November, 2008

Neon Outlook: Las Vegas’ live music in December

November 25th, 2008
White Arrows play Revolution Lounge on Dec. 7

White Arrows play Revolution Lounge on Dec. 7

It’s a bittersweet outlook for December’s live music. On one hand, there’s some killer stuff (Nine Inch Nails, anyone? Bloc Party? Wu Tang?!) coming to Las Vegas, and on the other hand, a number of shows scheduled for Jillian’s are homeless, as the venue has officially closed. Some shows have been moved to the House of Blues, others to The Box Office (1129 Casino Center Blvd.), but some are just … up in the air. But the all-ages music scene in Vegas is not dead yet, as the Alley Theater is slated to return soon to the valley. Or, so says its MySpace page. Keep your eyes posted to this space in the future for more on that. Until then, here are some shows that have not been canceled for December (yet…):

Tuesday, December 2
Wasted Space: Zerofingers, The Vermin and Guilty by Association at 10 p.m.

Wednesday, December 3
House of Blues: Five Finger Death Punch with In This Moment and Broken End at 5 p.m. $15, all ages.

Friday, December 5
The Joint: Tesla with Cinder Road at 8 p.m. $35.
Wasted Space: Velicious at 10 p.m.
Wasted Space: Conflict of Interest, Bydeathsdesign at 10 p.m.

Saturday, December 6
House of Blues: Hot 97.5’s OMG Jingle Jam featuring Pleasure P., Bobby Valentino and DJ Unk at 2 p.m. $9.75 – $19.75, all ages.
House of Blues: Wu Tang Clan at 8 p.m. $37 – 55, 21-over.

Sunday, December 7
Wasted Space: All-American Rejects, Jetlag Gemini and The City Lives at 10 p.m. $22.50
Revolution Lounge: White Arrows, DJ InMusicInLove at 10 p.m.

Tuesday, December 9
Wasted Space: CSS at 10 p.m. $15.

Wednesday, December 10
House of Blues: Anthony Hamilton at 7:30 p.m. $27 – 40, 21-over.

Thursday, December 11
House of Blues: Gary Allan at 8 p.m. $40-60, 21-over.

Friday, December 12
The Joint: Area 107.9’s Big Damn Holiday Jam featuring Bloc Party, Franz Ferdinand, The Ting Tings and Carolina Liar at 7 p.m. $39.50 and up.
Wasted Space: Jesse Dayton at 10 p.m.
House of Blues: Gary Allan at 8 p.m. $40-60, 21-over. (more…)

Neon Review: ‘Day & Age’ by The Killers

November 24th, 2008

The Killers
Day & Age

Day and AgeWe’re going to deviate from the typical, one-sided, subjective album review you’ve come to know and hate for this latest studio effort from Las Vegas’ own The Killers in favor of something far more interesting: a two-sided, subjective album review. Today, VEGASinsight’s Pj Perez welcomes special guest Roger Erik Tinch, art and online director for the CineVegas Film Festival, as we present two very different takes on Day & Age, which hits stores in the United States today.

Pj: As usual, The Killers keep Day & Age lean, with only 10 tracks over 41 minutes (not counting the bonus tracks which we media types don’t get to preview). But that doesn’t mean they’ve cut the fat musically. Rather, the boys from Sin City try to cram so many different sounds into not only the album but each song – from dance to funk to Latin to rock to pop – that it seems along the way they just forgot to write a good song. It feels as though The Killers are overreaching even more than on Sam’s Town, whereas they’d be best off stripping back the horns and orchestral overtones and simply scratching out some palatable hooks and melodies.

Roger: OK, do some of the songs rip off The Clash? Sure. But four (three studio) albums in and the band is stilling putting together fully encompassed songs, unlike some of my other favorite bands, Coldplay and Radiohead. They rip from the playbook of The Beatles (yes I said it) and make rhythmically catchy tunes on top of seemingly simple lyrics that get more complex the digger you deep. Is it their best album? No, that is still reserved for Sam’s Town, a dystopian cowboy’s guide to the desert. But it is once again a cohesive album that raises the bar on their musical eclecticism without fully changing their “sound.”

Let’s look at the album, song by song:

“Losing Touch”
Pj: Hmm … it sounds like E.L.O. I guess I’m biased against ’70s retreads but totally alright with ’80s do-overs, as I very much enjoyed The Killers’ debut, Hot Fuss. Come on, if you’re going to dip back into the ’70s, at least make it David Bowie or Iggy Pop or, hell, go the Billy Joel route.
Roger: A great introduction to a new sound from The Killers. Pay attention to the sax as that’s the driving force behind the intriguingly fresh soundscape for the lads. (more…)

Saosin: ‘No silent moments’

November 20th, 2008

Saosin guitarist Beau Burchell rocking the HOB, Nov. 18, 2008

It’s 3 p.m. on Wednesday, and two dozen kids are at the House of Blues Las Vegas inside the Mandalay Bay resort and casino waiting for the doors to open. Small groups of young music fans continue to arrive, turning the floor into a sea of black T-shirts with random smatterings of Fruit Loops colors – pinks, blues, yellows and purples flash when someone turns around or lifts an arm to wave to a friend.

In two hours, these kids will fill the House of Blues, but for now, the venue is almost empty as I walk to the backstage area to meet Saosin, the California-based band second-billed on a tour with headliner Underoath, The Devil Wears Prada and The Famine.

Saosin guitarist Beau Burchell relaxes in the band’s RV as bassist Chris Sorenson chops onions and peppers for pre-show guacamole. A fan gave Sorenson a cookbook a few days before but this recipe is one of his own creations.

“Some bands are scared to meet their fans. They’re kind of creepy sometimes,” Burchell said. “But ours aren’t that way.”

Before this tour, Saosin brought the fans into their work. In a deal with clothing brand Hurley, Saosin agreed to stream video of the recording process on the web.

“We’re kind of breaking the taboo about how a record gets made,” Burchell said.

Sorenson agreed, while still keeping his eyes on the project at hand.

“No one knows how much nothing goes on,” he said. “It is a process, but it isn’t always ‘finish one thing then on to the next thing.’ The cool thing is that we did everything ourselves. Fans got to see us move the mikes and get into a giant drum circle.”

CineVegas announces 2009 dates, gets Shorts-sighted

November 14th, 2008

CineVegas logo

You might think it’s a little soon for us to be discussing the 2009 CineVegas Film Festival, given that it’s June 11 start is still seven months away. But if you’re an aspiring filmmaker, you might think differently, as submissions for the 11th annual fest are being accepted from Dec. 1, 2008 to March 1, 2009.

With cash prizes totaling $14,000 awarded to select film categories and previous winners going on to festival circuit fame and grandiose distribution deals, CineVegas is the perfect launch platform for your Scorcese-like epic. But act soon, because the competition is fierce.

“2008 was a record-breaking year for CineVegas, as the Festival received the most submissions in its history,” said Trevor Groth, artistic director for the festival. “I know that 2009 will also break records, not just in the number of submissions we receive, but in the quality of films that we are seeing.”

If you fall into that category of “the next Quentin Tarantino,” then you’ll want to click on over to, where festival submissions for CineVegas are being handled. Submissions received by Jan. 15 will be eligible for an early bird discount – and hey, every penny counts these days.

In related CineVegas news, the festival recently re-launched its CineVegas Shorts Online microsite, where some of the best shorts from the 2002 to 2006 festivals can now be viewed at Perfect for those of you looking for something to watch while you eat that tuna sandwich at your desk.

Tool singer Keenan brings wrathful grapes to suburbia

November 6th, 2008
Maynard James Keenan

He will work to elevate you. He will work to bring you down. (Photo by Erik Kabik | RETNA)

Does anyone else find it weird that Maynard James Keenan, the once mohawked, cross-dressing lead singer of dark, progressive alt-metal band Tool – as well as other projects such as A Perfect Circle and Puscifer – is now hawking fancy wines to suburban yoga moms in pricey organic supermarkets? Yes, that’s right, Keenan is a partner in Arizona-based winery Caduceus Cellars (they grow grapes in Arizona?!), with winemaker Eric Glomski, and he’s doing a different kind of tour than he’s used to – that of wine promotions and signings at Whole Foods stores.

The singer – who comes from a family of Italian winemakers – stopped at the location in The District at Green Valley Ranch yesterday with Glomski, an event which found people lined up down the street to meet, and buy wine from, the diminutive, smooth-headed singer-turned-vintner. Our favorite bearded photographer, Erik Kabik, not only snapped photos of the signing, but also snapped up a $75 bottle of Caduceus’ 2005 Nagual de la Naga. According to the shutterbug and wine enthusiast, the wine is “a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese grape varieties … a big, fruity wine with jammy, smoky flavors of blackberry and rhubarb.” Sounds good to us.

In case you missed the signing, have no fear – Keenan will be back on Dec. 9 at the Town Square Whole Foods location from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Save your pennies now. We wonder what wine goes best with “Prison Sex,” though. Hmm …

Drinking with the Dems on Election Night in Las Vegas

November 5th, 2008


Avoiding Election Day results in this age of information overload and constant connectivity isn’t an easy task. My plan was this: Avoid polling results until I got to the Nevada Democratic Party Election Night bash at the Rio All-Suites Hotel. I wanted to be surprised, I wanted to get caught up in the moment, I didn’t want to emotionally rise and fall throughout the hours leading up to the eventual declaration and concession.

I did pretty well. At about 5 p.m., an hour after polls closed on the East Coast, a friend started to tell me how many electoral votes were called for Sen. Barack Obama. I shut her up quickly. When I got home, I avoided radio and internet, going straight into the kitchen to make dinner and absorbing no more information beyond a 20-year-old comic book. Before leaving for the Rio, I logged onto Twitter to announce my destination. And that’s when I caught the page full of tweets relaying the news that Ohio had been called for Obama. That could have been the end right there.

Driving in my car on surprisingly quiet streets, Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) was being interviewed on NPR. This is a man who helped lead the Civil Rights Movement, who marched right along with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who was beaten by a white mob in his youth. Listening to him talk brought the first of a number of tears last night to my eyes.

obama_tieI submitted a request for credentials to the party at the Rio’s Pavilion meeting rooms, but ended up not needing any. This celebration was open to the public, and boy, did the public turn out. Say what you will about party politics, but one thing I’ve noticed in attendance at both Obama rallies and this Election Night party is that the Democratic base is the definition of diverse: All colors, ages, creeds, sizes, shapes and abilities were represented in the Brasilia Ballroom. This is what America looks like.

A giant screen projected a live broadcast from MSNBC, while smaller, flat screen monitors scattered throughout the massive ballroom displayed live reports from Fox News, CNN and the like. One section of the room was specifically designated for the hearing, mobility and sight impaired, complete with sign language interpreters and handicap accommodations. Cash bars were well distributed throughout the room, and a decent appetizer buffet set behind the press riser fed a hungry line all night.

There were important local and state races all around, including two U.S. Congressional seats, a number of State Assembly seats and a County Commission opening. But it was obvious why the party was flooded with people – obvious by their T-shirts, buttons, signs, accessories and banners: Last night was all about Barack Obama. Every time the giant screen displayed another winning state called for Obama, the crowd cheered. Actually, the crowd may have just cheered every time someone bought a drink. It was hard to tell. The sheer jubilance in the room was energizing.

But that feeling of anticipation I’d hoped for was all but impossible to attain. I arrived just a little after 7 p.m., and already Obama had 207 votes to Sen. John McCain’s 130 or so. And polls had still not closed on the West Coast. At about 7:30, I remarked to a friend that this thing would be over by 10 p.m. I should have put money on that.

Somewhere about 8:30, a Democratic Party official climbed behind the podium on the stage beneath the giant screen to make an announcement: The room was at capacity – those who were present needed to stay there, and no more folks were being let into the Brasilia Ballroom. Already an overflow room across the hall was being used. And then, as the speaker was talking mundanely about which restrooms for guests to use, it happened.

The room erupted. Screams and shouts and claps and cries and tears and hugs. That could mean only one thing, of course. And sure enough, as I peered through the throng of bodies between me and the nearby television, I saw the numbers on screen: Obama suddenly had somewhere in the neighborhood of 287 votes. The West Coast must have reported. It happened so quickly, so suddenly, it almost didn’t feel real. (more…)

Neon Outlook: November’s First Friday and more art beyond

November 4th, 2008
Just one of the haunting works by Justin Crabtree and David Ward at Main Gallery

Just one of the haunting works by Justin Crabtree and David Ward at Main Gallery

Amongst all the Election Day nonsense (oh, and topless shows, dance-punk concerts and Tiki bars), we almost forgot First Friday was coming up this week. I know, I know, “how could we?” Well, it’s not like the future of our country (and the free world?) is hanging in the balance today or anything, right?

With that in mind, assuming the world hasn’t shat itself by then, here’s a look forward to November’s worthy art openings in Las Vegas not only before and during First Friday, but maybe a little after, as well:

First up is the return of Brian and Jennifer Henry’s creation Lola in her newest show, “Lola vs. The Universe,” at Trifecta Gallery (inside the Arts Factory, 103 E. Charleston Blvd.). Opening with a preview reception on Thursday, Nov. 6 from 5 to 8 p.m., this new series catches up with the exploits of Lola, an “avid activist,” “steam train conductor” and Presidential candidate.

Meanwhile, at Main Gallery (1009 S. Main St.), Justin Crabtree and David Ward team up for “Method and Theory,” which opens Friday, Nov. 7 at 6 p.m. This installation juxtaposes the approaches, disciplines and styles of artist Crabtree and biologist Ward. You really need to see it to believe it.

Around the corner at MTZC (on the second floor of Commerce Street Studios, 1551 S. Commerce St.), we bid a sad farewell to the 4-year-old gallery with “20/20 Hindsight,” the final show featuring the art of owner Mark T. Zeilman. Do not miss the opening reception on Friday from 6 to 10 p.m. for this closing show.

If you survive all that First Friday noise, then by the next week you’ll be ready for the opening of “Love and Water” by San Francisco-based Alexis Amann at Atomic Todd (1221 Main St.), showing Nov. 14 through Dec. 31. The exhibition, curated by Naomi Arin, features Amann’s acrylic gouache paintings, which explore the dual themes of love and water. The opening reception is from 6 to 8 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 14.

Other shows to keep on your calendar that we’ll revisit later: Tarissa Tiberti at The Fallout (1551 S. Commerce St.) from Nov. 21 to Jan. 3, 2009, and “Israeli Art NOW,” showing Nov. 26 through Jan. 4, 2009 at Naomi Arin Contemporary (formerly DUST, 900 S. Las Vegas Blvd. Suite 120-B).

Sin City Kitties bring Vegas-style attitude to Primm

November 3rd, 2008

SinCity Kitties

Topless revues in Las Vegas are nothing new. Crazy Girls at the Riviera has been showing for, what, a few centuries now, and it preceded more modern takes on the art of tease such as X Girls, Fantasy and Crazy Horse Paris. Those latter-day shows took the bare-chested dance routines to a new level, injecting them with artful lighting, creative sets and an air of class, making the revues more enticing for couples and groups of women, and not just horny, male conventioneers.

Now a new show is bringing the same level of polished sensuality to Primm, Nev. – the Area Formerly Known as Stateline – inside the Whiskey Pete’s Showroom. Dubbed Sin City Kitties, this topless revue (not “review,” as indicated on promotional artwork) is a surprisingly well-produced show – on par with the aforementioned Fantasy or X Girls – despite its middle-of-nowhere location.

Whiskey Pete’s is one of a cluster of three resorts located in Primm, one of which (Buffalo Bill’s) is notable for being home to a mild rollercoaster; the other (Primm Valley) for being adjacent to an outlet mall. Which is to say, Primm is typically thought of as nothing more than the first place on your way into Nevada from California to gamble, and the first place on your way from Nevada to California to buy Lotto tickets.

Sin City KittiesBut the Primm Valley Resorts – as they’re collectively known – have been trying hard to turn that perception around, marketing themselves as a quick, fun getaway for Vegas locals. At the Star of the Desert Arena, bookings of such headliners as the B-52’s, Blondie and Snoop Dogg – yes, we said Snoop Dogg – are targeting more diverse (and younger) patrons, and Primm has been offering hundreds of free tickets to these shows to get feet into the door. The arena was even nominated for “Casino of the Year” at the 2007 Country Music Awards. And with Sin City Kitties, Whiskey Pete’s is advertising room-and-show packages starting at less than $50 – a price point low enough to justify the surprisingly brisk half-hour drive to Primm from Las Vegas.

Brought to you by the same producers behind song-and-dance band Sin City Heat (formerly Sunset Strip), Sin City Kitties offers up seven lovely ladies — Mistress Lily, Champagne, Sonya, Summer, Eva, Pony and Roxy — dancing and singing to both contemporary hits and original songs, strutting their hot bods and revealing a whole lot of T, a decent amount of A and having a whole lot of fun doing so. The expected scenes are all present and accounted for: a cowboy theme, a Latin dance, a stripper’s pole — but Sin City Kitties offers some takes on the tried-and-true that make this show more fun and sexier than one might expect. An audience member is pulled on stage to receive a lap dance from a dancer in a giant kitty costume — but the oversized feline is revealed to be one of the two TomKats, male dancers who provide the show’s beefcake factor. And a bathtub scene featuring the voluptuous Champagne writhing under streams of water poured on her by her fellow Kitties is about as erotic as they come.

It would be easy to knock Sin City Kitties‘ location — and choice of name, given the show’s non-Vegas locale — except that Whiskey Pete’s can actually be a load of fun. The rooms, while painfully in need of a remodel, are cheap and clean. The bars in the casino serve cheap drinks and $1 hot dogs, if that’s your thing. And even the show bar offers up decent-sounding cover bands that pack the dance floor with tipsy travelers. Primm’s not fancy, it’s not trendy, and maybe it’s just the perfect off-the-map getaway you’re looking for.

Neon Review: The Faint, House of Blues Las Vegas, 11/2/08

November 3rd, 2008

The Faint

The Faint gets kids bouncing. That’s as good a summation of any Faint concert as I can offer. I’ve now seen the Omaha, Neb.-spawned quintet twice, both times at the House of Blues Las Vegas, and each time, the result is the same: 250 or so hipsters in skinny jeans gyrating on a packed dance floor, arms flailing and hands clapping.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, and as proven during its 18-song set Sunday night, The Faint delivers consistently, pumping out its not-quite-unique-but-always-welcome mash-up of electronic buzz, punk energy and new wave aesthetics. With lead singer Todd Fink getting his freak on via a mad scientist get-up complete with white lab coat and goggles (paging Dr. Horrible, Dr. Horrible to HOB), the band tore through a nearly gapless set spanning its five-album career.

Following a fun and engaging set from identity-confused rapper Kool Keith (or Dr. Dooom, or Dr. Octagon, or …), The Faint kicked things off with signature song “Agenda Suicide” and didn’t stop writhing or spaz-dancing for 14 more songs. Though the band’s tracks tend to blend after a while, that isn’t really a problem at a Faint concert, because their fans come to boogie, not take notes. And older fare such as “Worked Up So Sexual” and “The Conductor” found as much positive reception as cuts from the band’s latest album, Fasciinatiion, including “Get Seduced” and “Machine in the Ghost.”

Disappearing for a break after “I Disappear,” The Faint returned to the stage after a few minutes of the sweaty crowd chanting “one more song,” delivering songs such as “Birth” and “The Geeks Were Right” before returning to the robotic hibernation chamber from which this Midwest band emerged. We think.