Four relentlessly fun nights of roaring indie and punk music ended with an exclamation point on Sunday as San Diego pop-punks Wavves closed out the 13th installment of Neon Reverb to a sweaty sea of moshing, crowd-surfing fans. It was the perfect ending to the local music festival’s 10-year anniversary, which also featured the heart-tugging indie-emo outfit Current Joys, fronted by Surf Curse singer and Green Valley High alum Nick Rattigan (who impressively tore through his entire set with a broken string as if nothing had ever happened). Locals K. Kilfeather and the Suppressive Persons and Ted Rader and the Magic Family opened the final night with explosive psychedelic and bluesy energy that carried everyone well through the fest’s final hours.
And while all festivals encounter some bumps and bruises along the way—Saturday’s Beauty Bar show got rained out and some sets were shuffled around to accommodate the weather—Neon Reverb ran smooth as butter compared to years past. The lineups were stacked, the shows were on time and the sound was solid across the swath of festival venues.
Noisy Seattle post-punks Monsterwatch and New York hardcore metal outfit Tight Fright got things off to a powerful start during Thursday’s Bad Moon Booking showcase at Beauty Bar. Word of a surprise Eagles of Death Metal show (booked by the Mint 400) spread fast, as people raced to the venue to see the group close the evening at the Bunkhouse Saoon.
Friday's crowd at the Beauty Bar outdoor stage was one of the most packed I’ve seen in years as hyped fans gathered for La Luz’s laid-back, psychedelic surf rock. The four-piece gave their sharpest Vegas performance yet, blending perfect harmonies with dancy percussion and Western-inspired guitar solos.
But the most memorable set I caught happened at the Bunkhouse on Friday, when Canadian outfit U.S. Girls induced an electric dance party with their decimating mash-up of saxophone and bass-fueled soul, funk, rock and jazz. Performing mostly tracks off their February album In A Poem Unlimited, singer Meg Remy and her vivacious band leveled the dance floor before LA punks No Age capped the night with an incredibly loud and raucous set.
Across the board, Neon Reverb boasted one of its best and most varied lineups to date, including a nostalgic flashback with early aughts rapper Mickey Avalon on Friday at Backstage Bar and Billiards, a Punks in Vegas showcase at Cornish Pasty on Saturday including locals Rayner and Moon Blood, and a farewell set by Vegas rock outfit We Are Pancakes, who recently announced that its Saturday night Bunkhouse gig would be its last.
Ten years ago, there was no telling just how big Neon Reverb could get, or how far the homegrown festival could go, but there's no question that it continues to be one of the most exciting and memorable music events of the year. With another wild and successful edition in the books, we can only hope for 10 more years.