The monthly artist showcase known as Loud As Folk has been bursting the seams of its Reno home for years. Patrons of Pignic Pub & Patio cozy into corners and slither through crowds with their drinks above their heads to get a glimpse of a touring musician or local favorite.
Taking the show on the road wasn’t enough for LAF host Spike McGuire. He yearned for bigger venues and creative opportunities. This past Wednesday he sold out Valhalla Tahoe, a gigantic wooden boathouse lined with seats at the lake’s edge in South Lake Tahoe.
LAF’s transition from a loose “play as long as you want” setting to a seated, structured event was flawless. The credit goes to McGuire’s unyielding need to entertain and a perfectly curated evening.
McGuire started the show with a tune and was followed by Rachbot (Rachel McElhiney), then Buffalo Moses (Bryan Jones).
The first two performers have played together for years in Buster Blue. Their friendship and musical connection is unmistakable and adorable. Both of their performances were filled with beautifully rich lyrics, poignant stories and saccharin melodies.
After a quick intermission, the stage was blessed by North Tahoe’s Jenni Charles and Jesse Dunn of Dead Winter Carpenters. There’s something completely comforting about their voices and Jenni’s carving bow.
There was a somber attentiveness throughout the crowd and the evening. Between songs, Dunn spoke of his mother’s recent trip to see him play in Tahoe for what could be her last journey due to a battle with cancer. The silence and reality of his situation was powerful and the crowd’s eventual cheers and support helped Dunn crack a big smile before playing “Vermont.”
Headliner Sam Chase is a seasoned performer with hilarious banter and folk tunes you pay attention to. He’s quick-tongued and (my guess) was class clown in school. The key ingredients for his solo performance are his gravely voice and steady, entrancing resonator guitar tone.
He has a way of being funny then profound. He can laugh at himself, then that comfort makes the hit of his poignant lines more intense.
Chase dedicated his final song to Jesse and Jenni of Dead Winter Carpenters.
“Going through a hard time, but having the courage to get up here onstage,” Chase said. “That not only means a lot to me, but to everybody here.”
The entire lineup came out for a finale performance of “I’ll Fly Away.” After the acoustic guitar and Rachbot’s baritone saxophone solos, their bow together was matched by a standing ovation.
Loud As Folk is more than performances. The performers genuinely enjoy and respect each other and it shows. McGuire’s excitement for each act is contagious, every set is stellar and the venue was a beautiful finishing touch.
McGuire and a whole new cast of singer-songwriters are set to play Thursday, Oct. 17 at Piper’s Opera House in Virginia City, Nevada.
Final words of wisdom from Sam Chase: “You never realize how strong you are until you’re at your weakest.”
— Tony Contini