The Brothers Comatose: rocking string band’s day at the beach

Brothers Comatose

Ben Morrison picks Lake Tahoe on a Commons Beach.
Photos by Clare Foster

Editor’s note: Story by Maya Borhani, special to Tahoe Onstage

Concerts on Commons Beach in Tahoe City are already hard to beat on a balmy Sunday afternoon and evening, spelling quintessential summertime.

On Aug. 23, the Brothers Comatose from San Francisco delighted a solid fan base and newcomers alike with lively, passionate playing and playful personalities.

Often referred to a “one, big, extended Morrison music party” — an apt description, one to which the audience is invited — the band is fronted by brothers Ben and Alex Morrison on guitar and banjo, respectively, and lead vocals. It played a vibrant repertoire of originals, as well as classic covers. The “rocking string band” harmonized, plucked, shimmied and and rolled its way through two energetic sets of bluegrass, Americana and rock music, smiling and leaving a wake of smiles behind.

With a winning backdrop of sun, beach, picnicking revelers and a whirling tide of joyous dancers in front of the stage, the Brothers whipped through songs from their two CDs, “Songs from the Stoop” (2009) and “Respect the Van” (2012), interspersed with classics such as the Byrd’s “You Ain’t Going Nowhere” and the Stones’ “Dead Flowers,” as well as Hank Williams’ “My Bucket’s Got a Hole in It” and Creedence’s “Bad Moon Rising.”

The appreciative crowd sang and danced along with these and rocking originals such as “Tripping on Down,” “Blackbirds” and “Pie for Breakfast,” featuring perfectly harmonized vocals and musicianship to take the roof off the sky. Those Morrison brothers can pick and play like nobody’s business, fingers flying across fretboards at lightning speed, accompanied by a frenzy of stampeding stand-up bass notes from Gio Benedetti, exquisitely placed mandolin flurries from Ryan Avellone, and a classically trained violinist gone mad on the fiddle, Phil Brezina.

The combination of foot-stomping fun, camaraderie, and beautiful music made for one wild, wonderful Sunday afternoon hoedown at the Commons, one that will repeat itself indoors in only a few weeks, when the Brothers Comatose will be back in Tahoe onstage for a free performance at the Crystal Bay Club on Friday, Sept. 11.

In case you hadn’t already realized, dear reader, the name belies the band and the experience, both: neither you, nor the band, will be anywhere near comatose when you join these playful fellows for a musical extravaganza and delight.

In a particularly sweet and melodic moment, the Brothers invited any willing sisters in the audience onstage to help sing their tune “Morning Time,” which features (amazing) singer-songwriter Nicki Bluhm on the recorded version. Three local gals bravely joined the quintet, and did quiet justice to the beautiful song, which portrays the joys and trials of life in both the city and the country. Not unlike the visit of these talented city boys to our lovely lakeside home, for one spectacular evening of community, music and revelry we enjoyed the best of both worlds.

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About Tahoe Onstage

Tahoe Onstage is an online entertainment and sports magazine covering Lake Tahoe, Truckee, Reno, the Carson Valley and June Lake.

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