At 27, events promoter and booker Jake Ward has steadily built an impressive résumé of music and art events that defy the ordinary and bring in the crowds.
“It started very, very, very small,” says Ward. With a stack of fliers in hand, Ward chronicles his passion and offers a vision for making Sonoma County a destination for a new generation of rock bands, artists and everyone in between.
Ward grew up on a farm in western Sonoma County, where he was home-schooled and—ironically—remained largely unaware of local music until well into his teens.
“Of course, then I leaned way into what I wasn’t allowed to do,” says Ward. By the time he was 18, he was playing music in bands like Conspiracy A-Go-Go and finding himself the one who was booking all the shows.
While those bands were all well and good, Ward started branching out. He competed in poetry slams and eventually discovered the underground variety troupe Tourettes Without Regrets from Oakland. The troupe “brings so many different disciplines together,” Ward says, “you see so much in one night. I knew I would love to do something like that.”
Last Year, Ward created the North Bay Cabaret, an ever-changing monthly variety show that calls the Whiskey Tip in Santa Rosa home. Ward originally conceived of it as a one-off show, but the turnout and positive response kept him rolling. “It just seemed to take on a life of it’s own,” says Ward.
This weekend, the North Bay Cabaret presents Sin Peaks, a David Lynch–themed show that features the return of show-stopping performer Jamie DeWolf, as well as acrobatics, burlesque and performances all inspired by the cult director’s works.
Ward is also a co-producer of the Circus Maximus traveling troupe and is deeply involved in booking at venues and clubs all around Sonoma County. He often teams up with other young promoters, such as Josh Windmiller, of the North Bay Hootenanny, and the Pizza Punx, who share a passion for curating one-of-a-kind experiences. Most recently, the Sonoma Mountain Event Center in Rohnert Park invited Ward and Windmiller to bring the big names to town with the financial backing of the center.
Ward knows the challenges in overcoming the “status quo–ness” of Sonoma County entertainment bookings. “I like creating a more vibrant scene in general,” he says. “Wherever I can be a catalyst for that is great.”