The Las Vegas music scene is sprawling and scattered. It’s also home to lots of talented artists—you just need to know where to look. This week, we’re handing out a little extra help in that department, as we spotlight Caravels and nine other local acts making noise in 2013. Read about them here and give ’em a listen; you just might discover your new favorite band.
And don’t stop there. Dozens of local bands deserve a place on your playlist. Consider this simply a starting point.
Who: An electronic/dance duo signed to prestigious EDM label Ultra Music.
The Scoop: The pair, Pedi Amiri (aka Lightknife) and former Afghan Raider Mikey Francis, spent a year fine-tuning their sound before taking it public in December. “Locking yourself up for a year and not really going out … I think people worried we were just being anti-social,” Francis laughs. But the plan paid off, with Black Boots attracting the eye of Ultra—an imprint that’s home to such EDM juggernauts as Deadmau5, Tiësto and Armin van Buuren—before playing a show or releasing a song.
“We had this concept, and we just wanted to develop it and let it mature before we started putting it out,” Amiri says.
Judging from the first two singles, November’s “Rebels in the Night” and the just-out “Flash of Light,” the melodic music—featuring vocals from Francis atop layered synth washes and bouncy beats—is warm and engaging, as well-suited for Fremont East’s hip hangouts as for nightclubs on the Strip. Black Boots is finishing recording its debut album, and having already played DJ sets opening for Tiësto and M83, should soon have much more to reveal. “When the album comes out, we hope to transition into more of a full live experience, not in the sense of a drummer or guitar player, but more like a Chemical Brothers type thing, with synths and live singing and more for the audience,” Francis says.
Next Show: None scheduled. –Spencer Patterson
The Dirty Hooks
Who: A blues-rock trio featuring Jenine Cali (former lead singer for The Day After) on vocals and drums, and ex-Ill Figures Bobby McCall and Anthony Ratto on vocals/bass and guitar, respectively.
The Scoop: “The name of our album is Electric Grit, so if anything were to describe our sound, that may be it,” McCall says of The Dirty Hooks, who decided not to play a single show until they’d finished recording a full-length. It took them a year and a half, but Grit shows influences from classic rock and punk to ’90s alt-rock. “Everything from Bowie to the Pixies and Johnny Cash,” McCall says. Think early Black Keys with a touch of The White Stripes—Americana rock with a heavy blues influence and some synth and drum samples. The Hooks are at their best when McCall shares singing duties with Cali, whose vocal range is impressive. Most importantly, they don’t sound like many other bands in Las Vegas.
Next Show: February 9 at Artifice. –Jason Harris
Campfire Music Crew
Who: A community of artists with a scope beyond music, bringing rappers, DJs, painters and even graphic designers into a creative cooperative. The most active members include Synickle, Omino Jakku, Samson, Mikey VIP, Prez, Mr. Ebranes, Imagewone, C.H.R.O.M.E., Shamroc, Phraze, Post Scripted and Pawnshop.
- Omino Jakku feat. Mikey VIP & Samson - Kumite (Explicit Lyrics)
The Scoop: If a rising tide raises all ships, the same must hold true for beats and rhymes, right? Campfire Music’s mission is to elevate Las Vegas hip-hop through collaboration—and what founding rapper Jakku calls “friendly competition.”
It seems to be working. The Campfire crew has been on a productive tear lately, releasing nearly 10 albums and mixtapes in 2012, including a Kendrick Lamar-hosted Coast 2 Coast Mixtape, featuring eight Campfire artists. And Campfire shows no signs of slowing down. “It’s a new year, and we all feel a sense of impatient excitement for what’s to come,” Jakku says.
Already slated for the near future: the Prez mixtape H.A.T.E.R.S., the Jakku street album Destro (mixed by DJ September 7th) and Mr. Ebranes’ LP The Wonderful World Of. Though musical genres within the group can span from gangsta to old-skool to instrumental, a common thread runs through all of Campfire’s projects: a family attitude and a feel-good vibe.
Next Show: Every Sunday at Beauty Bar and every Wednesday at Hookah Palace (1030 E. Flamingo Road). –Chris Bitonti
Who: A two-piece, husband-wife duo playing old-timey music and looking the part.
- The All-Togethers - Self-Defense
The Scoop: Singer/guitarist Ken Osborne and upright bassist/singer Cindy Osborne play self-described “hillbilly jazz,” channeling old-Vegas swagger with the chutzpah of a moonshine-fueled speakeasy stomp—drawn from their Virginia roots.
Last summer, the pair put out debut EP Fuss on Ken’s Outverse Collective label. It’s a work of DIY love, with melodies and basslines that never stray far from basic blues progressions. What it lacks in complexity, however, it makes up for in soul and ferocity; expect even more of that on the debut full-length, due out this spring.
“It’s probably going to be more live-oriented,” Ken says. “The first one we did was fairly polished, and in a way I feel like that takes away from the performance angle of it. Anybody can go into a studio and use the proper tools and become a rock star, as it were. We’re interested in first takes and natural sounds.”
Live gigs are indeed the band’s element, when their bluegrass wails and harmonies and Cindy’s thumping bass can echo uninhibited throughout a room. Their sound is refreshingly devoid of the infectious indie twee popular in recent years—they’re more Tom Waits than Arcade Fire—but it manages to get you stomping, chanting and swooning in much the same way. You can catch The All-Togethers honing their sound over the coming months at Downtown venues, with plans for a West Coast tour brewing for the spring.
Next Show: January 27 at the Griffin (video shoot). –Andrea Domanick
Who: The former guitarist for scene mainstay Left Standing, now flying solo.
- Jesse Pino - Have Another
The Scoop: Even if you haven’t been following local music over the past 10 years, you’ve probably heard the name Left Standing. Featuring three brothers, the melodic rock band made waves in town and even garnered a distribution deal. But in 2010, when things were “kind of slowing down and people were getting married,” Pino decided to step out on his own to record four-song solo EP The Burn.
Pino’s solo music can be considered singer-songwriter in nature, if only because he’s a guy onstage with an acoustic guitar. But his songs and live performances are infused with a punk mentality, some rockabilly soul and, at times, a bit of outlaw-country-storytelling. “I try not to fit into any niche,” Pino says.
Pino knows he still has a way to go to revisit the heights of his previous band, but he’s content taking it slow. Next month he’ll re-release The Burn in a special edition appended with four new tracks and a live song.
Next Show: February 23 at Backstage Bar & Billiards. –Chris Bitonti
The Gonzo Groove Situation
Who: Depends what night you show up. For sure, you’ll see Mike “Gonzo” Gonzales on piano, trumpet and flugelhorn, Justin Peterson on stand-up bass, Nick Kittle on drums, and DJ Rex Dart on the turntables. Beyond that, anyone talented and willing to “be creative” might pop in, according to Gonzo.
- The Gonzo Groove Situation - Los Rojos
The Scoop: “With our music, I try really hard not to use the word ‘jazz,’” Gonzo says. Who can blame him, considering what men with ponytails have done to the term over the years. Instead, we’ll just say The Gonzo Groove Situation’s, um, improvisational music is picking up steam Downtown. The group plays a resident gig Sunday nights at Artifice, with the stated goal of “creating the feeling of a scene,” according to Gonzo.
The GGS is also an open door for those who can hang, offering a place for Strip musicians or amateurs to let off some creativity. And though the sound definitely has a “groove” to it, it’s anything but easy-listening. So head Downtown, and let Kittle’s high-tempo rhythms, Peterson’s steady runs and some mean solos from Gonzo take over that space you’ve been meaning to fill in your mind.
Next Show: Every Sunday at Artifice. –Chris Bitonti
Who: An old-school punk trio with roots in longtime Vegas outfit the Peccadilloes.
The Scoop: After their old drummer moved away, Jason Hansen, Sandy Moreno and James Messina simply couldn’t stay quiet. “We were at the Double Down one night, and we saw a three-piece band that was just awful,” Hansen, the band’s guitarist, remembers. “We were like, we could do that, so that night we went home and wrote four songs.” Moreno moved behind the drums, Messina switched from guitar to bass, and The Gashers were born, playing their first live show in April 2011.
The group—which features a fun throwback sound and boy/girl vocals from married couple Hansen and Moreno—released debut album Law Is Not Order last August for SquidHat Records, a Vegas-based label that has quickly become a presence on the local scene. Along with The Gashers, SquidHat’s roster includes The Dirty Panties, The Quitters, Pet Tigers and Attack Ships on Fire. “They’re bringing bands together, so people can work together,” Hansen says. “And SquidHat does such a great job marketing us. I mean, they even got us on MTV in Canada. I’ve always been hesitant about the whole label thing, but the way they work with us, it’s like family.”
Next Show: January 25 at Double Down (part of the SquidHat anniversary showcase, which continues on January 26, with five bands performing each night). –Spencer Patterson
Who:A doom-metal quartet preparing to release a debut full-length for respected metal label Candlelight Records.
The Scoop: The foursome recently spent a week at Oakland’s Sharkbite Studios, working with dream producer Billy Anderson. “There’s all these legends surrounding him and a lot of the albums he’s created, like Sleep’s Dopesmoker,” drummer Jeremy Brenton says. “So just meeting him was kind of surreal. And then we just got right into it—he was like a fifth member. And he really produced it. We didn’t want just an engineer. We wanted someone to help us mold these songs.”
Brenton reports that the record, tentatively due in mid-May, will be a concept album about “the long-begotten son of Satan, who’s been sent to Earth to assemble the three parts of the devil’s bible so that we can speak the name of God in reverse and undo creation.” He pauses, then adds, “When you say it out loud it’s pretty funny, but it’s some pretty epic sh*t.”
Demon Lung, whose sound is heavily influenced by Swedish band Candlemass, brings an additional wrinkle to the mix, in the form of dress-wearing frontwoman Shanda Fredrick. “She’s a really sweet person,” Brenton says, “but she makes this evil presentation that’s really cool. Her presence is very dramatic.”
Next Show: February 10 at Bunkhouse. –Spencer Patterson
The Burning Symphony
Who:Prolific singer-songwriter Wyatt McKenzie, who left Las Vegas in 2011 to explore the East Coast, returned to the desert and formed this lo-fi three-piece rock outfit.
- The Burning Symphony - Moonflowers
The Scoop: Carrying a more post-punk/Velvet Underground vibe than McKenzie’s previous band, Mother McKenzie, the trio—which also includes Nick Hoffman on bass and Mitch Myskiew on drums—packs an emotional punch. Dig poppy ’70s punk and drunken love songs? The Burning Symphony might just be for you.
December EP Delusions of Sexual Grandeur features punky basslines and jangly guitars beneath Conor Oberst-y vocals. McKenzie says the six-song project was written mostly in one night and recorded live over 10 hours with National SouthWestern Electronic Recordings’ Ronald Corso.
Next Show: None scheduled, since TBS played a bunch in December. But fear not, McKenzie says they’ll be back out there soon. –Leslie Ventura