Neon Reverb returns later this month, and if the Downtown festival feels scaled back, that’s by design.
For starters, the twice-annual event’s 10th edition is going back to its roots: Music, and only music, will be the festival’s order of business, after forays into film, comedy and storytelling.
The pricing looks different, with $20 full-fest passes on sale now. And if you’re looking for a map to this year’s fest, don’t bother. You won’t need one. This time, Neon Reverb will play at just two local venues, Downtown-scene mainstays Beauty Bar and Bunkhouse.
Jason Aragon, who says he inherited the role of primary organizer last fall from co-founder James Woodbridge and Thirry Harlin, calls the festival’s March version a “restructuring."
"A lot of our sponsors and the people we work with agreed we should scale it back,” he says.
Here’s more of our pre-Reverb conversation with Aragon. (Full disclosure: The Weekly is the festival's exclusive media sponsor.)
What does scaling down to two venues do for Neon Reverb? For one, it consolidates all our bodies. I’d rather have 300 people at one venue than 50 here and there. Bunkhouse and Beauty Bar have good stages, and nothing crazy ever really pops up at either of those venues. And having two stages enables us to run shows on time. If a problem pops up on one stage, we can always start the other one to ensure that time slots don’t change or get crazy. It also makes it run smoother in terms of loading in and out.
It sounds like staying on time is a major concern for you. It is. In the past we’ve had many different venues, a lot of competing shows, and if you wanted to go to one venue and see one band, then jump to the next one and see another band, if things aren’t on time you’re screwed. South by Southwest, Bumbershoot, all these other festivals run on time. If we wanna make the push to make this something bigger and more stable, we need to get a handle on that.
This year’s lineup doesn’t have a headliner as big as The Walkmen or Yacht. Was that just a matter of doing what made financial sense? It’s budgeting, definitely. We pretty much spent our whole wad on that Walkmen show alone. For the same amount we’re doing everything now, pretty much. So we’re trying to stretch our dollar as far as we can, of course.
Do you worry that the casual Vegas music fan might not turn out without a name they recognize at the top of the poster? Nah. There will be haters out there, but if someone’s actually into music they might Google some of these bands and figure out if they like them or not before passing judgment. That’s my attitude.
I’ve programmed it more locally, hence the local showcase [March 23 at Bunkhouse] and all the CD releases. In one showcase, you can be engulfed in what’s going on it this town. I think our role should be to cultivate local musicians, whether it’s by paying them or getting them in front of people or getting them contacts with touring bands. I think that was the main point to this festival, and I think some of it got lost in there.
What are your plans for the fall Neon Reverb? I want to touch base with the Life Is Beautiful people and maybe do a stage or an afterparty with them, maybe just one venue, one day, and that’ll be it.
Wednesday, March 20
Bunkhouse ($6): Fredward, 9 p.m.; Red Abbey, 9:45 p.m.; Marquees, 10:30 p.m.; Silver Snakes, 11:15 p.m.; Cusses, midnight.
Thursday, March 21
Bunkhouse ($10, two stages): Slovenly Records Showcase featuring King Automatic, 8 p.m.; Anomalys, 8:50 p.m.; The Psyched, 9:40 p.m.; Los Vigilantes, 10:30 p.m.; Las Ardillas, 11:20 p.m.; Hellshovel, 12:10 a.m.; Acid Baby Jesus, 1 a.m.
Beauty Bar ($6): The Burning Symphony 10 p.m.; Most Thieves, 11 p.m.; The Herbert Bail Orchestra, midnight.
Friday, March 22
Bunkhouse ($6, two stages): CD Release Showcase featuring The All-Togethers 8 p.m. (inside); Fuzz SoLow, 9 p.m. (outside); Bogtrotters, Union 10 p.m. (inside); Coastwest Unrest CD release, 11 p.m.; (outside); The Clydesdale CD release, midnight (outside); Rev. Red, 12:40 a.m. (inside).
Beauty Bar ($8, two stages): Radiation City, 9:15 p.m. (inside); Brainstorm, 10:15 p.m. (inside); Pure Bathing Culture, 11:15 p.m. (outside); Caveman, 12:15 a.m. (outside); All the Apparatus, 1:15 a.m. (outside).
Saturday, March 23
Bunkhouse ($8 door, two stages): Las Vegas Weekly Showcase featuring Dusty Sunshine, 8 p.m. (inside); Love Hate Away, 8:50 p.m. (outside); Maedea, 9:40 p.m. (inside); A Crowd of Small Adventures, 11:20 p.m. (outside); The Big Friendly Corporation, 12:10 a.m. (outside); American Cream, 12:50 a.m. (inside).
Beauty Bar ($8 advance/$10 door): Fox and the Law, 10 p.m.; Mercy Music CD release, 11 p.m.; Old Man Markley, midnight.
Sunday, March 24
Beauty Bar ($5, two stages): The We Shared Milk, 6:30 p.m. (inside); Rusty Maples, 7:30 p.m. (outside); And And And, 8:30 p.m. (inside); Sea of Bees, 9:30 p.m. (outside); Gun Outfit, 10:30 p.m. (inside); Milk Music, 11:30 p.m. (outside).