During the past 10 years, Petaluma’s Rivertown Revival has become one of the North Bay’s most beloved annual events of the summer.
Dubbed “the Greatest Slough on Earth,” and held on the Petaluma River to benefit the conservation and education organization Friends of the Petaluma River, the one-day festival annually attracts thousands of attendees to the river to enjoy live music, art, kid-friendly entertainment and even weddings, all done up with avant-garde revivalist flair and boasting communal creativity.
The organizers of the planned 11th annual Rivertown Revival were just beginning to map out the details of the event in early April, when Sonoma County went into shelter-in-place mode meant to stop the spread of Covid-19. Given the current pandemic’s uncertain timeline, Rivertown Revival—like many other popular summer offerings—was forced to cancel the show this year in the name of public health and safety.
“It was going to be awesome,” says Rivertown Revival music director Josh Windmiller. “Every year, it always is a mind-blowing event.”
Windmiller, who also organizes the annual Railroad Square Music Festival in Santa Rosa, not only laments the loss of the Rivertown Revival’s festivities this summer, he realizes how much funding the Friends of the Petaluma River will fail to receive as a result of the cancellation.
“I’m sure so many people can relate to how devastating this is, not just in terms of having parties, but in terms of fundraising,” he says. “It’s kind of a bleak summer for a lot of people. So, we thought, ‘What could we do?’”
To answer that question, Windmiller and the other festival organizers asked themselves, what is Rivertown Revival besides that one-day festival each summer?
“It’s about celebrating the arts, celebrating the community and supporting our natural resources, our environment, through raising awareness and funds,” Windmiller says.
With those goals in mind, Rivertown Revival and Friends of the Petaluma River are teaming up for a new, free online venture, Living Room Live, which will present all of the best parts of the festival in a streaming weekly showcase.
Living Room Live kicks off at 7pm this Saturday, May 23, and will run for four weeks, with new performers and new surprises each week. Windmiller will play Johnny Carson for the show, hosting and interviewing musicians, artists and others from the comfort of his living-room couch.
The streaming production will feature three to four musical performances each week, starting with May 23’s lineup featuring rock ’n’ roll giant John Courage, spirited singer-songwriter Sebastian St. James (Highway Poets) and melodic indie-folk performer Ismay.
Each week, kid-friendly musician, artist and author Gio Benedetti will lead a family-oriented segment, “My Town Is Magical,” that will be a show-within-a-show, and Living Room Live will also feature videos from visual artists, comedy segments and even a mass vow-renewal for stay-at-home married couples who may or may not have tied the knot at a previous Rivertown Revival.
“Basically, it will be a mix between a variety show and late-night talk show,” Windmiller says. “We’re trying to fit in what people love about Rivertown into something we can get right into their living rooms.”
Living Room Live will stream for free on the Rivertown Revival Facebook page and YouTube page, and audiences are encouraged to engage in the show through the online chat that will be available.
Windmiller hopes folks will also hit the donate button that will accompany the stream to support the Friends of the Petaluma River, which connects the community to the Petaluma watershed through hands-on educational activities as well as artistic events like Rivertown Revival.
“Stuff like Rivertown, it’s these crossroads, these meeting points, where you get to encounter your own community, and we still want to be that,” Windmiller says. “I’m really happy, and Rivertown is really happy, to provide another place where people and the artists can meet and build something stronger. That’s what the event has always been, so this is the same thing. A different time, different conditions, but the same thing.”