Cheers: Lavish Green turns 21

Lavish Green

Danny Barnes rocks Rojo’s Cavern during Lavish Green’s Cinco de Mayo performance.
Photos by Pheonix Gruneich

Editor’s note: Lavish Green will call the shots on Sunday, July 3, during a free concert at Audibles Sports Bar in Stateline, Nevada. After all, it’s the band’s 21st birthday bash. Audibles is located on lower Kingsbury Grade at the site formerly housing the Goalpost bar. Co-owners Jesse Yohnka and Ron Baker will host the Lavish affair, as band members Chris Sanchez (lead vocals and trumpet), Joel Gruneich (guitar), Rob Wheeler (bass) and Danny Barnes (drums) mark another milestone in rockin’ Lake Tahoe. Tahoe Blue Vodka specials (Blue Mules and Blue Blasters) will be offered throughout the night, along with some birthday beads and other swag, with outdoors seating available for dining. VTA (aka Vincent Thomas Amato) will open at 7 p.m. with a 45-minute set of acoustic rock and funk, followed by Lavish Green from 8 to 10 p.m. Below is review of the band’s Cinco de Mayo party.

It’s all good in the neighborhood.

Coming full circle, Lavish Green threw a Cinco de Mayo party at Rojo’s Tavern in South Lake Tahoe.

“Last night was a great time,” said Josh Lease, who attended the show. “It felt like the good old Tahoe I know. Thanks, fellas.”

More than two decades ago, Lavish Green got its start at a raucous houseparty on nearby Alameda Street, a spot known affectionately as the Rat Pad. The emerging musicians played a three-song set in the middle of a show by Anxiety. That was before their Green days, though. At that very first show, the boys were known as The Gimps.

Buddies Chris Sanchez and Rob Wheeler had fled suburbia for higher ground after graduating from California High School in San Ramon. They landed in South Lake, living the life of ski bums. In 1995, leg injuries left both laid up at the same time. They passed the recoop days by playing music, Sanchez banging on a drum set and Wheeler strumming his guitar.

The two mountain newbies met a local, Rob Giustina, who currently runs OnCourse Events and brought the Live at Lakeview summer music series to South Lake. Giustina would become the budding group’s first singer, Carl Rice joined as guitarist and Wheeler switched it up to bass. With two members still on the limp, The Gimps learned a few songs and set sights on the Rat Pad.

“We got the mosh pit going (that first day) and never looked back,” Wheeler remembers. “Me and Sanch got our first taste and we got serious about doing something with this. We wanted to start a rock ‘n’ roll band.”

Rice left the group and guitarist Joel Gruneich joined. He worked with Wheeler at Port of Subs, just a few doors down from Rojo’s Tavern (which became a Lavish hangout in the early days.) All healed up, band members retired The Gimps. During an epiphany of sorts at a Sunday brunch overlooking the lake, the name Lavish Green surfaced, more from a greenish fog than a purple rain.

Lavish Green went all out in the early years, playing several shows a week both locally and, eventually, throughout Northern California. Good times, crazy times, were had in the ‘hood at Rojo’s Tavern.

“That was our stomping grounds — The Cave — one of our first places ever,” Sanchez recalls. “They had `Dollar Drunk Night’ on Thursdays back in the day. We used to pick people up off the floor with glass in their backs. It was punk rock.”

Related story: Chris Sanchez reflects upon Prince’s impact on music. LINK

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About Randy Hashagen

Tahoe Onstage copy chief Randy Hashagen, a former Bay Area journalist, walked away from his career to become a crazy cab driver. He's still barnstorming, but his wing-walking days are over. Lately, he has been watching the world flow through Lake Tahoe since 2012.

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