A band of brothers, Bombargo sets sights on Crystal Bay

Tahoe Onstage

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan’s Bombargo is exploding and heading though Crystal Bay on its first U.S. tour.
Photo by Brandon White

If you haven’t heard of Bombargo, you don’t know of the story about Taylor Swift and the magical, screaming Noodle Bowl moment. Or dinner with Sir Richard Branson. Nor have you listened to the band’s double-brother harmonies.

“I enjoy the mystery to an extent,” said the band’s singer, whose energy reminds many — including Branson — of Mick Jagger.

It’s not just a nice dream. It’s a collection of crazy things happening with a seven-piece band from the frozen city of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. On its “North American Dream Tour,” Bombargo is performing in the United States for the first time. It plays in the Crystal Bay Casino’s Red Room on Saturday, Sept. 28.

“It’s been a wild ride,” frontman Nathan Thoen told Tahoe Onstage.

It all started four years ago at a photo shoot with Thoen and guitarist-singer Spencer Chilliak. (They were models before they were rock stars.) During the session, Chilliak learned a friend would not be able to accompany him to the Sasquatch Music Festival in Washington, so he asked Theon if he wanted to go instead.

“Sure man, I’ll jump in a van for 30 hours with a guy I’ve never met,” Theon said.

By the time the trip was over, they’d decided to start a band. “We’ve been picking up brothers, literally and figuratively, along the way ever since.”

Bombargo includes Thoen’s older brother Anthony, who plays guitar, Matt Folkerson (guitar/keys), Sammy Lee Folkerson (bass), Niall Cubbon (drums) and “Rootin’ Tootin’ ” Connor Newton (saxophone), who is sometimes called Wolfgang Coltrane “because he’s kind of Mozart and he’s kind of Coltrane,” Theon said. “He’s by far the most talented musical human being I’ve seen in my life.”

Theon said some bands like to go off to a remote cabin in a forest to write songs. But since that’s how they already live, they traveled to a warm location, Bali. That’s where they met Sir Richard Branson, the British business magnate whose label Virgin Records signed the Rolling Stones.

“He compared us to the Stones,” said Theon, who often gets the same observation from fans at shows. Bombargo sometimes plays Stones’ songs, including “Miss You.”

After making its first full-length album in 2017, Bombargo has released about a half-dozen singles, including “Oxygen,” which hit Canada’s Top 50 Hot AC radio chart this summer, and “Mr. No Good, which made Taylor Swift’s Spotify playlist “Songs Taylor Loves.” “Mr. No Good” had 2 million streams on Spotify.

Band members were eating at a Noodle Bowl restaurant when someone received a text message about their song making Swift’s first-ever list of favorite songs.

“We just laughed and kept eating our noodle bowls and thought someone was just pulling our chain,” Thoen said. After more text messages, they realized the story was true. “It was a magical moment. We started screaming in the restaurant and had to explain to everyone that Taylor Swift loved our song. They were the best noodles we’ve ever had, and we’ve had a lot of noodles.”

Thoen often does acrobatic flips in Bombargo’s videos.

“I like to jump off cliffs,” he said. He also is an avid snowboarder, but neither activity is possible in Saskatoon. The city has snow, of course, but is located in prairielands, a seven-hour drive from any mountains.

Bombargo recently played at Edmonton’s Celebrity Slow Pitch event, which featured professional snowboarders Jamie Anderson of South Lake Tahoe and Danny Davis of Truckee.

“It was pretty sweet meeting those cats; they are some of our idols,” said Thoen, who will soon perform for the first time at Lake Tahoe.

“We have a little thing we call the good-time guarantee,” he said. “A lot of bands promise you a good time. We actually guarantee it. We are a funk, soul, rock ‘n’ roll band with five-part harmonies. We play a lot of movin’ and groovin’ music. We get people dancing, singing and just remind them how amazing life really is. Our motto is we love to leave people a little bit brighter and a little bit lighter after the show.”

— Tim Parsons

  • Bombargo
    When: 10 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 28
    Where: Crystal Bay Casino Red Room
    Cover: free

Nathan Thoen and Bombargo are airborne and bound for the United States.
Bombargo Facebook photo

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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