Bruce Lee of rock, Pemberton breaks in Live at Lakeview
Question: Scott Pemberton is called “the Bruce Lee of rock ‘n’ roll” because:
A – He has serious chops.
B – He moves around his instrument with the speed and precision just like the great martial artist.
C – Any guitarist who invites him onstage to jam might get his ego bruised.
D — When we first called him the Rip City Rocker it didn’t catch on.
E – All of the above.
E, of course, is the answer, and South Lake Tahoe’s red-letter day is Thursday, when Live at Lakeview’s sixth season opens with the Scott Pemberton Band, which is very familiar to the area’s music fans. The group from Portland has played at the Hard Rock Hotel, Lake Tahoe Golf Course, the Crystal Bay Casino, The High Sierra Music Festival, Reno’s Trocadero and The Saint and in 2014 and 2015, Lakeview Commons.
“We have lots of good friends in Tahoe and they invite us to go do things like boating and hiking and to enjoy some of the area,” Pemberton told Tahoe Onstage. “Those extra things that make life on the road that much more enjoyable.”
Pemberton opted for a touring musician’s lifestyle after he suffered a serious injury when bicycling to one of his numerous music-related jobs. He was lucky the collision with a car wasn’t fatal. It, instead, was fateful. Starting with an open schedule, Pemberton decided to stop teaching and producing for other bands and to focus on touring and making music for his own band.
Another change for him is that his injuries make it uncomfortable to wear a guitar strap. Instead, he places the instrument on a bar stool and he jabs, pulls and strikes it from all different angles. It’s a sight to behold, but the sound is hardly a heavy metal outburst a listener might expect from such a frenzied musical attack. The well-crafted songs are jazzy, jammy and sometimes include elements of pop. Percussion, including a steel drum, drives the ensemble.
Celebrating that each performance is a singular experience, Pemberton this month released his second live album, “Game Tapes,” recordings from shows from mid-February through mid-April. Some of the songs have never appeared on Pemberton’s studio albums and those that have are rearrangements.
“Every time we play it’s unique and different and the crowd involvement and participation has so much to do with the music,” Pemberton said. “So live recording is kind of the only way to capture some of that.”
The songs on the album are sequenced as if they were a complete concert set. Pemberton studied them long enough that he can’t even identify where each song was recorded. Esteemed Portland musician and studio man Steve Berlin, who produced two of Pemberton’s studio albums, helped pick the songs. He’s listed on the album credits as “content adviser.”
This summer, the Scott Pemberton Band will play numerous festivals, including Portland’s Waterfront Blues Festival, which will include soul singer Curtis Salgado’s first performance since a March 10 quadruple bypass surgery. Pemberton and Salgado were at the same blues festival in New Hampshire when Salgado had a heart attack, which led to the emergency operation.
“He’s been a real good music mentor and friend over the years,” Pemberton said. “I am glad he is doing well. When I was first becoming a bandleader in 2012 he and Steve Berlin were the first guys who encouraged me to go on tour.”
But up next is Pemberton’s other waterfront show. On Thursday, he will play at Lakeview Commons for the first time when Lake Tahoe has been filled to the brim.
“The venue the incredible; there can’t be any other place like it anywhere” Pemberton said. “It’s a pleasure to be involved in such a cool community event that has all the locals coming out and hanging out together and checking out the music.”
Mescalito opens the Live at Lakeview show at 4:30 p.m. The Scott Pemberton Band takes the stage about 6 p.m. Mescalito is a quintet that blends five types of music: rock, jam, soul, psychedelia and jazz. The five local all stars for the new group are Martin Bush, guitar; Simon Kurth, guitar; Lowell Wilson, keyboards; Keith Ovelmen, bass; and Chris Grant, drums. Wilson also plays with the Wesley Orsolic Band.
Pemberton’s most recent Tahoe appearance was in April, when his band opened for the Anders Osborne Band in Crystal Bay.
Osborne and band member Eric McFadden are renowned for their musicianship, so they naturally invited the rising star Pemberton to the stage to see what he could do. After a furious jam, Pemberton thanked the veteran players and exited the stage. Osborne simply shook his head and said, “Amazing!”
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.