Editor’s note: Daniel Castro makes his second appearance at Harrah’s Tuesday Night Blues from 8 p.m. to 11:30. Here’s a look back at what happened in April, the first time he played at the weekly show.
It took the blues to turn Buddy Emmer’s lousy day into a great one.
After failing to resolve a maintenance issue at his Reno home, Emmer set out for Tahoe to host the weekly Tuesday Night Blues at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe. Emmer and his band were slated to play for the first time with guest performer Daniel Castro, the esteemed artist from San Jose. In his haste, Emmer forgot to bring his music charts, which meant he’d have to play a dozen of Castro’s original songs off the cuff.
Castro said last week that when improvisation works well with new players, “it’s a blast, and when it doesn’t (work), it’s an absolute train wreck.”
For the musicians and the unusually large shoulder-season audience, the Center Stage performance was an absolute blast.
After a warm-up set by the Buddy Emmer Blues Band, Castro was introduced, and the visiting gunslinger praised the musicianship of the house band. A pensive Emmer muttered something self-deprecating and Castro broke into “Worried Baby Blues.” Emmer’s worries quickly were erased.
Sporting a black ponytail and a gray goatee, Castro has great stage presence and his guitar mastery was obvious from the first note. He attributes his finger-picking acumen to years as a flamenco player, and he also used a pick that he dexterously retrieved from his palm between notes. He playfully bounced into Emmer, who instantly loosened up. The two traded licks and the free-form show was on.
“That song was from my latest CD, “Desperate Rain,” which has 13 original songs,” Castro said. “Please buy it because it will help me support my 13 kids … from this state.”
Several top musicians in town came out to see Castro, who hadn’t appeared it Tahoe in several years. Charlie Schofield said he’s been a fan of Castro’s since seeing his band in San Francisco in 2007. Bill Behr checked out Castro’s customized amps between sets and said, “Nobody’s into tone like him.”
As the night came to an end, drummer Bryan Jenkins had loosened up is long hair, bassist Dave Clark seemed to have completely forgotten about his split fingertip, keyboardist Mark Ishakawa was smiling and laughing and singer Kim Emmer was looking fine as usual — in yet another brand new pair of shoes.
Veteran that he is, Buddy Emmer is adept at rule No. 1 when onstage: keep on smiling. But his countenance was true blue tonight and he used every guitar face in the world. He even shook his hips a few times, and Castro egged him on, pretending to twist his tuning pegs during a solo.
“It was really good,” Castro said afterward. “Sometimes when it’s wild and weird, like it was tonight, that’s when special moments happen. And the response from the crowd was great and that’s what really makes it all right.”
Brian Chandler, Harrah’s entertainment manager, said the crowd’s size was double from the same week a year ago. With ski season coming to an end, the week after tax day is one of Tahoe’s slowest of the year for tourism. During its first year in 2014, the weekly blues show was suspended at the slow seasons.
“I am happy we could put on a show for the local folks and the casino workers,” said Castro, who welcomed the possibility of returning.
Buddy beamed after the show about how well the improvisation worked.
“One of Daniel’s songs was ‘Got My Mojo Working,’ and I thought, ‘Oh, I’ve done this a million times, this will be easy,” Emmer said. “But I’ve never heard it arranged like that. But when you get to certain levels with cats, it just melds. If you’ve got big ears, you can make it fly. Daniel makes it easy.
“I’ve had such a great run. We’re bringing in guys from Austin, Florida and New Orleans. We’ve had Chris Cain and Mighty Mike Schermer. Terry Hanck will be here, and Jake Nielsen is coming back. And I am working on getting Ray ‘Catfish’ Copeland. … I love this. I just want to play the blues.”
Much more than home repair.
Album review: Daniel Castro’s “Desperate Rain.” LINK
Nobody covers the blues like Tahoe Onstage. LINK