The sun’s glow shines vibrant; soon, the long shadows of the early evening will reach over Clear Lake and the steep slopes of the Riv. It’s a quiet late Sunday evening when most people are home and getting ready for Monday. But at the Riviera Hills Restaurant and Lounge, the night is just getting started as more and more cars pull into the parking lot.
“Have you been here before?” asks our son Rees.
“Only the parking lot,” David laughs as we stop the car.
I don’t exactly know why we cajoled the kids to come with us, or maybe I do. It’s been a long two years since we last attended the First Sunday Jam. The last time we saw them was in 2019 at the Roadhouse in Loch Lomond, where it was our family tradition to go every first Sunday of the month. And when the kids got bored, they could walk or drive home because we lived just a few steps away. But the Roadhouse shut its doors for good when Covid first settled in. So I guess we were trying to bring back a little bit of the past.
Eagerly we make our way to the front doors. We can hear the band already in full swing, letting everyone know that this is the place to be. As we step inside the packed bar, we see the same familiar faces as before, Mike Guarniero on guitar, John Gormley on base, Kim Rippy-Thomas on the keyboard, and a few new faces. But those aren’t the only people we recognize. The room’s packed, and it looks like a who’s who of Lake County’s best musicians. Tony Neves sits at a table ahead of us, the country band Breaker One-9 spreads around the room, and Dave Broida stands at the bar waiting for a drink. It seems like everyone’s making up for the lost time.
John Gormley has a big smile as the house band finishes up a set, then takes a small break to switch around musicians.
“I didn’t realize how much I missed it,” John, the vision behind the First Sunday Jam, says.
Everyone seems to agree. One look around the room (after filtering out the twenty or so musicians) reveals a crowd we haven’t seen in over two years. A few minutes later, the music starts with a new bassist, guitarist, drummer, and Dave Broida on the harmonica and vocals. The dance floor immediately fills with people who have waited far too long to dance.
Technically, the First Sunday Jam is an open mic, but don’t for a second think it’s the kind with poorly played guitar riffs sung by tone-deaf singers. Nope. This jam is made for musicians. John wanted a chance to play more with his friends, so he decided to schedule it on Sunday, the one day of the week that hardly ever has music scheduled. And every musician in the county knows about it. In one night, the ever-changing band will play classic rock, blues, jazz, a bit of reggae, fusion, and original tunes. It’s like visiting every musical event in Lake County at once.
And the best part is that it’s got a new home at the Riviera Hills Restaurant and Lounge. During the colder months, it’s indoors, but come summer, they’ll move outside, where there’s plenty of room and one of Lake County’s most stunning views. If you missed last weekend, no worries. Just show up on the first Sunday of April at 5 pm, and you’ll get an earful of some of the area’s best musicians all playing just for the fun of it.
It’s nice to know that even though two years of Covid have changed so much, one great thing is still here.
First Sunday Jam
Every 1st Sunday of the month, 5-9 PM
Riviera Hills Restaurant and Lounge
10200 Fairway Dr, Kelseyville, CA