Sonic flashback: The Pleasure Barons at Calamity Jayne’s (March 6, 1989)

The Pleasure Barons played Calamity Jayne’s on March 6, 1989.
Dennis Mitchell

You never really know how some shows are going to turn out, even when they look incredible on paper. Having seen our favorite socially conscious psychobilly star Mojo Nixon in top form at a local club called Rockabilly’s a few years before, we were happy to learn that he was returning to Las Vegas as part of a made-up group called The Pleasure Barons. His onstage mates for the show were from other quality bands: Dave Alvin of The Blasters and assorted members of The Beat Farmers, including their inimitable, unpredictable drummer Country Dick Montana. Better yet, the show was set for the coolest rock venue in town at the time, Calamity Jayne’s Nashville Nevada in the shadow of the Showboat Hotel on Boulder Highway. It was also the final show of the band’s only tour.

My brother-in-law Pat and I trundled on down to the club early and took our places at a table just to the right of the stage, about 15 feet back. The handbill listed show times for 9 p.m. and midnight, but it turned out to be one long show with a break in the middle.

It was a wonderful spectacle of music and theatrics, featuring the kind of setlist you only get to experience once. You got the feeling band members jockeyed to get some of their all-time favorite songs included. After a rousing run of opening tunes (including Joe South’s “Games People Play,” sung by Alvin), Nixon introduced the bona fide star of the show, Country Dick, and what started as a concert in a small hall quickly became a huge living room party.

Mojo brought the Mojo we came for, serving as emcee when he felt like it and bringing forth his own tunes “Debbie Gibson Is Pregnant With My Two-Headed Love Child” and “I Saw Jesus at McDonald’s.” At one point he climbed onto a horizontal wooden beam that helped hold the building up, and we noticed the beam had been adorned with women’s underwear.

The finale was nothing short of amazing, with Country Dick introducing the band and telling us they were all going to see Dean Martin the next night, “because that f*cker’s gonna die soon, and we need to see him NOW!” The night closed with a stunning Tom Jones medley, after which Pat and I said hi to Country Dick and took a shot of Cuervo Gold from the bottle he’d been drinking from. It was a great night, so good I didn’t even mind getting home around 3 a.m. … with my radio station shift set to begin at 4:30.

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