Reno’s newest concert hall, Cargo, is making a habit of hosting incredible, packed events that seem to unite all facets of Reno and on April 23, The Lagunitas CouchTrippin’ Tour continued this trend by invading the downtown venue and supplying a helluva a lot more than their delicious beer.
The evening featured circus-style performances from acrobats and aerialists, the throwback rock and roll of the Sheepdogs, and Boise-based indie band Built To Spill. The night combined the energy of a house party with the production value of a music festival.
Formed in 1992 by lead singer Doug Martsch, Built To Spill has enjoyed nearly continuous critical success and is credited with being one of the chief innovators in creating the indie rock based Northwest sound that sound filled the Cargo for nearly two hours. The band galloped through fan favorites such as “Car” and “Carry the Zero” as well as unveiled songs off of its new album “Untethered Moon.” The group appeared to be rejuvenated by the presence of new material in their set, songs like “Living Zoo” and “When I’m Blind” were drenched in the quirky nature of Martsch’s songwriting and maintained the guitar driven indie sound that they helped popularize.
While The Sheepdogs technically played in the support slot, its instantly familiar ’70s rock sound was the highlight of the night to many. The Sheepdogs, perhaps most famous for winning the Rolling Stone “Choose The Cover” contest in 2011, blended tight harmonies with accessible songwriting to present a sound that harkened back to acts like Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. For a feel good, boogie rock band, the Sheepdogs navigated its set with tightness and precision. Without rambling between song banter or seemingly endless guitar solos, they were able to present a strong, polished act. The guitar solos that were showcased were mostly harmonized melodies played simultaneously by frontman Ewan Currie and lead guitarist Rusty Matyas, and even then, the band’s penchant for tight songwriting shined through as the dual guitar attack was more reminiscent of jazz rock outfit Wishbone Ash than Page and Beck-era Yardbirds. Songs like “Feeling Good” display exactly what would happen if the Black Keys and the Doobie Brothers put out an album and the feel good attitude of the music was not lost on Cargo’s crowd who jumped, whooped and hollered with the band every step of the way.
Between the circus performers, the free beer, and the green screen fun, the concert was, at times, overpowered by the size and sheer weirdness of the event itself. However, it was apparent that both bands minded naught as they put on fun, engaging performances and clearly enjoyed the opportunity to play to an absolutely packed house. Cargo’s ability to host events of this magnitude is absolutely integral to Reno’s development as a music destination. From the staff to the audience to the performers there was not a sullen face in the building as Lagunitas, Built To Spill, and the Sheepdogs provided the party of the year.