Jake Nielsen is an inspiration, and on Saturday, Dec. 5, he’s going to be singing the blues at Whiskey Dick’s Saloon in South Lake Tahoe.
Not that he has the blues.
Nielsen, 30, was born with cerebral palsy, which limits the use of his legs. But he doesn’t let that slow him down. This weekend’s show in Tahoe marks his second South Shore visit in three months and his band has logged more than 100 gigs this year.
Nielsen’s online bio tells his story. An active youngster, he played a number of sports, including wheelchair basketball, and baseball for kids with special needs. He hails from a family of professional cowboys and grew up around the rodeo circuit. Calf riding was his thing and he competed in rodeos throughout the West Coast until he was 14.
Then, at 15, he picked up a guitar and was a natural. Two years later, he formed a reggae/rock band tagged FUBAR. That group opened for bands that included Passafire and Rebelution. In 2007, FUBAR won the Monterey Battle of the Bands, and earned a Swagg Award for best reggae album in 2010.
Later, he got bit by a blues bug and started to pursue that genre of music. He met Jr. Boogie, a popular Bay Area harmonica player, and Chris Weinress, an experienced bass player, and they took their show on the road, opening for such artists as Elvin Bishop, Roy Rogers and Travis Warren of Blind Melon.
Described in a recent radio interview as “the hottest new blues act on the California music scene,” Nielsen’s influences include Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimmy Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Guy, Bradley Nowell, Albert King and B.B. King. Vaughan’s influence is what most stands out with his guitar tone and call-and-response style.
Working with blues musicians throughout Northern California, Nielsen met Derrick Martin, a drummer who had been playing with the legendary Little Richard for more than a dozen years. Nielsen, Weinress and Martin clicked, forming Jake Nielsen’s Triple Threat. The group released a self-titled album that is available on ITunes.
Currently, the band features Nielsen on guitar, Cuz Dave on bass and Kyle Talty on drums and is working on a second album. “We have a tight band right now,” Nielsen said.
After playing in Lake Tahoe in late July, Jake Nielsen’s Triple Threat opened for a sold-out Collie Buddz show the following day at The Catalyst in Santa Cruz. “It was a sick couple of days of shows,” he recalled. Since the last Tahoe visit, “we also rocked our first festival in Las Vegas.”
Last week, Triple Threat tore it up at a “Funksgiving” show at the Boom Boom Room in San Francisco, performing with the All Gravy Superjam and warming things up before heading to snow country. “It was a great show, for sure,” Nielsen said. “It was a packed house that was going off the whole show.”
But the blues boys are looking forward to their Tahoe trip.
“We love playing in Tahoe,“ Nielsen said. “The people are always so cool and down for us. It makes us feel great when we see everyone having an awesome time. Also, you can’t beat the sights in Tahoe — it’s such a beautiful place. It never gets old rolling into town.”
On Saturday, folks can expect Triple Threat to serve up some rockin’ blues, with maybe a bit of reggae dished up on the side. The band promises to be “packed with so much energy and funk, that you have to get out of your seat and dance.”
Whiskey Dick’s Saloon is located at 2660 Lake Tahoe Blvd. in South Lake Tahoe. Cover charge for the 21-and-over show is $5.