Hannah Goodwin, vocalist for the Santa Cruz-based band Sluttony, sings at a May 5 performance at The Haven in Pomona.

Hannah Goodwin, vocalist for the Santa Cruz-based band Sluttony, sings at a May 5 performance at The Haven in Pomona.

story and photography by Olivia Modarelli

The faint sound of music travels through the heart of Pomona every weekend. It wafts calmly through the city from a venue sparkling with neon lights below a dazzling disco ball. Revelers form an informal mosh pit just feet from the stage. Its walls are decorated with its history, and its artists stay to chat with friends and fans. It’s The Haven Pomona.

Over the course of the venue’s 30-year history, the building that now houses The Haven has played host to several tenants. It began as a café and gallery created by a college student named Edward Tessier and his friends in 1992. After five years of open mic nights, the café closed. Following the closure, the venue served as a couple different restaurants that also offered music. The Haven, as it’s known today, opened in 2021 and is run by Edward’s son, Victor Tessier, who currently manages the business from Berkeley, California, where he studies.

The venue itself acts as a sort of time capsule showcasing the current Haven’s rich, albeit short, history. As audience members enter the venue, they are met with a wall of instruments—remnants of guitars, keyboards, drums and even a computer. “All those instruments have been broken on our stage,” Victor explains. “And we figured we’d like to be more sustainable, so instead of seeing them wind up in some landfill, we’d hang them up as recycled art.”

This is not the only wall lined with memories. Tucked behind the stage is a hallway covered with the names of all the bands who have taken the stage at The Haven. “Everyone that plays signs up there,” Crystal Torres explains, noting that this is her favorite part of the venue.

The remains of instruments broken on stage line the wall in The Haven.

The remains of instruments broken on stage line the wall in The Haven.

And it makes sense, as she has watched the once blank walls fill with signatures over her tenure at the venue.

In addition to its design elements, another unique quality found within The Haven’s decorated walls is its strong sense of community. From those attending the shows to those performing them, The Haven brings everyone together, including those who work at the venue. “My favorite thing about The Haven is probably just the community that comes with it,” explains box office manager and booking assistant Aydan Vargas—one of several friends who run The Haven.

“We’ve all been in bands together,” shares Victor, who loves working with his friends. “We’re always jamming, always listening to music.” Many even have a shared history. “We all went to school together,” Victor adds, “and it just brings us closer to have a second home.”

That sense of community even translates into how the space is set up. “The stage was actually on the opposite side of the venue,” Victor explains. “It was my decision to bring it to the other side so that the music actually feeds out of the venue so that it welcomes people in.” Not only is the stage placed in an area conducive to welcoming potential listeners, but it is also situated in a way to ensure that people feel engaged during the entire performance. There is no barrier between the audience and the performers, giving them the opportunity to connect more easily over their love of music. “My favorite shows are intimate shows in this setting,” shares Headspin’s vocalist Connor McKenna. “I think it’s the best way to experience music.”

The artists aren’t the only ones who appreciate the close stage. On any given performance night, the venue is filled with both audience members who have never been to the venue before and those who have been attending for years. Some come to support their family and friends.

Brillo Ward, vocalist for ‘92 from Los Angeles, sings at an April 26 show at The Haven.

Brillo Ward, vocalist for ‘92 from Los Angeles, sings at an April 26 show at The Haven.

Headspin guitarist Kevin Pak had a group of supporters in the audience during an April performance. For Kevin, this sense of community makes all the difference. “It adds more to the experience when your family and your friends are all there together,” he explains. “It’s an experience that you share for a lifetime.” One of those supporters was his sister, Cindy Pak. “I like that it’s intimate,” she says. “I feel like throughout my life, going to a lot of shows, it’s usually big bands that grow out of places like this.” And she would know — she and her brother have been attending shows for around 20 years.

In fact, that’s something that sets The Haven apart from other venues in the area. The Haven provides a platform for bands just starting out who may not have had an opportunity to perform elsewhere. “A lot of our bands come from the backyards of Pomona and the greater Inland Empire and L.A. areas,” Victor explains. “Here, they’re given the first opportunity to play at a real, professional venue. We also understand the importance of the DIY scene, so we strive to provide a platform for those underrepresented artists that wouldn’t be given an opportunity at other venues.” Though The Haven hosts many local bands, the venue also welcomes national and international artists, such as the United Kingdom’s Myles Newman, who had opened for indie bands such as Surf Curse prior to his performance at The Haven.

No matter where a band originates, those that play at The Haven are one step closer to realizing their dreams. One such success story is Late Night Drive Home, a band that started in Texas. According to Victor, they were a smaller band at the time of their performance at The Haven in November 2021. In fact, it was their first concert outside of their home state. “At the time they had just 1,600 listeners on Spotify,” he says. Today they have over a million listeners and have even played Coachella.

At the end of the day, music swirling through Pomona on the weekends is more than just a few notes traveling idly in the wind. Those notes represent both the strong musical community that exists in Pomona and the idea that dreams really do come true.

Funds for Jimmy’s Molly Grace sings at a May 5 performance at The Haven. The band’s latest album “Bankrupt”  is available on all streaming platforms.

Funds for Jimmy’s Molly Grace sings at a May 5 performance at The Haven. The band’s latest album “Bankrupt” is available on all streaming platforms.

Employees Dorian Alvarez and Crystal Torres work the ticket sales booth outside of The Haven. The venue is open for shows every weekend.

Employees Dorian Alvarez and Crystal Torres work the ticket sales booth outside of The Haven. The venue is open for shows every weekend.

Sluttony’s bassist Caroline Margolis performs at The Haven on May 5.

Sluttony’s bassist Caroline Margolis performs at The Haven on May 5.

A distinctive sign greets visitors to The Haven at 296 W. Second St. in downtown Pomona.

A distinctive sign greets visitors to The Haven at 296 W. Second St. in downtown Pomona.

Sluttony’s Nina Maravic (guitar), Hannah Goodwin (vocals), Sabine Hovnanian (drums) and Caroline Margolis (bass) perform at a May 5 concert at The Haven.

Sluttony’s Nina Maravic (guitar), Hannah Goodwin (vocals), Sabine Hovnanian (drums) and Caroline Margolis (bass) perform at a May 5 concert at The Haven.

Olivia Modarelli is a senior journalism major at the University of La Verne.