Pepper spices fourth Lake Tahoe Reggae Festival

Pepper
Pepper, which played in Reno last winter (above), headlines the fourth-annual Lake Tahoe Reggae Festival on Saturday, Aug. 20.
Tahoe Onstage photos by Tim Parsons

Occasionally, Pepper can use a pinch of smelling salts.

The trio from Kona, Hawaii, tops Saturday’s Lake Tahoe Reggae Festival showbill, which includes Don Carlos, Israel Vibration and Ky-Mani Marley.

“Are you kidding me?” Pepper drummer Yesod Williams exclaimed. “The whole deal is a bunch of reggae legends and we are more than honored to be a part of it, let alone headlining it. It’s like one of those things where a lot of these groups growing up I listened to. I’ve got to pinch myself for situations like this.”

Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage
Yesod Williams and Kaleo Wassman.

The fourth-annual high-elevation event will be held for the second-straight year at the Hard Rock Hotel Arena, and most of the concertgoers will be on grass, with 10,000 square feet of sod installed for the show.

Williams, Kaleo Wassman (guitar and vocals) and Bret Bollinger (bass, vocals) started Pepper in 1997. While several reggae-ska-based bands spawned from the post-Sublime generation with a California reggae style, Pepper was influenced by a trio from Hawaii called Three Plus, which plays Jawaiian music, a hybrid of Hawaiian and Jamaican music.

Twenty years later, Pepper is a spicy as ever.

“It’s quite an accomplishment but it feels like we are just hitting our stride right now,” said Williams, who credits persistence as the band’s key to longevity.

“It’s been such a long, awesome road but with anything that long, it comes with speed bumps and road blocks that you navigate to get to the other side,” he said. “For a five-year span, we only released an EP. Now I really feel we are hitting our stride. We have the new album, ‘Ohana.’ ”

In Hawaiian culture, ohana means family, both by blood and society.

“We were friends and family long before we were in this band together,” Williams said. “Ohana is thicker than anything. It’s thicker than water, thicker than blood. That was there before the band was, so it always will be.”

Pepper influenced another group of Hawaiian natives, Iration, which headlined the Lake Tahoe Reggae Festival in 2015. Both bands are now based in California. Pepper’s studio is in Redondo Beach.

“I love Tahoe in the summertime,” Williams said. “Really good friends of ours, Iration, headlined it last year and they told us really good things about it. They had a blast. We can’t wait.”

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  • Lake Tahoe Reggae Festival
    Pepper, Ky-Mani Marley, Israel Vibration & Roots Radics, Don Carlos, Mike Love, Squarefield Massive, DJ Dinga and DJ Casta Rasta
    When: 4 to 10:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 20
    Where: Hard Rock Hotel Arena, Stateline, Nevada
    Tickets: General admission $55 or $70 on the day of the show. VIP $100

    Pepper's Kaleo Wassman, left, and Brett Bollinger jam.
    Pepper’s Kaleo Wassman, left, and Brett Bollinger jam.

    Pepper, which played last winter in Reno, will close the Lake Tahoe Reggae Festival. Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage
    Pepper, which played last winter in Reno, will close the Lake Tahoe Reggae Festival.
    Tim Parsons / 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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