If you’ve been keeping up with the local music scene, by now you’ve surely heard about this weekend’s festival conflict, with two Las Vegas music festivals—Neon Reverb and the Pastel Project—running at the same time.
Despite the stir, the longstanding Neon Reverb, carried on its music portion Thursday night at multiple venues even as Pastelers tweeted photos of a giant Ferris wheel, now erect and ready for the new fest’s big debut on Friday.
Without yet having to pick between the festivals, I ended up at Artifice around 10 p.m. to catch local alt-rockers Aurea Verba, whose set got pushed back an hour when San Francisco’s Young Prisms dropped off the bill. AV kicked the night off with a set mostly comprising songs from its latest 11-song LP. Aurea Verba isn’t much different live—solid, though some new material would liven up what’s come to be a fairly predictable show. Then again, that could be tough considering the guys are already spread thin: The band members don’t all live in the same state, singer/guitarist Eric Rickey doubles as a guitarist for Most Thieves and the group was playing without its original drummer.
Next up: The Bends. I’d never heard of this Vegas band, but given its name—which I assumed, was a nod to Radiohead’s 1995 sophomore album—I was hoping for interesting, experimental indie rock. Wrong. The Bends are a far cry from Radiohead—more like Bon Jovi gone country. After a few songs, I thought I’d play “drink till they sound better.” It never really happened for me.
Still, it was worth sticking around for Northern California band The Velvet Teen. The progressive indie-rock band brought out a crowd of about 40. Unfortunately, the meticulous guitar arrangements and Judah Nagler’s vocals (much less shrill than on the recordings) were often overshadowed by the bar’s shoddy sound. “I can’t hear anything,” Nagler said more than once. That didn’t stop the singer from walking into the crowd and bellowing out lyrics about world overpopulation.
A little after 1 a.m., lo-fi psych-punk London outfit Chapter 24 took the stage for the remaining handful still in the room. The group’s caustic, '90s-inspired drunken set was hands-down the best of the night, but after a late start, more sound and lots of booze, the band’s guitarist’s threw down his guitar and the lead singer declared the show over out of nowhere.
Ah, Neon Reverb. Glad to have you back.