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Downtown Vegas music fest Neon Reverb shuts off the lights

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Jeff the Brotherhood’s Jake Orrall went into the crowd during Neon Reverb’s fall 2010 edition.
Photo: Bill Hughes

Neon Reverb, the gritty homegrown music fest staged Downtown 10 times from 2008 to 2013, has officially turned off the power, organizers confirmed Tuesday.

“Every festival, we were starting from scratch, in terms of partners and funding and venues,” co-promoter Jason Aragon explained by phone. “I just didn’t see Neon Reverb growing. It seemed like we were going backwards, and I didn’t want to end on that note.”

Aragon left open the chance of a relaunch, without expressing confidence it would happen. “I feel like it could possibly come back—I don’t want to close the door—but in the immediate future, I don’t see doing it. We would need major venue support and sponsorship.”

James Woodbridge, who co-founded the festival with partner Thirry Harlin, relayed some thoughts in a lengthy text: “The bar has been raised, not even so much by LIB [Life Is Beautiful] as by the development of Downtown itself. Good bands, local and touring, play Downtown at multiple venues on any given weekend now, so to merit the status of ‘festival,’ rather than ‘weekend,’ we have to do a lot more. And to do that we need levels of financing and staffing that we've just never been able to attain.

"I don't know what the future holds—I still think there is value in the venue-centered, local-scene-highlighting, up-and-coming/under-the-radar-touring-act sort of event we've always looked to organize. But without more backing, etc., we can't really keep up with the brave new world that Downtown has become. In many ways, that is very cool, that Downtown developed into an area with lots of stuff going on. That's what we always hoped wound happen. But we'll need to regroup and build if we are going to keep up.”

Though it never developed into the destination event Woodbridge once envisioned, Neon Reverb firmly established itself as a quintessential if quirky (see: 3 a.m. start times and seven-band bills) pillar of the Vegas scene. The festival brought hordes of touring bands—from known indie names like The Walkmen, Thee Oh Sees and Akron/Family to smaller discoveries—to venues like the Bunkhouse, Beauty Bar and the Aruba. It became beloved for its support of local music, packing its twice-annual lineup with Vegas-based acts.

“I’ll miss the camaraderie,” said Aragon, who also played the festival multiple times in bands like The Clydesdale, Same Sex Mary and Dusty Sunshine. “When I look back I’ll feel nothing but pride. We put Vegas on the map in terms of music, for local bands and mid-range touring acts. That’s what I’ll always remember.”

(Note: The Weekly was the media sponsor for Neon Reverb’s fall 2012 and spring 2013 editions.)

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Spencer Patterson

Spencer Patterson is Las Vegas Weekly's Managing Editor, having previously served as Arts & Entertainment Editor, Music Editor and a ...

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