Strange Weather: rockers smash it

Strange Weather rocks Whiskey Dick's Saloon on July 19.

Strange Weather rocks Whiskey Dick’s Saloon on July 19.

When Strange Weather breaks out in Lake Tahoe, “all hail breaks loose.”

That’s what happened at midnight Sunday at Whiskey Dick’s Saloon when the newly formed Tahoe band Strange Weather was jamming and the packed crowd was slamming into the early morning hours.

Perhaps the vibe could be best explained by a cover song the band played, “Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo” a 1973 classic by Rick Derringer: “Lordy mama, light my fuse. Drop on out and spread the news.”

News spreads quickly in Tahoe and it’s apparent that Strange Weather already has a following. More than 100 people showed up for the show, and at one point the best way to get from one end of the bar to other was to go out the back door and circle around front. Soon, authorities asked for the music level to be moderated and the propped-open doors had to be closed. Inside, the temperature rose and Strange things ensued.

Before the show, bass player Todd Christensen described Strange Weather as “new dogs doing an old trick,” hard-driving rock and roll. He said it’s like the “1970s meet the 1990s.” Front-man Vinny Berry, singer and guitarist, plotted a “rock and roll revolution.”

“We want to get people digging rock and roll again,” Berry said last week.

The plan seems to be working. Berry and Christensen bounce about the stage as they perform in a high-energy whirl. They are joined by lead-guitarist Johnny “Chili” Munroe and drummer Jon Gardner. This week, the four will head to a Carson City studio, Play Your Own Music, to finish recording 13 original tunes. The musicians have played in various bands in Lake Tahoe and decided recently to combine forces and create Strange Weather.

Although the band name originates from a Tom Waits tune, the group wrote a song with the same title during an unseasonal, driving hailstorm this month in Lake Tahoe. “Strange Weather is a heavy, ripping rock song,” Christensen said. “It’s a Tahoe thing — we wrote it when it was hailing in July.”

“All hail breaks loose,” Berry chimed in. The lyrics unveil the band’s attitude: “Field of drums… beating the chest. This is rock and roll, fuck all the rest.”

Strange Weather pumped out a dozen originals songs on Sunday night, weaved in with covers of Velvet Revolver (“Slither”), Alice in Chains (“Man in the Box”), Black Sabbath (“War Pigs”), Pearl Jam (“Dirty Frank”), Led Zeppelin (“Whole Lotta Love”) and Neil Young (Rockin’ in the Free World”).

Their fans loved it all and the mosh-pit intensity grew as the night went on. Berry took time to go crowd surfing, and Chili Munroe had a surprise for all, including his bandmates. Usually planted at one spot, Munroe walked calmly off stage before the final encore, melding into the mosh pit while continuing to play – until smashing his guitar on the floor.

“Spontaneous,” he claimed afterward. A proper end of the week, the band agreed. A song penned by Munroe, “Watch This Space,” summed up their thoughts: “… A rock and roll revelation makes you forget about all your cares… the music sets you free.”

Before Strange Weather unleashed its 1-hour, 40-minute set of freedom, a Lake Elsinore alt-rock band made its Tahoe debut. HaHa Halfway spilled out more than a dozen original songs, including “The Bird,” which has garnered airtime on some SoCal rock stations. The group’s heavy rock tunes set the mood for the night and were well received by the crowd of locals.

Singer/guitarist Ryan Dufford said the band initially was tagged Halfway Reckless, which potential sponsors didn’t like, then became just Halfway, which an Australian band claimed rights to, so members added the HaHa, “because we think we’re so damn funny, anyway.”

Dufford is joined by his brother Sean on bass, Jordan Morris on drums and Andrew Lastra on guitar. Tonight, HaHa Halfway plays at Jub Jub’s Thirst Parlor, 71 S. Wells St., Reno. The show starts at 9 p.m.

Tahoe Onstage

Photographer’s notebook: “I thought they were awesome! They really have the ’70s rock vibe. When they did Black Sabbath’s ‘War Pigs’ I thought to myself this must have been like to see Black Sabbath back in the day when they were rocking little clubs.” — Kurt Johnson

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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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