For years Chris Taylor had a hard time getting the band together.
On any given night, mandolinist David Faber and upright bassist Abby Groman might be hollerin’ with bluegrass revivalists Larry Bird’s Moustache, jammin’ out in psych-rock trio Chili Verde or pickin’ under the moonlight with Wild Mountain Honey.
“My musicians were all ‘picked over’ by the fact that they played in so many different bands and it was few and far between that they could join me,” says Taylor. “It’s like going to the ski boot section on a busy holiday. It’s all been picked over and all you’re left with is last year’s ski boots.”
So Taylor started writing even more. Born and raised in northwest San Antonio he never really considered himself a musician anyway. Although he loved to sing karaoke at Charlie Brown’s Neighborhood Bar and Grille, and he used to write songs lyrics with a classmate at Tom C. Clark High School.
When he moved to Tahoma in 2009, Taylor found himself in the heart of the vibrant West Shore music community. The members of Americana all-stars Dead Winter Carpenters all lived on his block. Kip Yager and The Moondawgs rehearsed down the street. The Roemer Brothers ran an open mic at West Shore Pizza where Taylor found his niche.
“Dave [Faber] and I would go in the beginning and play silly covers like ‘Man of Constant Sorrow’,” he says. “He taught me a few guitar chords. From there I’d write another song using those chords.”
Soon Taylor had enough original material to start playing solo. He even joined a short-lived hard rock band called Obsidian, which covered Red Hot Chili Peppers and Stone Temple Pilots at area hangouts like Cornice Cantina Mexican Grille in Squaw Valley and The Grid in Kings Beach.
“All my neighbors were in the music scene,” he says. “There were a lot of late-night bonfires and whiskey.”
The Making of a Family Band
Flash forward 10 years: Taylor is a married man, the father of 6- and 3-year-old daughters, and the general manager/head chef of Tahoe Tap Haus. Picked Over continues to perform every few months when he can get enough folks together.
Then one fall night Taylor attends the open mic night at Rosie’s Café in Tahoe City where host Lucas Arizu encourages him to join the stage with a young viola player named Autumn Burnett.
“She’s up there and she looks miserable,” he says. “I ask her if she’ll play a song with me. I say I’ll do an easy one and she sort of smiles. We played a few songs and I guess she got moved by it. It’s kind of a love story.”
Taylor and Burnett began playing as a duo at Tahoe City Farmer’s Market. Soon enough she was jamming with the string band, too. Shortly thereafter the quartet of Taylor, Faber, Groman and Burnett were invited to perform at Lost Sierra Hoedown. The show was a success and they’ve been invited back for 2020.
“We’re no longer as picked over as we used to be,” laughs Taylor of the solidified lineup. “For me, it’s an escape. With the never-ending change in my life as a father and business owner, it brings a sense of consistency. It’s creative expression. I’d say were like a family at this point. We’re like siblings.”
Part of their appeal is their one-of-a-kind, high-energy live performances.
“The chemistry is great,” says Taylor. “We never play the same songs the same way. We’re always looking at each other, feeling each other out and weaving the song together on a whim. It’s very loose.”
Now that Picked Over is settled in to a steady lineup, it doesn’t look like they’ll be going anywhere for while. Faber, Groman and Taylor are all homeowners in Tahoma as Burnett gains regional acclaim for her unique style of fiddling on the viola.
“We all live within a block of each other and we’re not going anywhere,” he says. “We are taking root, so it’s not over.” | tahoetaphaus.com