I’m writing this column in the sweet, semi-drunken afterglow of the April 28 Deer Tick show at Beauty Bar. Their classic-sounding works such as the tumble-bumble ballad “Art Isn’t Real (City of Sin)” and the grunged-up country rocker “Mange” stood out. The Rhode Island-based band delivered one of those rare performances that gives me new hope for authentic American music actually reaching Vegas now and then. Sure, Deer Tick draws from obvious influences—Tom Petty, Paul Westerberg, John Prine—artists whose material Deer Tick covered throughout the band’s 90-minute set. But singer/guitarist John McCauley, who has more than a few friends (and songs set) in Nevada, made them his own, backed by a group of musicians who played feverishly, ferociously. You don’t hear three-part male vocal harmonies much these days, and Deer Tick made it look easy.
As I write this, there’s another great band, country-garage rockers Heartless Bastards, at Wasted Space tonight. Do yourself a favor and download their 2009 album The Mountain. (The title track is a rough-hewn little masterpiece.) With shows like this popping up, Vegas’ music scene is finally growing on me.
Vegas is growing on out-of-town bands, too. I’d better see you, dear reader, wearing a dusty sombrero and spurs at Spindrift’s First Friday (May 7) show at The Gypsy Den (213 E. Colorado Ave.), which I promise will blow your mind, especially if you missed their Neon Reverb set. Spindrift is a psychedelic/heavy rock/spaghetti Western outfit out of L.A. that refuses to play boring music, incorporating everything from autoharp to pedal steel to Native American flute. The band is eager to unveil new songs written in the Joshua Tree Inn, in the room where Gram Parsons drank and drugged himself to death. On the visual end, Spindrift leader Kirpatrick Thomas is eager to show off his new mariachi-style Nudie suit in Vegas.
“I had it made special for this tour and for Vegas,” Thomas says in a phone interview. “Eventually, I’d like to see the whole band dressed this way. We’d like to fit in better in your city, and really embrace the glitzy desert style.”
Thomas, who calls Vegas “the Desert Ghost Town That Never Died,” says he’s looking forward to a few more shows in California this month before Spindrift flies out to support Black Rebel Motorcycle Club in Europe.
“We’ll see what Italy’s all about, and if they can appreciate our version of their music,” he says, referring to Spindrift’s cinematic gunfighter rock, inspired by the soundtracks of composers such as Ennio Morricone. “It’s a psychedelic-rock version, but I think they’ll get it.”