Grateful Dead co-founder and Sweetwater Music Hall co-owner Bob Weir tops a great lineup of players who are transporting the famed Mill Valley venue’s party atmosphere to the great outdoors for the inaugural Sweetwater in the Sun music festival Sept. 23 at Stafford Lake Park in Novato.
The family-friendly event marks a new venture for the venue, which has entertained Marin County music lovers in one form or another since the original Sweetwater opened in Mill Valley in 1972.
“It goes back to the roots, the original hole in the wall that has a legendary history,” says Sweetwater Music Hall general manager and talent buyer Aaron Kayce.
The original Sweetwater was little more than a storefront in downtown Mill Valley, though it gained a reputation for being a lightning rod for live music. “Back then, it was the cornerstone of the community, and in my opinion it is what the Marin music scene grew out of,” Kayce says.
After the original Sweetwater closed doors in 2007, a group of investors, including Weir, opened the current music hall a few blocks away, and the legacy continues with headlining acts and North Bay favorites taking the stage nearly every night of the year.
“They believed the Sweetwater was the backbone of the Marin arts and music scene,” Kayce says. “They built a beautiful venue, and we try to create a special vibe there.”
The notion of extending those vibes to a larger audience has been a goal for Kayce and Sweetwater office manager Madison Flach for several years. “We can only sell 300 tickets to a show at the Sweetwater, and we wanted to do something bigger,” says Kayce, who has stacked Sweetwater in the Sun with an array of musical talent.
Joining Weir onstage at the festival’s headlining jam session will be several longtime North Bay stars like guitarist Steve Kimock (Zero), drummer Jay Lane and bassist Robin Sylvester (RatDog) and other surprise guests.
The festival also boasts sets from the Skiffle Players with Neal Casal and Cass McCombs, Jennifer Hartswick Band, Maggie Rose, Jerry Joseph and several others, as well as a kids’ stage, family activities, food from Sweetwater chef Gordon Drysdale and more.
“We really want to foster a family-friendly event,” Kayce says. “We’re excited to showcase what we do inside our venue and throw a really fun party out in the sun.”
Sweetwater in the Sun rises on Sunday, Sept. 23, at Stafford Lake Park, 3549 Novato Blvd., Novato. Noon to 7pm. $85–$120; kids 12 and under, $35. 415.388.3850.