Dark Horse After Hours · Truckee’s Underground Music Scene, Part I 

Music is an important and vibrant thread in Tahoe’s culture. A rich tapestry of creativity runs the gamut of musical genres from funk, bluegrass, Americana and blues to R&B, hip hop, jazz, soul and electronic; the list goes on. Local musicians and artists are gathering and playing at some of the most unlikely places, hanging out, sharing their love of music, writing and poetry. Friendships bloom.

There are many local venues in which to hear music, but there are also places cropping up in Truckee reminiscent of the Hotel Chelsea in New York City where Patti Smith, Grateful Dead, Jasper Johns and Dylan Thomas lived. Our local haunts allow one to exchange ideas, play music or write, to mingle with like-minded people. They create a breeding ground for a creative community.

Our local haunts allow one to exchange ideas, play music or write, to mingle with like-minded people. They create a breeding ground for a creative community.

Dark Horse has become one such underground hub for music, art and improvisation. Its brick walls and low ceilings give it a vibe of antiquity. Drew Taylor, owner of Dark Horse, is also a musician. He was jamming with a friend when I arrived at Dark Horse at 9 p.m. on a recent Wednesday night.

Watch some of the videos shot at Dark Horse
Forget The Roses’ “Yellow” Moon 

Todd Wees, vocalist and guitarist of Forget The Roses, greeted me. He has been hanging out in the underground Truckee music scene for more than 17 years. The singer-songwriter plays with his band and solo; he recorded a children’s album for his kids years ago. With lead guitarist, Morgan Hargrave, he formed Forget The Roses. Hargrave also plays in the band Everyday Outlaw.

Wees and I sat down to take in the scene at Dark Horse.

“I met Drew when Dark Horse first opened and we hit it off. He has let the band rehearse after hours,” said Wees, who watches Taylor play guitar and sing. “Drew’s music just takes you for a ride. He’s very soulful. Dark Horse has become a place to listen and create.”

Watch some of the videos shot at Dark Horse
Sneaky Creatures’ “Dirt Circus”

Dark Horse after-hours events are word of mouth; no advertising, it just happens. House concerts at Dark Horse have most recently featured Tim Bluhm of Mother Hips with Wees and Will Richardson, who opened for Bluhm. The show, which sold out almost immediately, was a benefit for the nonprofit Tahoe Institute For Natural Science (TINS).

Richardson, the executive director of TINS, plays a number of instruments including the dobro, banjo and tenor guitar. Richardson jams just about anywhere he can at any given time. You might find him sitting in with Jenni Charles and Jessie Dunn or playing his dobro as a special guest with Forget The Roses or hanging out at The Redlight with Suzi Cooper. He recently sat in with Forget The Roses while they videotaped their song, “Yellow Moon,” at Dark Horse.

Sneaky Creatures, Dead Winter Carpenters and Everyday Outlaws also have jammed after hours and shot videos at the venue. A few weeks ago, a friend and I strolled over to find two local comedians entertaining a packed house.

Watch some of the videos shot at Dark Horse
Dead Winter Carpenters’ “Midnight Ghost”

Taylor, a laid-back, gentle soul sets his guitar down to join Wees and me.

“Lots of good musicians come through the door. Dark Horse is a vessel for people to express themselves. It’s a place for artists. It gives them a platform to create and do cool things,” he says.

Taylor’s vision for his coffee shop includes rehearsal or studio space for musicians, free of charge, and art on the wall that is for sale. When a piece sells, the artist gets all of the money.

“People have to pay for studio space and this space is available,” Taylor says.

“We were trying to makeshift spots to play. I’d call Drew and ask if we can play music and he opens the door,” Wees says.

After hours, Dark Horse is a place for chill music, word-of-mouth events, creativity and connection. By day there are always good conversations and excellent coffee. If you happen on an event there, it will be because you heard it through the grapevine.

For more information, visit facebook.com/darkhorsetruckee.