The Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend is celebrating its 20th year of taking Sin City back in time, if only for a few days. What began as a few hundred rockabilly aficionados hanging out in a showroom and the top deck of a parking garage at an off-Strip casino has turned into a full-fledged cultural phenomenon, drawing hundreds of performers and tens of thousands of attendees from around the world. All aspects of rockabilly culture are represented, from the distinctive fashions (and if you didn’t bring any, heaven knows you can buy them—the vending at Viva is worth saving up for) to a massive car show that will drop the jaw of even the most jaded gearhead. Over the years, they’ve added bowling, burlesque, pool parties, dance lessons, meetups, mixers and even a few weddings. But music has always been the soul of Viva Las Vegas, from the DJs in the bar to rock legends such as the late Chuck Berry taking the main stage in years past.
This year’s roster has plenty of big names, and it goes without saying that the petticoated ’n’ pomaded will hit the Tiki Pool Party and check out all of those sweet Caddies and Chevys at the car show. But with a lengthy lineup over four noon-to-sunup days, perhaps a few suggestions are in order … or you can check vivalasvegas.net for the full schedule.
The Planet Rockers
This Nashville act opened on Morrissey’s U.S. tour back in the ’90s, and their groovy, gritty rockabilly carries a hint of garage. Thursday, 9:30 p.m.
The Legends of Rockabilly
Heroes of the six-string share the stage. Larry Collins was part of pioneering rockabilly duo the Collins Kids and still plays his double-necked Mosrite guitar. Sonny Burgess began his career in dance halls during the 1950s and recorded for Sun Records. The show also features Jack Baymoore and Alton & Jimmy. Friday, 9:45 p.m.
Dig rockabilly’s global reach with the Bembol Rockers, bringing you slap bass and hollowbody guitar all the way from the Philippines. Friday, 10:45 p.m.
The 24th Street Wailers
Canada’s 24th Street Wailers make a fearsome and joyous noise that is guaranteed to get your head nodding and your hips shaking. Saturday, noon; Sunday, 10:30 p.m.
The instrumentals of Los Straitjackets swing, surf and skronk with the force of a multiple-
guitar attack. The band gets bonus points for their Mexican wrestling masks. Saturday, 7 p.m.
If rock ’n’ roll has a first lady, it’s Wanda Jackson, who’s been wowing crowds since she was Elvis’ sweetheart back in the ’50s. Her fringe still shakes, her guitar still twangs, and she still can blow your top with “Fujiyama Mama.” Saturday, 9 p.m.
The Stars of Rock ’n’ Roll Show
Do a little bopping, a little strolling and a little slow dancing with the lush, classic doo-wop sounds of the Cleftones and Otis Williams & the Charms, as well as the house-rocking tunes of Jimmy Cavallo and Gene Summers. Sunday, 8 p.m.
Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend
The Orleans Hotel, April 13 – 16, vivalasvegas.net