Lake Tahoe’s Crown Room to expand, reel in bigger music acts (VIDEO) |

Lake Tahoe’s Crown Room to expand, reel in bigger music acts (VIDEO)

Crystal Bay Casino Manager Bill Wood has helped transform the casino's music scene since he took over management in 2004.
Kaleb M. Roedel / Sierra Sun |

On tap at Crown Room

Friday-Saturday, May 27-28

What: “Winters Dead” featuring Dead Winter Carpenters with special guests Hot Buttered Rum

When: 9 p.m.

Cost: $17 advance; $20 day of show; booth seat $37


Sunday, May 29

What: Katchafire & Mystic Roots

When: 9 p.m.

Cost: $17 advance; $20 day of show; booth seat $37


CRYSTAL BAY, Nev. — In 2004, when Bill Wood took over as manager of the Crystal Bay Casino, the casino hardly had a music presence. A few lounge singers here, a few cover bands there, crooning all-too-familiar radio hits from a corner of the casino then known as the Stage Bar was the extent of CBC’s entertainment.

Wood wanted to help the Crystal Bay Casino change its tune.

“When I first came over here they were doing lounge acts,” said Wood, who came to the CBC after 23 years at the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe in Incline Village. “It was pretty much a tired act, the sort of thing you’d see on ‘Saturday Night Live’ with Bill Murray (as ‘Nick The Lounge Singer’).

“So we wanted to change that.”

“You wouldn’t think that 120 (more people) would make that much difference but it really makes an enormous difference to the agents.”Bill WoodCrystal Bay Casino

Wood did so and then some, spearheading the transformation of the music scene at the CBC with the help of Brent Harding, who started booking bands for the casino during Wood’s first year.

During their musical partnership together, Wood and Harding have built a channel to North Tahoe for regional and national bands of all genres — namely, bluegrass, folk, funk and soul. They’ve even reeled in critically-acclaimed artists like Gary Clark, the Avett Brothers and Trombone Shorty to the North Shore long before they broke into the mainstream.

“One of the things that we thought about early on was, we’re not going to be able to compete with the big venues,” said Wood. “But, if people come and they may not know who the band is, but they know it’s going to be good … that’s what we wanted to try and accomplish.”

Making more room

Strengthening CBC’s sonic reinvention, during Wood’s first year the casino revamped a café space into a bigger music venue — the now famed Crown Room, which opened in December of 2004 — as a way to attract bigger musicians.

Twelve years later, those music acts are about to get even bigger.

The Crown Room, which currently has a capacity of 620 people, will be getting a makeover to expand its space and increase the venue’s capacity to 750.

This will be accomplished by removing the booths hugging the wall to the left of the stage as well as extracting the small satellite bar on the right side. Additionally, a new floor will be installed. The remodeling will take place during the first two weeks in June.

“Basically,” Wood said, “the music business has changed and a lot of these bands … it used to be they made their money off of albums and then cassettes and then CDs and then digital downloads, but all of those things have gone down — with the exception of vinyl, which is coming up but it’s a niche market, it’s not going to be anything big.

“So to be able to make money to survive they all have to get out on the road more and sell more merchandise because it’s becoming their sole means of support.”


Essentially, by bumping its capacity up to 750, the CBC will have an easier time negotiating with band’s agents, Wood said.

“You wouldn’t think that 120 (more people) would make that much difference but it really makes an enormous difference to the agents,” said Wood, who noted that the Crown Room and Red Room will continue to frequently offer free shows. “A lot of times we’ll try to introduce people (to bands), so we plan on continuing to do those free shows. At the same respect, we’ll be able to have some more popular acts (with a bigger Crown Room).

“Our whole goal is to keep the prices affordable and increase the number of good shows that we can offer.”

After all, convincing bands to come to the beautiful wide-open spaces of North Tahoe is not hard; the hard part — for some of the national acts, at least — is convincing them that the venue is spacious enough.

“First and foremost, you don’t have to push people to come to Tahoe,” Wood said. “But it’s a situation where we need to compete. And we’ve been lucky because people come here, they enjoy it, the crowds are good, it’s a fun spot, and we’ve had very good luck getting a lot of bands that usually play in much larger venues.”

The Crystal Bay Casino’s first show with an expanded Crown Room will be for Tahoe favorite Jackie Greene’s show on Tuesday, June 14. Local soul/funk outfit The Sextones will play the after party in the Red Room.

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