The last Winter Snowdown was in February 2020, just before the live music meltdown. The next one comes Sunday, as live music on a regular basis is in the forecast.
Marty O’Reilly & the Old Soul Orchestra again headlines the show at the Crystal Bay Casino, with like-minded bands Royal Jelly Jive and Rainbow Girls hitting the stage first.
“For all musicians, we look at our calendars with cautious optimism,” O’Reilly told Tahoe Onstage. “It’s starting to feel safe again. There’s really no better way to ring in the ability to play shows again than to share the stage with Rainbow Girls and Royal Jelly Jive. They are our two best friend bands. We’ve been on the whole adventure together since our bands started. We’re like family.”
Like the band name says, O’Reilly really is an old soul. And he has an old handmade resonator guitar.
The 32-year-old Sonoma native said he learned to appreciate music growing up listening to his father’s records: “Van Morrison was always in the house.” (Hey, who ate all the shepherd’s pie?!)
When O’Reilly played a guitar chord for the first time, “I felt a really crazy sensation in my body and I knew that I’d found my thing.” The Internet linked him to where to take the thing.
“I was on Napster trying to download something by the Wu-Tang Clan,” he said. “It was like the Wild West of the internet back then. The file said it was Wu-Tang Clan but it was actually Blind Willie Johnson’s ‘Let Your Light Shine On Me.’ The song itself was like an aha moment. Whoa, what is this? That led me down the rabbit hole, too.”
Born in 1897, Blind Willie Johnson was street performer and preacher from Beaumont, Texas who played gospel blues and slide guitar.
O’Reilly learned about alternate tunings of the early players and studied more contemporary guitarists John Fahey and Leo Kottke.
“They said, ‘How far can we push American folk music? What can we do that hasn’t been done before?”
Marty O’Reilly & the Old Soul Orchestra formed in 2012 and it’s been all over the world, including Japan where O’Reilly almost lost his guitar that he’s played since the age of 16. The original trio included fiddler Chris Lynch, who remains in the current lineup with upright bassist Ben Berry and drummer Matt Goff. Together they create hypnotic grooves, often reimagined versions of classic songs by artists such as Skip James.
The band’s third album of original songs, “Signal Fires,” was recently released.
Sunday’s show is the wintertime answer to the annual Lost Sierra Hoedown in Johnsville, California.
“To get all three bands onstage together on one night is really magnificent.” O’Reilly said. “Everywhere we go we are trying to make the most wonderful night we possibly can for the audience. Sometimes that’s on a big stage, sometimes that’s in a little living room, sometimes that’s on a boat or the back of a van. All these bands share that spirit. Our music is quite different but our values are very similar.”
- Winter Snowdown 3
- Marty O’Reilly & the Old Soul Orchestra, Royal Jelly Jive, Rainbow Girls
- When: 8 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 20
- Tickets: $20 in advance or $25 on the day of the hootenanny