Donald Hickey, better known as “The Donald,” is the pervasive voice behind Neon Reverb Radio 91.5 KUNV. The full-time airline pilot started hosting the weekly show to bring “modern, left-of-the-dial music to Las Vegas.” The longtime Las Vegan’s Saturday show features independent artists from across the nation mixed side-by-side with local artists, making him the right guy to spot the Valley’s finest locally grown bands.
- Kid Meets Cougar. Very infectious cute-guy-meets-girl duet, combining indie rock, hip-hop and electronica. Very cool videos online as well (kidmeetscougar.com/videos). Right now they are benevolent and very well loved—the king and queen of the local scene.
- The Skooners. I actually disliked this band when I first saw them. However their new album, Grow a Mustache, Change Your Name, is really something special. There is no indie rock kitsch or irony here. Very serious. Very good. I have joked that this album points out why Coldplay totally blows now.
- The Killers/Brandon Flowers. Well, the category is “local bands”! Flowers is apparently putting the finishing touches on an album, which will be a tribute to his late mother. And while The Killers are on a roughly two-year vacation, I feel they are at a fork in the road. Flowers’ new album, plus side projects with which other members of the band will involve themselves, will be well worth paying attention to.
- Jacob Smigel. Although residing in Tucson, Ariz., while going to medical school, he claims Vegas as home. Smigel has a secret life as one of America’s most promising folk artists. He is already seeing success as a musician; having just released his second LP, Hope This Passes the Secretary and having toured with Deer Tick. Check out very cool tracks such as “Grumpy Pill Bugs” and “Johnny Tocco’s Ringside Gym.”
- Halloween Town. This is a Transfer (San Diego)/Killers side project headed by Ryan Pardey. I haven’t spoken with him since his last show at Beauty Bar, but you can be sure that his music on CD will be amazing. It will be a true balance between commercial playability and hard-core street cred. The question is, how to keep a band together when your main members are all in other successful bands. And many local musicians are itching to be in a good band, but are unwilling/unable to tour.
- America Yeah. Where has this band been all my life? Oh yeah, they weren’t born for most of it. They could easily be classified into this re-emerging “baroque rock” category. However, to me, they channel this sort of 1981, postmodern/Thomas Dolby kind of thing.
- Lazystars. They put on an amazing live show. Their music lends itself well to commercial and public radio. I worry they almost sound too now, too fresh, too good, too glossy. Nevertheless, they have a solid fan base and could easily be the next big thing out of Vegas.