High Sierra Music: Sweet Crude soldiers on after burglary

Tahoe Onstage

Sweet Crude opens the High Sierra Music Festival at the Grand Meadow on Thursday, June 29. From left, Collin McCabe, Sam Craft, Alexis Marceaux and Dave Shirley.
Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

Pardon our French, but Sweet Crude is having a helluva tour.

The opening show at the High Sierra Music Festival is a showcase for up-and-coming bands such as The Accidentals and Sturgill Simpson. Playing a unique sound of percussion and harmonies that alternate from Louisiana-French and English, the New Orleans band Sweet Crude presented a joyful performance to a fresh, clean and dancing crowd under the shade cover at Grand Meadow. The audience members could not have fathomed what the ordeal the band had gone through to make the show.

Sam Craft

During an off day smack in the middle of a two-month tour in support of its debut LP, “Creative,” the musicians took in a San Francisco Giants-Colorado Rockies ballgame while burglars cleaned out their van, taking two violins, five laptops and all of their luggage.

“NOLA criminals are not as organized as San Francisco criminals,” the band’s touring bassist Collin McCabe said. “Obviously, they had a team.”

“We were completely despondent,” violinist Sam Craft told Tahoe Onstage. “We knew we could not play a show without those violins and computers and without all of our clothes. It was hard to soldier on.

“We called our drummer (Dave Shirley) who had day off for a wedding. We said, ‘Dude, don’t come back. We’re gonna go home.’ ”

The next morning, there were several messages on the band members’ one remaining charged phone. Management had fronted some money and could get a violin and laptops. A 21st-century band, Sweet Crude can’t play keyboard without a computer.

Dave Shirley

The band played Tuesday at the Lagunitas Brewing Company in Petaluma, sharing the stage with Tank and the Bangas, which shared its drummer and passed around a bucket for donations from the audience.

“Lagunitas gave us clothes and beer,” McCabe said. “It was a good way to lift our spirits.”

Then the band called Shirley, the drummer.

“We told him, ‘OK, just kidding, if you can fly out to Reno and rent a car we can meet you at High Sierra,’” Craft said.

After the opening performance at High Sierra, the band was able to relax for a minute. After another set on Friday, the musicians were to drive back home to New Orleans to “sleep for a couple of days” before heading to Pittsburgh to resume the second half of the tour.

“It was a joy and an honor to be able to kick things off here,” Craft said. “This country is beautiful. Our trip here was weird. We came up in the middle of the night driving up on those steep mountain roads. It was kind of thrilling and crazy.”

Contribute to Sweet Crude’s GoFundMe account.

-Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

Tahoe Onstage

Alexis Marceaux of New Orleans band Sweet Crude opens Big Meadow.
Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

About 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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