Early March storms are nothing out of the ordinary in the mountains, but Strange Weather proved a powerful force in Lake Tahoe on Friday night, as the budding rock band tore up the stage in Vinyl at Hard Rock Casino with its vintage blend of hard rock.
As rain poured down on South Shore and politics poured down on the nation and abroad, frontman Vinny Berry was all about the tunes, belting out Free’s “All Right Now.”
“It’s all right folks, no matter what kind of shit is going down in the world, we’re all right here,” He called to the roaring crowd, backed up by Todd Christensen on bass, John “Chili” Munroe on guitar, and Jon Gardner on drums in a Misfits tee and day-glow glasses.
Strange Weather packed the Vinyl floor; by mid-show the room was as full of roaring, gyrating music fans as I have seen it. The quartet played with abandon on stage, clearly having a blast in front of the local crowd. The long-haired hooligans looked right at home on Vinyl’s understated stage, all rock attitude and energy on black velvet and bare steel, with a panoply of lights swirling above.
The band drew heavily on its recently released debut album, a self-titled record of 11 original songs, bringing heavy, driving rock down on the grooving audience with tunes like “Shi Shi Dogs,” and “Hangin Round My Head.” The album is available for download on the website Bandcamp LINK. A high point was “Sleepwalker,” a slow, entrancing eerie minor blues, capped off with a wailing wah-wah guitar lead.
Strange Weather also rolled in a variety of rock covers, including “Highway Star” by Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin’s iconic “Whole Lotta Love.” The band did justice to Plant and Page’s wild interlude on that song, with Berry belting out Plant’s crescendo with enthusiasm and Munroe hitting Page’s climactic solo note for note, with perhaps a few extra added in for good measure.
“You know, this song is actually about plowing a field,” a wise-looking, bearded man in the audience informed me.
There was a lot to take in that night; the house system sounded great, projecting Strange Weather’s tightly knit groove with crystalline clarity. Munroe’s searing guitar notes soared above Christensen’s thumping bass. Gardner’s kit was particularly well-mic’d, with every snap of the snare feeling like a sharp rap on the chest.
Christensen, always a crowd favorite, was only mildly obscene in a cut off midriff-baring shirt, his electric bass slung low enough to give the crowd an eyeful. He was as animated as ever, high-stepping back and forth and swinging his hair low over the stage. At one point he dropped to a seated position and rolled over onto his back, still thumbing away wildly at his bass. Shades of Nigel Tufnel.
Munroe’s laid-back lead guitar style gave way to another evocation of the Spinal Tap guitarist at one point, as he slowly rolled his Les Paul’s strings along the bar of his mic stand, creating a cacophony of squalling electric guitar. The mic stand has an obvious advantage over the violin, as it does not require tuning.
Berry was very “high energy,” ironically in tone with his occasional calling out of the current political climate during the evening. He played on the already exuberant crowd, getting the concertgoers to sing along with numerous tunes.
“Can we bring the house lights up?” He called out after the final notes of “Shi Shi Dogs.”
“Look at all these beautiful people out here; they’re the real stars of the show.”
The band killed it Friday, as is rapidly coming to be expected from anyone familiar with the rockers’ work so far. Strange Weather will play 7800 Bar & Grill at Kirkwood on Saturday, March 26. The four also are planning a tour to Southern California and Nevada, but we’ll keep you posted on the next time Strange Weather touches down lakeside.