Neon Reverb Festival Guide

Our rock critic’s list of bands to see

National Acts

One of the best touring lineups is at 8 p.m. March 22 at Beauty Bar’s two (indoor/outdoor) stages. The wistful, plaintive synth-rock of Caveman is worth exploring. The Brooklyn quintet has a self-titled sophomore album coming out next month, and its first single, the moody yet ebullient “In the City,” is incredible. Speaking of towns, Portland buzz band Radiation City—with an eerie electronic approach à la Portishead—will construct interesting sonic architectures. In some ways a throwback to your parents’ classic record collection, these guys push their vocals up front and aren’t afraid to craft real songs albeit tinged with psychedelic effects. (Think Patsy Cline backed up by Flaming Lips.) Radiation City’s compelling EP Cool Nightmare came out a few months ago, and the band has added a wicked cover of “Fly Me to the Moon” to their set, so don’t miss ’em. Finally, on this bill is also All the Apparatus, whose eclectic style (self-described “avant-garde dirty gypsy klezmer jazz indie anti-folk rock”) is playful and yet deeply musical. Your sister looks like Donkey Kong is a lyric in catchy Apparatus tune “Let’s Go Ride Bikes.” Ooh, burn.

Local Highlights

Only the best Vegas bands are playing Neon Reverb this time around. There are three assemblies worth noting: First, at Beauty Bar at 8 p.m. March 21, alt-rockers Most Thieves, who a few weeks ago uploaded a couple of live HD videos from their set opening for the Killers at Chelsea Ballroom in December. The Thieves’ performances—”Muscle Memory,” “Prometheus”—are sweet. Once you check out these captures, you won’t want to miss this show. Then, at Bunkhouse Saloon at 8 p.m. March 22. String-based punk-strummers Coastwest Unrest, who I saw open for Rusty Maples back in December, are releasing a new disc at this show. This band’s “old weird America” sound is a treat, sort of like the Pogues punching out Mumford & Sons in a bar owned by Crash Test Dummies while Violent Femmes spin in a darkened DJ booth. The Clydesdale, fronted by the lovely-voiced, always-shitkicker-booted Paige Overton, also unveils a new EP of rockabilly-tinged country-punk called Trail of the Painted Pony. It includes upbeat, jangly “Barbracue,” which I really hope isn’t about the desire to spit-roast a lover’s old flame. But it probably is. Finally, at 8 p.m. March 23 at the Bunkhouse, indie outfit A Crowd of Small Adventures will treat the audience to a big sound.

Superior showcase

There’s just one label showcase this time, but it’s a doozy. International quirky-punk label Slovenly Records, is bringing what looks like its entire roster of nine bands to play the Bunkhouse on two stages at 8 p.m. March 21. Puerto Rican punk en Español group Los Vigilantes, Greek-Canadian psychedelic-garage rock combo Acid Baby Jesus and French one-man band King Automatic are all slated to perform, making this one of the most varied live music events in recent memory. Montreal avant-rockabilly band HellShovel looks especially interesting, Their ’60s pop attempt, “Pinyata Sonata,” is like a brain-damaged Beatles buried in a coffin of Indian hashish. In other words, it’s perfect, gritty music for our shiny Digital Era.

Closing Night

Neon Reverb wraps on March 24, but just because you probably have work the next morning is no excuse to miss this mix of national and local bands, including Sacramento indie-folker Sea of Bees and our own cello-powered Rusty Maples. Fat Possum-signed shaggy-punkers Milk Music have a brilliant new disc coming out next month called Cruise Your Illusion, which to my ears sounds like Meat Puppets crossed with Firehose (as in Mike Watt on bass). Olympia, Washington trio Gun Outfit bridges the gap between L7 and Sonic Youth on their new album Hard Coming Down, which is also out in April. Catch them now before they blow up.

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