Riviera Goes on a Big Blues Bender

B.B. King

B.B. King

A.J. Gross has been promoting concerts for most of his 30 years in Las Vegas, but his latest endeavor is not targeting locals—although it’s not snubbing them, either.

The Big Blues Bender, September 25-29 at the Riviera, will be headlined by B.B. King and George Thorogood, and will feature more than 20 other renowned acts such as Blind Boys of Alabama and Buckwheat Zydeco.

In a bit of a calculated risk by Gross, individual four-day passes are only available to Clark County residents. For visiting blues fans, the only way to attend the Bender is to buy a vacation package that includes festival passes for two people along with a four-night stay at the Riviera, starting at $1,299. Locals with valid ID can buy individual four-day passes for $350.

Gross says he has already sold out some of the more expensive vacation packages for the Bender, which will have four stages onsite, including one by the pool, offering 16 hours of music each day, and concluding with a nightly jam session. “If you take off the two top [headliners], 90 percent of the people who have bought packages from around the world would probably still have bought packages,” he says.

Gross is targeting an audience of about 2,000 for the inaugural event, and he hopes the Bender serves as a template for expanding the concept to other musical genres such as jazz and bluegrass, creating a festival “where everything is an elevator ride away.”

For more information, go to BigBluesBender.com.