Editor column: Benefit for Blake testament to Tahoe community spirit

Kevin MacMillan

They say laughter is the best medicine. I couldn’t agree more — but to add to that, I’ve always lived by this motto: “If laughter is the best medicine, then music is the best painkiller.”

Music possesses a wonderful ability to turn around your mood, whichever direction it needs to go. More than anything, it just makes you feel good. As I write this, Thin Lizzy is reminding me of just that.

Being a music fan my whole life (The Beatles created the greatest sounds ever, in my opinion, followed in some general order of Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Clash, Rolling Stones, Talking Heads, Bill Withers and Chuck Berry), when I learned of the Benefit for Blake event happening Jan. 15 at the Crystal Bay Casino, I was excited. After all, Dead Winter Carpenters, Jelly Bread and Carolyn Wonderland compose a darn good ticket.

Add the fact it was a fundraiser for longtime CBC sound man Blake Beeman, and it was an easy decision to attend. As we reported beforehand, Blake has been key to the success of the casino’s music since 2004, helping put on 1,200-plus concerts.

But the event went far beyond his contributions to the Tahoe music scene. It was put together after Blake was diagnosed with inoperable stomach cancer in August to help with high costs associated with some deferred treatment — this despite the fact he is insured.

First off, let me just say that if you don’t know Blake, that’s too bad. I met him very briefly a few years ago, introduced by a friend who told me, “you need to meet Blake, the sound guy … he kicks ass!”

He and I traded a roughly one-minute conversation, something along the lines of, “I’m the newspaper guy, you’re the sound guy, we both like music, far out,” and moved our separate ways. Considering how many people adore Blake, I’d be amazed if he even remembers our little chat from yesteryear.

If you haven’t met him, odds are you’ve seen him making his trademark shuffle, hands folded behind his back, to and from the Red and Crown rooms on music-packed nights at the CBC, keeping an ear on the sound — and trying to keep up with the hundreds of people who stop him to say hello.

Ask anyone — like Mace Gilmore, an employee at Tahoe City’s Pass It On Thrift, one of many businesses that donated to the benefit’s silent auction — and you’ll learn Blake is the kindest of men who carries within him the gentlest of souls.

“I see Blake every day, I love that man … he’s a beautiful human being,” Gilmore told me this week. “He’s done a lot for this community, and it’s great to see people are paying it back. He deserves all the kindness that anyone can give him.”

And speaking of soul, boy, does Blake have a hell of a lot when it comes to music. I’ve been fortunate enough to see him perform with several bands over the years in the Crown Room — highlighted by shows with his band The Beer Gardeners, which sizzled again two weeks ago as part of the benefit.

I’ll tell you, there weren’t enough “beer and peanuts” in the world to shake the awesome sight Jan. 15 of Blake sitting on stage, jamming away with his band mates and playfully dueling with an accompanying Wonderland as the crowd roared in approval.

In total, more than $25,000 was raised for Blake’s medical expenses from the event, casino General Manager Bill Wood said, nearly $16,000 of which came from the sold-out concert’s 620-person crowd.

“The money raised exceeded all expectations,” Wood told me. “The support was overwhelming. Blake was completely stunned by the turnout. He was so grateful.”

With tickets at $25 and $50 a pop, the musicians — many of whom rely on that kind of revenue to make a living — chose to donate 100 percent of sales to Blake. The additional $10K or so came both from day-of-event donations and the more than 90 items given for the silent auction that kept the Red Room full of supporters.

Pass It On Thrift and the neighboring Fat Cat Café are two of those businesses who donated, and I happened to place the winning bid on an item that included gift certificates to both. It was exciting to “win” — not because of the prizes, but because I was able to do my part to help a great cause.

It’s clear the CBC and community couldn’t be more grateful for everyone who stepped up. Pass It On co-owner Heather Solomon told me as much Saturday when I went into the store. When I thanked her after my purchases, her response was simple: “Thanks for helping out Blake!”

Just like the sound of music flowing from Blake’s fingers on his guitar, that wonderful feeling of camaraderie echoed throughout the North Shore two weeks ago, and it was heartwarming to see so many people willing to donate time, money and energy to honor one man and his contributions to the community.

Kevin MacMillan is managing editor of the Sierra Sun and North Lake Tahoe Bonanza newspapers; he may be reached at

Follow him on Twitter @Kevin1MacMillan.

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