Las Vegas Shakedown

Las Vegas Country Saloon, Oct. 13-15

Stepping into LVCS on Oct. 13 to join 100 others already nodding to the fuel-injected punkabilly beat of Seattle trio Dragstrip Riot, my hopes for this year’s Shakedown seemed secure. As a downtown cheerleader, I want Fremont East to develop into a major destination for touring bands. For the first two evenings of the three-night, multi-club Shakedown, I had reason to crow. But by the end … man, was I ever wrong.

I peg hotrod rockers Dragstrip Riot as a stripped-down, faster, louder, more heartfelt version of Reverend Horton Heat crossed with some Social D-grade sensitivity. Singer/guitarist Knuck has a knack for delivering tunes that sound at once classic and crazed. “TroubleBound” could’ve been written by a highbrow, lyrics-centered artist such as Steve Earle, but only if he recruited Dragstrip Riot drummer Danny Von Dirtbag and bassist Nils Scurvy (who ran around the venue leaping from tables, thanks to a wireless setup).

Cold Blue Rebels are super-cool, with makeup and a charismatic stage presence matched by a set of fun, well-crafted horror-psychobilly. The L.A. quartet projects a Stray Cats-mutilated-by-the Misfits attack, and guitarist Joe Normal shreds a hollow-body electric with the best. The pseudo-thrash of “Hell Block 13” was inspired, as was the comically juvenile strut of “Worm Hole Hooker.” Punkabilly trio the Rocketz were propulsive (guitarist Tony Slash is a monster musician), but sounded tame after the polished Rebels. San Diego’s Deadbolt didn’t go on until 2 a.m. and, handicapped by a long night of drinking, didn’t impress me with their minimalist, dark-wave take on rockabilly. Plus, the venue banned them from firing their trademarked sparks-shooting power tools into the crowd. Boring!

Second night, LVCS drew 200-plus for a punk-heavy lineup of Flexx Bronco, Custom Made Scare, Electric Frankenstein and Zeke. But attendance sucked at other Shakedown venues. The Frankenstein steamrolled through a 45-minute set, catching absolute fire on “Speed Girl” and “Burn Bright, Burn Fast.” Zeke poured it on, too—“Dogfight” and “Overkill” killed—yet the band acted pissed off, at the end smashing drums, which I’m not sure were theirs. Either way, was it really necessary, guys?

Bad vibes swelled into disaster. Third night, my phone blew up with texts from local musicians and promoters outraged that Shakedown promoter Ralph Carrera had skipped town without paying bands or venue rental fees. I’m told Beauty Bar descended into near chaos—until Neon Reverb’s James Woodbridge took the stage collecting donations to defray gas expenses for Oakland garage-poppers Shannon and the Clams. The poorly attended Wild Records showcase at Bunkhouse removed itself from the Shakedown, charging at the door, refusing to acknowledge Shakedown passes. Monday, Carrera called me, claiming he was in touch with bands and working on getting them paid. But even if he follows through, Shakedown fell down flat and won’t be getting back up anytime soon.

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