Reno Gazette Journal


Reno Music Beat: Tolle rings in 50 with rowdy homecoming show

Mike Sion, Special to the RGJPublished 3:51 p.m. PT Dec. 27, 2016


(Photo: Handout)


Stacey Tolle decided the most fitting way to celebrate her big 5-0 was to return to the city where she got her start as a rawkin’ mama and hit the stage.

You can bet it’s gonna be a raucous show. Tolle was one of the potent talents on the Biggest Little City’s dive-bar circuit when she fronted the cow-punk (punk/rockabilly) band Gunshot Lickerin the 1990s — playing rhythm guitar and singing, in an alternately clear or throaty voice, witty-gritty songs chronicling the tattooed underbelly of Reno life. She departed Reno at decade’s end for the gigantic scene in Austin, Texas and stayed there a dozen years. Three years ago, she resettled in Portland, Oregon.

On Dec. 30, Tolle’s latest band, The Lazy Universe, will headline a free 21+ bill at The Saint, 761 S. Virginia St. The trio consists of Tolle on vocals and guitar, boyfriend Hudson Flanigan on drums, and everyone’s favorite Reno rock musician, Nick Ramirez — who’s been in more bands than your digits — filling in on bass. Tolle’s sister, Terri Snyder, will guest on backup vocals, with local violinist Virginia Bowmanslated to provide strings and sound engineer/drummer Tom Gordon tambourine.


“We’ll be playing a full-hour set,” said Tolle by email. “Songs that we’ve been recording in the last few years, and there’s two songs that I wrote when I was in GSL — ‘Salinas,’ the one I wrote for my dad, and ‘Coffin Walls.’”

Performing the number about her father is fitting, for he passed away in April from a cerebral hemorrhage. In addition to running a service station in Carson City with Tolle’s mother (they were married 63 years), her father was a cowboy, team roper and calf-roper, said Tolle. “My dad was still roping and riding right up to his sudden death.”

For those of you with rocker souls who treat your end-of-year revelry as a boozy sacrament, Tolle’s “Eve of the Eve” show should put you in a state of giddy disgrace. On the undercard are three local acts: punk-rockers The Shames, noise/stoner rockers Alphabet Cult and One Ton Dually, which bills itself as a rock band “singing songs about fast drinking and hard wimmin.”

The whipped-up tuneage is slated to start at 9 p.m.

“The bands that are playing with us are people that I’ve known for years,” said Tolle, a Nevada-bred talent.

Raised in Carson City, she was exposed early to live music as her parents took her to concerts by the likes of Liberace, Ray Stevens and Charo when Reno was in its casino-show heyday, and to Sharkey’s Casino in Gardnerville — which booked great country-western acts. “I saw Waylon Jennings there. He asked me to marry him when I was 6, and I politely declined.”

The next year, Tolle’s father bought her a piano, and she took classical lessons 10 years. But her performing career properly began when she taught herself guitar in her early twenties and began writing music. She was saving money to move to Austin when she met Reno bassist Bill Goldie and drummer Gary Setzer. They started Gunshot Licker. Setzer was an ordained minister who officiated weekends at wedding chapels and was soon replaced on the skins by Jon Cagiulla. “We also tricked (local guitar legend) Johnny Fingers into playing with us somehow, and that’s when the band really started to sound good,” said Tolle.

With her dramatic vocals, rhythm guitar and visceral stage presence, the GSL had a run of local fame from 1994-99. "I only wish I would have pushed us to record after we had played together after a few years,” said Tolle. “We recorded in the very beginning, and those tapes are pretty rough.”

I was craving to hear their song “World’s Largest Freestanding Clown” —  a fantasy about the tackily iconic Topsy the Clown sign outside Circus Circus tumbling over and triggering a mini-apocalypse in Reno, but the recording doesn’t exist in digital format. Copies of the cassettes are collector’s items. Even Tolle doesn’t own one.

“I think my mom has a cassette still; other than that, it’s gone.”

She was able to scrape up the lyrics, and here are a few stanzas for posterity:

“I was sitting in my room at Louie’s Basque Hotel / Drinking Thunderbird with my neighbor Jack / We were watching the snow collect / On the World’s Largest Freestanding Clown’s Hat / That’s when I noticed he started to quiver / Not Jack but that big old clown / As his head got closer to my window / I realized that big old freak was falling down / His ass fell on a Cabriolet / Killing a bunch of sorority girls on the way to the mall / His head fell through the Monte Carlo Hotel / Killing drug dealers, newlyweds and all.”

A taste of GSL from a 2012 reunion at Davidson’s Distillery on East Fourth Street can be seen on rough videos, including here:

“After the band broke up, I moved to Austin in 2003, and had a band there, The People vs De la Rosa, with my then husband, Tony Rosa,” said Tolle. “We played around town, but I never really tried to take it to the next level, by quitting my job and putting all of my effort into it, mostly because of some hardships that required a steady paycheck. We did get to play the Moody Theatre, where they film ‘Austin City Limits,’ for the Zombie Ball.”

After her divorce, Tolle returned in Reno in 2012 to help film the local indie feature flick “Nowhere Nevada.” She reconnected with Flanigan — whom she knew from his days playing in Reno bands in the 1990s — fell in love and moved to Portland to live with him.

The two have written and recorded new songs, but have yet to release them. Tolle emailed me a few tracks. They have cool, vintage guitar sounds and Tolle’s strong, plenti-’tude-inal vocals.

At the half-century mark, she intends to keep rawkin’ ’til her last gasp.

“My dad is a great inspiration for me. He kept doing the things he loved, and it didn’t matter how old he was.”


Reno News & Review




Around the block                                        

The Lazy Universe

By Kris Vagner 

This article was published on 12.22.16.



Nick Ramirez, left, is among the Reno musicians who plan to join Stacey Tolle and Hudson Flanigan, former Renoites who live in Portland, for a show to celebrate Tolle’s 50th birthday.


The Lazy Universe plays a free show at 9 p.m. Dec. 30 at The Saint, 7621 S. Virginia St., with Alphabet Cult, the Shames and One Ton Dually.



Back in the ’90s, the punk-country-rockabilly band Gunshot Licker was a cornerstone of the rip-roaring Reno cowpunk scene, right alongside acts like the Boston Wranglers and the Atomiks.

The band included lead singer and rhythm guitarist Stacey Tolle, bassist Bill Goldie, Jon Caggiula on drums, and Johnny Fingers, whose legendary guitar leads many Renoites remember with stars in their eyes and tales of good ol’ days.

Gunshot Licker broke up around 1999, and it’s still common to hear fans reminisce, half-blissful, half-wistful, with a sense of “you had to-be-there” nostalgia. Aside from the memories, the band didn’t leave much of a trace. There’s no trail of MP3s or vinyl records to revel in—save for a YouTube clip of a 2012 reunion show at Davidson’s Distillery—and the only recordings out there are a few cassette tapes.

They’d play at the bars like the long-closed Blue Lamp, the Zephyr—now a craft cocktail bar, formerly a graffiti-scrawled punk bar—and the Metamorphosis, where Carl’s is now.

Longtime fan Nick Ramirez remembers sold-out shows, Tolle’s “very Reno-centric lyrics … which we all loved,” and that she always looked cool on stage.

Tolle, who is about to turn 50, still looks cool on stage—imagine if the Ramones had a classier younger sister whose combined force of warmth, grit and stage-dominating ’tude could make an old T-shirt look glamorous. And she still writes lyrics about the people on the edges.

“When I was in Reno I wrote a bunch of songs about Reno and that 24-hour culture, the transient lifestyle, and the characters that come through—drugs and alcohol and gambling,” Tolle said. Recently, she’s more likely to pen songs that sound like macabre historical fiction about, say, a schizophrenic woman from the 1940s who married a church leader. And also love songs. Nothing pop-like or saccharine though. More along the lines of psychedelic, dark—and “gloomy like Portland.”

Long story short, after her Reno days, Tolle moved to Austin, Texas, and stayed for around a decade. In 2012, while she was briefly back in the Silver State working on the film Nowhere Nevada, she fell in love with Hudson Flanigan, a musician she’d known back in Reno. The two now live in Portland, Oregon, and have a band called the Lazy Universe. Tolle sings and plays lead guitar. Flanigan is the drummer, and they’re looking for a bass player.

Tolle talks about her real-life love story with so much sweetness it almost sounds like there’s a threat of Disney princess music seeping in through the wall boards. “We have coffee and roll downstairs and jam together,” she swooned. But don’t worry, cowpunk fans—the Disney soundtrack never arrives. Tolle’s more about minor keys and lyrics about characters like “a woman who is a pathological liar and a drug addict and just this kind of fantasy that she makes for herself.”

After toying around with the idea of a birthday trip to Tahiti, Tolle decided instead on Reno, where she could see friends and family—and perform a birthday show at The Saint. For that evening, she’ll assemble a version of the Lazy Universe that will include Flanigan, bassist Ramirez—not just a long-ago fan but also a sometimes collaborator—Tolle’s sister, vocalist Terri Snyder, who lives in Carson City, and sound engineer Tom Gordon on tambourine.