No dream: Rock superstars share their Secret Stash

Tahoe Onstage

Michael McCready of Secret Stash is onstage and on the big screen at Squaw Valley’s Village Green Festival on Saturday, Aug. 26.
Tahoe Onstage photos by Michael Smyth

I had a dream about rolling up on a house party from my youth. I’ve never been to this neighborhood and the people are strangers, but I go with it and walk in anyway. Immediately, I am wrapped in loud conversation and laughter, the smell of alcohol and inexpensive weed wafting through the air and live music coming from the backyard.

“This party is happening,” I say to myself and venture out back to draw a beer from the pony keg. The band is really kickin’ and playing a cover of Electric Light Orchestra’s “Do Ya” and they sound GREAT. I look a little closer and I see freaking Mike McCready of Pearl Jam playing guitar and Stefan Lessard of The Dave Matthews Band playing bass, and I’m thinking what kind of party did I stumble into?

Stefan Lessard of Secret Stash and the Dave Matthews Band.

Anyway, this band is just KILLING it, covering The Clash, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Alice in Chains ,and Lita Ford and having the chops to switch gears to drop tunes from Fleetwood Mac, Elton John, and John Mellencamp. They were all over the place. The range didn’t end there, wedging in The Band, Peter Gabriel, Dire Straits, The Beastie Boys, and, of course, a Grateful Dead classic.

Turns out, it was no dream. On Saturday night, Secret Stash — assembled by good pals Lessard and McCready in short order this summer — treated Village Green Festival goers at the Creating Equilibrium conference at Squaw Valley to a kick-ass worldwide debut.

Before those big name stars took the stage, the crowd gave a warm reception to Allen Stone, who as a self-proclaimed “hippie with soul” fit right in with the Tahoe vibe. Next up was Vermont based Dispatch, which despite making its first ever trip to Tahoe found many fans awaiting this special occasion to see their favorite band in an intimate setting. They took full advantage, singing and bouncing to the band’s jam, indie folk, reggae, and ska stylings. Dispatch undoubtedly gained some new fans in their Sierra debut, as well. By midway through their set, the musicians had people out of their chairs and off their blankets and crowding in toward the stage. I’m hopeful we get to see them in these parts again soon.

As night fell no one had any idea what to expect from Secret Stash. Would they be playing original music? Covering some Pearl Jam and DMB tunes? The music from the PA’s while the crew set the stage offered clues with the likes of Rush, Thin Lizzy, and Ozzy Osborne flooding out into the evening air. Joining the founders were Nate Ruess (vocals) of the indie-pop band Fun, and Sully Erna (drums, vocals) of Godsmack, as well as Michael Geghan (saxophone, keys) and former Posies drummer Mike Musberger. A couple of ladies with edge, Molly Sides (vocals) and Whitney Petty (guitar) from Seattle based Thunderpussy completely held their own with all the boys, with Sides handling vocals on Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times, Bad Times” and AC/DC’s “T.N.T.”

Michael Smyth / Tahoe Onstage

Dee Snider makes a surprise appearance to play “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”
Tahoe Onstage photos by Michael Snyder

Dispatch’s Brad Corrigan and Chad Stokes returned to share vocals on a terrific Beastie Boys rock-rap cover of “Root Down” and Sully Erna brought serious vocal chops to Alice in Chains “Man In The Box.”  The encore brought one last surprise, with Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider coming out to front the band for “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” (The song was the evening’s biggest political statement aside from the five-minute environmental resource consumption video that preceded Stash’s set) “I Wanna Rock” followed before concluding the night with perhaps one last ode to our current political climate as AC/DC’s “Highway To Hell” thundered to a climactic finish.

Who knows if this project will see the light of day again, but it was obvious that they were having one hell of a good time roiling through these songs that had some meaning and connection to them.  The whole thing really was like a dream. I mean, seriously, can you recall going to a three-band show where the headliner plays all covers and is awesome?  I can’t, but it was. Maybe the secret is out.

-Michael Smyth

Tahoe Onstage

Nate Ruess has fun with Secret Stash.

Tahoe Onstage

Allen Stone is a “hippie with soul.”

Michael Smyth / Tahoe Onstage

Matt Embree plays guitar for Dispatch at Squaw Valley.

Tahoe Onstage

Thunderpussy’s Molly Sides rocks with Lessard on Saturday.
Tahoe Onstage photos by Michael Smyth

About Michael Smyth

Michael Smyth moved to Reno in 2007 after living more than 40 years in the Bay Area. In addition to going to live shows, he enjoys golf, skiing and fly-fishing. Check out his website www.bombilations.com

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