Settling in for some down-home blues seems great to a musician who’s played “from Poland to Portland” this year. Mighty Mike Schermer will perform just down the hill from his house on Saturday, Dec. 15, at the Alibi Ale Works – Truckee Public House.
Schermer has had a house in Truckee for decades, but until recently he’s mostly used it for wintertime ski getaways. His primary residence for the past 10 years has been Austin, Texas, where he’s the guitarist for the Marcia Ball Band. The band played 110 shows in 2018.
Recently, though, he has spent more time in Truckee. He’s made several appearances at Buddy Emmer’s Tuesday Night Blues at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe and Dec. 15 will be his third performance at the Alibi Ale Works.
“We paid off our house a couple of years ago,” he said after his first ski day of the season at Squaw Valley. “Something about that made me want to stand on the porch with a shotgun and go, ‘Get off of my property!’ Not that I would ever do that — it’s just that I feel more connected to it now that the bank doesn’t own it.
“I love Austin and my life there and I love Marcia Ball and all the great music I get to hear there, but the outdoor vibe here doesn’t even compare with it.”[pullquote]It’s all blues at its core. I never get too far away from Albert Collins.”[/pullquote]
For the Alibi Ale Works show, Truckee multi-instrumentalist Steve Kershisnik, who has worked with Schermer since the late 1990s, will play bass, Kings Beach’s Todd Holway will play keyboard and Reno’s Tyler Cravines will play drums.
Since moving into the downtown building at the corner of Bridge and Jibboom streets in 2017, Alibi Ale Works has become a music and community hub.
“They are more than just brewers,” Schermer said. “They seem to be really into having a community space, not just for music but for all kinds of events. And one of the owners (Kevin Drake) is a baritone sax player and he’s real good, too. Those are hip guys with a cool vision. There’s a nice sound system in there with good space.”
(Alibi Ale Works is in the process of moving its Incline Village site to the former Hacienda building. Its planned opening is this spring.)
“Bad Tattoo,” Schermer’s seventh studio album, will be released in February. It will be his third straight release of all-original songs. He said he will play many of them at the Alibi show.
“There’s a lot of hard-hitting blues, some soul music and some rock and roll,” he said. “From a genre standpoint, I think I hit on pretty much every form of American music. But it’s all blues at its core. I never get too far away from Albert Collins.”
As a boy in Massachusetts, Schermer strapped on skis before a guitar.
“My dad, bless his heart and may he rest in peace, was foolish enough to stuff four snot-nosed kids into a station wagon and put chains on it and take it to places like Stratton Mountain, Vermont to take them skiing. When I was 8 years old we moved to Los Alamos, New Mexico.
“There was a ski hill 20 minutes outside of town. Neighbors would drive by and we’d jump in back of their truck. I grew up skiing every weekend in the winter. When I moved to California in the ‘80s ,and mom followed me out here in the late ’80s, we bought this house. When she passed away, my sisters bought into it and we’ve held on to it.”
Blues rock was Shermer’s musical love when he was a teenager. He listened to Jimi Hendrix, the Allman Brothers and Eric Clapton and played in a band that he said tried play like the Rolling Stones. At age 18, he witnessed “The Master of the Telecaster” Albert Collins. The next morning he was at a music store before it even opened, to purchase his own Fender Tele.
“I saw Albert Collins come out with that much power and energy,” he said. “It was in an unadulterated form where he just played one note, whereas Stevie Ray would just come out and play a flurry of notes. Albert Collins would come out and play just one note so big and strong and that it stood the hair up on my neck.”
Schermer established his career based in Santa Cruz. He eventually joined Elvin Bishop’s band. And 10 years ago, he moved to Texas to play with Marcia Ball.
“Mike’s been wonderful and Elvin’s not even mad at me for snaking him out of his band,” Ball told Tahoe Onstage.
“I don’t get mad because there’s plenty of people to play with,” Bishop said. “Mike’s a helluva guitar player. He wanted more work and Marcia works a lot. They sound really good together.”
Ball and Schermer co-wrote a song, “You Can be the Life of the Party,” which appears on Ball’s latest album, “Shine Bright.”
“It’s a calypso song,” Ball said. “That rhythm is Mike’s idea, but I got to tell you when he brought it in, he had it “You Can’t be the Life of the Party.”
Schermer said, “I’ve learned one thing about co-writing with people, especially with someone at Marcia’s level, is to not necessarily bring them full-written songs. Sometimes it’s better just to bring them an idea. … She said, ‘I like the groove and it’s cool but I don’t want to be negative about it. “Let’s say you can be the life of the party.’ ”
Of course, there’s even more to the Mighty Mike Schermer story. He’s part of a supergroup: The Guitarsonists are the fiery trio of Schermer, Daniel Castro and Chris Cain. They play occasional shows in the Bay Area.
“Of all the great bands I’ve been a part of, with The Guitarsonists I can honestly say that at the end of each night, the crowd is happy, the venue is happy and the band is happy. And those three things never hardly seem to go together.”
“It just seems to be a win, win, win every time we play. I consider myself a good guitar player but Chris Cain to me is one of the top guys in the world. And Daniel Castro just brings it every time. For me, it makes me really be on my game from the guitar standpoint. It’s an all-star team.”
— Tim Parsons
Mighty Mike SchermerWhen: 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15
Where: Alibi Ale Works – Truckee Public House
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.