Regardless of your stance on climate change, it’s tough to disagree that there has been an awful lot of strange weather appearing around the country in recent years. Snowstorms in Atlanta, drought across the country, heavy winters paralyzing the Northeast and it’s flooding down in Texas.
Now, Tahoe has some Strange Weather of its own, and we don’t mean the lack of snow.
Strange Weather is a brand new South Lake Tahoe rock band, with a melodically heavy style, and aggressive vocals and instrumentation hearkening back to the grunge and alternative sounds of yesteryear.
“One of the things, the appeal about starting this band was there’s no other hard rocking bands in town, so we were looking to fill that void,” guitarist and vocalist John “Chili” Munroe said.
Strange Weather is Munroe, Vinny Berry (lead vocals, guitar), Todd Christensen (bass) and John Gardner (drums).
The lineup has a considerable amount of combined musical experience in the Tahoe area over the last several years. Christensen is in the reggae group Weapon, Gardner plays with funk band Groove Box, and Munroe picks lead guitar for the Connor Party. Berry also has been appearing as a solo and guest artist at restaurants and bars around town.
The lads got together out of the shared South Lake Tahoe music scene, with all of the members jamming together before in twos and threes.
“Me and Todd played years ago in a garage, and then I started sitting in with Connor Party for a while, and me and Johnny started to click a little bit, we started to realize we were into the same music,” Berry said.
“I just wanted to go for something a little bit harder, do a full band, do kind of the (Jimmy) Page and (Robert) Plant thing; that was what I saw in Vinny,” Munroe said.
He brought in Christensen and Gardner, and the four immediately recognized a shared devotion to rock music.
“What really attracted me to it was just the professionalism of everyone,” Christensen said. “Vinny’s the best male singer I’ve ever met in my life, and Johnny Mack (Munroe) is one of the hardest working dudes I’ve ever had a chance to jam with, just an absolute riff king; he can hit solos note for note like I’ve never heard before. And John Gardner, again just a hard working dude. Everyone’s into it to play music and work hard, not just to drink beer and screw around. Once I saw that on the plate, I got hungry.”
Strange Weather wasted little time in getting down to work. Within a few practices, the group had nine original tunes down; songs written earlier by Berry and Munroe, but modified and arranged with Gardner and Christensen’s input.
With this fresh material in hand, the band rolled down to Carson City to record a demo.
“We did it down at Play Your Own music, with Vince,” Christensen said. “He’s got about 30 years of recording experience; really easy to work with and he’s got a great ear.”
“We decided to go down and record three songs,” Munroe said. “But we banged ‘em out so quickly, we wound up recording five. That’s been kind of the story of the band so far. We’ve exceeded our own expectations as far as each practice and just kind of running on this enthusiasm.”
While cautioning that the demo album is rough and largely unmixed, the bandmates are indubitably pleased with the result, using the CD to work on booking the band’s first slate of gigs. Strange Weather will be playing an after party for a South Shore talent show at the Beach Retreat and Lodge on Wednesday, June 17, and a gig at Fresh Ketch on Sunday, June 21.
The band is particularly excited for the Fresh Ketch show, as it will perform in an area of the restaurant that is rarely used for live music.
“It’s called the Yacht room, it’s usually used for bar mitzvahs, Christmas parties and corporate events, but they rarely use it,” Berry said. “One of the managers mentioned it to me. I went over and said, ‘Holy shit,’ we’ve got to do something this year. We finally got the green light to try it this month.”
Strange Weather will also open for Black Star Safari at a Lakeview Commons benefit concert for the local C.A.S.A. program in July.
For now, the band’s focus is simple; book gigs for the summer, work on cleaning up the demo tracks, and expand the repertoire with both original songs and covers.
“We’ve got a couple new ones that we’ve been working on that aren’t on the demo,” Berry said. “We’ve got what, 10 original songs at this point. We’ve been working covers to get the crowd going a little bit, fill the set.”
Strange Weather is loving its location as well, keen on carving out its own niche in the music environment developing around Tahoe.
“It’s very up-and-coming.,” Munroe said. “Already, I see more places to play this summer than last summer. It’s starting to get around, there’s a Tahoe music scene.”
“Just the fact that people love seeing live music onstage, it’s a huge draw,” Berry said. “If there’s a band of any kind that’s good and talented and respectable, as far as musicianship, people are going to come out and see it.”
As it stands, Tahoe residents and visitors alike will have ample opportunity to get out and enjoy the Strange Weather this summer. The forecast?
“A wild rock and roll show,” Berry said. That’s definitely what you’ll see, a lot of movement, a lot of jumping around, me and Todd.”
For Christensen, the band’s appeal is obvious:
“I would say the professionalism, the commitment and energy. And the hair.”
ABOUT Josh Sweigert
Josh grew up on the California coast with a deep appreciation for bluegrass and string band music as well as the great outdoors. A guitarist and singer, he plays solo acoustic gigs in South Lake Tahoe.
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