Let there be Snowlive
CRYSTAL BAY, Nev. – Can it all just be an elaborate and effective pray-for-snow party?
The white stuff fell at the conclusion of 2012’s inaugural Snowlive and – for the first time in weeks – Tahoe experienced a mild snowstorm as the second annual four-day music festival began at the Crystal Bay Casino.
With a musical lineup this impressive the snow gods are surely listening and dancing atop the clouds.
The multitalented trio Soulive – Eric Krasno and Alan and Neal Evans – is accompanied this week by the Shady Horns from the band Lettuce.
Each night has a different theme with surprise guest appearances. Snowlive opened Wednesday with Stax Records and Soul tribute with Booker T. Jones and Niki J. Crawford. Thursday is Rock Night with Robert Randolph, the Slide Brothers and trombone player Big Sam Williams. Friday salutes New Orleans with George Porter Jr., Papa Mali and Williams. Saturday’s finale has Nicki Bluhm, Porter, Mali, Williams and a surprise guest.
“We have the horns this time so we’ll have a lot of options,” Soulive guitarist Krasno said. “We have a lot of songs that are going in the pot for different guests. We just need to figure out the spacing and figure out what’s going to go where. We write a set list but we let it change if it needs to. We try to feed off the vibe of the crowd.”
Alan Evans, Soulive’s drummer and band leader, revealed how his musical style changes from night to night.
“I am going to lay on you the big secret: It doesn’t,” he said. “When I was younger, there was a lot of effort trying to learn these different styles. … As I have gotten older, I realized that’s my voice on the drums. I play other instruments, but on the drums, this is my sound.”
Music promoter, co-founder of the Squaw Valley Wanderlust festival and the brother of Eric Krasno, Jeff Krasno calls the versatile Soulive “modern-day Funk Brothers,” referring to the Motown studio band in Detroit.
“We find a way to meld our sound into whatever we are doing,” Eric Krasno said. “It’s funny, over the years we’ve let those things seep into our music anyway. It’s one big melting pot.”
The Evans brothers played in a band called Moon Boot Lover in the mid-1990s when they shared some show bills with Krasno’s band Lettuce. Alan Evans went on to play with the Greyboy Allstars but stayed in touch with Krasno. In the late 1990s Soulive was formed.
“They called me and said they had (a studio) in Woodstock, N.Y.,” Krasno said. “On the first day together we made an album called “Get Down,” an EP. We just hit the road and that was that.”
As a teenager, Krasno was a fan of Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. His first instrument was bass, and his favorite players were jazz’s Paul Jackson and the Funk Brothers James Jamerson, perhaps the most-listened to but unknown artist ever. Motown only began to credit session players on its records in 1971 when it moved to Los Angeles.
As he learned guitar, Krasno said he studied the bright and funky sounds of Grant Green, Melvin Sparks, George Benson and Wes Montgomery.
Funk is distinguished by a back beat, a rhythm and syncopation,” Krasno said.
“Funk is all about the drums and the percussion: everybody in the band is playing a percussive part,” he said. “It’s like West African drumming where each drummer has a part of the bed of the rhythm, all finding little syncopations that fit within each other. The main objective is to make everyone dance so each of those parts is culminating together and it creates this infectious rhythm. That’s the funk.”
Snowlive is Soulive’s a West Coast version of a 10-day event, Bowlive, annually held since 2010 at the Brooklyn Bowl. Coincidentally, the Crystal Bay Casino’s Crown Room used to be a bowling alley.
At last year’s Snowlive debut attended by 2,400, Soulive played reggae with Matisyahu, rock with Luther Dickinson and Karl Denson and New Orleans with Porter and Anders Osborne. The surprise artist at the Saturday finale was Ivan Neville.
Eric and Jeff Krasno are from the East Coast but as children visited their grandfather who lived in Truckee. The brothers’ appreciation for the Lake Tahoe area led to the annual Snowlive and Wanderlust festivals.