Sammy Davis Jr., meet … Bethany Cosentino? Last week the SoCal singer/songwriter and her indie-pop band, Best Coast, became part of Las Vegas’ long—if infrequently distinguished—lounge tradition, setting up shop inside the Cosmopolitan to play eight sets over four nights.
The unusual pairing of Pitchfork darling and open casino space created strange scenes like this one, from Wednesday (Night 1): A well-dressed tourist cluster chatting over a bottle of red wine on one side of a leather couch, a gaggle of Downtown hipsters glued to the onstage action on the other. As for the guy scarfing salad from a plate atop a drum-shaped table while a girl kept time on the same surface with the palm of her hand, well, that was just weird.
Cosmo’s Book & Stage—advertised as sports book-by-day/venue-by-night but actually more bar with betting window beside bar-by-day/bar with band playing behind bar-by-night—is surely unlike any room in which Best Coast has performed before. When flat screens stopped flashing ESPN highlights midway through Wednesday’s first set, Cosentino noticed. “Oh, they turned them off … I wish the people who aren’t here to see us could keep watching sports.” The reaction of passersby on the adjacent casino floor was a study in contrasts—some stopped cold to take in Best Coast’s short and catchy pop tunes, others barely glanced at the trio on the elevated stage a few feet away. Yet all four nights, for all eight sets, Book & Stage felt full.
Ideal setting for a live show? Hardly, though some of its issues are easily remedied. Lights should be turned lower for an appropriate musical mood. Furniture could be scaled back to provide room for dancing, particularly when body-moving bands like Fitz & The Tantrums come through. And sound, which improved during Best Coast’s run but remained less than crisp as Saturday’s final set ended, might get better with time and experience. Barring the unlikely removal of the center bar separating crowd from performer, however, it will be tough to shake Book & Stage’s general sense of disconnection. Still, if my choice is Best Coast, Cosmo-style, or Best Coast passing on Vegas altogether, show me the way to the lounge.