Editor’s note: The Eastern Sierra is alive with the sound of great music at the T-Bar Social Club, located on “The Loop” just off 395 near Mammoth Lakes. Owner Jamie Schectman talked with Tahoe Onstage’s Jon Siembieda, whose band Hunter & The Dirty Jacks has played the venue. For more information on location and show dates, please visit – https://balancedrocksaloon.com/t-bar-social-club/
Jon: Tell me a little about your background, what got you interested in owning a club and being involved in the music industry?
Jamie: Well, first since this in an interview for Tahoe Onstage, I should mention that I was a North Tahoe resident for 25 years. It was an interesting time in the ‘90s watching the music scene grow there. I moved to June Lake a few years ago, and while I felt it was a wonderful place to live, it gets a little lonely after dark. We have unlimited recreational activities, but the nightlife is lacking. I’m a live music aficionado and have been to more than 1,000 shows in seven different countries. So, for self-fulfilling reasons, I wanted to bring quality live entertainment closer to home. You would otherwise have to drive to Reno, South Lake Tahoe, Vegas, or L.A. I should mention we’re also on the touring route from Southern California to Reno or Tahoe, especially in the summer months. We’re not even that far out of the way for the Bay Area, in fact. I got involved because I found a niche that was ready to be filled.
Jon: Please tell us a little bit about the T-Bar Social Club and Balanced Rock Saloon, for those that aren’t familiar?
Jamie: I purchased the historic Sierra Inn building in May of 2018 with the goal of creating three separate, but complementary businesses. It is in an awesome location, as it is the first building on the right as you drive into June Lake. Phase 1 is the T-Bar Social Club, which opened in October of 2018… we have brought in entertainment that you would expect to see in a much bigger venue… Tim Bluhm of the Mother Hips is playing the day after Thanksgiving, as an example… we routinely “punch above our weight.” We focus on band hospitality. We believe if we take good care of our bands, they deliver a better performance which translates to higher guest satisfaction. We also host our bands in a very nice condo, just across the parking lot from the venue.
Jon: I can speak personally that the accommodations are very nice, and the bands are treated very well.
Jamie: … and that’s the idea.
The second phase is June Pie Pizzeria, which is New York thin crust-style pizza. This week we have our grand opening. The third and final phase is the Balanced Rock Saloon, a 300-person venue that will also double as a multi-use event space that will host weddings, conferences and bigger concerts, that will include private bridal quarters that will double as a luxurious green room. We are even looking into designing a VIP mezzanine skywalk, similar to what you see at a House of Blues or the Belly Up. The Balanced Rock Saloon should be operational in summer 2021. Nobody has ever brought this level of weekly entertainment to the Eastern Sierra. We’re really growing a market that never existed.
Jon: It sounds to me like you are creating an experience like Crystal Bay in North Lake Tahoe, where there are multiple rooms and you can go see a band like North Mississippi Allstars or Los Lobos in the main room, and then an after party in the smaller club with a cool band. You are set up for a full night in the Eastern Sierra – you can get a slice at June Pie, maybe a happy hour acoustic thing in the T-Bar, you have the main concert with a large touring act in the Balanced Rock Saloon, and you can still have the after-party going in the T-Bar later.
Jamie: That’s right. It gives us a lot of flexibility, similar to the House of Blues’ Foundation Room set up, along with a main room. Another goal we are working toward is positioning us as a destination venue. You probably are familiar with Pappy & Harriet’s, The Knotty Pine, the Belly Up in Aspen, the Sitzmark in Girdwood, Alaska – these smaller venues that are located in idyllic, unique settings, where you think: “I’m going to take a vacation AND see a concert!” That’s a goal that we’re working toward. We also have forged partnerships with seven of the hotels in town that all offer our concertgoers a discount.
Jon: June Lake is a tourist destination. What are the busy seasons?
In the winter months, our ski area June Mountain is on Ikon Pass, as is Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows. Every ski bum in Southern California owns one of these. In winter months, our draw is skiers, of which there are a lot from Tahoe that come down.
The summer months are actually peak season as the June Lake Loop has four lakes. Between fishermen, families and campers, June Lake is pretty bustling. Also, we are the first town to the south of Yosemite’s eastern entrance, which is 25 minutes away.
Jon: Do you have a message directly for Tahoe residents, since you were a longtime resident, now in June Lake?
Jamie: June Lake is the perfect getaway with a journey down the 395. It’s an easy drive… so come on down and spread your wings a little more in the Eastern Sierra. It’s not that far.
Jon: Any aspirations for a band you’d like to see play the T-Bar or open the Balanced Rock Saloon?
Jamie: Jackie Greene. We’re ready for ya!
Jon: That would be a good show. He’s a great fit.
Jamie: Here’s another concept we are working on for the Balanced Rock Saloon – creating a membership model. The idea being that loyalists can purchase a membership with different tiers. Each member gets to attend an annual very special members-only concert, access to tickets on sale before the general public and other benefits. The highest tier membership would include VIP access to the aforementioned mezzanine.
Jon: Any other ideas you are working on?
Jamie: Downstairs at the T-Bar, we’re currently evaluating installing a high-quality webcam for streaming live shows, looking into an on-site recording studio. There is no shortage of things we can do, it’s really just a matter of bandwidth and capital.
Jon: Yes, couch tour! People need to see how incredible the shows and atmosphere are.
- T-Bar Social Club live shows
2588 Highway 158
- Nov. 29. — Tim Bluhm
- Dec. 6 — Pato Banton
- Dev. 14 — VTA & Friends
- Dec. 19 — Robin Wilson of Gin Blossoms
- Dec. 21 — Jonathan Scales Fourchestra
- Dec. 24 — Lacy J. Dalton
- Dec. 27 — The Blues Monsters
- Dec. 28 — The Sextones
- Jan. 4 — Bodie 601
- Jan. 11 — Sambada
- Jan. 17 — Dead Winter Carpenters
- Jan. 18 — Dead Winter Carpenters
- Jan. 20 — Todd Sheaffer of Railroad Earth
— Jon Siembieda