Great music is happening all the time in the Lake Tahoe Basin and last Saturday, April 4, a lot of great music rocked from mid-afternoon to midnight. Sierra-at-Tahoe’s Spring Equinox series rounded out its concert series with the orchestral indie outfit the Family Crest and local rockers Black Star Safari and Two Bottle Music put on a South Shore showcase at Vinyl. With such good music playing throughout the day, Tahoe Onstage couldn’t resist taking a little tour of Tahoe and soaking up the music.
The first stop on the tour was at the Lake Tahoe Golf Course in Meyers to San Francisco’s the Family Crest, the final show in Sierra-at-Tahoe’s Spring Equinox series. The Spring Equinox series had previously hosted ninja guitarist Scott Pemberton and folk outfit the Rainbow Girls.
The seven-piece the Family Crest has been on tour supporting its latest release, the ambitious “Beneath The Brine.” The band started in 2009 as a recording project between guitarist and vocalist Liam McCormick and bassist John Seeterlin and has transformed into a full chamber pop unit, complete with Laura Bergmann on flute and percussion, George Samaan on trombone, Charly Akert on cello, Owen Sutter on violin and Charlie Giesige on drums. Matching the oceanic theme of “Beneath The Brine,” the band took the stage clad in deep blue button-downs and black pants to gusts of winds normally seen on the high seas.
The valley wind certainly added to the Family Crest’s performance and the band embraced what could have been a technical nightmare and turned it into free special effects. The Family Crest’s sound is very sweeping and romantic, with many of the songs feeling like old seaman’s tales of the early 1900s. The dramatic “The Headwinds” is a tale about a sailor forced to choose between his love for the ocean or his lady, that McCormick and company performed with great aplomb. McCormick sang the luxurious “She Knows My Name” like a giddy new lover and the string section and trombone whirled around the song like it was a lullaby. The mysterious and reaching “The Water’s Fine” crept along with vigor to Seeterlin’s muted bass.
The Family Crest, which will appear at this year’s Outside Lands Festival in San Francisco, was another great band brought to Tahoe by the wonderful Spring Equinox series. Thea Hardy, communications director for the series, commented the Family Crest were, “a strong finish to the series. We are looking forward to adding great bands for next year.” With the diversity and quality of the bands that were showcased during this year’s series, the Spring Equinox series definitely hit the mark.
The second stop on the Lake Tahoe musical tour was at Vinyl in the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino to catch local benchmark Black Star Safari and the rising Two Bottle Music. The chance to see two Tahoe bands perform on a big stage like Vinyl brought the locals out in full force and the crowd were highly receptive to the grooves laid down by each band.
First up was the rock duo Black Star Safari. Drummer Matt Mandella and guitarist Dan Green have been knocking out crowds for a couple years together and have gained a solid local following behind Mandella’s manic precision on sticks and Green’s infectious groove. The band recently parted ways with bassist Mark Mickens, though the departure didn’t seem to phase the band as the duo ripped through their set like a lean, mean fighting machine. The band have been working on a new album and songs like the roaring “Never Again” certainly are good signs the band is on track. The song is fist-in-your-eye tough and Green shredded a slick riff that Mandella complimented with some electric hi-hat and snare work. Mandella pummeled a drum solo before reuniting with Green for the outro. The prehistoric stomp of the bluesy “Signs” was sensational and a set closing “Black Betty” was a bombastic end to a strong set. Mandella and Green have a finish-each-other’s-sentences tightness that is very fun to witness and their show’s are as menacing as ever.
Two Bottle Music was next in line and delivered a passionate set that was sure to open some people’s eyes to the band. The band consists of members Brandon Fox on vocals and guitar, Molly Taylor on vocals and guitar, Seth Hall on saxophone, Keith Ovelmen on bass, Martin Bush on electric guitar and Brad Rutkowski on drums. They opened the show with the original number “Where Do You Run” and the boozy roots-rock vibe of the song set the tone for the rest of the night. Fox and Taylor traded singing duties throughout the night and their harmonious two-headed attack is a welcome
change from bands with only one vocal personality. Along with whiskey-soaked covers of Willie Nelson’s “Gotta Get Drunk” and Charlie Walker’s “Wine Drinker,” the band showcased a number of original tunes like the gypsy-punk-ish “Cabinet” and the downcast “Oh So Low.” In a statement to Tahoe Onstage, singer Molly Taylor said, “We all thought the show went really well. The crowd seemed really into it and we were feeding off their energy. That was the first time we’ve played the new Hard Rock Hotel and Casino and it was a lot of fun for us. … Big thanks to the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, Ryan Kronenberg, Pet Projekt, Black Star Safari, Josh the sound engineer, bartenders, all staff and especially the Tahoe locals for all their support in making the show so special.”
The barroom boogie of Two Bottle Music is a great addition to the local music scene and let’s all raise a glass to its continued success and to the success of great bands like The Family Crest, Black Star Safari and the rest of the regional and local acts coming through Tahoe.