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Living in Tahoe for any length of time – decades, years, or a week-long visit – can produce powerful memories. The Tahoe lifestyle, the scenery, the activities, the adventure, the skiing, the lake, all play a part. One of the most accessible yet overlooked variables contributing to powerful Tahoe memories, is the music.

Year round residents and visitors alike are spoiled by the incredible music in Tahoe. This is especially true in the summer months. Virtually every summer night live music can be experienced. For residents of Nashville, New Orleans, or Chicago this may resonate. What makes Tahoe so unique; however, is the prevalence of FREE music.


A short drive from Tahoe is the Center for Mind and Memory at the University of Davis. Associate Professor, Petr Janata, spends much time studying the neuroscience behind the ability of music to evoke such strong memories of people, places, and experiences. Recent brain mapping studies have focused on the association between how a person remembers through music. Janata concluded, “What seems to happen is that a piece of familiar music serves as the soundtrack for a mental movie that starts playing in our head.”

With Local DJ The Kool Aid Kid (from Truckee-Tahoe’s only independent radio station, KTKE) doubly charged as my conductor & girlfriend we armed ourselves with a music road map and set out to experience as much free music as possible.

Daily stops included:

Tuesday – Tuesday Bluesday, Olympic Valley; PJ’s Concert Series, Gray’s Crossing

Wednesday – Music in the Park, Truckee Amphitheater; Retro Roller Skating, Northstar

Thursday – Truckee Thursday, Downtown Truckee; after shows at Alibi Alehouse & Moody’s Bistro

Friday – Music on the Beach, King’s Beach State Rec Area

Saturday – Red Room & Crown Room, Crystal Bay Club

Sunday – Common’s Beach, Tahoe City

Sprinkled in were paid shows throughout the region including jaunts to South Lake Tahoe and Reno, NV. Highlights included Sam Ravenna Band at PJ’s in Gray’s Crossing, Coburn Station crushing the beachfront stage at Music on the Beach, and Ideateam with Serina Dawn on the Tahoe City shores of Common’s Beach.

In retrospect, the most impactful memories from Summer 2018 were centered around the concerts attended. It was the Tahoe lifestyle, the beautiful scenery, the talented musicians, and the joyous fans; but more so than anything else “music was the effective stimulus”- a solid confirmation of Janata’s findings. Summer Bucket List Mission of seeing more live music…. accomplished.