by Gabe Meline
In 2009, the local music community was shocked at the news that the great musician Johnny Downer died unexpectedly while vacationing in Mexico. To many, it still doesn’t seem real. Every year since, there has been a Johnny Downer Tribute at Hopmonk Tavern, where Downer performed often, either with his band Free Peoples or with any configuration of other musicians. In his memory, his mother has set up a fund benefiting music in Sebastopol schools, and previous benefits have helped carry on the thing Downer loved almost more than his fellow man—music. Keep his spirit alive on Saturday, Jan. 7, at Hopmonk Tavern. 230 Petaluma Ave., Sebastopol. 2pm. Free. 707.829.7300.