Cargo at Whitney Peak Hotel ‘just getting started’
The crew at Cargo, the 1-year-old music venue inside the Whitney Peak Hotel, has learned what works and doesn’t work, and they only had to look outside to see where it could evolve.
Reno’s famous “Biggest Little City in the World” arch stretches from above the hotel’s front entrance across North Virginia Street. And Cargo’s doors face across West Commercial Row to the ReTRAC East special events area. As Cargo celebrates its one-year anniversary this week, plans for a “Cargo at Whitney Peak Hotel Presents: Live from the Arch” series have been revealed.
The first event will be Sept. 19 with Buddy Guy, G Love & Special Sauce and Todd Snider plus an after-party back inside Cargo with another major band which has not yet been announced. The second will be Oct. 16-17 with 10 big-time indie and alternative rock bands.
“We’re really just getting started,” said Devil Dog Production’s Brent Harding, the promoter who books the bands. “I think you will see this fall, it’s going to be our coming out party for that venue. We’ve got a lot of big things coming down the pike.”
The City of Reno Special Events Program Manager Alexis Hill said the ReTRAC East is used for about 30 events a year, but there has never been, to her knowledge, a gated concert.
ReTRAC is an acronym for the Reno Transportation Rail Access Corridor, a tunnel with two miles of train track running beneath the heart of the city. The project, which has relieved traffic congestion, was completed in 2006. Above the ground, the ReTRAC East area was left undeveloped in order to be used for special events. It is the width of a city block, spanning from North Virginia Street to North Sierra Street.
The gated ReTRAC East music venue will hold 3,000 concertgoers, according to Niki Gross, Whitney Peak’s Managing Director.
“Being that the outdoors is such a huge part of what we preach to our guests, we are excited to have an opportunity where we can share what we are doing inside and bring it outside – giving an opportunity for the community to see what we are all about,” Gross said.
People who have turned out for Cargo’s shows have helped shape what the venue is all about.
“The market really makes the venue,” said Harding, who also promotes events at the Crystal Bay Casino and Squaw Valley. “I have to go by what the market tells me they want. In Reno, it’s Americana music. That’s what’s been working but we are still pursuing rock bands and doing different things and DJ shows and were going to keep it eclectic.”
A one-year anniversary celebration on Thursday, June 11 will be highlighted by a quintessential Americana artist, Texas songwriter James McMurtry.
“Old Crow Medicine Show, Trampled By Turtles, those type of shows have Reno on their map.” Harding said. “They know that there’s a strong fan base. The “X” (radio station) plays a big role in facilitating that. They help us out with a lot of shows.”
Paul Janeway of St. Paul and the Broken Bones and JJ Grey of JJ Grey and Mofro are two of several Cargo headliners who have performed in the KTHX studio.
“The bands that come in definitely fit our style of music. We try to get them in and have a live radio thing which really isn’t done much anymore,” said Program Director “Dead Air” Dave Herold. “We love Cargo. If there is good music that is coming to town we will definitely put our stamp of approval on it and tell people about it because it’s all about live music.”
The artists appreciate Cargo as well and not just for its nearly $500,000 state-of-the-art sound system which including a Midas Pro 9 digital console.
“One of the most amazing things about Cargo is how well the artists are treated by everyone on the staff,” said Mark Sexton, whose band has opened at two sellout shows, Galactic and JJ Grey & Mofro. “At every point of contact, they make it so easy for you to be relaxed and just settle in. They just take great care of you, which isn’t common and it goes a really long way with how bands feel about a venue. It’s being run correctly. Brent is doing a great job of bringing the right bands in.”
The renovated Whitney Peak Hotel is the former Fitzgerald’s, which had a music venue called Cargo. The building, with its giant rock-climbing façade, is unique for downtown Reno because it neither offers gaming nor allows smoking. Because there is no gambling in the hotel, visiting athletic teams who compete with the University of Nevada can now be lodged close to the campus.
The new owners elected to retain the Cargo name and build a state-of the art music venue on the ground level which would attract the college crowd.
Organizers initially wanted to provide a top-notch music venue for promising local bands who concertgoers could see for a low cover charge. But those plans have been scaled back.
“It’s hard to make that feasible in a venue that size. Local bands don’t draw the crowds of national acts who bring 500 to 1,000 people,” Harding said. “It’s just really difficult to make that work financially. We try it from time to time but it’s become not our focus because it just doesn’t work. That’s the bottom line. Reno is not a million person city.
“We do Toys for Tots, (and bring in bands like) Jelly Bread and Mojo Green. We pick our spots when it makes sense. It’s just too large of a venue.”
Some Cargo summertime shows include Robert Earl Keen, Keb Mo, Steel Pulse and the alternative rock Summerland Tour.
UPCOMING CARGO LINEUP
Fri. June 5 The Climax Tour Featuring Sammy J., Tenelle, Finn, Yung, Pieter T.
8 p.m. $20 tickets
Thurs., June 11 100.1FM The X Presents: James McMurtry(Rock/Folk-Rock) – 18 & Up
8 p.m. $17 tickets (advance) / $25.50 tickets (day of show)
11 a.m. Storytelling Workshop in Granite Meeting Room – Limited capacity
$30 tickets (advance) / $40 (day of workshop)
7 p.m. Happy Hour
8:30 p.m. Storytelling Show – Seated event
$15 tickets (advance) / $20 tickets (day of show)
Fri. July 31 100.1 FM the X Presents: Paul Thorn Band
$22 tickets (advance)/ $25 tickets (day of show)
Fri., Aug. 7 Summerland Tour 2015 featuring Everclear, Toadies, Fuel, and American Hi-Fi
8 p.m. (Alternative) – 18 & Up $42.50 – $150
Tues. Aug. 11 100.1 FM The X Presents: Steel Pulse
8 p.m. $25 tickets
Sat. Oct. 24 105.7 KOZZ FM Presents: Mac Sabbath
9 p.m. $15 tickets
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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