South Shore still has an ear for music | TahoeDailyTribune.com
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South Shore still has an ear for music

Melinda Hunter
Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Widespread Panic guitarist George McConnell plays at a sold-out show at Caesars Tahoe Wednesday night.
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Not so long ago when the likes of Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley frequented the posh showrooms of Stateline, the entertainment industry was booming.

Nowadays, some aging baby boomers may argue that South Shore’s heyday has come and gone. Others say that although music venues may have changed, the audience and the enthusiasm for music and Tahoe as a concert destination is only fueling more ticket sales.

A new generation of music fans has flocked to Tahoe to see their favorite bands such as Widespread Panic this week and The String Cheese Incident this past March at Caesars Tahoe. The Harveys Outdoor Concert Series continues to book heavy-hitting names like Toby Keith, John Mellencamp and Sammy Hagar. A nightclub on the California side with the funny name – Whiskey Dick’s Saloon – continues to bring today’s top hip-hop and reggae performers.

“The entertainment industry in South Lake is still alive and thriving because we are bringing in big names – we’re just skewing toward a younger audience than in the past,” said Shannon Johnson, spokeswoman for Caesars Tahoe.

Since this younger audience, ranging from 21 to 40, brings in the most revenue, entertainment venues in the area are opting to bring in the genres of music the target group prefers. They are rarely, if ever, disappointed with the outcome.

Besides having a variety of large showrooms to accommodate big-name bands, Tahoe’s scenic and mystical environment lures the entertainers in, making it easier for the venues to book well-known bands that tend to sell out shows wherever they go. Even the numerous smaller venues such as Whiskey Dick’s and The Cave at Rojos, which bring in a lot of bluegrass and alternative rock bands, find that entertainers are more than willing to perform in Tahoe.

“A lot of the bands don’t even make money, but they still ask us if they can come back because they want to play in Tahoe,” said Ryan Weibel, manager of Whiskey Dick’s.

Since Tahoe is such a unique spot, yet not an incredibly large town, fans and bands alike appreciate the fact that the smaller scale scene makes the concert experience a little more personal and up-close. As Johnson points out, the fans and the bands could just as well go to the large atmosphere and arena of San Francisco for concerts, as some do, but would at the same time lose the smaller-scale feel of watching or performing in Tahoe.

“I’m stoked they (South Lake Tahoe) bring in big names since I live close to the area and prefer the smaller feel,” said Sarah Rays, a Reno resident on her way to the Widespread Panic concert.

The summer season is not the only time of year the Tahoe entertainment industry hopes to liven up – a year-round season of events and entertainment is and has been its goal. And since practically every season in Tahoe is fueled by tourists, this goal is not only attainable but could be very profitable as well.

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