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Foothills Fillmore Found? Odd Fellows Hall transformed into new Auburn music venue

By: Gus Thomson, Reporter/Columnist
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Scott Holbrook was a joyous presence as he orchestrated Saturday’s inaugural Keep Smiling Promotions event at the venerable Auburn Lodge No. 7 Odd Fellows Hall.

Auburn’s answer to legendary promoter Bill Graham had taken a chance on the 124-year-old Lincoln Way landmark’s hall as a new and untested venue.

By the time headliner Stu Allen and Mars Hotel started riffling through the Chuck Berry songbook by way of the Grateful Dead’s “Alabama Getaway” the room was packed with mostly middle-age or older dancers and Deadheads — many of them tie-dye T-shirted and quite a few a little bleary eyed as the aroma of cannabis permeated the air.

Holbrook had taken to the stage to welcome an audience that had arrived for the inaugural Odd Fellows dance and concert from as far afield as the Bay Area.

He noted that the room, with 20-foot-high pressed tin ceilings and original redwood paneling on the walls lined by leather trimmed seating, wasn’t set up for events like Saturday’s.

“It’s the first time anything like this has ever happened here and it won’t be the last,” Holbrook said, to a response of raised, salutary beverage cups.

During the evening, Holbrook had found people coming up to him, drawing comparisons to the 1894 brick building and its second-floor hall and iconic Bay Area live music venues like the Warfield and the Fillmore.

Auburn’s Odd Fellows hall was constructed for a fraternal organization that got its start in Auburn in 1852 — the seventh Odd Fellows lodge to be established in the fledgeling state. By the 1890s, a new building was needed to hold a larger membership and accommodate dinners and other functions. The lodge was constructed in the Italianate style, with room for three businesses on the ground floor and a new home for the Odd Fellows on the second and third floors.

Holbrook has been looking for a new concert and dance party venue since leaving a larger location in Downtown Auburn in February. The former location had room for 350. The Odd Fellows Hall can hold about 250 to 300 people.

Keep Smiling Promotions boosted the ambience for the first night by bringing in sound and lighting design specialists to work with the space to create a welcoming atmosphere. A bonus for dancers, who were soon doffing their shoes, was a plush wall-to-wall carpet.

From the stage, Allen nicknamed the room The Cube.

And the leader of a band that delves deep into the Deadhead soundtrack with meandering jams played at disparate venues around the nation, gave his blessing to the hall.

“I love the vibe,” he said, pre-show as technicians worked a few bugs out and he led the band into another Dead classic in front of an appreciative audience.