Valhalla Tahoe Boathouse celebrates 25 years with Dirty Cello

Valhalla Tahoe favorite Dirty Cello: Mana Contractor, left, Alex Farrell, Rebecca Roudman, Jason Eckl and Jeff Wheeler.

If this doesn’t rock your boathouse, there’s a hole in your soul, er, make that hull.

Dirty Cello, an eclectic quintet with a worldwide reputation for virtuosic frolicsomeness, headlines Wednesday’s Valhalla’s Boathouse Theatre 25th Anniversary Celebration. The annual season finale is playing a new date due to the Caldor Fire, a 221,775-acre blaze that threatened and caused the evacuation of the entire city of South Lake Tahoe.

“We are in a weird time right now,” Dirty Cello bandleader Rebecca Roudman told Tahoe Onstage. “We’ve had to cancel various concerts, but were still going to come to Valhalla, one of our favorite venues to play.

“The Dirty Cello Band likes to find ways to play no matter what. We like unique spaces. We’ve played everywhere from a 14th century church to the bottom of a cave. The more unique the better and that’s certainly what the Valhalla Boathouse is.”

The upcoming hurly-burly will be Dirty Cello’s third-sellout show in the Boathouse Theatre. It also performed before an empty room for a 2020 streamed concert. Audience members’ smiles will be concealed by their required facemasks.

Songwriter Roudman stands and sings and plays cello and an electric violin designed to absorb abuse from onstage ruckus. The fancy fiddle was constructed by guitarist Jason Eckl, who also built a portable stage the band played upon from Santa Cruz to Oregon during the height of the pandemic. Alex Farrell plays bass, Jeff Wheeler drums and Mana Contractor sings.

“We don’t just play songs; we like to make our whole show an experience,” Roudman said. “We have about 65 songs memorized, and we don’t have a set list. Whether the audience knows it or not, they’re actually making the set list.

“If we do a blues tune, and they’re really digging it, we will do more of that. Or if they like a ‘60s cover or bluegrass, we’ll do more of that. It’s always a fun experience for us because we never know what we’re going to play next, and it always makes it a different experience for the audience.”

Dirty Cello has success from its inception after a YouTube video of its version of “Purple Haze” went viral. After the initial two-month live-show lockdown in Spring 2020, the band has been booked every weekend. It found gigs at innovative, often animal-themed, venues, including the Oakland Zoo, Ferrari Farms in Reno and a buffalo ranch.

Dirty Cello was the first band from the United State to tour Iceland in 2021. The most memorable of its five Nordic island shows was in a former fish plant. “It still has a slight smell of herring in there,” Roudman said. Nevertheless, 65 people attended, impressive considering the town’s population of 40.

Opening the Valhalla show will be a folk duo, Claudia Russell and Bruce Kaplan.

Another rescheduled Boathouse Theater event will be held Oct. 21-23, the WordWave playwright competition. It will feature full performances of the three winning one-act plays. The play’s writers will be in attendance to answer questions about the plays and their process after the performances.

-Tim Parsons

  • Boathouse Theatre 25th Anniversary Celebration with Dirty Cello, Claudia Russell and Bruce Kaplan
  • When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 6
  • Where: Valhalla Tahoe Boathouse Theatre, Tallac Historic Site, 1 Valhalla Road off Highway 89, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150
  • Tickets: Sold out
  • Note: Full capacity show, masks required, just 10 tickets remain on sale as of Friday, Oct. 1
Below: Photos from the 2019 Dirty Cello show at the Valhalla Tahoe Boathouse Theater.
Rabecca Roudman and Dirt Cello
Tahoe Onstage
Larry Sabo / Tahoe Onstage

ABOUT Tim Parsons

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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