In eras of music gone by, the local fraternal organizations, Eagles Aeries, Elks clubs, Moose lodges and more provided many a band with their first opportunity to play live.
Long before the arenas and concert halls and even bars, the local “meeting room” had all that was necessary to put on a dance or show. Stage, lights, likely a bar, parking and a dance floor. At the time “decent folks” didn’t go to jazz clubs, but it wasn’t long before people found out what they were missing. Meanwhile, the fraternal organizations provided what was needed to put on a “dance party.”
Fraternal organizations have been fading over the years as, let’s face it, the members are getting older and are not being replaced by new members. As chapters see their membership drop off, slowly the local chapters are closed, leaving behind years of history and missed opportunity. Joining the organizations are inexpensive by today’s standards, and the price hasn’t’ gone up much over the years. About $60 a year, and a willing sponsor, gets you into the local “Loyal Order of Moose, Lodge #2048.” Long past are the days of initiations and religious ceremonies as a pre-requisite to membership; today they are mainly social clubs, with many raising money to help local causes, including schools, 4-H clubs, and local families going through hardships.
Sonoma is going through a similar issue with the Moose Lodge, located on Broadway south of four corners. Admit it, you’ve all seen the “Bingo Tuesday” sign and thought about going. But Jon Shannon Williams and others have an idea to give the lodge the shot in the arm it might need to boost membership, and provide a place for live music and other performances. As a member, certain benefits are bestowed upon you, such as hall rental, use of the kitchen and more.
Williams is a member, as are several other local musicians, and many others in and about town who you likely know. Williams credits the late Hal Plumere for convincing him to join the lodge. “He was a great man, and told me that this was a local place for locals to have local events to help local causes and a place for locals to have fun – a club all of their own.”
Williams continued: “He wanted me to know they welcome new, younger members, that it’s important to keep this place for the future.” The words hit home for Williams. He joined, as did others, with visions of using the space for shows, events, even rehearsal. “If everyone in the band is a member, all we have to do is book the time.”
Williams has started out with a Thursday night open-mic, to try to fill the void left by the venues in town that have closed or stopped doing music in general. The venue boasts a brand new stage and Williams plans to have a back-line present for any and all to use, as well as a P.A. “We’re hoping to keep the momentum going and present shows and dances on the weekends, and not just music, but plays, poetry, art, art in general” says Williams passionately. “The venue could be a great place for just about anything you want to do, especially if you’re a member.”
The open mic has slowly been picking up steam, since kicking off in early August, and starts each Thursday at 7 p.m. Artists and musicians that want to know more about Williams and his vision, can reach him at 815-8296. For more info about the Moose Lodge, point your browser to sonomamoose.org.