Brains, Cowboys and Reverberation

Sometimes I feel this column tends to look backward more often than forward. But can you really blame me when so many musical legends continue to arrive in Vegas? This weekend is yet another star-jammed, guitar amplifiers-cranked affair.

It all starts April 21 at House of Blues with D.C. hardcore geniuses Bad Brains, who at one time (circa 1982) possessed the most ferocious punk-rock IQ upon releasing a self-titled debut album on cassette, which began popping up in alt-music shops around the country. Who can forget the first time they heard “Pay to Cum,” a song so fast it made then-speedy bands like Motörhead sound like slowpokes? But perhaps the coolest aspect of the Brains’ unrivaled musical chops (the band had a background in jazz fusion) was their ability to stop on a dime to deliver reggae grooves so fat and joyous you wanted to discard every Police record you owned for being too polished. Oh, did I mention the band comprises black Rastafarians? So yeah, African-Americans invented punk, too, along with blues and rock and everything else. Unlike other acts from that era (The Misfits, Dead Kennedys) that tour today, this is the classic Brains lineup. Buy yourself a ticket now for what’ll likely be the year’s top live-music orgasm. There wouldn’t be any 311, Sublime or Red Hot Chili Peppers without these guys, so pay respect!

This weekend also marks the return of Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly, which takes place at The Orleans from April 21-24. Lots of great acts will be appearing, including pounding piano-igniter Jerry Lee Lewis on April 23. But I’m most looking forward to catching venerable surf-guitar wizard Dick Dale, who’s playing independent of the rockabilly event on April 22 over at the Hard Rock Café. Of course, Dale’s amp-shattering version of “Misirlou” appeared in the Quentin Tarantino film Pulp Fiction (1994), introducing the Stratocaster master to a new generation of fans. Although he hasn’t released an album in more than 10 years, Dale and his band’s show is still just as loud and senses-rattling as ever. Yeah, I know, it’s not every concert put on by a 73-year-old that makes me suggest you wear earplugs. But trust me, you’ll need ’em!

On April 23 at Red Rock, open up and say ah! for Cowboy Mouth, a longtime New Orleans rock institution led by vocalist/drummer Fred LeBlanc. Folks in Louisiana acknowledge LeBlanc as among the best, but hipster critics typically ignore his deranged greatness because, well, the dude clearly has a blast doing what he does. Imagine a bit younger Don Henley back on the sauce with a party-punk attitude and a snare crack nasty enough to level buildings and you get the festive idea. Whether praising TV talk-show hosts (“Kelly Ripa”) from the vantage of an unemployed couch potato or advising guys to apologize for giving their ladies poor head (“Tell the Girl UR Sorry”), LeBlanc’s lyrics are as funny as the band is fierce. Guitarist John Thomas Griffith (ex-Red Rockers; remember “China”?) is no slouch, either.

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Before his first appearance on the mega-popular History Channel reality show Pawn Stars, restoration specialist Rick Dale was ready to give up. His 27-year-old business, Rick’s Restorations, was struggling to stay afloat, and after years of restoring Coke machines and gas pumps, he was burnt out. He’d already begun to sell off everything at his shop when salvation came in the form of a special customer.