Futuristic lighting paired with projected psychedelic twirls turned the backdrop of the stage into a kaleidoscope, appropriately matching the sound produced by classic rock band Moonalice.
Leading up to 8 p.m., the relatively cozy room in Sally Tomatoes on Friday night was filled with recordings of classic, experimental rock songs as a precursor for the performance. The crowd was comprised of mostly older music fans and foodies, donning everything from button-down shirts with bolo ties, to tie-dyed shirts and silver braids.
The venue was packed and the smell of pungent marinara sauce was apparent. Candelabras set the mood and offered light as waiters in tomato-red polos bussed back-and-forth with frothing beer and garlicky appetizers.
When the lights went down, applause erupted as the band took the stage. Vocalist Roger McNamee grabbed the microphone.
“We finally are here at Sally Tomatoes; we’ve worked our entire lives to get to this place,” said McNamee. “I knew I was in Sonoma County when I stepped off the bus and found whatever this is in a park (holding up a comically large faux joint).”
He went on to give a brief history of musical legend Jerry Garcia and his relation to Sonoma County.
“He left a part of himself in Sonoma County and that’s where his brother cut off his finger by accident chopping wood...and Jerry made it a point after the accident to never drop a pick,” said McNamee with a chuckle. “But I digress…”
After a glance at the rest of the band, McNamee counted off the beat and released a powerful room-filling song with smooth and rolling drumbeats and psychedelic guitar effects.
Their uniform was loosely comprised of a few bandanas, a beanie, a fedora and a tuxedo vest over a button up shirt. Peace signs and mountain ranges flashing in fluorescent colors adorned the back of the stage with rushing patterns, which in conjunction with the music, took the audience on a psychedelic trip.
McNamee’s strong breathy vocals, slightly reminiscent of Lou Reed crossing with Neil Young, sung tales of joy. Before the first song had ended, the small dance floor was filled with enthusiastic and slightly inebriated music fans.
The focused and stoic expressions on drummer John Molo’s face was contrasted by the energetic vibes of guitarist Barry Sless and McNamee as they faced each other in a pas de deux, while an organ solo kept the song light.
“We welcome you to Rohnert Park, California,” said McNamee as the band sashayed into a bluesy slow-paced song.
The crowd couldn’t contain themselves as they ate their dinner, with everyone tapping at least one foot on the stained concrete floor as beer splashed out of mason jars to the beat of the music.
The backup guitarist, donning a hat like Sting, migrated away from keyboard and onto a red Gretsch guitar, where he remained for the next few songs. As the piece ended and applause erupted from the crowd, McNamee addressed the audience again.
“Thank you everyone. This is our favorite community and we [want to] thank you for all the times we’ve shared,” said McNamee with a smile before segueing into an extended jam, as cymbals crashed and whispered over warm guitar sounds reminiscent of jazz.
Jams resonant of the ‘60s scene may seem fit for a smoky basement club rather than a day-to-night restaurant, but all had an unmistakable good time.
Located one and a half miles from campus, Sally Tomatoes regularly hosts bands like Moonalice. On Thursday and Friday nights they have an all-you-can-eat special for $8.50 that includes pizza pasta and salad as well as a large selection of spirits for those of legal age.
“It was a very interesting show; their energy was amazing,” said Petaluma resident Sabrina McLoughlin. “I had a great time.”