Slow to Surface's stand-up' act
Upon learning that rock quintet The Skooners planned to withdraw so that brothers Blair and Ian Dewane could attend their father's funeral, veteran Las Vegas rock act Slow to Surface volunteered to swap places in the contest's semifinal round. Slow to Surface now squares off with reggae group ForTwentyDaze at the Rainbow Bar & Grill on January 18, with The Skooners set for a showdown with metal outfit Broken End on January 25.
"It's a no-brainer," Slow to Surface frontman Benwood said. "That's horrible for that to happen to them, and we had the day available, so it's not a big deal to change it, especially for a valid reason like that. That really puts things into perspective."
The winners match up on February 16 for a prize package that includes a recording session at the Studio at the Palms, a private Rainbow showcase for a Sony A&R rep and a Saturday night gig at LA's Whisky A Go Go.
"My heart's really full right now," Blair Dewane, 21, said Monday night from his parents' home in California, after being informed of Slow to Surface's neighborly deed. "That's probably the greatest show of musicianship I could imagine. This is the final four, and for them to do that on such short notice ... that's really stand-up right there."
Switching dates could conceivably jeopardize Slow to Surface's chances, since crowd response—along with originality, musicianship, vocals, stage presence and set discipline—represents one of six judged categories. Moving up a week might make mobilizing fans difficult. "It's not that big a deal," Benwood said. "We'll just send out an e-mail on MySpace and call our friends."
James Dewane, a 53-year-old California resident who played harmonica in several bands in the San Clemente area, died on December 29 in Mexico (Blair declined to specify a cause), and news of his passing reached his family on January 11. "We're still shocked," Blair said Monday.
The Skooners, who formed in 2003 but coalesced around a new five-piece lineup last summer, have outlasted better-known and more experienced area bands to earn their place in the semifinals, going from dark-horse entry to possible favorite behind their melodic, blues-rooted music. The band actually defeated Slow to Surface in a tight first-round contest before Slow to Surface re-entered the competition to fill a slot vacated by Adelitas Way. Slow to Surface then picked up a walk-over quarterfinal win when Otherwise was forced to forfeit due to a member's high fever. "We haven't won yet. We're hoping to default our way through the whole thing," Benwood joked.
Rock the Rainbow kicked off in September with a field of 16 bands, chosen from more than 50 entries by Rainbow co-owner Jerry Greenberg and Rainbow booker Mark Hornsby. Competing acts have 30 minutes to impress the audience and a rotating panel of judges that has included Static-X drummer Nick Oshiro, Flotsam and Jetsam drummer Craig Nelson and Studio at the Palms director Zoe Thrall. Hornsby said he hopes to bring in a TV network to film a second Rock the Rainbow contest.
Down and art in new York
Just as one bar isn't enough to quench the national demand for Ass Juice and bacon martinis, it isn't enough to contain the work of two local artists. Last week, Double Down owner P Moss selected Dirk Vermin and Mark T. Zeilman to paint murals on the walls of the famed dive bar's New York City offshoot. Double Down East opened last March to critical acclaim—yet until recently, a portion of its wall space remained bare.
"Offers of a paid gig where New York artists can showcase their work in a very popular public place have been met with responses ranging from indifference to attitude," Moss explains. "Some have been hired, only to vanish and never be heard from again. Others want ridiculous money even though they have never sold a painting and their only paying offers are from Kinko's and Starbucks."
For Vermin, the opportunity to paint a sideshow-inspired Fiji mermaid, visible through the front window along Avenue A, was more a labor of love than a commercial gain. "It's superstriking; something to grab your attention and welcome you in," says the Pussykat Tattoo founder and guitarist/vocalist of insult-loving punk band The Vermin. "Working that big, especially with a hangover, is tricky, let me tell you. But I love Moss, I love the Double Down, and I love seeing it be successful in New York. Bottom line, I did it for Moss."
Zeilman, meanwhile, anticipates he'll "paint a midget in a tux holding a bacon martini, among other things."
"Moss has had trouble in the past with artists not coming through for him, so I come through. He likes my work and owns several pieces," says Zeilman, who runs Downtown's MTZC studio and contributed to the walls in the Vegas Double Down. "The significance of the project is that it's in New York City: artist mecca. It's been a goal of mine to one day go there on the strength of my art."
Though Moss hadn't expected to import Vegas artists to set the bar's mood, he is very happy with his decision. "The burgeoning Las Vegas art community trumps New York in some very important ways," he says.
Punk is dead
Leatherneck's, a Marine watering hole on Spring Mountain Road, has, in the last year and a half, quietly become a mainstay in Las Vegas' ebbing hardcore scene. As venues have closed or become less willing to host the often rowdy, raucous shows, Leatherneck's has been happy to cater to those fans. Yet the lack of media coverage has been conspicuous. I go to check it out.
As I arrive, I get a little feeling of excitement as I hand over my $10 admission to the woman at the door. I stumble forward a few steps to look at the room around me. It's a Thursday night, and while many places are starving for patrons, the back room of Leatherneck's is about three-quarters full.
With a batch of teens and 20-somethings talking to each other and perusing the merch area beneath glass cases of old World War II weaponry, grenade launchers from Iraq and old, vintage jarhead uniforms, the kids of Vegas hardcore seem to have found a place that unwaveringly supports their action-packed scene.
This becomes even more apparent as Seattle hardcore band Sinking Ships sets up on the small riser and explodes with an exhausting set reminiscent of early, legendary hardcore acts like Econochrist and Fugazi. With every note and scream, Sinking Ships stirs the crowd into a frenzy of moshing, and the adversarial nature of most hardcore shows in major venues is replaced with an honest and heartwarming sense of unit.
But apparently covering local unity isn't such a grand idea. As I scribble in my notebook, the woman from the door (who refused to give her name) taps me on the shoulder.
"Who do you work for?" she asks me.
"The Las Vegas Weekly," I reply.
"We don't want any press here," she says sternly.
We go outside, followed by two casual-looking doormen, and she lays into me about how this is a private party and that if I like my job, I won't write about the place.
"Why don't you want any press?" I ask—I've had a great time and plan to write a glowing story.
"Because we don't, and if you respect us, you won't write about us," she snaps.
"Well if you don't want press, why are you making fliers and charging $10 at the door—obviously you want people to come, right?" As I say this, I notice the two doormen beginning to get around my flank.
"That money goes to Child Haven, for kids," she said.
"That's great! Don't you think people should know that all this, this concert and everything, is for a good cause?"
"No! That's nobody's business but ours," she replies. "Look, respect us and don't write about this place."
Fuming, I go back inside for one last look, then pop back in my car and leave. I was having a great time, but perhaps in the world of Vegas hardcore, there's no place for outsiders.