The parking lot at the Artifice is completely full, and it’s Thursday. While the Downtown scene has gotten a lot hotter these days, even a passerby might find that a strange occurrence. Neon Reverb’s show there might explain some of the crowd. Still the headliner isn’t an out-of-town biggie like last year’s The Walkmen. The people whose cars litter the parking lot aren’t necessarily diehard indie music fans. They are all, however, diehard Las Vegans here to see the Tippy Elvis reunion show.
When I first walk in the place, Thee Swank Bastards are trying their damndest to get the crowd jazzed. Their final song is an up-tempo number, but the real appeal is their hula-hooping, bare-chested, burlesque dancer, Szandora. Even with the Bastards pulling out all the stops, for some reason most people aren’t biting yet. The bar area of the Artifice is crammed with people trying to achieve the nearly impossible feat of ordering a drink (seriously, 15 minutes to order?). People seem largely engrossed in chatting and mingling. All this changes when the eardrum busting rendition of The Killers’ "All These Things That I've Done" begins to play. Tippy Elvis has entered the building.
Tippy Elvis may be an unknown entity to much of the Valley. But it is surprising how many people know a lot about a band that has barely played a single show in 10 years. Begun in the ’90s by Dayvid Figler, a well-known Las Vegas attorney and booster, the band’s name originates both from Tippy the turtle, whose features, if correctly rendered, could probably still get you into TV art college, and a somewhat random reference to the King. The most interesting thing about the group is its use of what they call a punk-rock tuba, often employed for solos to the inscrutable delight of its fans.
Referring to its stylings as “goofcore,” the band plays the beyond niche genre (probably self-created) of punk-rock polka. Despite mostly being a joke band, Tippy Elvis is actually comprised of good musicians. Dayvid Figler as the vocalist might be the self-confessed exception to this. His lyrics cleverly treat everyone from Scooby Doo to Jean Paul Sartre, but as he said after the show, “It was tough to hit some of those notes … or any of them at all.” His singing voice, though intentionally grating, reminds me of Fred Schneider (or his Icelandic counterpart Einar Örn Benediktsson) in its nasally insistency and anthemy enthusiasm, throwing out lyrics that are spoken more than sung (and not in a Jim Morrison way).
Based on the crowd reaction, the night was a total success, with the audience calling for an encore, to which Ginger Bruner the tuba-player responded, “We’d love to play another song, but we don’t have any more.” Despite the fact that I didn’t start out a fan, when you find yourself dancing to songs about cigarettes and cunnilingus —not the same song—it’s difficult not to get sucked in.
After the show, Figler was in high spirits and insisted I interview his moustache, which was strangely articulate but mostly wanted to tell me about its sexual exploits and perkiness, inspired by the reunion.
As a start to a long weekend of excellent music, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it’s going to be hard to top.