Lakeview Commons is no stranger to paradox.
The beautiful park and amphitheater at South Lake Tahoe’s former El Dorado Beach opened last year with a pageantry featuring politicians patting themselves on the back all the while knowing some of them had nothing to do with the project.
The Congress will perform onstage at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, and this Congress is as apolitical as any group can be.
And those contradictions are just the warm up. After the Congress loosen the crowd with vintage southern rock in the style of something between the Black Crowes and the Allman Brothers, the bass player with a bushy red beard will break into the Roberta Flack ballad “Killing Me Softly” with a voice as sweet as a Lake Tahoe sunset.
“It’s one of our secret weapon songs,” guitarist Scott Lane told Tahoe Onstage.
Comprised of Virginia natives who now reside in Denver, the Congress played during Lakeview Commons’ first summer. Organizers re-elected the band for a return engagement.
The Tahoe performance will be the first for Congress with a full-time keyboardist, Chris Speasmaker. Another Virginian who moved to Colorado, Speasmaker has played about 75 percent of Congress’ shows since he appeared on 2012’s EP “The Loft Tapes.” Now he’s a full-time member of the Congress, which has gained a fan base across the country in just a little more than three years.
The band, Lane says, has learned to “tour smart,” returning to venues where it has drawn well, Virginia, California, Mississippi and, of course, Denver. Early tours, he said, “had no rhyme or reason,” playing 200 shows a year.
The recordings, however, rhymed with good reason. The 12-track “Whatever You Want,” is straight-ahead groove, featuring outstanding musicianship flavored in 1970s rock. Lane’s guitar fuzz, however, is not heard on the seven-track “the Loft Tapes,” recorded on an early ’80s reel-to-reel mixer in at an old Masonic temple building in a meeting room constructed for superior acoustics. Only one microphone played into vintage amps was used for each instrument and one-take vocals were added “to keep it as honest as possible,” Lane said in an earlier interview. The soul album was made in the spirit of Donny Hathaway’s “Live,” recorded in 1972. Lane’s Stratocaster sound is sharp with no distortion and played with no picks. Meadows voice is honest and heartfelt. Speasmaker backs it with soul on Wurlitzer and drummer Mark Levy, who joined the Congress in January 2011, is solid with the beat.
The two albums with completely different approaches will likely be followed by another new sound.
“I change a lot,” Lane said. “I don’t ever keep the same equipment. A lot of it is whatever I am listening to at the time. I try to learn a lot about that and after I go through the obsessive period of listening to it all the time. I am playing it on an old amp right now and I turn it up all the way and it’s pretty dirty.”
To hear a live stream of the Lakeview Commons concert: LISTEN
Jack Berry opens the show at 4:30 p.m. The Congress will be in session at 6:30 p.m.
Longtime South Lake Tahoe prog rockers Lavish Green has a “family reunion” concert Thursday, Aug. 22. Screaming Meg will open. The Live at Lakeview summer series concludes Aug. 29 with reggae bands Arden Park and Island of Black and White.