Best Roving Venue

Larry the Bus

Local promoters and organizers have found all kinds of creative ways to contend with the dearth of all-ages music venues in the East Bay, from seizing parking lots to setting up amplifiers in Frank Ogawa Plaza and launching battles of the bands in unlikely settings (e.g., Ex’pression College for Digital Arts). But none have been quite as imaginative as John Benson, who purchased the first of two AC Transit buses in 2007, both of which he ultimately donated to the punk community. A congenital altruist, co-op founder, and civic-minded activist, Benson has long been active in the grassroots music scene — he played bass in the popular Nineties band A Minor Forest — and he had no apprehension about letting a younger generation of punks turn his buses into roving venues. Over the years, though, he’s expanded the concept beyond music. Benson’s current bus, which he christened “Larry” in honor of its previous owner, has featured free stand-up comedy nights, art exhibitions, and film screenings, in a setting that’s more comfortable than most warehouses or galleries — Benson gutted all the seats and installed carpeting, so it’s a fine place to sit on the floor. It’s needed a few costly repairs over the years, but Benson has always found a way to make do. Hopefully, he’ll keep it running for a long time.

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