Get Your Free Monthly Dose of Courage

john courage
Photo: Sarah Sanger

Santa Rosa has so much noteworthy music that sometimes it can be difficult to stay on top of who’s playing where at any given time. Ah, the challenges of living in Santa Rosa, right? But here’s a simple solution. Mark your calendar for the monthly show John Courage puts on at everybody’s favorite pub, The Toad in the Hole.

On the third Sunday of every month, Courage – sometimes solo, sometimes with other musicians – stands before the room filled with friends and neighbors happily sipping beers and eating Shepherd’s Pie to play his guitar and sing some songs. A striking tall figure with lots of red hair and a voice for bluesy Americana with a badass rocker side which comes to visit sometimes, John Courage’s songs are made for sidling up to at that perfect part of the evening when you’re ready to feel a little bit dangerous, or a little bit moved.

Among other Santa Rosa favorites who have joined him, he’s welcomed to the stage Francesco Catina (otherwise known as Frances Wolfe), Henry Nagle of Eight Belles, Ashley Allred, and Josh Windmiller of The Crux. Each lends their own particular sound and style along to that of Courage, who describes his sound as ‘Sad Disco meets California Soul’. Some are more electronic and experimental, some a bit dreamier, some bring the edge. It’s clear that whoever shares the stage with John Courage is a welcome friend, and a good time is definitely being had by all.

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The show is always free and perfectly complimented by the dozen or more beers available at The Toad, or a glass of local wine. Settle in with the other over-21’s with some dinner, like Bangers & Mash, a flaky hot pastie, or just a healthy serving of super garlicky fries.

John Courage

Don’t forget: John Courage, third Sunday of every month, free!

 Toad in the Hole Pub: 116 5th Street, Santa Rosa – 707-544-TOAD

John Courage on Facebook

Wednesday Night Market

Santa Rosa’s famous Wednesday Night Market is back in full-effect, for all of our eating, dancing, shopping (hold on, have to take a breath…), listening, spending and viewing pleasure!

IMG_1183 (1)While Santa Rosa boasts a healthy number of great neighborhood Farmer’s Markets, this one in particular brings Santa Rosa together as a whole, with members of each and every neighborhood making their way downtown to Fourth Street for the festivities. Spanning three-plus long blocks, the Wednesday Night Market feels like part traditional Farmer’s Market, part miniature Sonoma County Fair, part community building and education forum. Peppered among all of the food vendors (we’ll get there, don’t worry), you’ll find a mind-boggling amount of things to learn and see. Such as:

IMG_1241Art - Just one example is from artist Clay Vajgrt, who paints superheroes and villains in meditation pose; he calls them SuperMonks. His booth is a-bustle with people loving all up on his unique concept and artistic take on everyone’s favorite fantasy world.

IMG_1244Also not to be missed are the creative uses of small plants as fun decor. Tiny succulents planted in an otherwise questionable reminder of the night before, i.e. wine corks? Yes please! And air plants hanging from cool shells? Adorable. I do love repurposing things, and there were not one, but two artists selling their recycled clothing designs, too.

IMG_1196Kid Stuff - The Wednesday Night Market blocks off half of D Street just for the kiddos, offering two great big jumpy houses, crafts, and the ever present “Clown Making Balloon Animals”. There are also items throughout the market for your kids to beg you for, such as one booth selling all of the random shiny plastic-packed bits and baubles and bubbles any sugar-fueled kid could dream of.

IMG_1192Maybe better than all of those things, however, is the Kid’s Chess area. Open to all ages, this is a long row of pre-set chess boards, inviting any and all levels of chess players to sit down and play with friends, neighbors or strangers. Several walk-by’s showed each board filled many times over. Brain power for the win!

IMG_1229Music - Whichever end of the market you start at, you’re going to find some live music. From the main stage on one end featuring a local band and room to dance, to the street stage at the other with a rotation of musical options throughout the evening - from classical to blues just while I was there. About halfway between the two on Fourth Street was a lone violinist, just to keep things classy.

IMG_1232Beer and Wine - let’s face it, getting through swarming crowds of people sometimes calls for an adult beverage. Or is that just me? Anyhoo...I’m going to help you out and just tell you right now where to find said adult beverages: on the north end of E Street. Local beer and wine vendors set up shop so you can taste around before deciding what you may want more of. Bring your ID and be prepared to take home a commemorative tasting glass, which you’ll be purchasing in order to get said tastes.

IMG_1218Okay, okay...Food - If you just want to grab some fresh produce and run without taking advantage of everything else the Market has to offer, no problem. If you’re still at the ‘bar’ on E Street, just walk south and prepare to be dazzled by the gorgeous cherries, the early tomatoes, the greens upon greens, and the easy-going, relaxed pace of that end of the Market. It’s a welcome breather from the hubbub happening within the rest of the event, and the samples are worth the cruise-around alone. Be sure to buy some of these delicious, locally-grown treats from your friendly hardworking farmer, though. Don’t just eat the free snacks. Buy a peach to offset that giant turkey leg you know you’re about to go tackle, you’ll thank me for the suggestion later.

IMG_1207Speaking of turkey legs - Willie Birds might be the most popular option at the Market. Giant turkey legs redolent of the caveman-times are expertly grilled by the dozens upon dozens and served up wrapped in a no-frills aluminum wrapper. If I were a person who ate things involving bones I would buy two and just run around pretending I was a warrior woman from Paleolithic times, because that just seems like it would be amazingly fun. Also, turkey is delicious.

IMG_1188Add to that Thai, Indian, Italian, paella, Sushi Burritos (yes, it’s a thing!), oysters, crab, hummus, sausages, yummy vegan and vegetarian things, BBQ, hot dogs, churros, chocolates, cakes, cookies, and so, so much more. Seriously. SO MUCH MORE!

IMG_1186Finally, though, perhaps the coolest element of the Wednesday Night Market (for me), were the community and education booths. I saw people learning about energy efficiency, recycling and water management among the voter registration booths, LGBTQ awareness tent, Latino-culture information, free bicycle valet services, Veteran’s Resource Center, the North Bay Herpetological Society table with live critters (eeeee!) and tons of other resources for education and information.

IMG_1238Give yourselves a solid couple of hours to spend wandering through the Market to see all that it has to offer, then tell us...what was YOUR favorite part?

Wednesday Night Market runs from May 4th to August 17th, 5:00 to 8:30PM on Fourth Street in downtown Santa Rosa. Get all the info at

A First For The Last Record Store

Continuing to bless all of Santa Rosa and beyond with an impressively vast array of music both recorded and live, The Last Record Store prepares to welcome a new band into the fold: Old Century Blood.

Made up of seasoned Sonoma County musicians, Old Century Blood offers listeners a “vibrant and dynamic form of indie rock that stands out in its uniqueness”. The band boasts the talents of guitarist and vocalist Christopher James, who has shared the stage with such acts as Bill Frisell and Jessie Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter, the beautiful and mysterious vocals and piano of Kirana Peyton, formerly of Faun Fables, and the sweet, soulful sounds of vocalist and pianist Joni Davis, a Santa Rosa local and Sonoma County favorite, who has opened for both K.D. Lang and Aimee Mann, among others.

old century blood on stageIt’s always inspiring to hear how musicians come together with their specific creative offering to blend their hard work and raw talents into something new and exciting, and this band not only clearly knows what sound they’re going for, they are getting it with straight-up talented craftsmanship. In my quest for a description of what one might hear from Old Century Blood, I came across this rather resounding description: “Sonic landscapes provide a backdrop to idiosyncratic poetic lyrics, violin solos, and soaring male/female harmonies.". Wow, okay. I am a fan of soaring, so I was already sold with that one. According to singer/guitarist Christopher James, “This is music to which people can dance, then cry, and then dance again.”

No one can ever accuse me of not enjoying a good dance-cry-dance, that’s for sure. See you on Saturday, May 28th, at our favorite place to buy and hear music. You know the place.

Old Century Blood at The Last Record Store: Saturday, May 28th at 2:10pm

1899 Mendocino Avenue, Santa Rosa 95401 - 707-525-1963

48 Hours In SR With Paul Malone (and me)

If you live in Santa Rosa and haven’t had visitors yet, just wait; you will. We here at OutThereSR have taken it upon ourselves to collect some favorite activities of people who actually live here. We asked them what they would choose to do if given 48 hours in Santa Rosa. In our 48 Hours Series, we're sharing what we found, so the next time your favorite uncle in Nebraska needs a getaway, you’ll be ready. Pro tip: this article is going to be full of links since it’s chock full of places to check out. Hover over the name of anything that sounds interesting and click away!

As I’ve been asking people how they’d entertain guests for 48 hours in Santa Rosa, I’ve loved hearing how quickly their ideas come to them, and I of course wanted to play along. I consulted with Paul Malone, Santa Rosa’s finest driveway winemaker and the person I happen to call my sweetheart, and we came up with our Santa Rosa two-day tourist guide within about four seconds.

Day 1

48 hours in santa rosaFirst of all, if these visitors of ours arrived in summer, we’d check with the City of Santa Rosa to find out if they’d be giving any tours of the underground creek tunnels, because this activity is awesome and full of information about Santa Rosa’s creek system. Plus, the graffiti is really cool. creek tunnel. 48 hours in santa rosaAfter that, we’d head over to the SOFA neighborhood (South A) for some art gallery perusal. Not every art space is open all the time, but it’s amazing to see the variety of work being created in this one tiny little neighborhood.

Over on Cleveland Ave is Vintner’s Square, a fun little stop for doing some wine tasting with a group because they’ve got a lot of other things going on, too. vintners-square signage. 48 hours in santa rosaThere’s an organic juice bar for the DD, a cigar shop, and a pizza place, because I am of the strong opinion that it never hurts to have some pizza at any given point in the day. Plus there’s Fogbelt Brewing Company for our beer nerd friends, and if we’re lucky they’ll be hosting one of their hilarious comedy shows, always featuring both local comedians and those from afar. lococos-cucina-rustica 48 hours in santa rosaWe’d make a point to eat dinner at Lococo’s in Railroad Square because we’re suckers for a red and white checked tablecloth and classic garlicky Italian food.

Day 2

Paul loves a hike so on Day 2 we’d amble our way up Taylor Mountain, which is a bit of a haul for me because, frankly, I’m quite lazy, but the stellar views of Santa Rosa and beyond are incredible and so worth it.

taylor mountain 48 hours in santa rosa

As an additional reward for the climb, I would insist we treat our guests to some no-frills soft-serve ice cream at Foster’s Freeze on 4th Street, because it reminds me of being a kid, when everything was no-frills. Across 4th Street from Foster’s is the Proctor Terrace/McDonald neighborhood, where we’d take our guests walking (on a flat surface this time!).

foster's freeze sign 48 hours in santa rosa

In the spring the cherry and plum blossoms are gorgeous, and in the fall the yellow ginkgo leaves covering the streets make us feel like we’re in Oz. The McDonald Mansion was lovingly restored several years ago and is a wonder to look at. I’ve always been fond of pretending I’m a very rich and fancy lady so this place suits that fantasy pretty well. McDonald Mansion copy 48 hours in santa rosaMcDonald Ave itself is nice and wide for strolling, with beautiful old homes to admire on either side.

Since we were already feeling very quaint and old-world, we’d then catch happy hour at The Villa, because it sort of feels like being in a black and white movie, filled with everyone’s favorite grandparents. They have a pretty extensive Happy Hour menu, but my vote would be to head over to Rosso’s pizzeria for dinner, where their wood-fired pizzas are to die for. rosso pizzeria 48 hours in santa rosaThey’re topped with anything from your traditional sauce and cheese, to salmon with capers and arugula, to their ‘Goomba’, which has spaghetti and meatballs on it. Yes, you read that right: spaghetti and meatballs on a pizza! So yeah, we like to take our nearest and dearest there.

What are your go-to Santa Rosa stops when company comes to town? Check back soon for more ideas for things to do with 48 hours in Santa Rosa, and in the meantime, share some of your go-to activities in the comments!