This fall’s edition of Neon Reverb ran for six nights (Sept. 11-16), and I dropped in on Friday and Saturday, which tend to feature the indie fest’s best moments. Sure, I missed headliner Ty Segall’s Tuesday kickoff, but I’m convinced I absorbed the brunt of Reverb’s highlights. Overall, it was an eclectic and (with two exceptions) satisfying weekend.
On Sept. 14, I committed to Bunkhouse and caught the end of Zach Ryan & the Renegades’ set. With decent sound and the Renegades backing him—particularly lap-steel wizard Ben Hale—Ryan is phenomenal, a desert-scorched Gram Parsons disciple. His Stonesy “Love Ain’t Enough” knocked me on my ass. Sadly, the Las Vegan announced his exit for Nashville. Figures. Next was Coastwest Unrest, which exerted a gothic Americana-punk variation of whatever Crash Test Dummies do. With (count ’em) two string players on violin and cello, their scrappy chamber-rock sounded vast. Unrest sang of wire-perched birds along Charleston Boulevard. They sang of Henry Miller. They won me over. Then came Nashville’s Those Darlins, a Velvet Undergrounded, female-fronted garage-rock quartet with a cool rockabilly edge, like on “Night Jogger,” and Mod power-pop tendencies, as on “Screws Get Loose.” Super-fun band. Afterward, walking into blues-folk duo She Keeps Bees’ set was like entering a storm. Singer/guitarist Jessica Larrabee delivered the high-voltage emotionality of Cat Power with a White Stripes wallop. Stirring stuff. Rusty Maples? Never seen ’em with long-absent celloist Courtney Waldron, recently returned from studying overseas. She makes the difference, singer Blaine Dewane‘s confidence bolstered as he belted out “Jesus and the Mountain Tops.” Ridiculously good band.
Next night, Sept. 15, hit a snag at Azul Tequila with Acton Town, which plays as poorly as it spells. Momentum was regained with the Dirty Hooks, Vegas’ fiery answer to The Dead Weather, all heavy guitar riffs and male-female harmonies. They bring it live. Ambulated to Beauty Bar’s outdoor patio for Spencer Krug’s Moonface and almost puked. Not the band, the smell. Even Krug commented on an alley-garbage odor no amount of clove smoke could temper. His Ian Curtis-style vocals are mannered, but his band came across as enormous and eerily surging in a Low-era David Bowie way. My fave Vegas indie act A Crowd of Small Adventures must be readying a new album, because they played nothing I recognized. Cruel thing to do as I yawned into an empty PBR can during the 2:30 a.m. show (what sound ordinance?). Still love you guys, though. ★★★☆☆