Our Valley has been christened with the stunningly inaccurate and wildly misleading sobriquet of “Slownoma.”
Slow? Last weekend, this Noma was anything but leisurely. It was almost exhaustingly busy.
On Friday night, the revitalized Valley of the Moon Vintage Festival packed the Sonoma Barracks with a festive crowd and more food and wine than anyone could rationally or safely consume. In between exhaustive rounds of eating and drinking, the assembled throng was rocked happily off its collective feet by the hirsute cover band Wonder Bread 5. Slow? We don’t think so.
On Saturday morning, a painfully few hours later, a significant slice of the same crowd converged on the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn for Fashion in the Vineyards, the annual haute couture runway event benefitting the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sonoma Valley.
Marvelous models, ranging from the very young to at least one dapper octogenarian, strutted the runway while hundreds cheered over the pulsating beat of a very hip soundtrack and sparkling wine flowed like water.
The rest of Saturday was composed of Vintage Festival fun, including the classic clash of hose-wielding firemen in the annual water fight and, as darkness pulled the curtains on the Plaza, a curious crowd we’d estimate somewhere north of 2,000 converged on Spain Street to witness the first nighttime Vintage fest parade. Kids of our acquaintance loved the spectacle of flashing lights affixed to passing floats. The grown-up verdicts we heard ranged from verbal yawns to mild enthusiasm. More floats with less space between them will help, and the 28 minutes it took to move those present over the block-long parade route felt closer to an hour, but it was a worthy experiment and, who knows, it may catch on.
There was more Vintage Fest on Sunday and, that night, the final act of the grand opening for Weill Hall at Sonoma State University’s new Green Music Center put a spectacular punctuation mark on the weekend. Alison Krauss and Union Station put on a sublime performance in a spectacular setting with incomparable acoustics.
Weill Hall, it should be noted, is a truly world-class music facility. It is both grand and intimate, warm and modern, seating 1,417 patrons inside, while the entire south wall – 20-feet high and 50-feet wide – opens to a vast lawn that can accommodate an additional 5,000 guests.
Jeff Langley, artistic director for the Green Music Center, told the crowd, “We wanted the definitive sound and voice of America’s music.” They got it.
While Krauss confessed that most of her songs are sad, they are also transcendentally beautiful and her harmonies with Dan Tyminski, Ron Block and Barry Bales were stunning. But it was the magical dobro of musical genius Jerry Douglas that brought down the house, and it was a rare joy to see him on stage with Krauss.
The only miscue with the music center was the incomprehensible mistake of positioning the parking lot exit in the path of pedestrian traffic flowing out of the hall. The mixture of people and cars created a maddening gridlock that begs for correction.
But that couldn’t take the glow off a performance and a weekend that continues to remind us how privileged we are to live here.