Like a lot of Las Vegans, I nurture a fantasy about escaping the desert heat every summer. But here’s the reality: There are too many cool live music concerts that keep me anchored here, continually postponing a drive to a California beach. Here are some upcoming extravaganzas that’ll keep you from suffering a meltdown.
One thing that always dissuades me from heading west is the Beach at Mandalay Bay. They place a killer stage and sound system above the surf wave pool and you can just put your feet in the water, nurse a Corona, kick back and bask in sonic good times. The Mandalay Bay 2011 Landshark Lager Beach Concert Series looks particularly strong, especially in the Caribbean music genre. Latin Grammy-winning, Puerto Rican alternative-hip-hop trio Calle 13 plays May 29 (check out their track “Electro Movimiento”—it bangs), Puerto Rican reggaeton duo Wisin y Yandel performs June 12, and then Mr. Wicked Games himself, Chris Isaak, brings his retro-smooth rock ’n’ roll to the ersatz tropical setting July 16. Also: Peter Frampton, July 29; Lost ’80s Live (A Flock of Seagulls, The Motels, When in Rome UK, Tommy Tutone, Animotion, Dramarama and Boys Don’t Cry), Aug. 13; Beach Boys, Sept. 3; B-52s and Human League, Sept. 4 (Mandalay Bay Box Office, 632-7580, MandalayBay.com).
Almost forgot! There’s another big body of water across the way at The Village Lake Las Vegas. They already have a live Jazz on the Lake free concert series happening every Saturday night in May—No Limit 9:23 plays May 21, for instance. But May 28 is the grand finale with a Gimme Shelter fundraiser (benefiting Heaven Can Wait Animal Society) featuring Skip Martin, lead singer of Kool & the Gang, who will be performing all his hits, plus U2 tribute band Arms of America, who are actually pretty dang good. Admission to this event is $20 and the show starts at 6 p.m.
Strike, spare or gutter—it doesn’t matter to me because I’ll be drinking copiously in my Halloween Mohawk for the 13th annual Punk Rock Bowling Tournament. Outdoor festival tickets are sold out, and you should be sick with remorse because Dropkick Murphys, Agnostic Front and Descendents are playing this three-day blow-up (May 28, 29 and 30, respectively) on the corner of Sixth and Fremont streets. But downtown club show tickets are available, which means you can, for instance, catch punk legends All (May 28, $15) and Manic Hispanic (May 29, $10) at Azul Tequila, Fishbone (May 27, $15) at Las Vegas Country Saloon and Muffs (May 28, $10) at Beauty Bar. For more info and to buy tickets, go to PunkRockBowling.com. Oh yeah, there’s a bowling component, too, with a tournament at Sam’s Town on Boulder Highway. (But you can also recover from your hangover—er, I mean stay cheaply—at El Cortez, which has made a backdoor deal with the event). Plus, there’s also a poker tourney. As the Dude in The Big Lebowski says, “That’s a great plan. It’s a Swiss fuckin’ watch.”
Like some rasta-damaged Pavlovian mutt, whenever I hear reggae music, I suffer an overwhelming desire to lap up Red Stripe. So when you see me dancing really, really badly, don’t be alarmed, it’s what I’ve been conditioned to do. You’ll be doing it, too, when you hear the buoyant, island grooves of Freddie McGregor, a Jamaican music legend whose career goes all the way back to the ’60s. He specializes in lovers rock-style reggae, with lots of heavy synth and romantic lyrics, and it’s bright and happy, making him the ideal headliner for this year’s Reggae in the Desert at the Clark County Amphitheater (500 S. Grand Central Parkway) on June 11. Other live music artists slated to perform include Don Carlos, Mykal Rose, Junior Reid, Michael Black and Detour Posse. For info and tickets, visit ReggaeInTheDesert.com.
Many great free shows are taking place at the Henderson Events Plaza (200 S. Water St.) thanks to ArtBeat Presented by Target with art displays, crafts and, yes, live music. I’m hotly anticipating hearing The Grascals, an acclaimed six-piece, Nashville-based bluegrass band that has worked with Dolly Parton (the band’s debut album features guest vocals from Parton on “Viva Las Vegas”), on June 10, and The Motels on June 17. Shows start at 8 p.m. Visit HendersonLive.com.
Other, louder concerts to keep in mind: Doom in June II threatens to obliterate Cheyenne Saloon (3103 N. Rancho Drive) on June 4 with an all-day festival of slow-as-sludge heavy metal, stoner rock and pure doom. Headliners include Solitude Aeturnus, Hooded Menace, Iron Man and Stone Axe. Doors open at noon, and this is a 21-and-up show. Tickets are $25 via BrownPaperTickets.com. The Vans Warped Tour is back June 30 in the Plaza hotel-casino parking lot with a list of bands which, if you think they’re too loud, then you’re too old. Winds of Plague is pretty good if you like symphonic deathcore or blackened death metal, and they’re playing with a slew of other hardcore and metal acts on at least a few different stages. Admission is just $26. Go to Vans.com for info and tickets.