With more than 55 diverse acts playing six venues over six days, Neon Reverb offers an onslaught of awesome music. That many options can be overwhelming, even for us veterans. So here’s a customized solution for navigating the sonic seas of Las Vegas’ biannual indie-rock voyage. Simply select the personality profile that best suits your rock ’n’ roll lifestyle—whether you’re dirt-broke, too-cool, a local groupie or a festival virgin—and follow Vegas Seven’s personalized itineraries to musical bliss.
FOR THE NEWBIE/CASUAL SOCIALITE
Perhaps you’re new to Neon Reverb and want an easy introduction. Or you’re musically curious, someone with a healthy interest in indie rock but don’t feel you can commit to an entire week’s worth of tight jeans and Pitchfork speak (“witch house” what?). You’d rather pay a few door covers than splurge on a $50 all-festival pass and then feel badly about not going out every night. Well, here’s a schedule that hits the high points while giving you a broad sampling of what’s hot in music, locally and nationally.
(Total cost: $25-$27)
• Start on Sept. 11, at the Bunkhouse (124 S. 11th St.) with the Neon Reverb kickoff party featuring Ty Segall, who plays the outside stage at 11 p.m. Segall is a young garage-rock revivalist who earned raves for his 2011 album of exquisite ’60s-style popcraft, Goodbye Bread. His brand-new album, the dirty, punked-up Slaughterhouse, is a loud affair, but the melodic hooks are still plentiful. ($12, $10 advance).
• On Sept. 14, amble over to Artifice (1025 S. First St.) at the tail end of your evening to catch The Big Friendly Corporation (midnight) and Avalon Landing (1 a.m.) Big Friendly is a longtime local indie outfit, starring siblings Ryan and Melissa Marth, that always delivers a solid set of quirky, fractured pop. Avalon, meanwhile, is pure piano-rock à la The Fray. Avalon is a solid bunch of musicians and songwriters, and their melancholy yet soaring anthem “Erie County Welcomes You Back” is brilliant. ($5 cover).
• Finally, on Sept. 15, better bring your bad self to Beauty Bar (517 E. Fremont St.) for an 11 p.m. set by Foxygen, a NYC lo-fi bedroom pop duo, who sound like The Velvet Underground making out with Beulah in a Budget Inn. Ariel Pink fans should dig ’em, and it’ll be interesting to see and hear if this band can pull off their patented shabby grandeur in a live setting. ($10).
FOR THE BUDGETEER
You’re a starving student—or worse, an artist living and working downtown—so of course you need to stretch every dollar to its breaking point. Great, because Neon Reverb offers a cost-conscious day pass, and the cheapest day to enjoy the festival happens to be Sept. 13, when you can experience a veritable cornucopia of local and national indie bands (and some rock en Español) for less than 20 bucks.
(Total cost: $15)
• Buy your pass online at NeonReverb.com and follow this itinerary! Start at the Bunkhouse with a 9 p.m. outdoor set by mysterious bluesy folk-rock locals (well, Boulder City residents) Same Sex Mary. Think The Swell Season with a nod to rockabilly roots music and you get the basic idea.
• Stick around for a 9:40 p.m. inside set by Vegas alt-country/freak-folk act Dreaming of Lions, featuring the dreamy, psychedelic-tinged voice of Chris Leland. He’s a great songwriter and performer in the slacker/K Records tradition.
• At 10 p.m. you can walk over to Beauty Bar to catch what will likely be a shining set by Lazystars, another local indie-rock group, but this time with a piano-heavy, guitar-cranked, Britpop-influenced sound that should appeal to fans of Oasis and Kings of Leon alike.
• The ’Stars will be followed by JJAMZ, a delightful synth-pop combo from L.A. that should satisfy any leftover Blondie cravings you might be suffering. Their song “Heartbeat,” from their recent album Suicide Pact, is pure ’80s nostalgia and a guilty pleasure of the highest order.
• Ride out the rest of the evening at Artifice with the Sonidero Showcase, a big night of rock en Español, with the band Gallo rocking the stage into the wee small hours. Not bad for 15 clams, right? Man, if only a Neon Reverb day pass came with a few free-drink coupons.
FOR THE PLATINUM HIPSTER
You’re totally trust-funded and interested in seeing obscure bands so you can hold them over your friends’ heads and bask in your indie music-knowledge superiority. Heck, we know you’re eyeballing the $200 donor package, which gets you two all-festival passes, two Neon Reverb T-shirts, stickers and posters, plus a thank-you on the Neon Reverb website. Go ahead and indulge, because we have the platinum-plated plan for you right here. (For you Bronze Hipsters, the $50 all-festival pass gets you into every show for the whole festival at a great low price, so you actually save money that way.) If you’re shelling out the big bucks, you’re probably going to hit more bands than we have space to include. But here’s our don’t-miss list:
(Total cost: $50-$200)
• Iron your jeans in time for Sept. 11, and hit The Bunkhouse for the Neon Reverb kickoff featuring a 10 p.m. outdoor set by Tijuana Panthers. This Long Beach, Calif., garage-punk band sounds like a beach party overrun by monsters and beer bongs—in a good way.
• On Sept. 12, you can then get your spine rattled at Beauty Bar at 9:30 p.m. when raucous blues-rocker Douglas and the Furs set their sonic phasers to the “kill” setting. This Anaheim, Calif., trio doesn’t take any prisoners and gives no quarter, so bring earplugs.
• Come back to Beauty Bar the following night, Sept. 13, for a midnight show by L.A. electronic dreampop band Superhumanoids.
• Then, on Sept. 14, try an indoor show at the Bunkhouse at 12:30 a.m. with She Keeps Bees, a dark, swamp-rock duo with a gothic, melodic edge.
• Your hipster highlight should be at midnight Sept. 15 when Wolf Parade front man Spencer Krug brings his synth-rock project Moonface onstage at Beauty Bar.
• Finally, to prove how undeniably cool you are, show your pretty face at the Bunkhouse for the Neon Reverb wrap party and cookout at 9 p.m. when drag-punk band Hunx and His Punx show their chest hairs.
FOR THE LOCALS LOVER
Congrats, you’re clearly a champion of homegrown music and proud of living in a quality music town full of great bands. Sure, Imagine Dragons and the Killers aren’t playing Neon Reverb, but you already know there’s much more to Las Vegas than mainstream Mormon synth-pop. Here’s a complete plan that allows you to go absolutely nuts on seeing the best and brightest Vegas groups.
(Total cost: $41)
• At 10:30 p.m. Sept. 12, begin your journey at Beauty Bar, where ass-kicking hard-rock band Crazy Chief (featuring members of sleaze-punkers Pigasus) makes its live debut. Imagine Deep Purple at its sludgiest and doing bong hits with The Cult and you can sort of hear the picture. Their song “Skeleton Man” will make you want to bone up on your air guitar-playing skills. ($6).
• Clear out your sinuses the next night when alt-country/folk group Dusty Sunshine illuminates the Bunkhouse at 10:20 p.m. Sept. 13. These gals (and guy) do Americana in ebullient, effervescent fashion, and their ability to fuse indie pop, alt-country and avant-folk is inspiring. Great harmonies to boot. ($10).
• Then on Sept. 14, you can paint your fingernails black and get your gloomy post-punk vibe on with Close to Modern, whom Interpol and Killers fans will adore, at Artifice, 11 p.m. ($5).
• Vegas’ answer to Arcade Fire is called A Crowd of Small Adventures, and this violin-powered chamber-rock band brings their high-minded, literate sound to Beauty Bar at 1 a.m. Sept. 15. This is easily the most musically ambitious and truly indie band in town. ($10).
• Finally, on Sept. 16, it’s the Neon Reverb wrap party/cookout with a 6 p.m. show by The Bonaventures, a skuzzy, shoegazey valley surf-rock band that has been blowing minds and amplifiers all over town recently. Fans of the new dark beach-pop sound—Wavves, Best Coast—should be stoked for this. ($10). There you have it, Locals Lover. Go nuts!