Jake Nielsen’s Triple Threat spices up a cold night at South Lake Tahoe’s Whiskey Dick’s Saloon

Tahoe Onstage

Jake Nielsen plays a modern version of blues inspired by Stevie Ray Vaughan and California reggae.
Tahoe Onstage photos by Tim Parsons

Jake Nielsen’s Triple Threat had the stage all to itself Saturday night in a venue that sometimes features as many as a half-dozen bands.

It was the trio’s second appearance in three months at South Lake Tahoe’s Whiskey Dick’s Saloon, which is a contrast to the tourist-destination casinos a few miles down the road at the Nevada state line. This is a locals’ bar.

The Lake Tahoe turnout was relatively small, but the response to the performance was great. The musicians were impressed with the sound quality in the Sierra Tract bar, which less than a decade ago was a picture frame store. Fueled by the burritos from the nearby Jalisco Grill, the band played three lively sets.

Triple Threat features Nielsen’s fiery guitar licks with a Stevie Ray Vaughan tone, aggressive and loud percussion from drummer Kyle Talty and steady, in-the-pocket bass riffs from Cuz Dave, who has rock star poses and, perhaps inspired by Tahoe’s wintry weather, was in constant motion.

“We’re from Santa Cruz, so anything under 60 degrees is freezing to us,” Dave said.

The musicians have known each other since high school, with Dave and Talty joining Nielsen’s blues band just two years ago. It’s played more than 100 shows this year, returning to venues to build fan bases in different towns.

Nielsen, 30, remained seated, but his fingers were a flurry on the Fender Telecaster his dad bought him when he was 18 in order to keep out of trouble. Nielsen has cerebral palsy, which didn’t prevent him from competing in rodeos as a teenager. His uncle, Jayme, a drummer in a country band, bought him a bass guitar and then a guitar (electric) when he was he was in junior high.

“My family used to turn the radio up when I first started playing so they didn’t have to listen to it, then I got better,” Nielsen said.

Now he’s a one-man triple threat. He’s an accomplished guitarist, singer and songwriter. At the Whiskey Dick’s show, he played originals “Questions” and “Drinking Blues” from the first (self-titled album) and “Money in My Pocket.” The trio also played a couple of songs from an EP in progress, “Smokin’ Drinkin” —  a song from Nielsen’s previous band that never has been recorded — and “Central Cali,” which were blues based but had a reggae vibe.

Nielsen’s choice of covers at Whiskey Dick’s revealed his blues, reggae and country influences. He played his own versions of songs by Muddy Waters, Freddie King, Sublime and Johnny Cash. Nielsen previously had 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.

Jake Nielsen’s Triple Threat wound up playing all through the night, a show that was like the burritos next door: spicy, filling and good enough to have made repeat customers.

– Randy Hashagen contributed to this story.

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About Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.

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