Truckee-based band Drop Theory now a Lake Tahoe mainstay | SierraSun.com

Truckee-based band Drop Theory now a Lake Tahoe mainstay

TRUCKEE, Calif. — In the summer of 2008, Isaac Freed, on his first night visiting Truckee from Colorado, found himself sitting in on bass with a local band at a local jazz club.

"Brian Hess was playing with his band Quartet Minus One at Moody's (Bistro, Bar & Beats) that night, and I had met him in his shop (Bespoke) during the day," Freed remembers. "He invited me to sit in on bass and invited me to play two songs."

In the audience, tapping and nodding to the music, was Jason Pinard, a local saxophonist. Aspiring to form a band, Pinard, along with friend Peter Kowalczyk, a guitarist and drummer, were specifically seeking a bass player to round out their sound.

The mystery bassist for QMO caught Pinard's attention.

"As soon as I got off stage he (Pinard) was right in my face, and said, 'Hey, come join our group.'" Freed said. "I went the next day and rehearsed with the guys, and it pretty much turned into an offer to be in the band."

Freed's been in Truckee ever since.

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"It was kind of serendipitous," said Freed, who moved from Aspen, Colo. "It's mainly the reason I decided to stay here."

Finding funk

While forming the group they dubbed Drop Theory, Freed, Pinard and Kowalczyk didn't know specifically what kind of band they wanted to be.

"We kind of all had separate interests, all different styles," Freed said.

What Drop Theory did know, though, is they wanted to make music that 1) fused their favorite styles of music (jazz, soul, R&B, rock, hip-hop) and 2) made people get on the dance floor early and often.

Those factors steered the new group to the rhythmic, groove-stirring, body-shaking genre known as funk. Drop Theory uses a rotating cast of drummers to fill out their stylings, Freed said.

"We found funk as kind of the middle ground that kind of appealed to everyone in the band," said Freed, who noted influences such as Lettuce, Snarky Puppy and Soulive. "We started the band to make fun, high-energy dance music — funk music."

Primarily a cover band, Drop Theory orchestrates a wide range of funk — everything from Herbie Hancock's up-tempo, bass-driven "Hang Up Your Hang Ups" to the Pimps of Joytime's slowed down, soul-dripping "Janxta Funk!"

Freed was quick to credit his bandmates for enabling the group to capture the sound and vibe of their funky influences.

"PK (Kowalczyk) brings a level of jazz sophistication and understanding of music theory that really kind of puts a nice gloss over the top of the Drop Theory sound," Freed said. "Jay (Pinard) has always done the saxophone, but he's stepped up as a vocalist in the group."

'Live energy was born that night'

After rehearsing for half a year, establishing their beats and connectedness as a unit, Drop Theory made its live debut at the Pastime Club in downtown Truckee.

For Freed and his counterparts, the gig wasn't just a stepping-stone; it was a Sierra Neveda-sized leap.

"Looking back on it now, I think we were hacks," Freed joked. "But we were having a ton of fun and the live energy was definitely born that night. We evolved that night, and continued that over the last seven years."

Over that span, Drop Theory has been a mainstay at music venues, big and small, in the Tahoe-Truckee region. (Their reach extends to Sacramento and San Francisco, Freed said.) For the past two years, Freed has also co-hosted the Local Lowdown show for Truckee Tahoe Radio (101.5 FM KTKE) on Monday nights.

Dropping anchor at the CBC

One such spot Drop Theory frequents is the famed Crystal Bay Casino, where they play Friday.

Following the "Locals Last Waltz" show featuring Jelly Bread & Friends in the CBC Crown Room, Drop Theory will play the free after party in the Red Room.

Members of Drop Theory — who will be joined by Conor McAlindin on drums — will also make a few appearances during Jelly Bread's set, Freed said.

"We're so thrilled," he continued. "It's our favorite local venue, Jelly Bread is one of our favorite local bands. They're going to bring a huge crowd, and we're happy to be a part of that and play to a built-in crowd.

We're really thrilled with the opportunity."

The opportunity to not only play for a packed house, but to stir up another leg-shaking time on the North Shore.

"The number one thing we're about is the high-energy performance, playing music that's highly danceable," Freed said. "We think of ourselves as a party band. We're all about the experience, the energy, and the engagement of the audience."

Look up the band on Facebook to learn more.

If you go

What: Drop Theory

When: Friday night, Nov. 27 (after Jelly Bread’s set in the Crown Room)

Where: Crystal Bay Casino Red Room

Cost: Free

Learn more: crystalbaycasino.com