Mule Droppings

My last post was all gloom and doom about the very sad closing of the Southern Pacific Smokehouse. It was disappointing to see something that was sorely needed in Marin County close its doors after such a short time. We really do need more and better music venues. But alas, it looks like the Smokehouse may be gone for good. They held an auction earlier this week, selling off all of their restaurant equipment. Not a good sign...

But fear not. Good things are afoot. No less than three new music venues are opening in Marin, and they all promise to be very exciting.

Terrapin Crossroads

The first of the venues is one that most of you have probably already heard about, Terrapin Crossroads. Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead has taken over the old Seafood Peddler restaurant. To quote from the Terrapin Crossroads website: 

...a community cultural and educational center. We plan to celebrate the arts – music, culinary, poetry, dance, literature, visual arts including photography, theatre, and other creative endeavors – so aside from a performance space and restaurant, Terrapin Crossroads will also host art exhibits, have an art-and-music-themed library and reading room, memorabilia displays, and a beautiful, comfortable place where friends can meet to exchange ideas over a glass of wine or a drink, a terrific meal, and of course hear some great music. We’ll also be a place for teaching and learning: in addition to regular musical performances, we will offer curated conversations with celebrated visionaries, luminaries, characters, and eccentrics, discussing topics ranging from cosmology to history to environmental issues to building team spirit and beyond.

What this will all mean is yet to be seen. But, based on the fact that Phil Lesh is involved, and he intends include a performance space, I expect we will see a great stage with a first class sound system. Let's all be sure to send them a note suggesting that Miracle Mule play there!  For more information about Terrapin Crossroads, visit their website,


The venerated Mill Valley Sweetwater, which hosted some now legendary shows, like John Lee Hooker, Carlos Santana, Jerry Garcia, Elvis Costello and Bonnie Raitt, is coming back. After closing five years ago, is set to reopen this week. The Sweetwater has found a new home, in the old Masonic Hall in downtown Mill Valley across the street from the fire station. It is set to open on January 27. For more information visit


A group of investors from the music industry have purchased the building that used to house See's Candies in downtown 4th street. They are planning a new supper club featuring live music, chef prepared dinners and a full bar. The opening date has not been announced, but if you drive by, you'll see that construction is under way and it can't be too far off. My guess is early spring. Perhaps they can open for my birthday! Check out their website

All is not gloom and doom for live music in Marin County. We have a lot of great things to look forward to and you have a lot of places where you can find your favorite equine swamp band, Miracle Mule. Be sure to pop into these venues and mention Miracle Mule. Be assured we will be getting our press packs together to get on their events calendar.

The rumors are true. The Southern Pacific Smokehouse, Marin County's newest and possibly nicest music venue, has closed after less than a year. The Smokehouse opened to great fanfare, and some decent reviews of the restaurant. Located in Vintage Oaks, the smokehouse had a decent restaurant, and a first class music venue that seated up to 140. It was the music venue that I was most excited about. There are no stages for live music in Novato. None. This city of 70,000 people has a dearth of entertainment options, and the smokehouse was going to change all that.

But, after just 6 months or so, it looked like trouble for the smokehouse. I had noticed few recognizable names playing there. The booking was not going well. If you peeked in the door you would have seen it too. The club was empty. Reports were coming back of bands playing to empty rooms while waiters and bartenders just stood around waiting for guests who never arrived. In my opinion, this club had several things going against it:

  • It was in Novato, which is about as sleepy as my teenage son on Sunday morning. This town won't show up for live music.
  • It was in a Mall. The Vintage Oaks mall is pretty isolated and this venue had ZERO foot traffic. None, nada, zilch, zip.
  • It has poor signage. This place was really easy to miss. The signage was minimalist, and there were no lights or neon. Ask around. Most people didn't know about it.
  • No cross promotion. The restaurant side of the business was run completely separate from the music. The restaurant was often full while the music venue was empty, but no effort was ever made to get the diners into the club.
  • No big name acts were booked. This place need to do some serious marketing by getting some big name acts to show up, even if they had to lure them in at a loss.

It is incredibly sad to me that this venue is now history. Both the restaurant and the music venue have closed, and Novato is once again without any live music (Finnegan's, thank you for supporting live music, but without a stage you don't really count.) I suspect the lead investors in the Smokehouse never really had their heart in it. They had some investors who were very interested in the music, but they were fired in September after the audience never materialized.

What could the Smokehouse have done differently? For starters, address the items on the list above. I truly believe that North Marin can support a live music venue. But it has to be done right, and it has to be given a year to build up an audience. Once people find the venue, and have some god experiences, then you can expect to have a regular cleintele show up. But it takes about a year for that to happen. The Smokehouse wasn't given a year, and it failed at marketing, so it was doomed.

But we still have Georges in San Rafael and Nicasio Ranch in Nicasio. Those are the last two big music houses we have in Marin. Let's make sure we support these two venues so they don't suffer the same fate as the Smokehouse. Get off your butt and go see some live music!

For those of you who missed out on Miracle Mule's CD Release Party, or who weren't able to get in (sorry about that!) no worries, because we are doing it again. Miracle Mule is playing a show this Saturday, November 19th.

If you have never been to the Southern Pacific Smokehouse, in Novato, this is your chance to see Marin's newest premier stage. They have a first class sound system, a great bar, and a tasty dinner menu.

Miracle Mule will be hitting the stage at 8:30 and we promise to make this a special event with lots of surprises!

Date/Time: November 19, 2011, 8:30pm
Location: Southern Pacific Smokehouse. 224 Vintage Way, Novato, CA - MAP
Tickets: $10 - BUY TICKETS

Miracle Mule has been added as a late addition to the Jorgensen's House Concert on October 1. I went to their house concert last week and saw some great music in a beautiful setting. They have a terrific location for outdoor live music.

Doors open at 6pm. Miracle Mule will play from 6:30 to ~8-ish, followed by the Courtney Janes and Tim & Nicky Bluhm. Cost is $20 and includes beer. A taco truck will be on hand for an inexpensive dinner choice. Bring your own wine. RSVP here:

It is a little bit like sending a kid off to college. They are out of the house and you've done all that you'll ever be able to do to raise them. Now they have to survive on their own two feet. 

I hit the submit button today, sending the CD off to the press. They are duplicating the CDs and printing the CD cases now. No more fiddling wih mixes, song order, cover art... I'm done. Truth be told, I could have tweaked and messed with these songs forever, but past a certain point, what difference does it really make? If the songs are good, let them be.

The picture here is a mockup of the CD Art, printed on my home printer. We are getting digipacks, which means that it won't be one of those plastic jewel cases. It'll be cardboard, with a little plastic insert where you place the disk. Digipacks cost a lot more than standard jewel cases, but they are worth it. The package looks so much better. Plus it has less than have the plastic and is made of recycled paper.

The songs on the CD are all great, with three original tunes thrown in and several original arrangements. Plus the recordings sound amazing. You'd never be able to tell that this was recorded, engineered, mixed, produced, etc, by an amateur (me) in a bedroom studio (the computer I'm using right now.) This CD is the real deal. I'm super pleased that we'll be able to give people their money's worth. Great songs, good sound, and just an all-around terrific CD for listening. 

But don't take my word for it. You can hear a pre-press mix of one of the songs at, and you can pick up a disk at the CD release party Oct 6th at the Souther Pacific Smokehouse.

Swampy Tonk Music for the asses.

  • About +

    The Bay Area's Favorite Swampy Tonk Dance Band! Miracle Mule is the swampy tonk dance band that everybody is talking about. Read More
  • Songs +

    With well over 50 songs in the repertoire Miracle Mule can play over three hours of entertaining danceable music. Most Read More
  • Band Members +

    Miracle Mule band members include a number of veteran professional musicians who have played with John Hiatt and Hank Ballard Read More
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    Our people loved Miracle Mule and wanted to have them back next year. They were absolutely the greatest band we've had in years.

    Marsha B.

  • As musicians, the guys in this band are no joke... you might not be able to stand still.

    Paul Liberatore - Marin Independent Journal


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