Virginia City, Nevada, is well known for many things: the V&T railroad, prosperous silver mines, and as the place where Mark Twain began his writing career. One lesser-known fact about Virginia City is that it played an important role in the origins of psychedelic rock n’ roll.
By the mid-1960s, Virginia City’s cheap rents attracted young, idealistic hippies in droves. In 1965, a group of friends purchased an old hotel and transformed it into the Red Dog Saloon. Chandler A. Laughlin III, a DJ better known by his nickname Travus T. Hipp, recruited bands in San Francisco, while artist Bill Ham developed a suitably trippy lightshow that could be projected onto the bar’s wall. Before long, the place earned a reputation for its live shows, as well as the LSD and peyote that often accompanied them.
Among the bands who played at the Red Dog Saloon were The Charlatans, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and Big Brother & The Holding Company, which would later go on to work with Janis Joplin. Known as The Red Dog Experience, this concert series lasted all summer long. The Experience would go on to be repeated for the next two summers. Some of the Red Dog cohorts took what they learned in Virginia City and went on to produce shows for the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, and Country Joe and the Fish, among many others.
These days, the Red Dog Saloon is still a cornerstone of the community. In addition to a full bar, the Red Dog Saloon offers a variety of sandwiches, wings, and pizza. Live music is still on the lineup at the regular open mic nights. The walls of the saloon are festooned with posters from some of the many acts which have graced the stage over the years.
Know Before You Go
The bar hosts popular open mic nights every Wednesday, as well as a rotating roster of local bands. Check the website to see the lineup before you go.