The Scott Pemberton Band left the south shore of Lake Tahoe in a tailspin after an ace display of Northwest guitar-funk at Live at Lakeview on Thursday night.
On Course Events, organizer of Live at Lakeview, has been a stalwart supporter of Pemberton and has gotten him up in front of a number of audiences over the past couple years. Pemberton has never disappointed and his sensational guitar antics and humble attitude have helped nurture a dedicated following in the basin. Thursday night, they all showed up at one of the biggest, if not the biggest, Live at Lakeview parties this summer.
Pemberton and his gang of groove, including Tom Morrison on bass- keyboards and bass, Sam Berrett on drums and Rudy Slizewski on steel pans and percussion, felt the love and support of the crowd all night and poured it right back into their performance. The sunny “One Time” bounced along to Pemberton’s elastic melody as people danced under the late afternoon sun.
With the crowd deep in the pocket, Berrett launched into the knuckle-down beat of “East Bar Line.” As he kept the rhythm, Slizewski had a field day on the cowbell and wood blocks, adding infectious syncopation that never lost its funky grip. Smiles as wide as the lake were plastered on all the band members.
Pemberton’s approach to guitar is as unique as his story. A guitar teacher in Portland, he didn’t start pursuing a serious touring career until a bike accident left him almost dead, giving him the clarity to start reaching for his musical aspirations. The accident left him with some back problems, which is why Pemberton plays his guitar in a number of different configurations, from attacking it out in front of him to placing it on a stool and playing it while he stands or kneels.
It was fun to watch Pemberton, and his beard, move around the stage and take up a number of his different power stances while playing, obviously feeding off the energy of the ever-growing crowd. He never slowed down and his onslaught of guitar hooks kept a similar pace, ranging from squirmy jazz in “Vehicle” to crunchy, psychedelic surf in “Grieg.” Pemberton doesn’t play guitar as much as he skips over its frets and his talent surely gave a handful of guitarists a moment to pause in wonder.
With the sky awash in an orange and maroon glaze, and the beach filled with an exuberant crowd, Pemberton signed, sealed and delivered two raucous encores filled with funky love. The first encore saw a searing performance of “Don’t Take My Kindness For Weakness,” followed by the seismic strut of “Let’s Play House,” with a groove that was deep and enveloping and left no one stationary in its wake.
Already past curfew but with a crowd that would not go quietly into the dark night, Pemberton took the stage one more time and unleashed the funky hoedown “I Am a Person.”
“I am a person and I know it/ And I really like to show it/ Cause that is really what I am,” was a call to action and everyone let their freak flag fly for the Scott Pemberton Band on a very special night in Tahoe.
Live at Lakeview concludes next Thursday with a couple of homegrown bands, Lavish Green and Black Star Safari.