He’s a local legend. In a city long known for its indifference toward singer-songwriters, Mark Huff valiantly—and successfully—fought against the Vegas status quo for years, transitioning from his 1980s punk band Smart Bomb to playing melodic, folk- and blues-based rock in venues all over town, including the Joint and Primm’s Star of the Desert Arena (where he supported Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson, respectively). In 2003, he became one of the first Vegas musicians to move to Nashville, where he sought the camaraderie and inspiration of like-minded musicians.
Vegas gets to hear his new album first. Nowhere in Huff’s discography has his artistic vision sounded more fully realized than on Stars for Eyes, due out on March 23. With a six-man band and five backing vocalists, Huff goes big across the Americana spectrum, with flashes of retro electronic flair in “God in Geography” and a ruminant cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Almost Like the Blues.” And he’ll give the very first live, full-band treatment to these tuneful gems in his hometown.
He’ll be flanked by local musicians. A big impetus for Friday’s show is drummer Rob Whited, with whom Huff has played in Nashville. Huff originally had no plans to perform during this brief Vegas visit—much less with a band—but within hours, Whited had not only coaxed the singer-songwriter to play a local gig, but gathered a crack band that includes himself, guitarist Carlos Guerrero, bassist Nigel Ledgerwood and keyboardist Toby Ashmore. And if that wasn’t enough local support, the show will be bookended by performances from fellow Vegas-to-Nashville troubadour Jack Johnson and Vegas indie quartet O Wildly.
Mark Huff with Jack Johnson, O Wildly. February 9, 9 p.m., $8-$10. Bunkhouse Saloon, 702-982-1764.