What Smalltown Means to Me.

What Smalltown Means to Us.

Smalltown Society started as an intimate open mic experience and ended up becoming a fixture in our lives. The people, the positivity, the community vibe, and the artistry all come together, making it a place that draws us in time and time again to share our creativity, our art, our music, and appreciate the creativity of other locals. There's something special about having welcoming places to go locally, and Smalltown Society is on the top of that list for us. Big Ups to Paul for making this space stand for something we value and opening the doors to welcome us all.

-Erick, Hana, Safiyah (Artists and community members)

Artist Highlight: Paul Keim

Paul Keim is a songwriter and community organizer who has been living, performing, and working in and around the East Bay for most of his life. His unique approach to songwriting comes from his appreciation for many different forms and styles of music, along with his passion for justice and social change.

Paul is lead curator for the Smalltown Society space, and is currently set to release his newest album “37” in early October.

Paul will be performing alongside Kate Lamont, Brother Theodore, and Safyiah Hernandez at our Songwriters Showcase on Friday night, September 28, 2018 from 7:30-10pm.

Artist Highlight: Safiyah Hernandez

Safiyah Hernandez is best known for her original songs and rich voice. She accompanies herself on the ukulele and piano, performing at festivals, cafes, and open mics.

Her musical influences include the Beatles, Lauren Hill, and Sade. Safiyah also finds inspiration through creative writing and animation.

Safiyah will be performing alongside Brother Theodore, Paul Keim, and Kate Lamont at our Songwriters Showcase on Friday night, September 28, 2018 from 7:30-10pm.

Artist Highlight: Carter Nguyen


Carter Nguyen is a Bay Area native, with deep roots in the East Bay punk rock community. He has been involved in many seminal Bay Area punk bands, and started collaging in his late teens. He first began sharing his visual work publicly in the medium of punk show flyers for shows at 924 Gilman Street.

His current work is entirely analog: hand-cut with scissors, and glued with Mod Podge. He uses no digital means. 

Carter will be displaying his work at our Songwriters Showcase on Friday night, September 28, 2018 from 7:30-10pm.

Artist Highlight: Ted Gould (Brother Theodore)

Brother Theodore is the brain child of New Orleans native, Ted Gould III (Blyss) who for more than a decade has been a bass player with many different artists including funk music legend Zigaboo Modeliste (the Meters), pop icon Jody Watley(Shalamar) and r & b singer, Jon B. 

Ted is currently working on the Brother Theodore debut CD , “St. Ann” , a gumbo of New Orleans, Oakland and Minneapolis funk, jazz and blues tied together with what has become his own voice.

Ted will be performing alongside Paul Keim, Kate Lamont, and Safyiah Hernandez at our Songwriters Showcase on Friday night, September 28, 2018 from 7:30-10pm.

Artist Highlight: Kate Lamont

Born in the UK, singer Kate Lamont had trouble embracing her Indiana roots until later in her career. But the heartland inevitably laid the groundwork for her songwriting and love of collaboration. She recorded 7 collaborative works as well as 2 solo albums during her tenure in the midwest, and spent a decade working in and building the Indianapolis arts and music community. Arriving in the Bay Area in 2012 with a folk foundation and a larger than life spirit of soul, Lamont’s sound was pushed even further. Kate released a self-titled contemporary r&b record in 2013, and completed an unreleased collection of work in 2017, What happens next is everything, including the single On Again. Collaboration remains a key focus in 2018 as Lamont joins forces with world renowned artists Michael Henderson, Kahil El Zabar, Corey Wilkes, and Shafqat Ali Khan, as well as up and coming Bay Area producers Kev Choice, NOBL, DJ Flow, and Mani Draper.

Kate’s writing style and work ethic is influenced by mentors like Sade, Prince, and Lauryn Hill: artists whose ability to bleed pure emotion set them apart as much as their sky high technical skills. Lamont’s vision of music as a unifying force continues to fuel songs about truth, empowerment, and vulnerability, with lyrics connecting the dots from personal experiences to the great social issues of our time.

Kate will be performing alongside Paul Keim, Brother Theodore, and Safyiah Hernandez at our Songwriters Showcase on Friday night, September 28, 2018 from 7:30-10pm.

What Smalltown Means to Me.

Smalltown is an answer to the hardships of our times. In a crowded, noisy world where a sterile, formerly science fiction future is ever advancing—a recent news item described robots being developed to provide “comfort” for shut-ins—we are as far from community as Earth is from Venus. The word “community” itself is just another “buzzword” for vague notions of shared purpose. Politics has become increasingly dysfunctional, mass media is the Soma of this not very brave new world, and economic disparity is creating obscene gulfs between our common humanity. It is not a sustainable world.

Smalltown seems to be a path on the road back to what it means to be human, to feel and share joy and hope. It is not about waiting for a Deliverer or, even worse, a piece of legislation or regal pronouncement to save us. It is about saving ourselves, about creating true community, right here in our own neighborhoods. It’s not something downloadable or streamable. It’s feeling the good soil beneath calloused hands, planting seeds and tending and watering them, nurturing new life in the sunshine. It is really a garden that is growing.…

Mark Cotta Vaz (Bestselling Author, Smalltown contributor)

A Blessing.

Every day there are people within our own communities who are drowning. Many have jumped in, many have fallen in, most have been swept under… And they are drowning. Drowning in philosophical or spiritual confusion, drowning in loneliness, drowning in addiction, drowning in mental illness, drowning in self-righteousness and dogmatic arrogance, drowning in complacency, drowning under the waves of economic and ethnic injustice, drowning as victims or instigators of racism, drowning under terms such as “law and order”. They are struggling… just below the surface of our neighborhoods, made visible as they come up gasping for air, begging for food, longing for a warm place to rest their heads, screaming for sanity.

Many of us sit on the sidelines, with a compassion-less arrogance, observing those who are drowning and say they should learn how to swim, unaware of our complacency and lack of knowledge on how to swim ourselves.

Some of us observe from the sidelines with compassion, telling those who are drowning that we are willing to teach them how to swim. We may even look for a life preserver, while trying not to get our feet wet.

Yet …there are few of us…hearts broken, with the knowledge that we were (and many times still are) drowning, who are willing, even compelled, to jump in the water and lift these brothers and sisters up, to become one with them, to understand that we are one of them, and to simply help them be raised so that they can at the very least take another breath in hopes that they will be pulled out of the mire once and for all.

May we be so disturbed by injustice, so disrupted from our comfort, so filled with an understanding of Shalom, that we learn to not only dip our toes in, but immerse our entire lives into the waves, in order to bring breath, life, hope…real hope.. so that we may all see a new day dawn when the waves that are drowning so many, subside to unveil a fertile land.

So may you be blessed:
With strength and weakness, passion and longing, protest and silence, hope and doubt, courage and humility.

May you be kept:
Near each other, joyful, awake, transparent, and at rest;

May you be gracious with yourself and others and may others do the same:
So that you may shine Light in every situation, without fear or worry, without the desire to seek the approval of others.

May others stand with you:
As you stand in solidarity, with the confused, the foreign, the addicted, the homeless, and the hopeless…

And may you see true peace:
Not just the absence of conflict, but the full presence of love and equity.



Photo by nikko macaspac

What Smalltown Means to Me.

Smalltown Society is a manifestation of a beautiful vision of humanity brought to life. It's a unique space and organization dedicated to bringing to life community as it should be. Smalltown bravely imagines a society that is united, enlightened, and empathetic toward one another. But they don't stop at simply imagining, STS boldly actualizes these concepts through engaging events, exhibits, and projects that are unique and inspiring.

My short answer is Smalltown Society is a communal art space, but in truth it's so much more. It's a group of individuals dedicated to listening, sharing, and belonging. They are elevating the level of art, discussion, entertainment, and activism in Castro Valley, and words can't describe how thankful I am for them. - Karin Richey (Plethos Productions)