Folk rock vocalist and guitarist Chris Talbot lived here for 20 years and performed around town nearly every weekend, but his upcoming show in Reno on Friday, May 14, will be his first local performance in 12 years.
“The big thing is that it’s a reunion show,” he says. “It’ll be a reunion of all these people I used to play with, and all these people who used to come see me. … People are really coming out of the woodwork.”
Talbot first performed in Reno at The Beer Barrel in 1978. For the following 20 years, he gigged regularly and constantly throughout the area. He hosted a Wednesday Night Open Mic at various venues from ’84 to ’98, and he was a featured performer at Cantina Los Tres Hombres throughout the late ’80s and early ’90s. His performances were usually covers-heavy sets of acoustic favorites by the likes of Neil Young, James Taylor, Leonard Cohen, and Simon & Garfunkel.
“I’ve been blessed or cursed, depending on how you look at it, with the voice of Neil Young,” he says. And he’s indeed capable of conjuring a spot-on imitation of Young’s high-and-lonesome warble.
He also became known for his “smut sets” of filthy parody songs, though he won’t be performing any of this material at the upcoming show at Great Basin Brewing Company.
From ’94 to ’98, he only lived in Reno part-time. He lived elsewhere during the week and would fly into Reno to perform on the weekends.
“I was sponsored by Reno Air,” he says with a grin, explaining how he was able to afford the airline travel.
Talbot’s back in town because his eldest daughter, Courtney, is graduating from the University of Nevada, Reno this week. But he decided he might as well perform while he’s here, and the concert will be a sort of variety show family revue. Talbot will be joined onstage by his wife, Cynthia, and his four kids, all of whom will be performing. His not-quite-12-year-old son, Conner, for example, will be singing Weird Al’s parody song “I Love Rocky Road.”
Talbot will also be joined by saxophone player and guitarist Mitch Brown, former owner of Cantina Los Tres Hombres, and a former member of The Tokens, of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” fame. Also on hand will be backing vocalists Mike Staffa and Wishelle Banks, as well as singer-guitarists Roy Wright and Tom Plunkett, whose name might be more familiar to Reno residents in conjunction with his local theatrical productions. Talbot was also involved with theater during his time in Reno. He started the now defunct All Star Theater in the mid ’80s.
Talbot and his friends and family will perform three sets on May 14, family oriented sets at 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. and then a longer, more rocking set starting at 10 p.m.
Talbot is billing the show as “Music from the Hip Drug Daze,” by which he means the late ’60s and early ’70s.
He acknowledges the contradiction of referencing drugs in the title of a family oriented show.
“Well, the kids understand that I’m a recovering alcoholic and drug addict,” he says. He’s been proudly sober since 1987. He’s also quick to acknowledge that, yes, hipsters were doing drugs before the 1960s and have continued to do them since the ’70s ended.