It’s hard to beat local live music


I love our downtown, especially on Friday and Saturday nights, when we have so much live music and entertainment. It wasn’t always this way. Even ten years ago the most we could hope for would be the yearly street dance or the occasional live band. And of course Barnaby’s — which I am the perfect age to have LOVED, so don’t tease me.

My mom and aunts speak fondly of dancing to live bands (and occasionally getting kicked out for being too loud) at different places: Uncle Bobs, the 19th Hole, private parties and school dances. The idea of a live band — not a DJ or stereo — is what made the night so much fun.

At my family’s suggestion I hired a band to play at my wedding many years ago, and it was such an amazing experience. The marriage may not have lasted forever, but everyone still has great things to say about how much fun the occasion was — and the live band had a lot to do with it.

My godmother, Connie Rogers, has especially good things to say about The V.I.P.:

“That was THE place to go when I was in high school. It was the former Natatorium roller skating rink, but that was the place to hang out, and the ONLY place to hear music. Al Lentz was the one who arranged all the music — The Kingsmen, Don and the Goodtimes, the Gems, Merilee Rush and the Turnabouts (was that a city-proud moment when she was on the Ed Sullivan show!) and so many more. 

“Randy and I met there when I was 15, had most of our dates there when we first started dating, and ultimately he played there too in the rock band (Transonic Love) he was part of. They used to get gigs in WW to M-F to Starbuck, Pomeroy, Waitsburg, Dayton (that was big time for them back then!). They also played at Wa-Hi.

“I remember your dad and I went to a prom together once because Randy was playing in the band performing at the prom and Greg’s girlfriend at the time (Pam) was a server or something, so we were ‘dateless.’ We had each other’s backs!”

Nowadays, live music is once again prevalent in Walla Walla. Is this a nationwide phenomenon or is it limited to our little gem of a town?

Sapolil Cellars has live music nearly every Friday and Saturday night. Charles Smith Winery also has some good bands. And Marcy’s, Vintage Cellars and the Mill Creek Brewpub also have the occasional band or DJ. Sapolil is so much fun. The bands they bring in are often known nationwide, like Lisa Mann & Her Really Good Band or local bands like the Back Porch Band. If you get really lucky, Bill, the owner, might even invite you to dance on the piano!

I enjoy taking my kids to listen to live music. The Downtown Farmers Market always has talented musicians performing, and the Wheelin’ Walla Walla Weekend Car Show always sponsors a street dance on Saturday following the show. Last year we had such a good time dancing to Gary Winston and the Real Deal, I look forward to hearing who they line up for this September.

Walla Walla is such a great place to live. I am so thankful for our lovely downtown and all the events we can go to. So this weekend, get on out there and listen to some live music!

Sara Van Donge is a Walla Walla native and middle school dual language teacher. She can be reached at


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