Killers drummer turns composer

THE KILLERS skinsman and local-boy-done-good Ronnie Vannucci, Jr. is always up to something. Whether recording and performing with his other project Big Talk or graduating from UNLV last summer with a degree in music performance, Vannucci never rests on his laurels. He’s already at work on a master’s degree in percussion, and to earn an A from his professors, he’s debuting two of his original classical-percussion pieces 7:30 p.m. April 13-14 (UNLV’s Black Box Theatre in the Alta Ham Fine Arts Building, $10,

The production, Skins & Wires, includes solo violinist Wei-Wei Le performing composer Lou Harrison’s “Concerto for Violin and Percussion.” But the highlight for rock fans will be Vannucci leading the UNLV Percussion Ensemble through a pair of compositions he wrote for these 20 students, many of whom are likely Killers fans.

“I decided to pursue a master’s degree because I wanted to study [classical-based] composition,” Vannucci says. “My professor, Dr. Timothy Jones, thought it would be cool to compose some pieces.”

Vannucci says that the experience so far—the actual composing for and rehearsals with what he calls “tremendous players”—has been excellent practice.“ Writing for a non-rock group isn’t exactly my forte,” he says. “But it’s given me a different perspective and rounded me out as a songwriter.”

The first piece, “In Toronto,” begins with looping movements before settling into a groove-based rhythm that borders on psychedelic. The second, “The Siren,” incorporates a brass section for cinematic mood. Vannucci intends to play a drum kit in the former and electric guitar in the latter.

Even though he reads music and wrote scores for these, Vannucci says he’s asking the ensemble to memorize and internalize certain parts—just like rock musicians.

“There’s a lot in these pieces that can’t be formalized,” he says. “Once you read from a page, the groove often goes out the window. Sometimes music just needs to be felt and heard instead of going off what’s already been written down.”

Can we expect Vannucci to sign autographs (and boobs) afterward? “Oh, man, let’s not blow this thing out of proportion, please,” he laughs.

Other interesting and unusual shows abound this week: L.A.’s Kris Colt and the Black Rose Band specialize in a Celtic-Americana sound that should be right at home with a free show at Fremont Street Experience 9:30 p.m. April 14. The group then plays the Las Vegas Celtic Gathering & Highland Games at Floyd Lamb Park at Tule Springs April 15. (For more info, visit Colt’s version of traditional Irish drinking tune “Whiskey in the Jar” is better than any hair of the dog.

Finally, the punks are going acoustic at the comics shop with a one-year anniversary celebration of at Alternate Reality Comics (4110 S. Maryland Parkway, Suite 8) featuring local rockers Bennett Mains (Holding Onto Sound), Jeff Rowe and Jesse Pino. (7 p.m. April 18, all-ages, free). Comic books and punk? They’re the new peanut butter and chocolate, yo!

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Longtime Las Vegas artist and UNLV prof Mary Warner may be moving to Sacramento, Calif., but she’s leaving with a serious bang. Coming off the strength of last month’s vibrant, botanical-themed Heavy Petal show at Trifecta Gallery, Warner weighs in on the housing bust with new works in Dreamhouse, a group exhibit that also features artist Mark Brandvik and sculptor Emily Kennerk.