The downtown Pomona venue has quickly become a local rock ‘n’ roll institution.
by Megan Sebestyen
photography by Rhiannon Mim
On the back wall of the small shop, CDs crowd the narrow shelf, each competing for attention. Each shiny album cover displays a scrawled signature where a member of the band took the time to personalize his/her album. Picking a single CD is difficult, as each brightly colored cover tempts the viewer with promises of a story behind the signature. Supernatural, a rapper from New York, has several signed CDs on display. The band members of The Faint make it a point to stop in every time they pass through town.
What’s odd about these visits by band members, though, is that they are not visiting a record store, but rather a used bookstore in Pomona located across the street from a concert venue where they perform. Supernatural buys poetry here while members of The Faint buy books to read during their long days on the road.
Across the street lies the source of the musical influence: the Glass House Concert Hall. The venue brings bands, bands bring crowds, and the crowds bring business to downtown Pomona.
“The Arts Colony in Pomona has become co-dependant. The ebb and flow of the businesses here rely heavily on what is happening across the street at the Glass House,” JoAnn Kaiser, co-owner of Magic Door IV Used Books, says. “We get band people in here all the time. And when the band comes in, so do the fans.”
Outside the Glass House, a long line of concertgoers stretches down the sidewalk, with fans eagerly clutching their tickets for the night’s show. Each time the main doors open, the crowd crushes forward, anxious to immerse themselves in the sounds within. Caught in their excitement, the crowd moves forward as one, not noticing that they share no commonalities other than their taste in music.
Two young girls giggle behind their hands, torn between trying to either ignore or earn the attention of the two older men with lip piercings and death-metal t-shirts who stand beside them. The owners of Magic Door IV Used Books shut down their store across the street from the Glass House and scuttle to the line for their sixth show this month. But when the doors finally open, and the crowd flows forward, they all seem the same; their concert wristbands have brought them together to this one place.
At this location on Pomona’s Second Street sits the concert hall that has earned a reputation as one of the best small venues for all types of music lovers. The variety of concerts performed here and the big-name bands draw music lovers from all over the Inland Empire and Los Angeles area. “It’s a very friendly venue,” Kaiser says. “A lot of performers from Los Angeles come here because they find the audience friendly.”
University of La Verne Events Scheduling Manager Doug Waite first visited the Glass House eight years ago to see Stereolab. “[The Glass House is] nicer than some. It’s certainly not a fancy venue. But for the right group, like the alternative groups, it’s the right venue. It gives people in the Inland Empire a place to go.”
The Glass House is especially popular because it hosts great bands for an all-ages audience. The Glass House has hosted bands such as the Pixies, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Rage Against the Machine and Say Anything.
“When a band I really love comes through, I’d rather see them there,” says Christina Zamora, manager of the Glass House Record Store. “The shows there are just a little more intimate and smaller.”
Even from the beginning, the Glass House handpicked all the bands that came through. “I’ve seen a lot of great bands who were new to the scene given a chance to play there,” former Glass House employee Joe Black says. Black is currently an art and entertainment director for booking agency 51 Buckingham.
Talent booking agent Jon Halperin says that he brought in bands like Tokyo Police Club, Plain White Tees, White Stripes and Of Montreal in the years before they were famous. “We book what the public wants. I need to book what bands kids and young adults are interested in seeing. I have to think like I am 20 years younger.”
Halperin said the majority of the audience is aged 15 to 25, though the bands vary greatly in musical genres. In order to cater to the interests of their audience, the Glass House has a MySpace page where users can see the show schedule, message other concertgoers, and even utilize links to purchase tickets. Shows usually occur about five nights a week, and Halperin tries to vary the bands who play together as much as possible. The doors open at 7 p.m., and the place fills to capacity nearly every night by 10 p.m., closer to the time when the headlining band performs.
Zamora said that the Glass House is comparable to the Troubadour and the Music Box in Los Angeles. All these venues are produced by GoldenVoice, which also sponsors events such as the annual Coachella Music Festival in Palm Springs.
This year, the Coachella Music Festival, held from April 17 to 19, featured artists like Conor Oberst, the Killers and Paul McCartney. Because of the connection between the Glass House and Coachella, Oberst also performed April 15 at the Glass House.
When the Glass House opened in 1996, the first show featured No Doubt. Black remembers being at the first show. At the beginning of his career with the Glass House, Black wore many hats; including the security person, the band load-in and sound production guy, and filled many other jobs as needed.
Black says downtown Pomona wasn’t always a haven for artists.
“Before the Glass House, there were vacant buildings. There were literally tumbleweeds rolling down the street,” Black says. “I’ve lived in Pomona since 1988. It used to be a ghost town. There wasn’t even an arts colony.”
Since those years, though, Pomona has cultivated quite a charming art community. Every second Saturday, the Glass House Record Store has a free in-store performance and art show to coincide with Pomona’s Downtown Art Walk.
The streets around the Glass House provide opportunities for before and after shows. Across the street sits Magic Door IV and La Bomba Thrift Shop. Around the corner, the older crowd can enjoy drinks at dba256 Gallery Wine Bar; while the younger concertgoers munch chips and salsa or play pool at Jimenez Mexican Restaurant.
These business owners are often among the crowd of concertgoers. “We’re heavily influenced by the Glass House. We see four to six shows a month,” Kaiser says. “On show nights, we close when the headliner goes on, either because that’s when business stops, or so we can see the show.”
After shows, fans will often come to the Magic Door and ask to buy the books that the members of the band bought.
“Literate bands have literate fans,” Kaiser says. “The bands and the fans really connect here.”