“I haven’t been in this place yet,” I confess to Quint Olsen upon greeting the local bandleader inside the newish Las Vegas Country Saloon Saturday night. “From the looks of it, most folks haven’t,” Olsen deadpans, glancing around the all-but-empty Fremont Street bar and sometime live venue.
Olsen’s Vegas quartet, Quint & The Cowpunk Calamity, drew the unenviable task of kicking off Neon Reverb Night 3’s five-band LVCS bill, which means tonight’s set will be—as he instructs his bandmates moments before going on, more or less a “rehearsal.” When the group goes on, I count 32 total humans, including bartenders, the guy collecting money at the door, other musicians waiting for their turn, Quint and his three bandmates and me.
Still, the Calamity (primary instrumentation: acoustic guitar, pedal-steel guitar, stand-up bass, drums) handles itself professionally, revving up its usual brand of old-timey country with more than a hint of rockabilly and an attitude that’s all punk rock, down to a cover of Rancid’s “Olympia, WA.” As the head count slowly ticks up, Olsen acknowledges an old buddy who played in his very first band, Quint & The Dillywackers, some 20 years ago, and closes the set with the electric guitar-charged “Love Is Dangerous,” a tune written for one of his other ex-outfits, Mountain Hippie.
“It’s a small crowd, but we got Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Hank, Elvis,” Olsen says, gesturing toward images of country superstars lining the wall. “What else do we need?”