At 7 p.m. on the dot I cross Fremont Street, heading east toward, well, which will it be? Max Supera’s 7 p.m. acoustic performance at the Beat coffeehouse, or Wyatt McKenzie’s 7 p.m. set in the Griffin’s shabby-chic back room? Behind me, the much-lauded double-decker Red Bull shuttle bus hangs a right onto Las Vegas Boulevard, and though I’m tempted to hop on board for quick look-see, I merely make a mental note to explore its interior and circular route later in the evening. After all, I don’t want to be late for the competing early shows...
I decide to scope out the Beat first, but as I approach I’m struck by what appears to be a brand-new, where-the-hell-did-this-come-from establishment called The Vanguard. Now, didn’t I just pass this way earlier in the afternoon, all a-flutter to procure a copy of the new Weekly from the Beat...when this bar wasn’t even here? Indeed, I duck in to confirm my suspicions with the bouncer: Tonight is the soft opening; the official opening will take place in October. I’m impressed that it’s already doing considerable foot-traffic business; the narrow, black and white lounge appears to be a refined, chic and overall promising addition to the Fremont East family.
The Beat is dead, nary a guitar or Neon Reverb attendee in sight, so it’s over to the Griffin. A Crowd of Small Adventures’ Jack Wilcox sits at the bar, still processing the overwhelmingly positive reviews (the Weekly included) that appeared throughout local publications for the band’s A Decade in X-Rays album. He mentions hoping copies actually arrive in time for Sunday’s album-release show with the Walkmen at Beauty Bar.
We head for the back room, where instead of Wyatt, genteel local supergroup Dusty Sunshine are setting up. The sound guy asks us if we’re one of the bands on the bill; when we admit we aren’t, we’re told we can’t come in until 7:30. A drink, a smoke and a street-crossing to the Beat. About a dozen patrons and volunteers are slowly gathering, picking up wristbands and checking out the official festival literature. As she folds schedules, Jill of All Musical Trades Corlene Byrd mentions that some ill-timed construction is rumored to be going down at the Aruba, which certainly doesn’t bode well for tomorrow night’s big Crocodiles/The Soft Pack throwdown.
No sign of life behind the microphone here, and at 7:45, the only other soul in the Griffin’s back room is Rebel Yell writer Chad Martinez. I decide to check in with Spencer Patterson and see if the other quote-unquote “7 p.m.” show, Nothing with Numbers at Yayo Taco, is running on time. Based on my 8:30 arrival and their eventual 8:45 start time, that’s a resounding no. And goodness gracious me, are those hardcore hellraisers ever loud.
I’ve made it a point to check out the Festival’s first-ever comedy show — and perhaps scope some of the construction chaos — at the Aruba’s Thunderbird Lounge. And what better time to try out the shuttle? I park back on Fremont and arrive 15 minutes early for the scheduled 10:30 p.m. 6th Street departure. And wait. And chat with Beat barista extraordinaire Heather. And wait. And holler across the street at Crowd/Sunshine’s Megan Wingerter, filmmaker Mike Thompson, and Kid Meets Cougar’s Courtney Carroll and Brent Bolton as they depart the Griffin for the Bunkhouse’s Action Cat/Novelty Act/The Wild Complete/Big Friendly Corporation/Leaving Springfield bill. And wait some more.
11 p.m., no big red bus, and I head for the Las Vegas Country Saloon. Making the rounds is a thoroughly and rightfully freaked Festival co-organizer James Woodbridge, who confirms the Aruba bombshell and goes into details about what he’ll do to those responsible. If I’m ever summoned to court regarding the matter, I’d have to confirm that the words “gun” and “beats heads in with a metal pipe” may have come up.
About three dozen Festivalgoers quickly turns to a respectable 80 or so for a much-anticipated set from visiting beach bums The Growlers. And miracle of all miracles, the set times are running a mere half-hour behind! Though the crowd — ranging from usual-suspect hipsters to a thickly bearded gentleman wearing unironic overalls — is dancing and generally in high spirits, the precautionary barricade at stage front seems highly unnecessary. Then again, frontman Brooks Nielsen’s Robert Pattison-esque hair does get even more mussed than usual when someone throws a pack of cigarettes at him (which he partakes of), followed by a drink (which he doesn’t). It’s too bad, really; so much finally seemed to be falling into place for the Festival’s latest go-round. But as I take my leave it’s fairly obvious that between thrown objects, set times, bus schedules and construction, much is still up in the air.