Right now the room is nothing more than screeching hardcore blaring from the speakers and flashes of moshing teens against the backdrop of recently painted graffiti-style art on the wall. It’s The Farm’s first birthday, and at the prompt of diM’s lead vocalist, BeAsT, the main lighting flips on and off rapidly, effectively turning the ceiling into a giant strobe.
Since opening on South Rainbow last February 13, The Farm has tried to fill the niche left by Jillian’s, which closed in November 2008 after a six-year run as Las Vegas’ primary post-Huntridge all-ages hub. Tonight is the Farm’s amped-up anniversary celebration. The bands—In Shadows Embrace, diM, When Gods Fall, Hollywood N Vine and Searchlight—are eager to please, and the modest crowd eats up their performances.
Everything about tonight forecasts good things beyond this one-year mark, but don’t be fooled: The past 12 months haven’t exactly been the smoothest of times for The Farm. Though the venue has provided a stage for hundreds of local and touring bands, it has its share of detractors.
Nathan Feinstein of Vegas metal band The Seventh Plague is one of them. He says The Farm is actually hurting the local scene, by overbooking shows with five or more bands a night. Any garage band with a few original songs can play, Feinstein reasons, and that wasn’t the case at Jillian’s. “When my band started … you had to pay your dues to get on a show,” he says. “You had to work hard.”
Eric Velarde disagrees. The guitarist for When Gods Fall says he loves The Farm’s open-arms policy toward new bands. “No matter how long you’ve been playing, or how good you are, nobody’s going to judge you,” he says. “This is the best place to get started.”
Velarde and his bandmates aren’t just supporting The Farm with their music or their words; they’ve put in volunteer hours there since summer, picking up parking-lot trash and assisting in the room’s recent renovations, which included raising the stage and repainting the walls.
Whether this appreciation for the venue places When Gods Fall in the majority or minority is difficult to gauge, but it’s difficult not to notice the growing number of local musicians crying foul over The Farm. Feinstein has beef, he says, over a lack of refunds after a Seventh Plague set in December was shut down after just two songs. Brodie Knight Vans of Sprockets says he never received money promised by The Farm’s promoter. Local promoter Patrick “Pulsar” Trout stopped booking shows there after a series of disagreements.
Farm owner Tracy Rader and the venue’s primary booker, Steven Goldberg, who promotes under the name the Jewish King, have declined comment on a variety of matters related to the venue. They did so again for this story.
Despite the drama, the venue that calls its mostly-heavy brand of music “100 percent certified rock ’n’ roll” doesn’t appear to be worried. Its MySpace page lists shows into summer. And while some might see the new all-ages hotspot Area 702 Skatepark as a potential threat, Farm diehards don’t sound concerned. “It’s the main stage in Vegas,” says Hollywood N Vine guitarist Michael Warholik.