Where to go for the best live music at the Lake.
There’s a popular saying among musicians — “without music life would be a mistake.” That certainly seems to resonate at the Lake when the sound of live music carries across the water and lures people into waterfront restaurants. Summer just wouldn’t be the same without it.
Local venues come alive, creating a fun atmosphere especially during the summer when bands travel from across the United States to come to a Lake venue to perform.
Cover bands are the foundational favorites at the Lake. Familiar tunes from days gone by and last week’s chart-toppers are “bread and butter” for performers heard at waterfronts, along the Parkway, in landlocked hideaways, and wide, open spaces.
One of the bigger covers is The i-Berrys. With nine members, the band fills a stage, but it’s the sound that has won acclaim. In September 2018, The i-Berrys headlined at the Ozarks Amphitheater, a 10,000-seat, award-winning venue.
An i-Berrys’ playlist includes sweet trills from Celtic and Irish traditions, the electric thrill of pop funk, and sounds of country rock. What all three categories have in common is a fast pace and powerful beat — crowd pleasers at any time, for any age.
What ignites a table, however, is a favorite song — one that catches ears, provokes people to look for a dance partner, and amps up the party. A great band or DJ knows this energy and chooses tunes to span the ages, looking for smiles on faces. According to DJ Taz (the Drummer), the 1990s are great years to get people on their feet and dancing. He should know. He’s a DJ with regular bookings, and he plays with eight different bands, including the i-Berrys.
Original Lyrics & Tunes
Many solo acts and smaller bands cover the decades, too, but some of them have CDs featuring their own original lyrics and tunes. One venue, The Fire Room at Pick’s Gallery in Osage Beach, specializes in singer-songwriters with local, national and international résumés using a “house” concert model. Acoustics in that fireplace display room thrill artists and small audiences alike.
In October 2018, a Missouri native from Osceola, Jodee Lewis, returned as the headliner and shared her song titled “Missouri” from the Buzzard’s Bluff album. In 2019, Bob Walkenhorst of Kansas City, and fresh from a Norwegian tour, appeared with his daughter, Una, both reimagining Rainmakers’ tunes and alternating between original music written by each. On July 3, Jon Dee Graham will return.
Other artists heard around the Lake perform both covers and original music. One is Wayne Faust who’s been featured at Shady Gators for the past 12 years. You can find him there five days a week for two weeks each summer month. Since NautiFish joined the Lake’s waterfronts, Faust has added a sixth day performing. Fans follow him and often request two favorites: “My Father’s Not the President,” a poem set to music--known for bringing a tear to many an eye, and “Bald Buys are Cool,” known for its power to bring laughs at the expense of anyone without a hat or hair to protect his pate from the sun.
Another old-hand, Al Holly, when asked to season his cover playlist with a few of his originals, showed a similar range and surprised two tables of people who were at Shawnee Bluff Winery just to hear him play. Their applause and attention were a bit stronger as he sang a prayer titled “Light of Your Love,” cowritten with Dick Wagner. Their grins grew wide as he lamented leaving his gal “1/5th at a Time,” a lively country-styled tune co-written with Brent Briscoe. Those tables of fans were on their way to another venue at the Lake where Al’s brother, Norman, was performing later.
One band hosting a jam session at Marty Byrde’s on Sunday afternoons is Whiskey Trio, featuring Josh Weitkamp, formerly of a larger version of Spontaneous Serendipity. Whiskey Trio will bring out a CD of its own covers in the fall.
Playing fiddle one Sunday Jam was Mike Clayton, also known to play alongside Taz the Drummer with the Grayson Wood band at J. Wayne’s on the Strip. As Weitkamp said, a musician is “never in [his] last band.” They play in many, primarily for the love of the music.
Unique and Exclusive
From the largest venue, Ozarks Amphitheater in Camdenton, brings big crowds to an open-air venue where music reaches as high as the stars overhead. Nelly, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Ozark Mountain Daredevils, Five Finger Death Punch and Wiz Khalifa take the stage this summer.
Shawnee Bluff’s Vineyard may seat fewer than the Amp, but its line-up is just as powerful. Favoring country sounds, they kicked off the 2019 season on Memorial Day with The Marshall Tucker Band. Sara Evans headlines for the Fourth of July weekend, and 38 Special will close this year’s concerts.
Main Street Music Hall is another venue serving memories and music. One of its frequent concerts is a tribute band celebrating the early Beatles.
DJs and Karaoke
Most waterfront and landlocked venues add live entertainment for customers on weekends. Some book musicians for afternoon sessions, but when a band is not in the house, a DJ will bring music to life and audiences to their feet. Well-known and working steadily are DJs Taz and Kyle. Like cover bands, they play a wide range of genres, and often tailor their playlists according to personal requests. As a DJ, Taz is known for taking “all requests all the time” while Kyle often facilitates a popular, musical sport: karaoke, including annual contests such as “Sing Your Heart Out” at Captain Ron’s.