Finding something to do on the weekends here in Sonoma County is a difficult feat to accomplish as a college student. When having to take finances, distance and one’s genuine interest into consideration, finding something everyone in your friend group will enjoy on Saturday night can be a struggle.
Anything involving music usually unites people with similar interests and creates an exciting community. Founded in 2013, Santa Rosa music venue, Pizza Punx, aimed to put Sonoma County on the entertainment map by organizing events to bring Bay Area bands to small venues and house shows in the area. They recognized that bands were only booking shows in San Francisco and Oakland and aimed to prove there was an opportunity to provide an outlet for dissatisfied music fans in Sonoma County. The group arrived at the decision to make this scene a reality on a random night of drinking and eating pizza—hence the name.
“This place was dead, and it still is really. I think we wanted to breathe some life back into the area,” Co-founder Ian O’Connor said. “At first we were just doing it for ourselves, now it’s turned into something bigger than us.”
This statement holds true, considering the group has had a handful of articles written about their movement, including a story featured in the North Bay Bohemian newspaper. O’Connor and his friends have created a unique environment for people who strive to be part of a close-knit and accepting community and also be surrounded by music.
“It’s definitely an exciting experience attending the shows and discovering bands I would have never heard of otherwise,” said Sophomore Irina Zhuravskaya.
The shows, mostly held on Saturday nights, cost little to nothing and have a rule that no one would be turned away for lack of funds. The primary reason for charging a fee in general is the fact that the scene is extremely community driven which allows for further shows to be organized.
The venue also doesn’t discriminate against age, allowing both younger and older people to attend, making the environment that much more welcoming. They make a point to be respectful of surrounding neighbors, stating on the event page to leave as soon as the show is over.
It is strikingly clear when you attend the shows how much comradery surrounds the environment. Watching people interact with the bands in between sets and helping load up the equipment after indicates just how essential a setting like this can be for people seeking to find their place.
“Finding out about Pizza Punx changed my experience at Sonoma State for the better. I’ve gotten to see tons of bands I like at all-ages venues locally, find out about new music, and make new friends,” regular patron of the shows, David Lechuga-Espadas said. “Many of the acts that come through Santa Rosa lately play in the bay area at 21+ venues, so it’s great to be able to see them at all, let alone so close to school.”
Unfortunately, Pizza Punx is coming to an end, with their last show being Jan. 24. The culmination of the organization, O’Connor said, is due to “the gang falling apart, we’ve all grown up and taken different paths since then.” Proving that all their hard work paid off, the group managed to book garage-rock artist Ty Segall—a performer that’s been on their bucket list for a while.
“Were going out with a bang, it’s going to be one for the books,” O’Connor said. Nevertheless, Pizza Punx wouldn’t be ending unless something else was emerging to fill its void.
“Shock City” is the name of the new venue that O’Connor and friends are creating to continue the legacy of Pizza Punx. “We are going to keep the shows flowing in the area and seek to do what Pizza Punx did but on a larger, broader and more improved scale. This will be the more grown up version of what Pizza Punx was trying to be,” O’Connor said.
As far as keeping the unity of the scene together, O’Connor says it’s constantly changing and evolving as much as the people involved in it are, and is excited for the future.