Neon Reverb 2016: Reflecting on the festival’s first 10 editions

The Walkmen’s 2010 set remains Neon Reverb’s high watermark.
Photo: Corlene Byrd

September 2008: Reverb’s first foray barely resembled future incarnations. “We only had like 30 bands, compared to more than 100 the next time, and we did it like a pub crawl,” co-founder James Woodbridge recalls. “Each night the show started at one venue, then the crowd moved to the next spot.” Acts included Mere Mortals, Dusty Rhodes & The River Band and Denmark’s Turboweekend. –SP

March 13, 2009: One of the wee-hours-embracing fest’s most ludicrously late nights. After a massive night at the Aruba—Las Vegas Club*, Leopold and His Fiction, headlining Akron/Family—concluded at 3 a.m., we got word Spaghetti-Western psych-rockers Spindrift were still on at the Bunkhouse, and raced right over. Well worth sacrificing more sleep. –SP

September 19, 2009: The third edition’s visiting performers were regularly outdone by Vegas’ rising indie scene, so I extended an already late night for electro rawkers Afghan Raiders’ ridiculously packed Beauty Bar slot. Sweaty, frenetic, Daft Punk-inspired bedlam ensued—and my opinion of the duo changed just like that. –MP

March 12, 2010: Those 10-act, two-room bills at the old Aruba were festivals in and of themselves. This one—known as the Rumble—found locals like Mother McKenzie, Hungry Cloud and The Mad Caps complementing invigorating sets from barroom barrelers Henry Clay People and post-punkers Twin Tigers. –MP

September 17, 2010: Another classic, no-quit Rumble at the Aruba saw local mainstays Black Camaricans, The Lazystars and Twin Brother share stages with noisy Californians Abe Vigoda, Crocodiles and The Soft Pack. Also, a new discovery: Orange County sextet The Steelwells. –SP

September 19, 2010: Best Reverb night ever? It certainly had the biggest-ever headliner: The Walkmen, who augmented their passionate gusto that evening. They had to, following lively fuzz-rockers Jeff the Brotherhood, a reliably uninhibited Skooners showing and a pristine A Crowd of Small Adventures’ album-release set (for its excellent A Decade in X-Rays). –MP

March 11, 2011: I figured the headlining Dodos would deliver at the Bunkhouse—and they did—but I didn’t expect to be wowed by two relative unknowns: sublime folk-pop band The Lighthouse and The Whaler and Brit-rock enthusiasts Lemon Sun. –MP

September 11, 2011: The fest lands its closest “Coachella moment,” or surprise performance: a feel-good Beauty Bar set by Big Talk—the local rock outfit fronted by Killers drummer Ronnie Vannucci. –MP

March 24, 2012: The fest staged an all-ages show headlined by dance-pop duo Yacht in an alley temporarily dubbed the Junkyard. The turnout wasn’t great, and the set got cut short by a curfew, but organizers earned an A for extra effort. –LV

September 11, 2012: I have witnessed fights at shows, but seeing one involving a show promoter was a first. Along with triumphant performances by ascendant psych-pop/garage acts Thee Oh Sees and Ty Segall, it made for a most memorable night. –MP

September 15, 2012: Backed by Finnish band Sinaii, Moonface’s Spencer Krug belted his heart out at Beauty Bar throughout a set focused on that year’s Heartbreaking Bravery LP, all the while pounding a tambourine against his chest. –LV

March 21, 2013: Punk label Slovenly Records held a wild Bunkhouse showcase featuring Los Vigilantes and Las Ardillas from Puerto Rico and Acid Baby Jesus from Athens, Greece. It was loud and raw and ended abruptly due to a brawl. –LV

March 22, 2013: Neon Reverb got Pure Bathing Culture—still one of my favorite festival finds—long before the dreamy Portland band got satellite-radio airplay. –LV

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Spencer Patterson

Spencer Patterson is the Editor of Las Vegas Weekly, having previously served as Managing Editor, Arts & Entertainment Editor and ...

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Photo of Leslie Ventura

Leslie Ventura is a staff writer at Las Vegas Weekly and Industry Weekly. She’s picked the brains of rock stars ...

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