If you have the opportunity to see Kings Beach local Kandy Xander sing live, don’t miss it. You’ll be blown away.
“We’re connected on waves of music and emotion,” says the down-to-earth, vocal powerhouse. “I’m just doing what I love and putting it out there. Whether it’s one person or a million, I’m going to give the same caliber of show I possibly can.”
Xander grew up in Illinois singing in the school choir. When offered the chance to take private voice lessons during high-school lunch, she jumped on it.
“I learned how to sing and breathe and support and vocalize,” says Xander. “[My teacher] would say, ‘You’re like a 30-year-old voice in a 16-year-old body.’ It was very empowering to find my voice early on.”
In her 20s, Xander lived in Chicago where life moved to a 90s soundtrack of groundbreaking grunge, rock and indie singers such as Chris Cornell, Trent Reznor, Maynard James Keenen, Fiona Apple and Shirley Manson.
“I’m a pretty shy person until you get to know me, but what happens on stage is another story. It’s another level of me. It’s something that clicks and I don’t get out of it until I’m done.”
Passing through Tahoe on her way to teach abroad, Xander decided to stay in the Sierra for a season. That was in 1997. She joined “pyschohippibillycountrypunk” band Firechicken and never left.
Xander met her longtime partner Dennis Alexander while working at Tahoe City Golf Course.
“He was the cook and I was the waitress,” she says. “He’s just a crazy guy. It was fun.”
Alexander is a popular Truckee Tahoe Radio DJ and music booker who runs Mr. D DJ Services with Xander. When he first saw his quiet, thoughtful friend perform, he was in for a shock wave.
Watch Kandy Xander and Metal Echo slay Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”
“His first reaction was, ‘You were this mousy girl. I come see you in Firechicken and you’re straddling the microphone!’ He fell in love with me ever since. I’m a pretty shy person until you get to know me, but what happens on stage is another story. It’s another level of me. It’s something that clicks and I don’t get out of it until I’m done. It’s a very vulnerable thing to do, but it’s a part of me.”
Nowadays Xander spotlights in three distinct bands: hard-rock metalheads Metal Echo, vintage rock troubadours The Nomads and roots/soul duo Honey Vixen.
“A lot of people peg me as just a rocker,” she says. “I’m blues-driven mostly. That’s where my roots are in Chicago and the roots of rock ‘n’ roll are the blues.”
Ten years ago, she was at a jam session at Fortress bassist and Tahoe bouldering icon Dave Hatchett’s house when she met the guys from Metal Echo. They offered Xander a chance to take the lead on the guitar rock anthems of bands ranging from Iron Maiden and Judas Priest to Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins and Jane’s Addiction.
“At a Metal Echo show, you never know what you’re gonna get,” she says. “We love that we’re not pigeonholed into any era. It’s a huge sing-along, head-bashing experience.”
More recently, Xander joined The Nomads where she shares lead vocal duties on 70s and 80s classic rock songs with drummer Jeff Martin of Los Angeles heavy metal legends Racer X and Squaw Valley Electric owner and Rolling Stones fanatic Barry Thys.
“You’re telling stories and sharing emotion,” she says. “Whether people are singing along, banging their head, pounding the air or even quietly enjoying it, I know we’re all having a connection together in this moment.”
Xander’s newest project is a stripped-down duo with guitarist Nicole Gaich of defunct all-female rock group Burning Nylon. This has given Xander a chance to stretch out on more traditional material such as Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” and Lead Belly’s “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?”
“We’re doing our own twist and spin on songs we both love,” she says. “We just came out of a very turbulent time and music saved us. I love having these different flavors of bands with incredible people. I’m super blessed.”
Kandy Xander w/Honey Vixen
- June 11 | 2 p.m. | Village at Palisades Tahoe | Olympic Village
- June 19 | 3 p.m. | Alibi Ale Works | Incline Village, Nev.
- July 16 | 8 p.m. | Alibi Ale works | Incline Village, Nev.
Kandy Xander w/The Blues Monsters
- June 14 | 6 p.m. | Village at Palisades Tahoe | Olympic Valley
Kandy Xander w/The Nomads
- June 23 | 5 p.m. | Truckee Thursday | Downtown Truckee |
Kandy Xander w/Metal Echo
- July 30 | 8 p.m. | Alibi Ale Works | Incline Village, Nev.
- Aug. 4 | 8 p.m. | Alibi Ale Works | Truckee