Marcus King Band, The Red Room at the Crystal Bay Club, Lake Tahoe, NV- 11/20

Playing their first ever show in Lake Tahoe on a snowy Sunday evening, The Marcus King Band took full advantage of the opportunity to announce themselves to this Sierra Nevada playground as a musical force, playing a free show before an enthusiastic crowd in The Crystal Bay Club’s Red Room. After opening with the warm guitar and punchy-horns of radio-friendly, “Ain’t Nothin’ Wrong With That,” the band unleashed a tight, energetic performance anchored by the prodigious guitar work and soulful beyond-his-years vocals of front man Marcus King.

There was no formal setlist according to keyboardist Matt Jennings and the nonstop two and a quarter hour runaway freight train weaved together blues, rock, funk, and jazz. Dean Mitchell’s saxophone, Justin Johnson’s trumpet and trombone, and Jennings’ work on Hammond and keys, along with two solos from drummer Jack Ryan, supplied the interludes that supported King’s lead guitar abilities which at different times were the flavors of whiskey, honey, jalapeno, and pecan pie. Song selections from their two album catalog included, “Radio Soldier,” “Rita is Gone,” “Plant Your Corn Early” and “Fraudulent Waffle” as the band with Marcus at the helm showed off a deft touch handling tempo changes and sliding through clever transitions as the show bounded from one song to the next.

The set was bolstered with cover interpretations throughout including a tribute to Duane Allman on the occasion of what would have been his 70th birthday. Taking one of the few pauses of the evening, the young Mr. King spoke with reverence and requested everyone in the crowd raise a beverage along with him to the southern rock legend before launching into a musical tribute that would be rejoined and completed even later in the show. Versatility was on display as the band put their own twists on classics from the Temptations to Black Sabbath.

The Red Room typically hosts free shows and the after parties for acts that play in the premiere venue, the Crown Room. It was clear from the start that this band was much bigger than the stage they were occupying. While relaxing at the bar shortly after the last of Marcus King’s stinging guitar notes had drifted into the ether, bassist Stephen Campbell reflected for a moment after laying down the foundation groove all evening, “We’ve only been playing 40 minute sets (as support) with The Record Company lately. It’s been really great but it was nice to be able to get into some things and jam a little. It was a good set.”

For those who were treated to a gratis performance between stops in San Francisco and Salt Lake City there were consistent mutterings that it felt like one of those magical live music moments when one was able to see a great band at a tiny venue before they made it big.