When the Punks in Vegas website was launched in 2011, its objective probably wasn’t to create a gallery show of photographs. It had bigger mountains to move: providing features and interviews on local bands, creating musical archives for defunct groups, filming “stripped down” acoustic sessions and more. At its root level, the site is a necessary primer for Las Vegas’ sprawling, often underappreciated music scene. And for the next seven weeks or so, Punks in Vegas is also the curator of one of the best collections of local concert photos I’ve seen, hanging just inside the front door of ReBar through September 30.
“It’s all different local bands that we’ve shot over the past eight years.,” says Punks in Vegas’ founder and executive editor Steven Matview. “We’re showcasing current local bands, older local bands.… And a lot of venues that aren’t around anymore are featured in there, which is cool. It’s showing the whole history of what we’ve done.”
That word, “history,” almost feels wrong when you look at the shots. These photos are urgent, visceral, immediate; you can almost hear the wailing of the singers and the guitars, and feel the sweaty heat emanating from the tightly packed crowds. Hunter Wallace’s photo of Stolas is practically a template for great concert photography—the backlit silhouette; split-legged warrior pose; the hair-whip captured at its highest elevation. Aaron Mattern’s shot of Anti-Vision radiates outward from an emphatic finger pointed out of the frame, a gesture that pins the viewer in place. Christopher Mounts surrounds The Holy Bright with lots of negative space, practically daring the band to bust out. And Matview himself shot Mercy Music with faces obscured but with bodies in motion and flight; the band’s various personalities read clearly, even if you can’t see their expressions.
“I really like that Mercy Music photo,” Matview says. “It was taken at the Bunkhouse at the show where they opened for Bob Mould. Brendan Scholz and Jarred Cooper were just jumping around everywhere, and I managed to catch that. … I’ve gotten less jumping photos recently as everybody gets older, and they just can’t jump as high.”
That’s fine. In Matview’s perfect photo, they’ll always be leaping. There’s so much visual excitement contained in these shots that their subjects seem ready to slip their frames and danger up the place. And these photos are so dirt cheap—$8 plus tax for 5 x 7s, $30 for 11 x 14s—that you should buy them in numbers. Let Kid Meets Cougar mix it up with Curl Up and Die.
“I wasn’t sure if people would actually want to buy these,” Matview says. “We were kind of joking about how we considered our main audience to be the moms of the people in these bands, and maybe a significant other. But we’ve actually had people that we didn’t know buy some of the pictures. That felt really cool.”
PUNKS IN VEGAS: AN EIGHT-YEAR PHOTO RETROSPECTIVE Through September 30; 11 a.m.-midnight Sun.-Wed., 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Thu., 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Fri.-Sat. ReBar, 1225 S. Main St., 702-349-2283.