Lavish extravaganza: Lavish Green celebrates 20th anniversary, parties like rock stars

Lavish Green

Chris Sanchez, who started Lavish Green 20 years ago, looks pretty good for 27.
Photos by Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

Nothin’ but a party.

Call it an after-party. Call it a birthday party. Call it what you like.

Lavish Green, Lake Tahoe’s favorite sons, celebrated being 20 on Friday night – with a little help from their friends. The alt-rock bash rolled into the early morning hours at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, reverberating through the Vinyl showroom, where more than 350 fans joined the fun.

The high-energy, sometimes high-flying Fishbone, a long-living Los Angeles band, closed things out with its fusion of punk, rock, ska, reggae and soul.

“It couldn’t be a better birthday than to have Fishbone play at our 20th anniversary,” said Chris Sanchez, lead singer and trumpeter for Lavish Green. The groups have shared the stage more than a half dozen times over the years and seem linked at the horns, a prominent feature of both.

“Twenty years, baby. I started this band when I was 7. Look pretty good for 27 years old!” Sanchez, now 42, joked with the crowd.

Sanchez, Rob Wheeler on bass and Joel Gruneich on guitar have been with Lavish Green from the beginning. As twentysomethings, they played their first gig 20 years ago to the day at a house party on Alameda Street in South Lake Tahoe. Drummer Danny Barnes, who recently joined the band, was only 7 years old then. He listened to Lavish growing up, inspired by its tough-to-categorize music that ranges from reggae to hard rock.

“It feels good. I think it was awesome,” Barnes summed up after the show. “We touched a lot of people’s hearts and they touched our hearts.” The hard-striking drummer said Lavish Green has a way of connecting with the crowd, which energizes him as he plays. He calls it the “Lavish vibe.”

“Energy, emotion and a lot of love.”

That flows both ways.

“Thanks for the one love all these years, because you’ve been so wonderful to us,” front-man Sanchez told partygoers.

Sanchez and Wheeler, buddies from California High School in San Ramon, arrived in Lake Tahoe as ski bums. Both laid up by skateboarding accidents, they decided to start a band. The rest is history. Wheeler met Gruneich at Port of Subs, where both worked, and Lavish Green was launched. Along the way saxophone player Seth Hall joined the ranks. He was back for the party Friday, collaborating with Sanchez for some sweet-sounding horns.

Actually, the celebration started Thursday night at Lake Tahoe’s Turn 3 Peanut Bar. With Sanchez holding court as bartender/master of mixology, Hall jammed with Vincenzo Thomas Amato and closed the place down. Guitarist Amato survived that session to open the Hard Rock show with a soulful, gritty acoustic performance.

True to his craft, Sanchez poured out a rendition of “At the Bar” Friday, seemingly dribbling drinks from his trumpet: “Find me at the bar…”

Recently returned from a stint in Maui and looking stealth-like after dropping more than 50 pounds, Sanchez worked the crowd like he works a bar, assuring that every little thing would be alright.

Proper advice followed: a rocking version of “Don’t Worry.”

Sharing the 20-year spotlight with the nation’s birthday, guitarist Gruneich also delivered a moving solo of the “Star Spangled Banner.”

It was nothin’ but a party.

Tim Parsons / Tahoe OnstageTim Parsons / Tahoe OnstageTim Parsons / Tahoe OnstageTim Parsons / Tahoe OnstageTim Parsons / Tahoe OnstageTim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

About Randy Hashagen

Tahoe Onstage copy chief Randy Hashagen, a former Bay Area journalist, walked away from his career to become a crazy cab driver. He's still barnstorming, but his wing-walking days are over. Lately, he has been watching the world flow through Lake Tahoe since 2012.

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