Forty years ago, right around the time that Mark Fishkin created what eventually became the Mill Valley Film Festival, a local musician was charting a different path. 

Huey Lewis, who spent his childhood in Mill Valley and later sang and played harmonica in Clover, the jazz-funk-rock fusion group that formed here in 1967, was regrouping. Clover was on the verge of breaking up, playing its last gig at the Throckmorton Theatre, and Lewis began inviting musicians to his Monday night jam session at Uncle Charley’s in Corte Madera.

Several of those members of the Monday Night Live house band went on to form Huey Lewis & the News, which eventually rode a wave of MTV hits, from “Do You Believe in Love,” and “I Want a New Drug” to “The Heart of Rock & Roll” and “If This is It,” to massive success. The band sold tens of millions of albums, and 1983’s Sports, featuring the band at the 2am Club where they played many gigs in their early days, sold 10 million copies alone. 

Over that four-decade stretch, Lewis has always kept Mill Valley close. In a Q&A with author and columnist Joan Ryan at the Throckmorton in 2010, Lewis said of Mill Valley: “It’s home and it always will be home.” And in 2015, the group played a benefit for The Redwoods, playing a vital role in the fundraising campaign for the senior living community’s revitalization project.

Lewis & the News are coming back to Mill Valley yet again in October, this time playing a pair of shows to benefit the campaign to restore the Sequoia Theatre, which has long been the centerpiece of MVFF and which festival producer California Film Institute bought for $2.5 million in 2008 after an expansive local fundraising campaign.

The theater is leased by Cinemark Theatres, which currently operates it as the CineArts at Sequoia, until 2021, and CFI intends to restore the theater, which turns 90 years old in 2019. “Heart of Rock and Roll: Huey Lewis and the News,” the two-show, 40th Anniversary Benefit for festival producer California Film Institute is set for Sunday, Oct. 15 at 7pm and 9pm at the Sweetwater Music Hall. Organizers say proceeds from the shows “will benefit the initial planning stages of the capital campaign to restore Mill Valley’s treasured Sequoia Theater.”

While Huey Lewis & the News will close out the festival, they’re just one of 10 live musical performances as part of MVFF Music, the music festival of sorts within MVFF at the Sweetwater Music Hall. As each band is attached to a film screening at the festival, attendees can choose to see the film or the concert or both. 

MVFF Music kicks off Oct. 6 with a performance by an all-star cast of musical talent celebrating the Mad Hannans, the beloved local Irish folk rock band. The show follows a screening of The Mad Hannans, a documentary that dives into the relationship between longtime local musicians Jerry and Sean Hannan, whose “whose musical reunion ended tragically in 2013 with Sean’s death from cancer at age 45,” according to the Marin IJ. The concert will feature Jerry Hannan along with Jerry Harrison (Talking Heads and Modern Lovers), Cody Dickinson (North Mississippi Allstars), Shawn Dailey (Hole), Josh Clark (Tea Leaf Green). They’ll be joined by Martin Shore, a musician and the director of the film.

One of the most hotly anticipated by Bay Area music fans is an Oct. 10th tribute to late Chicago bluesman Paul Butterfield, a show featuring an all-star band fronted by Nick Gravenites, who was a songwriter for the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, consisting of Butterfield, Elvin Bishop, Michael Bloomfield and others. The show complements a screening of Horn from the Heart: The Paul Butterfield Story, a documentary that looks at Butterfield’s life.

The lineup also includes an Oct. 13th performance from the Family Stone, the remnants of Bay Area legends Sly & the Family Stone. The show follows a screening of On the Sly: In Search of the Family Stone, filmmaker Michael Rubenstone’s part amateur sleuthing adventure, part chronicle of a legendary artist as he charts his own years-long quest to discover what happened to his musical hero, Sly Stone. 

East Bay guitar god Joe Satriani is the subject of Beyond the Supernova, a documentary by his filmmaker son, Zachariah, about Satriani’s last Shockwave Supernova tour throughout Europe and Asia. Satriani and his band follow the Oct. 14th screening with a performance at the Sweetwater.  

A creative partnership between the late Doors’ keyboardist Ray Manzarek and slide guitarist Roy Rogers – Manzarek’s last music project before he died in 2013 – takes center stage at the Sweetwater on Oct. 12, as Rogers, a Northern California native and an eight-time Grammy nominee, fronts a band that once backed the pair. The show comes on the heels of a screening of Third Mind Blues, a behind-the-scenes look at the pair’s work together. 

On Oct. 7, MVFF screens the world premiere of Fingerprints, filmmaker Don Hardy’s short documentary about the work of Music Heals International founder Sarah Wasserman has done, bringing kids from MHI and Bay Area Music Project (BAMP) “together through the universal language of music.” The movie will be followed by “From California to Haiti: Kids Connecting Through the Power of Music,” a benefit concert featuring the Glide Memorial Choir Singers, Paul Beaubrun, Jay Lane, Robin Sylvester and a tribute to Bob Weir & Rob Wasserman.

If that’s not enough music for your liking, acclaimed singer-songwriter Sarah Jarosz performs Oct. 9, Jamaican reggae act the Wailing Souls play Oct. 8 and B and the Hive, featuring singer Brianna Lee, performs Oct. 11.


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