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Welcome back, part 2


Back in mid-April I shared my story on the potential return of live music as the state released its grip on our COVID-restricted lives, turning things over to local authorities as of May 1, and the struggle of one local venue to survive the shutdown. Although things are not 100% back to normal, we are very close. The shows have begun.

In just the past couple of weeks I’ve been buried in show announcements from the Grand Sierra Resort. Music shows from Skid Row, Jason Isbell, Gladys Knight, Foreigner and In This Moment, plus the comedy of Brian Regan, Steve Martin and Martin Short, and Bill Burr are on their schedule, just to name a few. 

Local venues are also posting show dates at a lively rate. As promised I’ve kept an eye on Reno’s local venue, The Cellar Stage, downstairs in the Alturas Bar. 

‘The Cellar Door’ Goth Party at The Cellar Stage beneath the Alturas Bar in Reno, Nev. Image: Nick McCabe / This Is Reno

After much renovation and unplanned repairs, Entertainment/Production Manager Dennis McDonald reopened the stage on May 15 with ‘The Cellar Door’ Goth Party, which started things off with a bang. Even with concerns over COVID-19, the turnout was great. Everybody was compliant and respectful of each other.

Continuing on his formula for pre-shutdown success, McDonald held Comedy Night hosted by Paul Spock on the following Thursday. This is a regularly scheduled show every third Thursday of the month featuring local comics performing their standup routines. It did not quite pick up where it left off pre-COVID-19 according to McDonald, but still had good attendance. 

Apparently three of the five scheduled comedians were not able to make it, but at the last minute three ‘green’ substitutes stepped up. The pressure was on.

I attended this show and was impressed with the tenacity of the comics. It’s one thing to get up on a stage and perform music, and another to get up there with nothing but a microphone and try to make a crowd laugh. Whether they were getting laughs or hearing crickets, they each prevailed and finished their sets to applause. It’s great that The Cellar Stage gives them a place to hone their craft. 

Future comic shows that were in negotiations before the shutdown include Arnie States, Gilbert Gottfried, Norm McDonald and Pauly Shore. Nothing is confirmed, but keep an eye out for these. Anything is possible.

The Cellar Stage finished its trifecta of opening shows with a night of music featuring Wild Card, The Jokers Wild, Abandoned Reno, and Phatman and Robin and Phriends. To successfully pull this kind of event off it has to stay on schedule. Unfortunately things got off to a late start putting everything behind a bit, but the challenges were overcome and it was a good night of music. 

McDonald said this show was actually put together by H. Starla Campos and was also a celebration of her birthday. Happy Birthday Starla.

Overall, The Cellar Stage’s opening week was pleasantly successful. All three shows had good turnout, and the attendees were respectful of all the new rules we have to deal with. The future is looking quite bright for the venue. 

I truly feel that our darkest days are behind us. Everywhere you look hospital counts are going down and entertainment schedules are being filled with shows. It’s time to step out, with common sense as your companion.


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Nick McCabe
Nick McCabe
Nick McCabe is a Reno-based photojournalist and musician. He’s been shooting concerts in the Reno-Tahoe area since 2006 and writing articles and reviews since 2012, as well as doing interviews on occasion. His musical education and playing experience goes back to 1967. He is a founding member of the Reno Tahoe Forte’ Awards, and he still plays music locally for enjoyment. First concert: Jimi Hendrix. Last concert: we’ll see.