Always in the present, Nahko has a beloved Tahoe past
Nahko and Medicine for the People will be present and kind on Wednesday at the Crystal Bay Casino during a full evening of enlightenment, inspiration and music.
Nahko’s journey has led him to many locations, but his desire is to always be in one place: The present. A song on his latest album is “Be Here Now,” the title of spiritual teacher Ram Dass’ 1971 book and the mantra Nahko lives by.
“That is something I seek to master,” Nahko said. “I really resonate with the full presence. I talked to Ram (who is now 87 years old) and he reiterated what I just said. It was beautiful to hear him remind me to stay present in each waking moment and each dreaming moment to find my true self.”
Nahko spoke with Tahoe Onstage during a muggy-hot and rainy day in Michigan, which he said was savoring. Nahko relishes nature, the topic of much of the poetry he melds with acoustic guitar and percussion. His album “My Name is Bear” is on Billboard’s Rock and Alternative Rock Album charts.
In one of the 16 tracks, he sings about being “stoned on a stone in the Truckee River.” The songs were written when he was between the ages of 18 and 21. He was on a physical and philosophical journey from his hometown Portland, Oregon, to Alaska, Hawaii, Louisiana and through Lake Tahoe. He calls the album a prequel to his previously released musical catalogue.
“You have to take care of yourself and survive in a world with the tools you have,” he said in an earlier interview. “For me, those tools were my guitar, my songwriting, and my thumb to hitchhike.”
In 2006, he didn’t have an iPhone but he did have an Atlas road map and a Radio Shack tape recorder. The tapes were rediscovered when he was making “My Name is Bear,” and his musings – titled “Interludes” — from the journeys are heard between songs on the record.
“There was quite a bit of nonsense and just noise on there … but there were a few tidbits that seemed fit well,” he said. “It was fun to play them to fit in the story.”
He was a younger bear who offered pieces of wisdom. In one Interlude, he said, “But I guess I remember most the complete sense of freedom, you know? It was just Kerouac nonsense. Kids reading too much Kerouac. And having wine revelations every day; in the middle of the river, in paradise, you know? I guess that breeds some amazing things.”
Author Jack Kerouac had discovered Buddhism when he wrote “Dharma Bums,” which inspired the Beat poets and counter-culture hippies in the late-’50s and early ‘60s. On his journeys, Kerouac, whose character was Ray Smith, traveled with a man named Japhy Ryder, who was in fact the poet Gary Snyder.
On Nahko’s recent musical journeys, he been joined by Tim Snider, a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and producer who was raised in Reno. They met when Snider was living in Portland.
“We quickly became friends,” Nahko said. “We had a lot of things in common. We had surfing, music, traveling and we had the same sense of humor. And he was dear friends with our horn player, Max (Ribner). Of course when I saw Tim do his thing, immediately I was struck. He does everything. It’s been a treasure to have him along with us these last years. He’s now celebrating fatherhood. And they live in Tahoe so it’s great to have a local boy in the hood.”
The hood that is Lake Tahoe has an ever-growing “Medicine Tribe.” The concert experience is quiet infectious.
“I spent quite a bit of time there.” Nahko said. “From cruising up through the deep blue of Tahoe to the outer-lying mountains of Reno, Lassen, Susanville and Grass Valley and Truckee. We’ve had plenty of adventures.”
— Tim Parsons
Nahko and Medicine for the PeopleOpener: Xiuhtezcatl
When: 9 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 22
Where: Crystal Bay Casino Crown Room
Red Room after-party: Sam Ravenna
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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