Dreamin' In Las Vegas
By Jerry Flattum - 01/15/2002 - 05:06 AM EST
I just moved to Vegas this fall. Why? Because I'm an out-of-work keyboardist with a pocket full of tunes. I've always wanted to play piano in a cathouse. You know, with the garter belt around the arm and a derringer in my boot. Hey, don't laugh. The money's good!
First, let's get past the cliche's.
Vegas is phony. Whose idea was it anyway to put a city in the middle of the desert? Is phony an issue? You tell me...tell me what's real.
Vegas is Wayne Newton. Wayne Newton reportedly signed a contract at the Stardust for 137 trillion and apparently holds the Guiness record for an equal number of performances. How many bands have come and gone during Mr. Newton's tenure?
The mob? I ain't talkin'. Actually, most everything is corporate now. And rock isn't? I believe we're down to 5 major music conglomerates. Locals tell me service was better during the mob reign, and hell...it's one way to get a record contract. Would you sign?
Vegas books oldies acts--what's wrong with that? I recently met Joe D'Ambrosio, founding member of Bill Haley and the Comets. I touched history. And this guy is still looking for work.
Gladys Knight, Johnny Mathis, The Righteous Brothers, Patti LaBelle, Earth, Wind and Fire, Moody Blues, Roger Williams, Tower of Power, Al Martino, Kingston Trio, Frankie Avalon--name the decade, name the genre, name the artist--they're all here. That's pretty fantastic. I'd rather be an oldies act that a no-act.
What's new? Can't beat the House of Blues at the Mandalay Bay. Acts like Cowboy Mouth, Nikka Costa, Berlin, Dokken, Suzanne Vega, Vonda Shepard and...excuse me? Did I hear Judas Priest...in Vegas?
By the time you read this Aerosmith will have already finished an engagement at The Hard Rock Cafe. Speaking of hard rock, it was a thrill seeing Tom Petty's coat in a window display, along with The Supremes, an original Jim Morrison lyric scribbling, and tons of guitars. And, heavy metal guitarist Dana Strum from Slaughter has a very nice home here. I heard him and Wayne are putting an act together.
I won't go on about all the attractions, like burning pirate ships or rides on the Enterprise, 90 mph roller coasters, the fountains of Bellagio or the Elvis Museum. But the shows...
Rick Springfield's got a steady gig in MGM's long running show, "EFX." Second City plays nightly at Bugsy's Flamingo Hotel (I think I saw Bugsy sitting at a crap table with Elvis). The Blue Man Group, Folies Bergere, Lords of the Dance and the spectacular Cirque du Soliel has two shows running, "O" (Bellagio) and "Mystere," at Treasure Island.
I've lost count of how many hotels and casinos there are not to mention each one has 4 or 5 clubs with rotating bands, DJ's and solo acts on a regular basis. These are not Bill Murrary Airport Lounge acts (OK, maybe a couple are). You name the style, band configuration, digital/analog, horns...endless.
At Ceasar's Palace, for instance: The Piazza Lounge features live bands playing Top 40, rock, R&B and swing. The Forum Lounge has popular quartets playing light jazz, country and adult contemporary. The Terrazza Lounge has jazz trios nightly on its payroll, a club that overlooks the Court of Fountains. Not a bad gig compared to some of the gigs I've played in South Dakota. Both the Galleria Bar and Cafe Lago rotate solo pianists nightly/weekly and Cleopatra's Barge has Top 40 bands playing till 4am on a ship as it sails down the Nile.
This is just one hotel.
And local Vegas picks up where the Strip leaves off. Alt Rock? Try the Eat'm 2002 Conference, Showcase and Festival. Eat'm is already the launching pad for such bands as Slipknot, Papa Roach and Alien Ant Farm (numerous others).
Or, how about the Oasis (105.7). The Oasis' "Smooth Jazz" format just hit town last August. Paul Taylor lives in town and Boy Katindig plays regularly at the Bellagio's Allegro Lounge.
Clubs? Duh. Try Baby's (Hard Rock Hotel), The Beach, Rumjungle and Club Utopia. You'll have to find the strip clubs on your own. Don't worry...there's one on every corner.
The shows are beyond dazzling and I'm not getting paid to plug Vegas. Where else in this country--the world--can jugglers, acrobats, clowns, magicians and dancers 7 feet tall find steady work? And wherever they are is a song.
Who else lives here? Jerry Lewis, Steve and Edie Gourmet, and songwriter/arranger Artie Schroeck, who wrote "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" for Frankie Vallie (who also plays Vegas). Mr. Schroeck's son is "Shem," who has played/sang with Chris Cross, Ambrosia and now does a solo thing.
Country? In just a couple months acts like Alabama, Dwight Yoakam, Clint Black, Brooks and Dunn and many more will pass through the hallowed hotel halls with a steady stream to follow throughout 2002. After all, Vegas is home to the largest rodeo show on the planet. Speaking of cowboys and miners, did you know people are still running around the desert panning for gold?
They say Vegas is the next Hollywood. Serious credit goes to Charles Geocaris and cast at the Nevada Film Office for making Vegas and all of Nevada a new film capitol of the world (Hell, LA is just a few hours down the road--less, if you drive a Porche). Need I mention what the film market means to new songs and artists.
Vegas is all about sex? Oh yeah. But believe me, brothels and gentleman's clubs aside, Vegas is just like any other town and there are just as many churches and senior citizen recreation centers as there are strip joints.
And then there's Area 51.
Britney at the MGM? Did someone mention sex? Anyone seen Madonna or Janet Jackson's latest video?
Maybe you'd prefer Christian Music? How 'about Gospel every morning at the House of Blues?
It's one thing to find inspiration within yourself when it comes to songwriting, but sometimes you need to climb outside yourself. If Cirque de Soliel doesn't start your engine surely mother nature's Red Rock Canyon or Mt. Charleston will. From the Valley of Fire in Zion (well, that's just over the Nevada border in Utah) to the top of the Stratosphere the world of Vegas is awe-inspiring for a songwriter--right?
Watch the Entertainment Cyberscope for many more links on Vegas (and dozens of other new categories as well).
Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce (Shows)
Las Vegas Local Scene (presented by Billboard)
Nevada Film Office
Freemont Street Experience
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