Showcase of Special Event and Concert Production


North Shore’s Fun and Funky Reindeer Lodge

 It’s a Saturday night at the lake in early spring.  The wind howls and blows snow across the road, adding to the six-foot drifts at the side.  We pull into the Reindeer Lodge (or the “Deer” as it is affectionately known) atop Mount Rose, after a harrowing three-hour drive from the South Shore right in the fury of an all-out blizzard.  

We try to park near the door expecting that few storm-worthy travelers have attempted the trek and find the parking lot overflowing with snow-covered auto mounds.  Lydia Pence and Cold Blood will not be disappointed tonight—the capacity crowd at the “Deer” is sparking with anticipation.  “You should be here on a hot summer night.” Laughs Brian Wilkin, the hospitable and affable manager behind the bar.  A native Nevadan from Pioche, he came to work at the lodge in 1990 and admits it seems to agree with him.  Saturday nights are sacred to rock ‘n’ roll here with headliner bands from the’70s and ‘80s performing in the intimately funky atmosphere.  A typical season sports Elvin Bishop, Leon Russel, Norton Buffalo, The Tubes, Greg Kihn, Moby Grape (Jerry Garcia’s favorite band), Bo Diddly, Tower of Power, and New Riders of the Purple Sage.  How do bands get there and why do they come? 

The answer can be supplied with one name: Gary Schmidt, rock promoter and pop festival organizer extraordinare, who came by his trade via an unlikely route.  Born to resourceful parents, who came from farms in Nebraska and moved to Alabama during the Depression, they farmed, logged, drilled for oil, became motel owners and miners.  They moved to the Bay Area when Gary went to high school, where he eventually graduated from San Jose State with degrees in Economics, Computer Science and Real Estate in 1966, while working at Lockheed as a computer operator.

Schmidt started following rock ‘n’ roll bands at dance clubs on the Peninsula like Beau Brummels, the Warlocks (later the Grateful Dead), Mojo Man, The Doors, and Big Brother and the Holding Company at the Morocco Room in San Carlos, the Chalet Inn and Big Al’s Gas House in Santa Clara.  Soon, the idea of being in the music business germinated.  During the last 20 years, he has owned four nightclubs in the South Bay (the Odyssey, the Night Cap, Frenchy’s and Alfie’s) which regularly saw the likes of those bands mentioned above along with Credence Clearwater, Van Morrison, Iron Butterfly, Procol Harum, Lee Michaels, the Chamber Brothers, and Cold Blood, among others.

Schmidt in conjunction with his dad and a buddy from Stanford, Mark Robinson, threw in $10,000 each and got into the rock concert arena.  They organized and promoted the Newport Pop Festival in Orange County in 1968, one of the first outdoor rock concerts, after everyone else said it would flop.  It obviously didn’t and the partners laughed all the way to the bank.  Over 100,000 rock fans showed to see Steppin’ Wolf, Eric Burdon, Sky Pilot, Canned Heat, The Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Country Joe, The Byrds, and Sonny and Cher, comprising the largest concert crowd up to that time.  Also in 1968, they successfully launched the first San Francisco International Pop Festival, and went on to promote major concerts in Oregon, California and Nevada.

Schmidt bought the Reindeer Lodge as an investment in 1972, when it was called the Sundance and he was occupied elsewhere running his clubs and growing pistachios.  It’s getting his full attention now, although he swears not to change the wild and eclectic, antique and funk interior.  He is sprucing up the grounds that will feature snowmobiling in the winter and soon will offer stables and horseback riding on extensive county park and National Forest lands.  He and his bride-to-be are contemplating opening a service facility nearby as this neck of the woods is a bit remote.  It will include a gas station and repair shop, a mini-mart and sports equipment shop, an art gallery, a small motel and cabins.  And he promises to do all this in an environmentally conscious manner.

The “Deer” also provides food along with its entertainment and friendly warmth.  “Internationally renowned” Buffalo Burgers can be found here, along with beer fries, superb burritos and grilled fare.  Manager Brian Wilkin and cook Noah will make you some mean BBQ ribs if you call in advance.  And speaking of warmth, there is no livelier place to dance in your blue suedes, cowboy/ski boots, or your Birkenstocks.  The Reindeer is pure, unadulterated fun and funk with crowds to match, all ages and origins.  The stage and dance floor nearly overlap, the bands are great, and the atmosphere is anything but prim and proper: young rednecks and graying hippies dance elbow to elbow.  One night when we visit, Lydia and Cold Blood blew our socks off, and typically the crowd refused to let them go, so on they played.

If life has seemed to a little too predictable lately, a trip to the Reindeer Lodge is recommended.  Located eight miles east of U.S. 395 on the Mount Rose Highway near the summit, the hours are 7 a.m. to ?, seven days a week.  Fridays offer country music and Saturdays jive to the best of rock ’n’ roll.  Call (702) 849-9902 for the line-up.

  Susan Evans, Associate Editor Tahoe Reader - June, 1991


Odyssey Concert Poster

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Odyssey Concert Poster - 2

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Reindeer Concert Poster

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Antique Roadshow

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Newport Pop Festival

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