Blake Beeman stays positive, peers plan celebration

If you build it, people will come. They also will come when they love you.

Blake Beeman benefit
The Blake Beeman benefit is Jan. 15

Blake Beeman, the builder of Lake Tahoe’s greatest music venue, needs help and people are on the way.

A benefit concert will be held at the Crystal Bay Casino Jan. 15. All the ticket revenue and money raised from a silent auction will help pay for Beeman’s medical fees. The amiable and popular sound engineer and guitarist is diagnosed with inoperable stomach cancer.

Two local bands which ascended to national prominence from the venue Beeman built will perform, along with Austin, Texas rock ‘n’ roller Carolyn Wonderland and special guests.

“On the outside Blake is remaining very positive about things, which I would expect,” said Crystal Bay Casino General Manager Bill Wood. “Of course, anybody is going to have those dark moments but for the most part he’s stayed very, very positive and realistic in dealing with it, and this benefit should be a joyous occasion for people being able to get together and help a good friend out who is in need. I definitely don’t see it as a pity party.”

Jenni Charles, who sings and fiddles with the Dead Winter Carpenters which will play in the benefit, agreed.

“We’ll all be there for someone in his time of need and we don’t need to dwell on the sad aspects of it,” she said. “I know Blake doesn’t want a pity case. I think the best we can do is just to be there and make it be fun because if we are all there and sad together I don’t think Blake would want that. He wants us to just be there and have a good time.”

“We’re going to give people something fresh, and try to remember to keep it a fun show, get as many people out as we can and try to help out Blake,” said Dave Berry of Jelly Bread.

Wonderland did not hesitate at the chance to support Beeman.

“They called (my manger) and advised him something was going on and how ‘bout we have a party and have some fun? Not to make it a sad occasion but a celebratory occasion. I was very lucky. We all found a day that we could all do it.

“I am going to hop on a plane with my husband and bring a guitar and just have some fun. I am going to see who all’s going to play. That’s the fun thing, too. Through Blake, there will be a batch of players there. I am looking forward to it and looking forward to being surprised with who I get to jam with. It’s going to be a hoot.”

Beeman has played with the Beer Gardners since the 1990s but he is also known as a one-time soundman for the Grateful Dead. He also took care of the music at Humpty’s in Tahoe City and North Shore’s summer concert series.

Carolyn Wonderland trumpets praise for her friend Blake Beeman

He played guitar with the Headlines at Wood’s 1984 wedding, however, the two didn’t meet until 20 years later when the Crystal Bay Casino transitioned to a destination music venue.

“Blake is the one that outfitted the whole place with all the lighting and the sounds,” Wood said. “He was very integral in the changeover. It’s his room, basically. He put it all together. And then of course his relationship with Jim Gamble enabled us to put the Gamble board in there which Jim gave us an outstanding deal.”

Bands appreciate a helpful soundman, especially one who is a musician, too.

“He put us under his wing and helped us sound good,” Charles said.

Berry told how Beeman fixed his amp just before a show: “In five minutes I am back in business, so it’s definitely nice to work with a guy who has been around the block a few times.”

Wonderland said she wanted to look into the monitors to see what the Grateful Dead had done. She credits Beeman for helping her get her career on the right path.

Dead Winter Carpenters
Jenny Charles credits Beeman for making the the Dead Winter Carpenters sound good.

“We were so early into our tour thing and I was self-road managing at the time, to varying degrees of success,” she said. “He saw that and some people will see that and say, ‘Oh, easy target.’ But he was very helpful. He showed us how to build an audience out there.

“You can tell when people care, and the bands will always come back, too. It’s not the money. It’s the respect and the appreciation from someone who is genuine. You don’t get that everywhere.”

For more than 1,200 shows Beeman has been seen walking to various spots in the Crown Room, hands grasped behind his back, watching the band and monitoring the sound quality. During last month’s Dragon Smoke concert, I caught him contentedly sitting behind the soundboard wearing a broad smile. The sound was perfect. On another occasion in the Red Room, he noticed I was blissfully enjoying Tinsley Ellis. Beeman handed me his headset so I could hear the perfectly clean guitar.

“I could always tell when he knew it was right on because he would bust out his guitar and sit in on the second set,” Wonderland said.

Beeman always seems to be surrounded by friends, most of whom are female.

Jelly Bread
Beeman fixed the amp of Jelly Bread’s Dave Berry.

“I think people gravitate towards positive people and he’s been both onstage literally and figuratively ever since he came up here,” Wood said. “And the fact that he’s done so many shows and run into so many people over the years. If he was grouchy … it wouldn’t be the same thing. He’s always positive. He’s always giving out hugs, especially the girls. He always comes across as being happy whether he is or not.”

Charles describes Beeman as “emotional and genuine. He’s very passionate about his job. He’s a hard worker and he’s also very giving. He’s always been there in times of need for us and we’re just happy to be there for him in his time of need as well.”

Perhaps emotion is Beeman’s most enduring quality.

“His heart is firmly sewn on his sleeve,” Wonderland said.

 A Benefit for Blake

Carolyn Wonderland, Jelly Bread, Dead Winter Carpenters, special guests

When: Wednesday, Jan. 15
Where: Crystal Bay Casino Casino
Red Room silent auction: 7-10 p.m.
Crown Room concert: doors open at 8 p.m., show starts at 9 p.m.
Tickets: $25 (Red Room auction, after-party are free)


ABOUT Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons
Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.


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