The Red phenomenon: Who’s next to step into the spotlight?
Red Room to stardom: It occurs often enough that it should be considered neither an aberration nor a surprise.
It’s a phenomenon.
The smaller of two music venues in the Crystal Bay Casino, the Red Room has a stage that is both an undiscovered band’s stop along the way to fame and a local band’s launching pad to the national scene. The room fits about 100 and there is no cover charge.
This phenomenon last week occurred with a little-known duo from New York City, the London Souls. One person in the crowd described the it as a sonic attack in which Tash Neal’s guitar strikes registered on the Richter Scale while drummer Chris St. Hilaire accented notes like cracks of lightning.
A hit-and-run accident that nearly killed Neal just before and upcoming album release has kept the duo under the radar for the last two years. It tours Europe next month with Billy Idol, opening the door for exposure that could lead to worldwide attention.
“We’ve had quite a few of those Red Room to stardom (phenomena),” said Brent Harding of Devil Dog Productions, the promotion company that books acts for Crystal Bay. “The Avett Brothers played in the Red Room for 55 people. And we’ve had Trampled by Turtles and the Devil Makes Three.”
The Dead Winter Carpenters are the Tahoe band which has built the biggest national acclaim since the Crystal Bay Casino’s 2004 metamorphosis to a full-time destination music venue. Its first show was a free Red Room after-party for Yonder Mountain String Band. The response was tremendous and the band’s ascent was rapid. Within two years it began to sell out the larger Crown Room for ticketed concerts and it now tours the country as a popular Americana band.
A year after DWC’s Red Room phenomenon, Reno’s Jelly Bread made a similar leap. The funk and soul quartet relentlessly tours the nation and has built a fan base in the Southeast.
Who will be the next Tahoe-area band to step into the national spotlight?
“The hardest thing to do in this business is figuring out whose going to be big,” Harding said. “It makes no rhyme or reason, really. I can’t explain it. Sometimes it’s undeniable but a lot of times you are just shaking you head going, ‘Why it this band bigger than this one?’ It’s a tough racket. I am glad I am not in a band. It’s great when you are at the top but it’s a tough ride to get there.”
Nevertheless, Harding made a prediction.
“Mark Sexton, I would say, has got a chance to be the next one,” Harding said. “Everybody that sees him, and not just me but professionals who have been around and have seen talent a lot, are noticing Mark.”
The Sextones is a homegrown Reno group. It started as a trio with Sexton, a 26-year-old guitarist-singer, and bassist Alex Korstinsky and drummer Dan Weiss. It has added a keyboardist and often plays with a horn section. Sexton also has a side band, Whatitdo., with Korostinsky and Aaron Chiazza.”
Harding said a trio would have the best chance to make the next step.
“(Mark’s) got the right attitude and I think the trio is a fantastic way to go for a new artist because it’s easy to manage financially and it’s easy to play support spots for other artists and that’s really how you get out there.”
Formerly called the Mark Sexton Band, the Sextones have opened three sellout shows at Cargo at the Whitney Peak Hotel in Reno, which also is promoted by Harding.
“For JJ Grey & Mofro and for Galactic I submitted four or five locals (to open) and they both chose Mark,” Harding said. “So they are seeing something; I see it and I think everyone at the venue, Cargo, loves Mark. So if you ask me, I would say Mark is going to be the next one who could be a force nationally.”
Harding’s words are music to Sexton’s ears because the promoter is well known in the industry as a straight shooter.
“Brent’s always been super real with us,” Sexton said. “He always responds with very short emails. He can be very blunt and to the point. Sometimes it can hurt but he’s usually right. There’s a lot of respect for someone who works within the music business who instead of not responding to an email, he’ll respond to it and tell you why he’s not going to let you do something. Instead of ignoring you, he’ll say no and say why he’s saying no, which I respect a lot more.”
The Mark Sexton Band has secured the Prairie Sun Studio in Cotati, Calif., in August to record its third album.
“These are exciting times,” Sexton said. “It will be cool to have both (albums) and a clear representation of what both of those mean. The Mark Sexton Band has a classic approach to songwriting with a lot of respect and admiration to the music we grew up listening to: Stevie Wonder, Tower of Power, stuff like that.”
Whatitdo. is a contrast, an experimental adventurous modern funk band which has developed a following at a Wednesday night residency at the Loving Cup in Reno.
“It’s not for everybody,” Sexton said. “It’s jazz-funk but not jazz-funk in the way Medeski Martin & Wood do it. Whatitdo. started as a musical outlet for the three of us to get out and expand ourselves as musicians. We originally started writing songs that were harder than we could even play, and thanks to Whatitdo., it has made me a better guitar player.”
Upcoming Red Room showsNo cover, 10 p.m. usual start time
Friday, July 22: Tracorum
Saturday, July 23: Jake Houston & the Royal Flush
Friday, July 29: Purple Haze
Friday, Aug. 5: Whitney Myer
Wednesday, Aug. 10: Futurebirds
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.