Everything you need to know about the eight must-see bands of Neon Reverb.
1. Mini Mansions isn’t your average solo side project. Sure, the band’s the brainchild of Queens of the Stone Age bassist Michael Shuman and, yes, their debut album was released on QOTSA frontman Josh Homme’s own Rekord Rekords last year. But Mini Mansions is a different, deeply cinematic pop-music project, taking the best parts of The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour and adding more acid tabs and a stronger commitment to exploring the cracked fissures of darkness and melancholy. Shuman has a knack for twisting a sunny melody into eerie, psychedelic directions, which reaches its apotheosis in tracks such as the piano-based “The Room Outside.” (“Superglue all your pretty wounds” is my favorite line.) But given how beautifully cracked and startlingly original Mini Mansions’ debut is, can the band pull it off live? We’ll just have to wait and hear. 10:45 p.m. March 12, the Gypsy Den, $5, All-ages.
2. To coincide with the release of their fourth full-length album, No Color, San Francisco baroque-pop duo the Dodos is performing at Neon Reverb. The band, who has played Vegas once before, is signed to top indie label, Frenchkiss, and delivers a technically accomplished, highly musical, wildly rhythmic brand of rock. Drummer Logan Kroeber beats his kit in unorthodox, un-rock, yet aggressively slamming fashion. Meanwhile, guitarist Meric Long goes nuts on his electric guitar. “We’ve gone electric,” says Long, referring to the band’s reputation as a prog-folk act. “It’s big news.” It’s a style that goes right up to the jam-band line without crossing it. Yet somehow the Dodos make it look effortless and sound gorgeous. 12:15 a.m. March 11, the Bunkhouse Saloon (outside), $15.
3. Hailing from San Antonio, Education earns an A for effort and artistry. The quartet makes off-kilter, cavernous, headlong indie-rock that brings to mind Wolf Parade and pre-Lisbon The Walkmen. The jaunty, jangly “Hold My Hand” hits the listener with a skewed blast of pop-song sunshine coated in dark B3 Hammond lines and Phillip Bowman’s cracked vocals, while “Golden Boys” breaks format with a pounding saloon-piano chord progression. It was the band’s previous appearance at Neon Reverb in 2010 that convinced these guys to quit their day jobs, buy a school bus, go on tour and make music their No. 1 priority. Education looks like they’ll make the grade. 1 a.m. night of March 10, the Bunkhouse Saloon, $8.
4. Brooklyn duo Asobi Seksu—singer/keyboardist Yuki Chikudate and guitarist James Hanna—bring back the late ’80s/early ’90s heyday of shoegazer rock and dream pop, back when effects pedals were rad and everyone longed to mimic the layered wallop of Ride’s Nowhere. But don’t call Chikudate’s band a bunch of retro-mongers. “Oh God, we have no interest in being revivalist,” she says. “Sure, if the tag helps people to discover us, then that’s fine. But categories don’t help us much.” Still, there’s something profoundly expansive, cinematic, even kaleidoscopic, about Asobi Seksu’s sonic attack, especially on its brand new Polyvinyl release, Fluorescence. 12 a.m. the night of March 12, the Bunkhouse Saloon, $10.
5. Formed in 2008, local ambient post-punk quartet Asterionella recently released a cassette version of its 2010 debut album, Under the Waves, via Vegas’ own Hex Records. This is the fourth time Asterionella plays Neon Reverb, but guitarist Richard Polk says he’d be happy playing it every six months. “It’s just a fun, well-organized event and a great way to get people downtown and interested in local alternative music.” Polk’s band will be debuting a few new songs. “We all like different textures and have varied influences, so it’s coming together now in a really interesting way.” Listen for like the introspective “Novocaine,” with singer/guitarist Kelley Karas’ vulnerable lyrics. Don’t miss this act, folks. 7 p.m., March 12, The Beat, Free.
6. Apparently GoldBoot has been kicking around town for at least six months, inducing people’s booties to spontaneously shake in rhythm with a palpable blend of electro, disco and funk. Go to Vimeo and check out the video (directed by local film auteur Jeremy Cloe) for “Won’t Lie Not Cool.” Unironic fans of Saturday Night Fever-era Bee Gees or Off the Wall-grade Michael Jackson will dig these guys even if, from what I’m told, they refuse to don sequined bell bottoms. That’s OK, because their recently released EP, Boot Tease, is the most upbeat, joyous local disc I’ve encountered in years. For those about to boogie, this band salutes you. 10:30 p.m., March 12, the Beauty Bar (outside), $10.
7. Gotta admit, I’m deeply intrigued by Jared Mees. Not only is his band, Jared Mees & the Grown Children, primed to release one of the best chamber-rock albums, Only Good Thoughts Can Stay (out May 10), I’ve heard so far this year, he also runs the world’s coolest indie-rock label and record store and collective, Tender Loving Empire, in Portland, Ore. This operation is so hot-shit it was recently featured in Nylon magazine as well as in the inaugural episode of Portlandia. Indeed, this guy is responsible for signing incredible bands such as Loch Lomond, even while making his own notable art. This is Mees’ first Vegas appearance, and I’m looking forward to seeing him and his band execute tracks such as the horn-enriched, stuttering yet buoyant “Limber Hearts.” Fans of Neutral Milk Hotel and Modest Mouse will dig this band immensely. 12 a.m. the night of March 10, the Bunkhouse Saloon, $10.
8. Of all the many intriguing bands playing Neon Reverb, I’m most stoked about seeing instrumental, improvisational, inscrutable, neo-psychedelic, lineup-switching post-rock Salt Lake City group Theta Naught. (They’ll be in quintet formation, and hopefully joined by local faves Black Camaro onstage throughout their set. “We do a blend of acid jazz and classical and rock,” bassist Ryan Stanfield says. “The way we sound really depends on when you catch us and who we’ve got with us.” Theta Naught has played Vegas a number of times in recent years, and Stanfield says they’ve always had a blast. “We skew toward drawing an art-rock or alt-jamband crowd. But we’re up to playing anywhere and to anyone attentive.” It’s hard not to pay attention given Theta Naught’s hypnotic and majestic power. Expect everything from harps and cellos to trumpets and synth. If you love eclectic music, this show should satisfy. 9 p.m. March 11, The Beat, Free.