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Wrapping Neon Reverb: Exit interview with organizer Jason Aragon

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All the Apparatus
Photo: Bill Hughes

How successful do you feel the festival was this time?

We had highs and lows like any festival, but overall it went pretty well. Financially, we did just under what I’d estimated—I think the [cold] weather might have played a part in that—and attendance-wise, it was about the same, just under what I’d estimated.

Did it break even financially?

Essentially. We have enough left over to do our taxes from last year, but we’re in the black, which is always good.

What were the high points for you?

The Bunkhouse shows Friday and Saturday. We had great attendance at those. And Sunday at Beauty Bar was also nice. All three of those ran smoothly.

How about low points?

Some shows got pushed back at the Beauty Bar, which was unfortunate. We had a band—All the Apparatus—that we ended up paying to play at 2 in the morning, which was disappointing.

You scaled back what has been a fairly sprawling festival to just two venues this time. How did that feel to you?

Really good. It was more manageable—they’re close enough that we could send runners back and forth.

One disappointment with the new setup, though: We used to have our early shows at places like the Beat, the Griffin, Downtown Cocktail Room, and we tried to merge that with the Bunkhouse and Beauty Bar, which didn’t really work. I wanted to have these constant crowds there all night, but I probably wouldn’t do that again. I’d probably start shows at 10 p.m. It’s just too hard to get people out earlier.

Neon Reverb 2013

Reverb stretched from Wednesday to Sunday. How do you think that worked?

I’d like to condense down to just Friday-Saturday-Sunday. Wednesday pretty much tanked, and it’s still tough to tell how Thursday did, but the numbers don’t look good to me.

Musically speaking, how do you think the lineup played out?

I feel like the quality of the music was definitely there. I don’t think there was one weak band at the festival, and that’s a big positive.

What were some specific acts that stood at to you?

Locally, Bogtrotter’s Union—their energy and their crowd; they brought quite a few people to the Bunkhouse. And King Automatic, a one-man band from France, at Thursday’s Slovenly Showcase. I thought that was amazing.

What kind of reaction did you get from bands playing the fest?

Most of them were stoked. Sunday night, all the bands said they weren’t sure what to expect in Vegas and they were happy to get contacts and get their foot in the door here. That’s a big reason why we do this.

Pre-fest, you’d talked about trying to get Zappos folks Downtown for Neon Reverb. How did that go?

It seemed to work, but maybe not as well as I was hoping. We gave them 200 passes, and I counted 50 used.

Do you think Neon Reverb’s prices ($20 for the festival, $5-$10 per show) hit the mark?

Prices are pretty much scaled to Vegas. Caveman played three nights before in Denver and sold out a $15 ticket, and they played here and attendance wasn’t as good for $8 for five bands.

Neon Reverb has run twice annually since its inception, but you’ve mentioned wanting to scale the fall edition down considerably. Are you still leaning that way?

I’m talking to the Life Is Beautiful people about maybe doing a Neon Reverb afterparty stage during their festival. It’s hard enough to get sponsorship money for one festival.

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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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