venue. Having a band like" X "play was a goddess send, and though they are in their mid fifties themselves, they brought in a bit of non stodgy youth culture. We are fortuneate to have now one of the nicest ( and it may be the nicest) small venues in Northern California. That's a huge blessing. It would be nice to see it used more outside of the context of nostalgia, and have an adventurous audience who are willing to explore beyond 60's 70's or 80's tribute bands. We are further blessed with the return of our own legendery Mr Austin DeLone, who brings his very fine magic and benevolance as host of open mic on Mondays. He is a town treasure. We also shouldn't lose track of the many fine youth musicians who are being encouraged and supported there. I don't think you'll find any other town in the Bay Area that is as encouraging to these young artists....now let's encourage their minds and abilities by tapping into a larger pool of musical styles and energies and raise the bar....
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!


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »