Hot Coco: Montoya warms the night with great music

Tahoe Onstage

Coco Montoya opened and proceeded to steal the show on Friday at Lake Tahoe.
Kurt E. Johnson / Tahoe Onstage photos

It’s hard to imagine a more tasteful musician than Coco Montoya.

The Los Angeles-based bluesman performed Friday for an audience of more than 800 at the MontBleu Resort Casino & Spa.

Although he plays his guitar left-handed and upside down with exquisite precision, he doesn’t show off. Montoya will take his time with a ballad, building it to a crescendo that will hit listeners deep in their soul.

Great blues is all about emotion and Montoya figured that out as a teenager when he first witnessed a performance by Albert King, another lefty who plays upside down. Montoya began his career as a drummer for Albert Collins and then spent 10 years playing guitar for John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers. He’s been making solo records for nearly a quarter-century, and Friday he played some songs from an upcoming album that has been completed but hot released.

Drummer Rena Beavers and bassist Nathan Brown kept the music in a most comfortable pocket throughout a 45-minute set that left the crowd wanting more. Eric Robert could hardly contain his exuberance as he moved around in his seat at the keyboard.

It’s not easy being the new guy in Montoya’s band because there is never a set list. And after the show, Robert handled the merch table. The former member of the Shaun Murphy Band is thrilled to be playing with Montoya.

“Coco builds a bridge between traditional and innovative new blues and funk,” he said.

Montoya is quite familiar to Tahoe-area blues fans. He has packed the Tuesday night Bluesdays at Squaw Valley the last two summers. The 2019 Bluesdays lineup is expected to be announced this week. Could organizers possibly bring Montoya back for a third-straight season? Watch this space.

Jimmy Vaughan & The Tilt-a-Whirl Band followed Montoya onstage.

The Texas guitarist founded the Fabulous Thunderbirds, a blues band fronted by Kim Wilson that made a rare appearance on Top 40 radio airwaves in the 1980s. Now, Vaughan is the singer and his seven-piece Texas jump blues band includes a B3 organ, baritone and tenor saxophone and double bass.

The members wore black suits and they played like they were dressed: crisp, neat and immaculately clean. Readers will have to take our word for it because photography was not allowed.

Toward the end, Vaughan gave a nod to his younger brother, Stevie Ray, with a rendition of “Texas Flood.”

— Tim Parsons

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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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