Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sin & Umphrey's in Vegas, Lady Gaga, Alice Cooper

Hello and welcome back. I haven't done a blog in almost three weeks because I was at a conference in Vegas (more on that in a minute) and then last week I was sick and just too exhausted to stay up and do one. Luckily, it was a pretty slow week for music in Richmond so not much lost.

Onto Vegas, land of glitz and sleaze all wrapped up into one sparkly, jingly package designed to seperate you from your money. Musically, its not as easy to find music in Vegas as it used to be, with acts confined to the big shows at the casinos. They no longer have piano bars and singers in every lounge in the casinos. Can't take any space away from the slot machines. Music in the casinos is just some upbeat, inoffensive pop music pumped in just like the oxygen to keep you awake, alert and spending money.

I did have the luck of stumbling upon a good band at the rooftop bar (51st floor) of the casino I stayed in, the Rio. On Tuesday, intending to go to sleep early (which meant before midnight), I decided to accompany some co-attendees of the conference up to Voodoo (the name of said bar) because they wanted to check it out. I had been up there the night before and figured one drink and I was gone. It was free to go up as the Rio handed out passes each night that were good any night but Friday & Saturday. All the better to get you up there to drink $8 beers and $13 drinks. But I digress.

So out on the deck (a beautiful view of Vegas) they were playing your standard hip-hop/dance stuff but inside was a band that was much better than I expected. They were called Sin City Sinners, the most famous member of the band being guitarist Brent Muscat, formerly of Faster Pussycat. They do have some originals but I caught the second set in which they covered Cheap Trick, Quiet Riot (with a former lead singer of Quiet Riot, Paul Shortino), AC/DC (with the singer from an AC/DC cover band who sounded just like Bon Scott), Black Sabbath and Kiss, among others. I don't know if I would have enjoyed this band as much anywhere other than Vegas because (1) I was starved for live rock music after hearing only dance/hip-hop at the bars and pool and the aforementioned casino music, (2) the crowd at the bar, including me, was just there to get drunk and have fun, including some crazy, chunky, middle-aged looking (I may be middle-aged but I try not to look it. Too much.) ladies who were dancing and yelling and singing and making the band crack up, and (3) the band had the perfect attitude for the room. Funny, even a little wink-wink, nudge-nudge cheesy at times, but they were excellent musicians and really bonded with the fun vibe of the crowd and the room.

So, thanks to Sin City Sinners, it was another late night at Voodoo. If I ever get back to Vegas, I may look up this band to see if they are playing a more rock n' roll (read dark, dirty and sleazy) room where there would be lots of off-duty strippers, tattooed rock dudes and "working girls" with big hair rocking out. And maybe some go-go girls dancing in cages, you know, just for atmosphere. BTW, if you are a fan of hair metal, check out their web site just to see the list of guest stars they are going to play with over the next few weeks or have played with. These guys are definitely well connected.

My other Vegas music experience occurred on Wednesday night (9/16). After I took advantage of the free drinks at the closing night dinner for the conference, I went to see Umphrey's McGee at the House of Blues with some of the cool people from the conference. We had missed the first set by the time we got there (incorrect start time on the web site I checked) but no matter, we paid and went in anyway because we were drunk and it was Vegas and if we didn't spend the money there, Vegas would get it from us somewhere else. No matter how you feel about the franchising of music venues, the House of Blues does it right with great sound, sightlines and bars well placed throughout the venue. I wish I could give you more detail about the show other than we drank more, we danced, had a great time and they played some excellent Floyd covers and "Dear Prudence" but I am still getting to know Umphrey's so I'm unfamiliar with most of their songs (didn't matter). I can tell you Umphrey's is an excellent jam band and I will definitely see them again if not in Vegas, definitely here in Richmond. Here they are doing Dear Prudence at the show. If you look closely, you can see me in silhouette. I think that's my hand that gets in the way of the shot early in the song. Sorry dude.

And here is the song at the end of the second set "Much Obliged" with a little "Rocky Mountain Way" thrown in at the end for good measure. My big nose also makes an appearance in silhouette in this one.:

As I was taxiing down the runway to leave Vegas, hung over, exhausted and, quite frankly, happy to be leaving (as my friend, Leslie, said "A little Vegas goes a long way"), I played this song on my iPod, Drive-By Truckers, "Checkout Time in Vegas", an appropriate song for my mood if there ever was one. ("Checkout Time" is followed by "Deeper In" and "Sinkhole" because you can never have enough DBT.)

Anyway, back to Richmond. Dance diva Lady Gaga is playing on Monday night at The Landmark Theater. Per an email I got Sunday night at 8 PM, "A limited number of tickets have been released for the LADY GAGA show tomorrow night Monday September 28th at The Landmark Theater ... Tickets are available now at all Ticketmaster outlets,, and The Landmark box office". The show starts at 8 and tix are $30. Though the hits she's had so far don't seem much more than above average dance music, I did come to respect her after reading the article about her in Rolling Stone. She is trying to blend fashion, art and music to create this larger than life character of Lady Gaga in a way not unlike Bowie. Whether she'll be a flash in the pan or not we shall see, but I give her points for trying. If you haven't heard her song "Let's Dance" you may have been asleep for the past year so here's the link (can't embed it):

In an unrelated article, the nominees for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2010 are in. Up for induction: the Red Hot Chili Peppers, LL Cool J, Kiss and Genesis are up for nomination alongside the Stooges, Donna Summer, ABBA, Darlene Love, Laura Nyro, the Chantels, the Hollies and Jimmy Cliff. Based primarily on influence, I'd have to go with the Chili Peppers (still producing great music after 25 years), LL Cool J (one of the few rap artists to still be active after 25 years and one of the first crossovers to big pop success), Kiss (millions of records sold and the first taste of rock and roll for many a child of the 70s), Genesis (everything through Abacab helped build progressive rock, past & future), The Stooges (huge influence on the punk and alternative movements), Donna Summer (introduced us to Europop and influenced divas for years to come. And she's a guilty pleasure of mine so I would feel validated.), Darlene Love (epitomizes the sound of those early 60s girl groups. Should get in for "Be My Baby" alone. Definitely influenced everyone from Springsteen to Amy Winehouse.), and Jimmy Cliff (helped introduce reggae to the world along with Marley.) For those I'm not choosing, ABBA had a lot of hits but little influence on other musicians. Laura Nyro, while a fine singer, had a fairly short-lived popular arc and I don't percieve her as being a huge influence on future artists. The Chantels were one of the first girl groups but I just don't know the songs and don't see them rippling through future generations.

Coming up on Tuesday at The National, is a guy who isn't in the Hall of Fame, but should be, Alice Cooper. Tix are $27.50 in advance, $32.50 day of show, doors open at 7 and show starts at 8 with opener 5th Avenue Vampires. Here's Alice doing Elected. This is a classic video and it has a chimp in it so you know its good. I know after this video, I'm writing Alice Cooper in for Governor of VA in the upcoming election.

I'll be back on Wednesday night with a U2 blowout and the upcoming weekend in Richmond so watch the Interwebs for that.


Tony Jordan