Last call at Tahoe Underground
As he floated above the scene of the accident, Chris Hammett couldn’t figure out who the three people were in his car. Suddenly he felt his energy carry him back down and inside the vehicle where he found himself back in his body flanked by two paramedics.
Hammett’s car had been hit head on by another vehicle, whose dead motorist was found with a heroin needle in his arm. For a few moments, Hammett says he also was dead.
The South Shore man is alive and well now.
“I appreciate everything a whole lot more than I used to,” said Hammett.
So failing at a business venture has left him undaunted. In fact, instead of walking away, he will continue with a new approach.
Ever since moving to Tahoe in the mid-90s Hammett has said the town needed a rock ‘n’ roll bar.
After spending a great deal of time and effort dealing with regulators to open a place at the former site of the Stateline Medical Building, Hammett and his wife Wendy instead took out a lease on the old Faces building, which had been a gay nightclub.
For nearly a year and one-half, The Tahoe Underground at 270 Kingsbury Grade featured live music most nights of the week.
This weekend will be the last time the venue will provide alcohol. Starting Oct. 5, Tahoe Underground will be an all-ages venue with no alcohol. The music will continue.
Many factors could have kept folks from coming to the Underground for music and drinks, such as the stigma of it being a former gay bar, location, fear of a D.U.I., the Angora fire, MontBleu with a club using the same name, the local economy.
“We gave it a valiant effort,” Hammett said.
The Last Call for Alcohol party will feature some of the bands who were the most successful performers at the club. Sacramento jam band Izabella plays Friday, Sept. 28 and members of South Shore Bands Waiting for T.I.M., Ten Cent Lure, Wake Up Lucid and possibly Absynth play Saturday in a group going by the name of the Tim Parsons Project.
“I brought in 170 bands from all over the world and a lot of it went totally unappreciated,” Hammett said. “A couple of weeks ago we had this Jimi Hendrix tribute band that was just great. I bought radio and TV ads and put up fliers all over town and we only had about 40 people each night. It was just sad.”
Dan White, the lead guitarist for Waiting for T.I.M., also is disappointed about the situation.
“He had such great shows there,” White said. “I’d go and see bands there that were phenomenal and there’d only be 10 people there. I figure it was a combination of drink prices and location. I wish he would have made it because it would be nice to have a good venue that actually cared about good music as opposed to just making money but I suppose that’s what came and bit him on the ass.”
It will be the fourth Underground appearance for Izabella.
Bassist Sam Phelps said, “We’re really honored that they are having us there for the last (call). We’ve had nothing but good times at the Underground with a lot of people showing good love to the band and we’re showing it right back.”
Multi-instrumentalist Brian Rogers agreed.
“The Tahoe Underground has got that ‘Nevada-tude.’ They’re warm and they like us there.”
Some of the highlights included a concert by nationally renowned Pat Travers and the many lesser-attended shows like the Chris Bramble Band that nonetheless provided a great time for the folks who did turn out. And of course it was the Underground where Waiting for T.I.M. had it’s first break.
“He took a chance on us,” White said. “He was the first guy to let us play at venue, the first to let us do what we wanted to do.”
Hammett, who has played in several bands, said he likes to provide an opportunity for up-and-coming bands like O.C.T., Absynth, Ten Cent Lure, Frame of Mind, Truckee Tribe and Waiting for T.I.M.
“Waiting for T.I.M. packed the place from Day 1,” Hammett said. “My comfort level with those guys has increased and they’ve gotten better and better and better.”
Opportunity will continue at Tahoe Underground.
“There are a ton of young bands in this town who can’t come to clubs,” said Hammett, who said he might have a battle of the bands every Sunday afternoon.
White, a 2001 graduate of Whittell High School, said he would have liked to have an all-ages club when he was growing up.
“I was always into live music,” he said. “That was huge for me, not being able to go to shows because your not 21. If there was a place like that I definitely would have wanted to go and I would assume that kids nowadays would too.”
Hammett is optimistic about the new format for his venue.
“I am feeling fairly confident because of the response from musicians and high school students who want get involved.”
Tahoe Underground also will bring in pool tables and interactive video games and offer cappuccino, espresso and energy drinks. The revenue it generates will come from a cover charge.
Hammett wants to provide music which teens perhaps have not before heard, material that’s less violent.
“Not any trash,” he said. “I don’t want to hear anything about my mother and I don’t want to hear a single curse word.”
The grand opening Oct. 5 and 6 will feature D.J. Gibram, whose forte is getting the crowd moving with the African rhythms of Lingala, Sokouss, Ndombolo, Kwaito, bongo, reggae and East African hip-hop.
Hammett will keep his catering license so the venue can be used for wedding receptions and special events.
Hammett encourages parents to visit the venue. Call Tahoe Underground at (775) 588-2333.