Snowy Vibes: The Lake Tahoe Reggae Festival launches a winter edition at the new Tahoe Blue Event Center

The Reno music scene would be incomplete without reggae music.  

The mountains inspire a certain sonic vibe, and the upbeat guitar drags, bouncing basslines, clacking drums and soothing vocals of the reggae genre are a perfect fit. Various reggae festivals have been hosted in the area throughout the years—and now another big festival is making its debut. 

On Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 17 and Feb. 18, the Lake Tahoe Winter Reggae Festival will take place at the brand-new Tahoe Blue Event Center. Eight reggae acts—including headliners Damian “Jr. Gong” and Stephen “Ragga” Marley (Saturday) and Stick Figure (Sunday)—are set to bring rhythmic beats to Lake Tahoe. The event is being produced by Good Vibez, promoters of other events including the summer Lake Tahoe Reggae Festival. 

During a recent phone interview with Good Vibez co-owner Dan Sheehan, he explained how the reggae fest’s winter edition came to fruition. 

“There’s this brand-new event center in South Lake Tahoe named the Tahoe Blue Event Center. It was a cool opportunity to bring something in the winter,” Sheehan said. “We do the summer reggae festival by the Palisades. … There were a bunch of different artists who were already going to be on the West Coast, so we were able to create the lineup knowing that there would be artists who were available. … It all just kind of lined up. We secured our dates there months ago, sometime in the summer, right when they were finishing construction and getting everything dialed up.” 

Sheehan said he’s seen how local crowds have fallen in love with reggae. 

“Last year, we moved the summer reggae out to the Palisades, but before that, everything was in South Lake,” Sheehan said. “We’ve had great success with the summer reggae festival, and we’re finding that the same is true for winter. You obviously have locals and everybody who’s coming from around the surrounding area, but we’re also finding out that people are pretty stoked on coming out and coming up, especially in the winter, to see this cool event that’s taking place.” 

I reached out to Jay Hatchett, a Reno musician whose reggae band Lizano has performed at Lake Tahoe Reggae Festival, about the area’s growing love for the genre. He responded via text message. 

“In the past, bigger touring reggae bands rarely made a stop in the Biggest Little City,” Hatchett wrote. “With Reno’s recent building boom that has flooded our valley with diversity and culture comes the opportunity to envelop new growth into our local collectives. Reggae and its laid-back California-style vibes have come riding in on the shoulders of the changing times in Reno. I think that’s what people love about it here. … It’s been amazing to watch it grow, and Lizano has been blessed to be able to be emerged in its uprising. Back when the band first started many years ago, we had to tour far and wide to any sleepy beach town that we could to play places people would buy a ticket. Now, there are a ton of reggae-centric bands that are all at the highest level, and it’s really cool to see.” 

Hatchett said bigger festivals like the Lake Tahoe Reggae Festival have been a boon to local bands. 

“For a long time, our area … (has) been overlooked by the reggae scene,” Hatchett wrote. “The effect a festival like that has in our area is paramount, because it brings the biggest artists in reggae music right to our backyard, where I feel like a lot of people relate to the music and the message. Having played LTRF in the past, it also gave us the opportunity to level up and play a national music stage with a lot of our heroes. Talk about dreams coming true. The band SOJA won a Grammy in 2022, and when we got off stage, the singer, Jacob Hemphill, came up to me and gave me a fist bump and said, ‘Way to start the festival with energy; I dig the vibe.’ That was so unreal to me and definitely a cool moment.” 

During past interviews with Reno event promoters, they’ve talked about the dangers touring musicians can face in the wintertime. Last year, Debauch-A-Reno organizer Pete Menchetti said: “It’s pretty risky to plan a stop in Reno anywhere outside of the months of June through August, because you never know when there’s going to be a lot of snow on the mountains. If you’re on tour in a big old van, you don’t want to get stuck having to drive through that stuff. After our 2018 event, a band from France who had played our event, which was in April, was leaving and got in an accident in the snow on the way out.”  

Sheehan promised that every precaution possible is being taken. 

“We obviously have weather insurance on this,” he said. “We want to make sure that we’re protecting ourselves. We are working with all the artists to ensure their routes on how they’re getting in. A lot of them are coming from Southern California from a festival that’s happening down there. Some are flying directly into Reno, so we’re working with the city and the venue to ensure that everybody that’s coming in is as safe as possible.”

Stick Figure is a Sunday headliner at the Lake Tahoe Winter Reggae Fest.

Sheehan talked about the local ties of one of the festival headliners. 

“(Local audiences) are huge fans of Stick Figure,” Sheehan said. “Stick Figure has definitely had a big following within the region. (Frontman Scott Woodruff) lived there for about two years, so he’s always a crowd favorite. We’re finding that most of the artists, if not all the artists, look forward to playing Tahoe, whether it’s in summer or winter, just because it’s such a beautiful destination. The artists are completely stoked on getting there. It’s becoming somewhat easier to book because people and a lot of the artists are really pumped coming to this market.” 

Sheehan said he takes pride in how Good Vibez has always been genre-centric in their lineup approach. 

“It’s kind of our wheelhouse,” said Sheehan. “We’re not trying to compete with the big guys, so we’ve always been genre-specific on festivals. You just have an understanding of those artists, an understanding of their fan bases, and then it comes down to routing and if they’re on tour, and if they’re going to use your festival as kind of an anchor date for that.” 

The Lake Tahoe Winter Reggae Festival will take place Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 17 and 18, at the Tahoe Blue Event Center, 75 Highway 50, in Stateline. Tickets start at $105, and only a limited number remained as of our press deadline. For tickets or more information, visit